Category Archives: Best Of

Using Everything I Know to Help a Friend Plan Two Summer Trips

My friend has big trip aspirations for this summer, but nothing booked.

  • Approx July 12: Boston to France, Italy, or Spain
  • July 13/14 to 24/25: work on a vineyard in France, Italy, or Spain
  • July 25: vineyard location to Croatia
  • July 26 to August 2: Yacht Week
  • August 2: Croatia to Greece
  • August 10/11: Greece to Boston
  • August 22: Boston to Colombia
  • August 31: Colombia to Costa Rica
  • Sept ~7/8: Costa Rica to San Francisco

She emailed me for my suggestions. This is how I would book this trip.

Warning: this post combines a lot of my best material and ideas. It would be too much information to spell everything out, so in several spots I have linked to longer articles on the concepts I discuss. Click the links.

Continue reading

Where to Search for Award Space on All 26 of US Airways’ Partners

Since US Airways joined the oneworld Alliance on March 31, I think they have the most valuable miles of any airline. The three main reasons:

  1. The world’s cheapest award chart. See a comparison with AA, Delta, and United.
  2. The laxest routing rules of any major airline because only agents–not computers–need to validate your routing.
  3. The most diverse partners.

For partners, US Airways has the rest of the oneworld alliance, plus it maintained several Star Alliance partners, and it even has a few other bilateral partnerships.

If you want to use your Dividend Miles to book an award, you must book it on usairways.com or by calling US Airways at 800-622-1015. Only American Airlines and US Airways award space is bookable online, so you’ll mostly call US Airways to book awards. (Luckily there is no phone fee for awards that can’t be booked online.)

It’s very helpful to search for award space before calling US Airways agents because they aren’t very good at it. You want to have all your flights picked out to read off to the agent to ticket the award.

So where do you search for award space for each of the 26 airlines bookable with US Airways miles?

Continue reading

TAM Joining Oneworld Means Flights to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97

TAM, the largest airline in Brazil, joined oneworld today March 31, 2014.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 11.41.36 PM

The oneworld roster with the addition of TAM.

You can now book a one way flight from the United States to Brazil for 4,000 Avios and $97.50!

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 11.41.54 PM

TAM flights are bookable with American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios and searchable on ba.com. American Airlines and British Airways do not collect fuel surcharges on TAM flights.

TAM has flights between Brazil and New York-JFK, Miami, and Orlando. All three American cities have flights to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão and São Paulo–Guarulhos. Miami also has flights to:

I am very excited about TAM joining oneworld for three reasons:

  1. On short TAM flights, awards will cost very few Avios. For instance, Miami to Manaus is only 12,500 Avios each way or even fewer Avios with the Cash & Avios option.
  2. TAM First Class looks awesome. TAM First Class space is wide open between the US and Brazil, and American Airlines has the cheapest remaining award chart for partner first class redemptions. Between the US and Brazil, American Airlines awards are only 62,500 miles each way in TAM First Class.
  3. TAM segments are now bookable as part of an American Airlines Explorer Award, which is by far the best value around the world award.

Why am I so excited about TAM joining oneworld? What do you need to know about TAM awards?

Continue reading

How I Pay Zero ATM Fees Worldwide

During my recent trip to New York, Macau, Singapore, Cambodia, England, Slovenia, and Germany, I had a wallet full of six currencies. For my several stops at ATMs, I paid zero ATM fees.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 9.00.35 PM

I didn’t pay a fee to the bank that owned the ATM. I didn’t pay a fee to my bank for using some other bank’s ATM. And I didn’t pay a transaction fee for taking out foreign currency.

With all that fee avoiding, I saved at least $50. If I save $50 per trip for the foreseeable future, that will add up to quite a lot more money in my pocket.

The secret to the savings was opening a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account. The account is free to open, has no account minimum, and no monthly service fees. Once you have the account, Schwab will never charge you an ATM fee no matter what ATM you use to access your money, and it will cover any fee that the ATM owner charges you.

The opening of the account may require a hard pull on your credit report. I don’t see one on my credit report, but other people do report seeing a credit pull.

How do you open one? What is my experience with the account and ATM card?

Continue reading

Master Thread: Holds on United Awards

Two weeks ago, I wrote that United had ended free holds online for award bookings.

