6 Tips For Using An Award Booking Service

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6 Tips For Using An Award Booking Service

Million Mile Secrets6 Tips For Using An Award Booking ServiceMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

[An anonymous Million Mile Secrets reader tried out many of the major award booking services in yesterday’s post and shares ways to make the most of an award booking service.]

It seems to me in the world of travel there are three phases: the planning process, the getting there process, and the being there process.  For me, the planning process can sometimes be the most daunting.  It’s fun and exciting to acquire all the miles and points and pick my dream destinations.

And then comes booking the award tickets.  Exciting, though often oh-so-frustrating.  If you’re like me, there are times when you’ve considered using an award booking service.  You want help booking the tickets, planning a great itinerary, and choosing the best aircrafts and class of service.  In other words, you want a great value for the miles you’ve accumulated.  Who wouldn’t?

After personally using various award booking services, here’s my list of 6 must-know tips.  I’ve had very varied experiences using these services and I want you to benefit from what I’ve learned.  I want you to get the best possible value and have the smoothest experience when you hire award booking services.

6 Tips For Using Award Booking Services

1.  Your Preferences.  It clearly helps to have specific destinations in mind as well as approximate dates.  However, I’d suggest having a back-up plan both for destination and dates.  Knowing what’s most important helps, too.  For instance, are non-stop flights more important than class of service?

Would you fly business class even if you’ve got the miles for first class if the route is non-stop and on the exact dates you want?  Knowing your preferences helps the award services guide you.

2.   Do some research on your own.  Once you ask the booking services for help they’ll present you with lots of choices.  Let’s say you’re starting from San Francisco and going to Europe using United miles.  You’ll often go through London.

Your research will show you that you have two non-stop choices, one in the morning and one at night.  You’ll see that you can also go through many other US cities before heading overseas.  If you’ve looked at some of this information ahead of time, you’ll be better able to evaluate their recommendations.

And while you’re doing some basic research, learn how to see whether award seats are even available for the dates and flights you have in mind.  That will also help you narrow down your itinerary options.

3.   Ask questions.  The first question I would ask before even giving the award booking service the go ahead to get started is, “When will you get to my itinerary?”  They don’t like to answer this question because they don’t want to lose our business. But I think it’s a fair question.

I’d like to know what to expect right up front.  Often we assume they’ll get to our booking right away.  I’ve made the mistake of making this assumption and it was weeks before my booking got started.

After all, there are only so many award bookings they can handle in a day and even if you think yours is an easy and uncomplicated one, it will still take them more time than you think.  This leads me to my next point.

4.   Who’s in charge?   As far as I can tell, most of the award booking owners are NOT doing this as their full-time job.  They all have other primary jobs and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, they all travel a lot too!  So, many have hired or brought on board other people to do award bookings.

I found this to be frustrating as I didn’t quite understand at times who to communicate with.  And a few times the “owners” had to step in and take charge of the booking.  I even had one booking helper email me and tell me his boss was too busy and that’s why I hadn’t heard back and then he asked me if he could help me even though he didn’t know anything about how to book with the airline I wanted to use.

Whoa, not exactly the quality of service I was expecting!

5.  Ask more questions.  Will their fee include booking seats for you along with your tickets?  Some will and some won’t.  Will they set alerts for you if you don’t quite get the itinerary you want to see when a better itinerary opens? Again, some will and some won’t.

And speaking of fees, here’s my thinking on that.  The fees for award bookings are all the same, more or less.  While some services have started out free or below the fees of others, they seem to raise their fees over time anyway.  For me, a few dollars isn’t going to make a difference.

It’s the customer service that matters most.  So judge your satisfaction based on whether or not you feel the customer service was worth it.

And also as a part of being a good consumer, try as many of the booking services as you can.  You’ll likely find that they all vary in customer service and personality and you’ll hopefully find the right match for you.

