Award Booking Tips

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69 responses to “Award Booking Tips

  1. Hello Daraius,

    I am interested to get your advice related to my plan for 2 people going to Aruba for 7 nights on Oct 26, 2014. I have enough UR points to fly United and stay at Hyatt. Also I have AA miles. I am struggling to decide if its worth to burn 154,000 UR points for Hyatt stay or save them for a European vacation. I am aware about a cascade of miles/points devaluations coming next year.


    • @Tony – It really depends on your preferences. I’d compare the cash cost of your Aruba trip with the cash cost of a trip to Europe and see which trip saves you more money with points. You can make dummy reservations on hotel and airline websites.

  2. Hi, my fiance and I are planning a honeymoon next September and were thinking of Thailand. Combined, we’ve got a bunch of points, but it’s about making them work together. I’ve also the Amex Platinum, so there’s the potential options of free companion flight, $200 credit, etc. Any tips on making the most out of miles/points for a trip to Thailand??

    We’ve got:

    Amex: 88,000
    Chase: 122,000
    Delta: 189,000
    United: 275,000
    American: 143,000
    Hilton: 106,000
    Marriott: 19,000

    • @RSG – You’ve got more than enough miles for the trip! You can use your American Airlines and United miles to fly 1-way in business class to and from Thailand! Hotel prices are cheap in Thailand, so you could pay cash for the room or use your points.

  3. Hi Darius!

    Do you offer a booking or ‘advice’ fee for help with getting to and staying in Bora Bora? I’ve read your entries on Bora Bora but for fear that I’m going to screw this up, I’d like to have an expert help me. If this is something you can do, please let me know. Thanks so much!

  4. Darius,
    I’ve read somewhere on your site a comment about Air Berlin Award Flights through AAdvantage (American Airlines) no longer available even after showing up as available. I was having the same problem. I even had a whole month of 30K trips show up on the award calendar availability and each day several flights show available. But every time you choose one or the other flight, it returns a “this flight no longer available”. I called American Airlines to see if they could help. The agent said she has had other customers bring this to her attention and that she had put a “ticket” in about it and would do so again. Then she recommended that I only fly American, “Stay with American”. To keep checking and to book a later date and there would no change fees when the Wide Open American Only flights became available at the earlier date of departure. What do you make of this?

  5. Chandra Kakaraparti

    Hi Darius,
    Very pleased to read your website , my wife has been a big fan of you guys for a long time

    Please refer me to BankDirect Mileage Account , you can use the above email address for the referral.

    Thank you

  6. Hey Darius,
    I was talking to my boss who obviously has no idea how valuable amex points can be. He has 1.1 Million Amex points and wants to travel from NYC to ROME(last week of july) with 8 of his family members and wants to come back from Athens to NYC(2nd week of August). When i said that his 1.2 million miles should be enough or close to being enough, he laughed at me. I would like to know if you can help me get this done for him or if you can make a suggestion as to how it would be best to do it. He MUST TRavel business class!!
    any suggestions?


  7. I need to book 2 business class tickets from USA to Europe with multiple less than 24 hour layovers in Europe. I only have enough miles for one ticket currently. I want to book one ticket before the deval to lock in at least one ticket. I plan to book a ticket operated by united only, as it will reduce the amount of miles required for the second ticket after the devaluation. My question is, as united does not operate flights within Europe, will the ticket issued after the deval be charged the amount of miles for a partner ticket (140,000)? How will the deval change the free layovers within 24 hours on a partner airline?

  8. My husband and I have United Club Gold status. When we book the flight to oversea, it does not have a direct flight. It will be operated by United Airline first and code share by other airline for a short stop. Our baggage allowance is 3 pieces 70lb per person on the way there but 1 piece 50lb on the way back. Is there anyway we can get 3 pieces 70lb on the way as well? Return flight will be operated by ANA from Tokyo to Taiwan first then United airline back to United States. Thank you.

    • @Liat – If you book a United business class award, but a partner flight in coach for the flights within Europe, you will pay only the United business class rate.