Luckily, JB from the MileValue Award Booking Service came up with an extremely simple hack to regain all of the lost award-hold functionality.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 11.56.03 PM

The ability to hold awards is crucial when booking a trip has many moving parts–hotels, flights for more than one person, several awards booked with different types of miles, etc–that you want to lock in completely before booking any part of the trip. That means it is great news that we can hold United awards so broadly!

Award holds on United are possible again under two circumstances:

  • You have enough miles in your United account to book the award. (PayPal trick)
  • You do NOT have enough miles in your United account to book an award AND the award contains a partner segment. (DoNotTrackMe trick)

That means there is only one time when you cannot hold an award on united.com:

  • You do NOT have enough miles in your account and the award contains only segments on United airplanes.

And even here, there’s a workaround.

How do you hold a United award when you have enough miles in your account? What about when you don’t have enough miles? What’s JB’s hack?

Continue reading

Value in First Class on the United Chart

On February 1, United miles became much less valuable for premium cabin flights.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 8.02.45 PM

Not only did all first class awards outside of the western hemisphere go way up in price, but partner first class awards went way, way up.

Since people who want to fly first class awards want the swankiest, most aspirational flights, the increase in the partner award price is a big problem.

United Global First is good. But Thai First Class is great.

There’s no perfect solution, but I’ve come up with the strategy I’ll use to book premium cabin awards for myself with United miles going forward.

What do I think is the best value way to convert United miles into premium cabin awards?

Continue reading

Austrian Airlines Business Class Opens Up Three Months Out and Economy Class Open Up Ten Months Out

For flights between the US and Europe, Austrian Airlines releases its economy class award seats to partners 298 days before the flight and its business class award seats to partners 88 days before the flight.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 11.55.31 PM

Austrian routes between the US and Europe have economy award space up to 298 days out

Austrian is a Star Alliance member that operates five routes to North America from its hub in Vienna:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.49.53 AM

Austrian operates two cabin Boeing 777s and 767s with fully flat business class seats. I flew Austrian Business Class from Vienna to Chicago in October. My full trip report is here.

 

What predictable pattern of award space have I discovered on Austrian flights between the US and Europe? Which miles do you want to use to book flat beds to Europe this summer on Austrian?

Continue reading

Here’s a Complete Segment-by-Segment Award Search Example

I talk a lot about segment-by-segment searching. The idea is that just typing where you live and where you want to go into an airline’s award search engine may not reveal Saver award space even when there is a legal, possible award.

Searching segment-by-segment, starting with the hardest segment can yield itineraries that the search engine missed.

In the comments of yesterday’s post–Route from the US to Europe via Canada for Better Award Space–UA Phil gave a great example of an extremely simple segment-by-segment search he ran that yielded award space from San Francisco to London for only 30k United miles one way.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.29.52 PM

I’ve recreated the steps he followed to show you exactly what segment-by-segment searching entails.

Continue reading

Combining Hawaii and Australia onto One Award is Easy with Great Award Space in 2014

There is:

  • widely available
  • underpriced
  • economy award space
  • for two passengers
  • for all of 2014
  • to Australia
  • with the opportunity to stop in Hawaii for a few days in either direction.

If you have 75,000 American Airlines miles and about $100, you can fly a roundtrip award from the United States to Australia on almost any day you want this year. Stop in Honolulu, stop in Los Angeles, or stop in each place one direction to make the trip even more interesting!

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 3.00.02 AM

How can you book this incredible award space online? What are your stopover options?

Continue reading

How to Put a Delta Award on Hold

Buried in Delta’s major award chart devaluation last year was a second piece of bad news: Delta awards could no longer be put on hold under any circumstances.

But there had to be a way, I thought. So I put the question out to twitter.

And Fly Free Frequently came back with my dream answer.

There is indeed a way to put Delta awards on hold–and it’s quite simple–that he shared with me and said I could share with everyone!

How can you put an award using Delta miles on hold? Why would you want to?

Continue reading

How to Get to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil for Cheap with Miles & Points: Conclusion

In Part 1, I shared my experiences at the 2012 Euro Cup and how they informed my plan for the World Cup. I also discussed the flight and hotel awards I booked for myself. See How to Get to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil for Cheap with Miles & Points.