6.  Double Check.  Make sure to verify the information you get from the services.  By this I mean, it’s impossible for them to have flown all the routes, all the planes, and to all the places we book awards to.

Learn how to use seatguru.com to verify which seats are on which planes and learn which alliances and miles are best used to different parts of the world.  All of this knowledge will help you make the right choices for yourself.

Bottom Line

If you’ve used booking services and had satisfying experiences across the board, that’s great.  I haven’t.  They’ve been very mixed.  Even using the same service more than once, my experiences have not been at all the same.

I’ve come to realize that educating me is not a part of the award booking service’s job.  Of course, the more educated and savvy I get with booking award tickets, the less likely I’ll be to use their services.  So it’s a balancing act.

I hope these tips will be of use to you.  Continue to learn something new each time you book an award ticket using one of these services.  I have, and it’s making me a better consumer.  And it’s making the whole planning process much less daunting.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MileValue Award Booking Service

I asked MileValue Award Booking Service for help on a several stop itinerary in Micronesia. My request was assigned to Ian who exhibited, for someone in a service business, a rare combination of attributes: non-responsive, patronizing, and haughty.

Here is one of several examples of his response to my suggestion for a possible better connection:

Me: “Would UA Flt 192 via GUM and NRT be better? It is one hour shorter with no long layover.”

Ian: “If you would prefer to fly on outdated United planes for more miles, than nice business class with Asiana then I’m sure we can make that work. Long layovers when flying business class are fun, they have nice lounges with great food and drinks.”

For this kind of condescending non-help, I had paid them $375 and did so on the condition that they would continue to work on fine-tuning the itinerary:

Ian: “I have put together a rough schedule for your trip. I have not included exact dates, but availability is pretty good that far out, although some flights only operate certain days of the week. Here is what I have.”

Me: “I will review this schedule this week and respond by this coming weekend. I will also remit your entire fee this week, and I presume that fee will include allowing us to fine-tune some of your suggestions if necessary and as I have time to explore possible alternatives, so long as my itinerary remains within the parameters of the original request. Is this an accurate understanding of how your service works?”

When it became apparent Ian had no intention of spending any more time on this award, I said goodbye and requested a credit to my account. They kept my money, notwithstanding their payment policy below and the above understanding I made with Ian.

The following is from the MileValue Award Booking Service FAQs:

Am I required to pay you if I contact you?

No. You are required to pay if the mutually agreeable parameters for payment in the first email are met. That means if we find an award that meets your requirements, you must pay even if you change your mind and decide not to book.

Not only did I not get my money’s worth; this was a huge waste of my time dealing with a business that promises to save you time.

Which airlines offers the ‘best purchasing power’ for your miles going to/from:

-USA to Asia

-USA to Europe

-USA to Australia

-USA to Middle East

-Asia to USA

-Asia to Europe

-Europe to USA

-Europe to Australia

-Europe to Asia

-Middle East to USA

-Middle East to Asia

-Middle East to Australia

Thanks.

~Cari

WHERE WILL I FIND THE REPLY TO CARI’S QUESTION ABOUT “BEST PURCHASING POWER”?

I thought that by signing up I would have access to the response!!!!

Is it wiser to fly business class using all points, or to buy an upgradeable coach seat and use points to do the upgrade only?

My wife and I are taking a cruise around Australia to New Zealand in October 2016 to December 2016 and would like to book either first class or business class tickets from DFW to Sydney with the return from Auckland, New Zealand to DFW. We have about 310,000 AA miles at the moment and will probably have about 325,000 by the end of the year.

Can we use our miles for this trip; when would we need to start having someone work on this and what would be the total charges including taxes, etc. that the airlines would charge?

Hi

I just used Alex from http://www.easyawardbooking.com. He was able to find me 4 business tickets tot europe for next summer. He efficiently and professionalism was outstanding. After wasting more than a month try to do the leg work myself I contacted Alex and he was able to get everything done within 24 hours!

Bill

The site is up for sale – several affiliate links only – that are useless

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