      @Sandy – If you are booked on the same ticket to the US, you should get the regular US allowance. As a Star Alliance Gold member, you are entitled to a higher baggage allowance.

  9. Thank you for your reply! Is there anything we have to do or show to get our allowance? Thanks again for your help!

  10. Hi Daraius,
    I was just approved for the Citi Executive Aadvantage World Mastercard with the 100,000 mile bonus. I want to use the miles to fly to London, however I am only finding availablity on British Airways operated flights- which I love, but I don’t want to get hit with the surcharges/fees. Assuming availability does not open up on other airlines to reach London, is there any way to avoid the surcharges on BA? Otherwise, I might have to rethink Europe (In general, most flights to Europe at the time I need are operated by British, so I would receive a surcharge for any flight to Europe).
    Thanks for your help!

  11. Ditto on Yoni’s comment. I need to get my wife and son to London 28-30 June for 2 weeks in the UK. How to use UR points and 120,000 AAdvantage points? Is it worth it to spend 120,000 AA pts to reduce the cost to about $700 each ticket?

  12. Hi. I have a number of British Airlines miles (received 100,000 as a sign-up bonus), and the plan was to use them for American flights and avoid them for Europe. However, I have yet to be successful in booking an American flight with my British Airways miles.

    Is there a trick to doing it? Is there an ideal time frame? Is there a destination that is likely to work?

    Any help appreciated.

  13. My friend and I are hoping to travel to Europe in May. We found the 20Kmile flights each way. However, flight FEES vary hugely between different cities. For instance, flying into Paris is much cheaper than flying into anywhere in Switzerland (by hundreds!). And to make it more confusing, it’s cheap to fly OUT of Switzerland back home. HELP!

  14. I should note that we’re traveling on American Airlines miles.

    • @Pat – Just go to the British Airways website and book an award flight online. Or you can find low-level seats on and then call British Airways to book them.

      @ Kinda – That is very true! You’ll see that flying into London is relatively cheap, but flying out of London costs a lot!

  15. I have acquired quite a few membership reward points. I would like to travel first class to SE Asia with my girlfriend (Singapore, Bali, Phuket). My issue is that I do not know which airline I should transfer those MR to in order to get the best bang for my buck. Do you have any opinions?

  16. I had a United awards round trip ticket confirmed from Newark to Johannesburg SA, going in mid July and returning in mid August. It included a leg from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, and Lufthansa just changed the flight number and put me on the wait list. It is still flying the same days and trips. I have a tour to join that is not flexible.

    What can I do? I have had two different United people spend more than an hour looking for flights, and the only ones available go through dangerous African cities, such as Legos, Nigeria.

  17. I’m planning to fly AA Business Class DFW to LHR on Dec. 25, 2014, and have to coordinate several family member flights from other cities. Is it possible that there are award tickets available that day that don’t show up on the AA website? If I call AA, do they give out other award flights or am I limited to what is on the website?

  18. Greetings Darius, I have been searching for flights on delta using ff miles. How do I search for elite business class. The site only shows economy options. Thanks.

  19. Hello

    I am looking for some help in traveling with rewards points this summer for my family of four. My husband and I have begun to accumulate points over the last year and are not sure what is the best use of our points.

    This is what we have: two separate AA accounts –
    one with 107565 points and the other with 107255 points

    two separate US Airways accounts –
    one with 53461 points and the other with 34844 points

    Chase Ink ultimate rewards with 72627 points

    two separate Southwest Rapid Rewards cards
    with 53881 and 54214 but we should have another 50,000 points coming to those cards within the next month and should be able to get companion passes on both accounts pretty quickly.

    We also have 32000 points from Wyndham Rewards.

    We are husband and wife with a 17 year old and a 6 year old. We are not sure where to go. We have not traveled much other than by car and once to Disney world just before our youngest was born. We are looking to go anywhere but most interested in family destinations and not having to spend a lot of money out of pocket right now. Possibly, Washington DC area with other East Coast destinations. Maybe even back to Disney World. I tried to navigate the pages but I was just getting confused.

