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

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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

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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.

The Idea

The basic idea is that United is very generous with releasing Saver award space on its many flights to Hawaii and that United Saver award space is bookable without fuel surcharges by a lot of programs including:

Because so many programs have access to United’s plentiful space and each has its own rewards cards, a family of six can quickly rack up the miles in several programs to book everyone on the same flights.

Getting the Miles

One of the hardest parts about traveling with six people is getting enough miles in a single loyalty program.

My strategy bypasses this problem entirely: instead of getting enough United miles to book six people to Hawaii, we’ll get enough United miles for 2.5 people, enough Lufthansa miles for 1 people, and enough Singapore miles for 2.5 people.

Then we’ll use all three of those types of miles to book all six people on the exact same outbound and return flights.

Trust me that it only sounds complicated, the process will be very easy!

Key Cards:

  • The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard with 50,000 bonus Lufthansa Miles & More miles after spending $5k in the first three months. Offer expires this Sunday (12/15/13).
  • The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN with 25,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $5k in the first three months.
  • Premier Rewards Gold Card targeted offer through CARDMATCH (seen 11/25/13) offering 50k bonus Membership Rewards after spending $1k in three months. For more information, see this post. I’m seeing more reports of people being targeted for this fantastic offer.
  • United MileagePlus Explorer Card with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2k. Offer reported at Chase bank branches.
  • Ink Bold with 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5k in the first three months.
  • Other United miles/Ultimate Rewards options include the Ink Plus and Freedom.

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If travelers in your group got all these cards and met the minimum spending requirements, you’d have 55k Lufthansa miles, 86k Membership Rewards, 52k United miles, and 55k Ultimate Rewards. From there, you just have to make two more moves.

  1. Spend $2k more on either Membership Rewards earning card to get to 88k points.
  2. Transfer 88k Membership Rewards to Singapore Airlines. Transfer 48k Ultimate Rewards to United.

Now you’d have:

  • 55k Lufthansa
  • 88k Singapore
  • 100k United

Lufthansa and United charge 20k miles each direction to Hawaii, and Singapore charges 17,500 miles each direction.

That’s more than enough for one roundtrip with the Lufthansa miles, two roundtrips with the Singapore miles plus one one way, and two roundtrips with the United miles plus one one way. (1 + 2.5 + 2.5 = 6 roundtrips.)

Meeting Minimum Spending Requirements

The cards above have a total minimum spending requirement of $18k in three months. Most people don’t spend that much on cards.

If only one or two parents need to collect enough miles for six tickets, my main two tips are:

  1. Put all your spending on your credit cards. There are ways to pay mortgages, taxes, and credit card bills by credit card.
  2. Don’t get all the cards at once. If you get two now and three later, the spending may be much more manageable.

Searching for Award Space

We are going to fly all passengers on United flights. The best place to search for United flights is united.com. Here’s an article on searching united.com.

If you search united.com without signing into your United account, any United flight that displays Saver award space will be bookable with all the types of miles discussed in this post.

I searched award space from several mainland cities to multiple Hawaiian islands and found excellent award space for six passengers.

For instance, here is San Francisco to Honolulu next fall:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.34.03 PM

And here is the return from Honolulu to San Francisco:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.35.12 PM
Award space isn’t just excellent from the West Coast.

Tampa to Honolulu has great award space for six passengers next fall too.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.40.33 PM

The return calendar is equally excellent.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.40.52 PM

Putting it together, six people could fly these flights:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.41.39 PM

The total cost with United miles would be 240k miles + $60. (This isn’t totally relevant to us, since we’ll be using a combination of United, Lufthansa, and Singapore miles.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.41.46 PM

Flights to Oahu have the best award space, but award space is open to all islands. Here is from Newark to Maui for six passengers.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.42.24 PM

The return from Maui to Newark shows even more award space.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.43.32 PM

The itineraries are pretty nice for only $10 out of pocket.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.44.07 PM

Award space to Hawaii is best during the Winter, Spring, and Fall, but there is award space in the summer too. here is San Francisco to Honolulu for six passengers in June and July, 2014. There isn’t much economy award space (green days), but there is first class space every day (blue and green.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.52.43 PM

Booking the Awards

Remember the steps so far:

  1. Amass many types of miles.
  2. Search United flights on united.com

Step 3 is to book the awards with our miles. We always book with the airline whose miles we’re using, even if that’s not the airline we’re flying.