What are your options for using miles and points to get to Brazil? How can you get around Brazil and get match tickets? What is the one GOLD MINE route of Saver award space that you would never think of?

Continue reading

How to Get More Free Stopovers and Use Fewer Miles on Your Next Trip to South America

Did you miss 20k Miles (or Less) to All of South America All Year yesterday? That post is a competing trick with this one, and it might be an even better deal for you.

Chicago to Santiago “should” cost 30,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy. And you “shouldn’t” be able to stop in Peru on the way to Chile (or even layover there.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.23.22 AM

Do not pay 30,000 American Airlines miles for this award!

Instead of playing by American Airlines’ rules, though, we can combine our American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios to book dream trips to South America with more stops for fewer miles.

In the Chicago to Santiago example, we could pay only 15k American Airlines miles plus 10k Avios each way and stop in Peru either or both directions.

I’ve already explained how American Airlines has incredible off peak awards that allow you to travel for large swaths of the year at discounted rates. For Central America and Northern South America–Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador–you can fly one way from the US for only 15k miles for seven months out of every year.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 11.02.00 PM An off peak award to Northern South America plus one or more Avios awards creates a dream vacation with more stops for fewer miles.

How do I put it all together?

Continue reading

20k Miles (or Less) to All of South America All Year

Or: Save 10k Miles by Adding a Free Oneway

Summer airfare–during our summer or theirs–to Southern South America usually tops $1,000 per person in economy.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.33.39 AM Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.34.40 AMBut you can get to South America this summer for only 20k American Airlines miles one way.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 12.31.11 AM

All the legacy carriers–Delta, United, American, and US Airways–charge 60k miles roundtrip on Saver economy awards to Southern South America, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

American and United let you go one way for half the price while US Airways and Delta charge 60k miles for one ways.

American is even more generous with two off peak windows during which you can fly to Southern South America for only 20k miles each way:

  • March 1 – May 31
  • August 16 – November 30

Off peak awards are great because they represent a way to stretch your miles for even more trips. The problem is that peak time is peak time for a reason. The two off peak windows are almost half the year, but they leave out the best time to travel to Southern South America–December through February for their summer–and the most convenient time for Americans to travel–our summer.

Luckily, there is a way to fly to anywhere in Southern South America from New York, Dallas, or Miami for only 20k miles one way all year round! And you’ll get a free oneway to boot!

If you don’t live near New York, Dallas, or Miami, you can still use a version of the tricks in this post as long as where you live has a direct American Airlines flight to one of those cities.

How can you go to one of my favorite regions in the world during the best time to visit for only 20k miles one way?

Continue reading

Get Your Family of Six to Hawaii with Miles (And You Should Start the Process This Week)

Update 12/17/13: The 50k mile offer on the Lufthansa card is dead. All links in this post go to the following offer:

  • Earn up to 35,000 award miles with qualifying transactions
  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Companion Ticket after first purchase, then annually thereafter
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members

———————————————

I chose Hawaii as the subject of this post because getting there is a goal for so many folks. But if you want to take your family on a trip to the continental US, the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, or Central America instead, nothing changes in this article except the exact mileage amounts and the taxes on the award.

Families (or large groups of friends) need vacations too! While it’s certainly harder to find four or six award seats than to find one or two, it is not impossible.

In fact, there is fantastic award space for six people to travel to Hawaii together in 2014. And getting the miles for all six passengers is extremely easy–even for one person!

That means you can all travel for only $5 to $10 in taxes each and save your money for the surf lessons. ;)

But you have to start collecting the miles now because the The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard‘s 50k bonus mile offer is scheduled to disappear by this Sunday (12/15/13).

Continue reading for a step-by-step guide to getting six $10 tickets to Hawaii including getting the miles, doing the award searches, and booking the tickets.

Continue reading

Comparison Table of United, US Airways, Delta, and American Airlines Award Charts

United and Delta have devalued their charts in the last few months, but American and US Airways, which close their merger tomorrow, have not devalued theirs recently.

I have made my own tables comparing the economy, business, and first class award prices on each of the big four US-based airlines’ worst announced award chart.

For United, that is the chart for awards BOOKED February 1, 2014 and later. For Delta, that is the chart for awards FLOWN June 1, 2014 or later. For American and US Airways, I used the current charts.

Which miles are cheapest to the region where you want to go?

Continue reading