    Any help is appreciated. Thanks

  20. I have 350,000 United Miles. I want to travel (2 adults) one way to Sydney Australia from Phoenix or West Coast in late Feb/early March 2015. I am not finding any award travel or upgrade options on UA in Business or First.
    UA Economy for such a long flight is not attractive. Any ideas please on UA or other ways?

  21. Hi Daraius,

    I have about 130,000 avios miles. I was hoping to use these miles to get to Europe with my girlfriend this July or August. My initial plan was to use the BOS (we live in Boston) to DUBLIN route via Aer Lingus and then connect to Europe from Dublin. However, using ExpertFlyer, I saw that there is no availability on Aer Lingus in either July or August, to either Shannon or Dublin. Any tips on how I can get to Europe and avoid the hefty fuels surcharge that I would incur if I fly from BOS to LHR via British Airways??

    Many thanks,

  22. We have 212,000 Amex points, and I just learned they are not transferable to our favorite carriers – American and Southwest (where we have 1 award ticket). I have also checked to see what I can transfer and they do not show transfers from Amex to either of these programs. We have been using Amex specifically for travel rewards, and now we don’t know if we will be able to use them. Is there any way to use these points for travel? We are members of a couple hotel programs, but have very few points on them. Thank you!

  23. Thanks, Darius. I had not heard of this service! I will check it out.

  24. how is Capital One Venture Card?

  25. Looking to book SFO – AKL with either stopover in NRT on the way to or from AKL – I’ve read the best way to do so is to book online with just normal layover in NRT and then call to change to 72 hr stopover – is this true? When I split up the legs without doing it that way it seems to cost more miles.

  26. I currently have 310,000 skymiles with Delta and I’m trying to book my anniversary trip with them. Delta is saying I can only use 40,000 miles towards Central America. Is there any way around this? My goal is to use all my miles for both flight+hotel. Is this a pipe dream?

  27. Hello Sir,

    Great site 🙂 My head is spinning, ive been searching internet for hours and started coming across sites including yours for tips on trips using points, i am feeling slightly overwhelmed though with all the different info and limitations on booking via different airlines.

    I have 78,000 SPG points so 93,000 with bonus if i transfer to airline partners. I’m off to Thialnd to be a digital nomad (very excited) and I want fly YVR (Vancouver, Canada) to BKK (Bangkok, Thailand) with a 2 month stop over in London, England (so i can visit family as i have been in Canada for 9 years).

    With your wealth of knowledge does a particular strategy spring to mind to make this possible?

    I assume airlines dont want to allow this route as YVR is the closest point in North America to Asia so via London doesnt make sense as its the LONG way round

    Thanks in advance, warmest regards


  28. Darius,

    I’ve hit a fork in the road in planning my trip to Europe for late April/early May 2015. When AA combines our accounts US Air we will have a little over 172k miles in our account. We have around 110k in our United account. Do you think I’d have better luck finding business class saver award availability for two people on United or AA? I also would like to avoid flying BA if possibe.

  29. I should add that I’m only looking for business class for the westbound portion to London. I’m fine with flying home in coach and will go AA for the home flight.

  30. I want to known ,how can I go to Ana find my Cathy pacific ticker.U in Hong Kong last year. U flight Cathy. When I call in , they only have one ticker open only .how can I find two .thanks

  31. I have 70000 Chase Ultimate reward points. How can I use it to fly one way to India in Etihad business class using 67500 miles since AA is not a member of ultimate rewards.

  32. can I use my united miles to book directly with Lufthansa? The flight I want is not showing up on the United chart but I know there is availability. Does Lufthansa have better choices on their website than what shows on United? I can’t figure out how to find out since I don’t have a Lufthansa frequent flyer number. (I am looking for the 30,000 mile price point.

    • @judi – You can’t call up Lufthansa and book (if you’re using United miles). Lufthansa will show more flights, but you have to use their miles to book and will pay higher fuel surcharges.