So in this case, we’d have to book some of the awards with United miles on united.com, some with Lufthansa miles by calling Lufthansa, and some with Singapore miles by calling Singapore airlines.

Here’s an entire article on the nuances of How to Book Multiple Awards from Different Accounts on the Same Flights.

Enjoy the Trip

While your friends wonder how the six of you could afford to go on vacation, you’ll have your toes in the sand.

Family trips are very possible with miles. With some flexibility, advanced planning, and the right strategy, a family of six can take the vacation of its dreams.

If a domestic or near international trip to somewhere United flies interests your family, start collecting the miles today before the 50k mile offer on The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard disappears and collecting Star Alliance miles in bulk becomes much more difficult.

Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard®

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

  1. In your first example your flight from TPA to DEN is showing the fare class as XN. Isn’t this a fare bucket for elites and people with the UA credit card? Also, on the return it is showing HNL-IAH as XN. Doesn’t this mean that you were logged in?

    • Eagle eye, my friend! I didn’t include this info in the post because I knew it would be way over most people’s heads:

      All the space shown here is available in Fare Class “X” and is bookable with all the types of miles I said it is. I ensured this by signing out before every search, so united.com had no idea I was a Silver elite. However, I had to sign in each time to get the price and full itinerary for screen shots. When I signed in, some of the flights showed that they were being booked in Fare Class “XN.” But as I said, the same space is available in “X”.

      Again, great eye!

  2. There are 6 of us in our family (me, my husband and 4 teenagers). Hawaii is very doable.
    Last year, you helped me plan PEK>ZRH>VIE>FRA>EWR>TPA on United miles (told me to put PEK>ZRH on hold and call in to complete the award). And we already have July 2014 booked to Maui!

  3. Thanks Scott for all the hard work you do on this site. Because of your blog posts, I’ve earned 100′s of thousands of points/miles- and more importantly learned the best ways to spend those miles. I’m glad to click your affiliate links when possible to keep this site running!

  4. I am planning a trip for my family of seven to Australia next Christmas. Planning to take full advantage of your ideas! Thank you!

    • Good luck getting an award on Star Alliance! I just went through this…not a single decent option the whole year and only last week did United start giving away flights for the coming week. You’ll need lots of patience for this. Better get a bunch of Amex cards and use Delta miles to book the more available VAustralia flights if you want to have flights guaranteed in advance.

    • Australia is so tough with miles in general, compounded for a big family. As rick b says below, Virgin Australia often releases very good award space and is a Delta partner, searchable on delta.com.

      If they aren’t releasing space, your best bet may be to defray costs as much as you can with these cards: http://milevalue.com/comparison-table-of-fixed-value-bank-point-cards/

  5. There is no mention of using Avios to Hawaii from the West coast for 12.5K miles each way.

  6. This post is way too complicated. 6 credit cards, high spend requirements, tight deadlines, multiple FF programs, etc, etc.

    Just bought ORD-HNL RT flights for $519 and used SWU. A lot easier.

  7. I realize I am just taking the bait on this one, but this post is about getting a family of six to Hawaii on the same flight starting from no miles.

    This is a very clever and effective way of accomplishing that for those starting out with zero point balances. Well done!

  8. … good luck trying to book 6 seats that close to each other from 3 different award program.

    • Are you talking about seat selection? Call United and seat selection will be extremely easy. You can definitely get 6 seats in a row a few months out on almost any flight.

  9. I have friends who have 3 kids. They followed my advice, and a few months later had 6 free tickets to Costa Rica and their rental car paid for and a bunch of money off the house they rented for the month. They are happy and hooked. Their next plan is Hawaii. My suggestion was to each apply for 2 Southwest cards and earn the companion passes. They can use those to get to the west coast and continue to use them for other trips through 2015. The plan is to also get some Hawaiian Air miles and Avios through credit sign-ups for the Hawaii leg.

    I personally think people should save their United miles (and those other miles) for international trips. Maybe for a trip without the kids!

    • Your way is good too, but it introduces the hassles of flying on two tickets. If they try to minimize the layover on the west coast and their Southwest flights are late, they could be in a really difficult situation.

      But I respect the opinion that United miles are best for international flights. It’s how I use most of mine.

  10. ***oops, 5 free tickets to Costa Rica

  11. Of course we all know that the Chase BA 100K Avios offer would be the best card to get.

    Come on Scott, you can do better.