  33. Hello!
    I am “thinking” of using either my ~400k Starwood and/or ~425k USAir miles for a trip to Hawaii…from PHL/NYC area….right now R/T economy look between 60k-80k/per ticket….

    Bad Idea to just book a R/T? Should I add some stop over? Or go somewhere more exotic with the miles? (We don’t mind exotic)

    and use Starwood points for hotel over there?

    Should I be thinking bigger? I know the 50% bonus right now (through July) for Starwood conversions, so I could theoretically convert those to airline miles too…

    About 2 weeks in November is what I was thinking….

  34. Hi there, I was wondering if anyone can help me out to award booking flight from LAX to LIH (Kauai).

    I have only a little mileage here and there and wanted to see if I can two round tickets.

    I have the below miles accumulated.
    Alaska 51K
    AA 53K
    US Airways 35K
    Korean Air 64K

    I checked the Matrix as well as the airlines website, but I can’t put these pieces together to get the two tix. Any help would be appreciated!!! Thanks!

  35. Hi Darius,
    I’m really stumped on how to go about booking our trip from DFW to London next summer. We’ve got 340,000 American miles. There will be 2 adults, 2 kids and 1 child under 2 years. My husband is adamant about using points but we want to avoid the British Airways surcharges. American is only showing availability for the Economy Miles Saver which is 65,000 per person per leg, so that’s way more miles than we have points for. Of course, if we fly British Airways, they have the Miles Saver options of 30,000 per person per leg, but we don’t want to pay $4-$5k in surcharges. Should we book 2 tickets with miles and 2 tickets paying cash? Is there an option of flying into Scotland or Paris without the surcharges? Thanks for any insight you may provide.
    Best Regards,

  36. Hi Darius,

    I have around 97,000 chase ultimate reward miles, and I’m toying with an idea of flying to Thailand, and Taiwan around the end of October to middle of November.

    What would be the best means of taking the full advantage that these points have to offer? Are there any other miles worth converting to, that has a more rewarding ratio to Thailand?

  37. Hi,

    I have read a great deal on your site. My wife and I are trying to take a trip to Spain over New Years, Leaving from Washington on the 27th or 28th and coming back the 3, 4, the or 5th of January. So far, I am having trouble finding much of anything even though we have tons of options. The best I have found is one (and I need two) tix from JFk direct to Madrid on Iberia for 50K pts, business class. But there is no guarantee the other outbound will open up and I can’t find anything to come back with that isn’t astronomical.

    We have
    220K American
    17K US Air (are these even good?)
    185K Delta (plus another 50K on the way from the new delta amex)
    65K Starwood
    60K United
    ~200K Chase Saphire which can be used on United, SW, or Virgin.

    Any tips on what I should be looking for at such a busy time of year with those mileage balances.

  38. Hi Great info, I am trying to get my family to Europe July 2015. I have 500,000 American miles. I understand AA doesn’t allow the lower mileage usages over summer to Europe. How can I get around BA, high fuel charges, and book on one of their One World Partners and maybe even get one long flight in business class. Please advise, thanks

  39. Hi Daraius, I expect to have sufficient miles for two coach class return tickets from US to India using tips on your website soon(So thanks for that!). However, miles for one ticket will be in my US airways account while miles for another will be in my American Airlines account. I would like to book two tickets using these miles on the same flights from ‘oneworld’ carriers. Is there any way to synchronize this? I am afraid if I call one airline to book a ticket, tickets might not be available through the other airline for the same flights. I am aware of the merger between AA and USAirways. But I need to use the miles before these accounts will be merged and miles combined next year.

  40. Hi Darius,

    While I will continue to read and do the research, I am hoping you can narrow the field a little.
    I have a United Explorer card and use it to collect miles for trips to Vietnam. In all my previous trips I book in October the year before generally around the beginning to the middle of the month and stay for about two weeks. I generally have been able to travel business or first class.
    Is October the best time to book using miles with United? Is October also the lowest cost time to travel to Vietnam? I often have booked using ANA or Korean Air off the United website. Is there an advantage to using these airlines instead of United? I also noticed there are the regular and Saver fare tickets that seem to come and go randomly. If I can use a Saver fare, once I have booked, does it guarantee me the flights I have chosen?
    I check fares on United everyday now but notice the points cost is double of what I paid last year. I also know this has happened in the past then all of a sudden the flights are cheap and seem plentiful.
    Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Especially mistakes that I might be making or best places to do research or better ways to book.


  41. At one point when you published the “How to book AA Award like a Pro”, there was a link for booking Etihad awards using AA but I can’t see that now. Is that not an option now?

    What is the best way to use AA miles for going from SFO to DXB, if Etihad is not an option?


  42. Hi Daraius,

    Hope you are doing well.

    Which airline uses the least amount of frequent flyer points (Economy & Business) to travel from NY to Rome?

  43. Hi Daraius. Looking for the best way to fly to Europe from the U.S. We have 4 in our party -2 adults and an 11 and 13 yr old.

    United – 95,000
    Chase Ultimate Rewards – 97,000

    I know I can transfer from Chase Ultimate to United and also transfer from Chase to Virgin Atlantic what I don’t know is I believe there is also a way that I could transfer from Virgin Atlantic to Delta because I’m trying to avoid at all cost if I can up paying the surcharge or any additional fees. What would be your suggestion thank you. Oh the reason why I’m thinking of just using United only in baby transfer everything to United from Chase is because I want to try the open job option that you have written in the past I was thinking of LAX to Heathrow Heathrow to LAX and then a few months later Ellie asked to one of the islands in Hawaii I really want to take advantage of that. Your thoughts?

  44. Hi, Wasn’t sure which topic to post this on so trying both areas in hopes you will see it and offer some of your great travel tips!


    Trying to figure out the best way to get from Seattle > Dublin > Italy (we are interested in seeing Rome, Florence, Venice this trip and can be flexible in which we fly into, and out of) and back up to Paris for the last few days of the trip. Brother & I will fly into Dublin and then to Italy and husband will meet in Italy, tour around a few days, and spend the last 2 days in Paris.

    Are there any airlines that fly into any of these Italian cities that might stopover in Dublin? Crazy I know but just trying to shell out the least $$$ on airfare and see the places we want to see.

    Ideally, I would like to pay cash for my ticket and use Alaska miles for brothers ticket.

    Any advice appreciated!!!

  45. Hi…I will have the United Credit card through chase ( Mileage Plus Explorer) and will have 35k points. I believe it is 25-30 points to fly round trip to St. Thomas and was wondering if I could book one of the round trip tickets and use my points and the second ticket just pay with card..but want to make sure my husband can still sit by me!

  46. Nachum Meyers

    Hey Darius,
    My wife and I are planning a honeymoon this January. We have a week free between our 2 schedules, and are wondering any exotic suggestions for a destination. Due to a family business I am able to basically get any cc rewards I would need for the points. Currently we have 180k aa miles. And close to 100k UR miles. Thanks so much. Ps the more romantic and special the better.

  47. I am trying to figure out which is the best credit card for the best deal for rewards travel. We pay our bills every month. Some say that they give double miles but when you factor in the how much they ask for to get the tickets, I am confused. I presently have AA Citibank Visa. Thanks ahead of time.

  48. Hey there, I really need to know how to avoid the exorbanent fees passing through the UK. I have lots of miles and want to take my family from PA to Venice or any airport to get to Italian Dolomites for skiing. We then want to get to Edinburgh for a wedding and back home. Late Dec through Jan 10th. Our miles are on US Air that is now AA. EVERY AA mileage award flight seems to go through the UK which then adds over $2,500 to our trip. Please advise. With thanks, Elizabeth

  49. Hi Darius, I have around 200k chase points and united miles saved up for a trip to Southeast Asia. My question is if United is a good option for this trip or if I should look for a partner airline that may cost us fewer points/miles. United seems to be 80k round trip per person. One way or another I’ll be flying free because of you! Thank you so much!