    • The BA 100k offer is dead. It required $20k spending, and it was only a great deal for people on the west coast. There’s nothing nefarious about not mentioning it in this post.

  12. Pingback: Hurry: Last Chance to Get the 50k Mile Lufthansa Offer | milevalue.com

  13. Reading some of the comments here, on Flyertalk, etc., it seems like many people prefer to use United miles for premium international trips. From my perspective, depending on where you live, you can get just as good (or better) value from those miles flying to Hawaii. Using some of the tips in this post, I just booked 4 first class tickets to Hawaii, flying on a United 767-400 in both directions, for my family this summer (IAD-HNL-OGG and LIH-HNL-IAD). Since we live on the East coast, we will be on a non-stop flight to HNL for 10 1/2 hours in first class. Each ticket was 90,000 miles (apparently, the saver rate of 80,000 miles for the 2 UA segments of the trip, plus 10,000 miles for the 2 segments on HA). To me, that’s a better value than spending 100,000 miles on a business class ticket, or 135,000 miles for a first class ticket, to Europe — especially when a non-stop flight to someplace like London in only a little more than 7 hours from here. Keep up the good work!!

  14. I’m booked on UA this summer via Kris Flyer miles. I think the answer is no, but is there any way to use *A miles to upgrade those tix?

  15. I just booked my entire family of 4 on 1st class United (via Singapore Airlines using Membership Rewards). Flight is ATL – Maui with layovers in SFO. That required a lot less miles than booking (210K vs 260K) directly with United (I didn’t have any United points anyway).

    One thing to note that I wasn’t aware of was the taxes Singapore Airlines fees/charges! Total ~$250USD each person. ouch! That hurt, but still fewer miles overall than United, and I charged that fee with my Barclayscard World Mastercard where I hope to redeem points to cover that cost?

    Overall I ‘m happy…but how did I do? Was there something else I should have considered to avoid the fees on Singapore Airlines? Thank you for all the advice…this was awesome!

    Either way…very happy thanks to you!

    • This report surprises me. I would expect you to pay 240k for a family of 4. (United wants 320k.) And taxes should be $10 per person. I assume that what happened is that they took 210k miles and sold you the last 30k at an exorbitant rate.

      • I was told I had to setup my family members as redemption nominees. Then they could use my miles. Was not the right way to book them? I transferred all membership rewards points into my account and added them.

      • Ok..I have an update. I called Singapore to discuss. They are telling me that I didn’t buy any extra miles (I didn’t think I did, but wanted to confirm). They are saying these are just the taxes for this flight. I could provide more info and send you the breakdown if that helps. Not sure what’s going on…

        Here’s the total for 1 person — Total: 343.10 SGD or $268.02

        Not close to $10

  16. More info from Singapore. They were surprised that I thought it would $10…however they did some research and called me back (I’d never get that from Delta). The explained the reason why my fees/taxes were more expensive is b/c they are required to charge more fees when you have a layover more than 4 hours???

    So my route is the following:
    outbound: ATL-SFO (Apr 2). SFO-OGG (Apr 3).
    return: OGG (Apr 9)-LAX (arrive Apr 10), LAX-SFO, SFO-ATL (Apr 10).

    She explained that b/c of my overnight layover on Apr 2, the fees are much hire b/c it’s over a 4 hr layover. She was also saying on my return, but I told her that’s just a time change, and not a 4 hr layover.

    However, when I originally looked on United for the above flight, I was able to see this exact same route for 240K miles and $30 (1st class for 3 people). Note: Originally I was booking for 3 people + 1 infant in arms. I later decided to get the infant a seat due to long flight, but the same itinerary was available.

    So I guess the moral is you can’t have a long 4+ hour layover on Singapore unless you want to pay up! In my case after booking all 4 tickets its over $1,000 and 210K miles :-(

    • That’s still incorrect. Singapore doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United domestic flights. And there are no other “fees” on Singapore awards. Ask for a breakdown of everything to the dollar.

      • Here’s the breakdown:

        Fare:
        261.00 SGD

        Tax:
        US – 22.80 SGD (US Transportation Tax (Domestic/International)
        US – 19.60 SGD (US Transportation Tax (Domestic/International)
        AY – 13.20 SGD (AY Passenger Civil Aviation Security Service Fee (Domestic/International) )
        ZP – 25.50 SGD (ZP Flight Segment Tax (Domestic)

        Total: 343.10 SGD

        Do I have any options to get a refund and do something different or am I just not explaining it right to them?

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