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Sharing travel experiences with family and friends is the most rewarding part of traveling. At the same time, using points & miles to book travel for a large family can feel like an impossible task. But it isn’t!
Million Mile Secret Agent Ken asked:
My wife, our 5 children, and I would like to fly to Norfolk from Bangor for Columbus Day week in 2018. The airlines that offer flights are Delta, United Airlines, and American Airlines. I am wondering if the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card would be best?
Getting 7 seats on the same flight could be a challenge, Ken! But because you’re planning so far in advance, and flexible with which airline to fly, you should be able to pull this off.
You have lots of options for getting the family to Norfolk. And you can get the flexibility you need with transferable points!
I’ll help you figure out what credit cards are best for your situation.
Where to Book Your Award Seats
When you’re deciding which airline to book, don’t just look at the award chart for the airlines you want to fly. Take a look at the award charts for the partners of the airlines you want to fly, too. Because you can sometimes book cheaper awards through partner airlines.
At the time I was doing my research, I couldn’t search for award flights for the week of Columbus Day 2018, because seats weren’t open yet. But I found award flights from Bangor to Norfolk that should work for you.
1. United Airlines
United Airlines domestic round-trip coach saver awards are normally 25,000 United Airlines miles. But if your flight distance is 700 miles or less, saver awards only cost 20,000 United Airlines miles round-trip! And I was able to find 7 award tickets on the same flight in September 2018 for only ~$78 in taxes and fees!
This is the easiest way I found to get 7 round-trip award tickets from Bangor to Norfolk. But if you can find enough low-level award seats on an American Airlines flight, you could book the trip for fewer miles!
2. American Airlines
American Airlines round-trip domestic award flights start at 25,000 American Airlines miles for flights over 500 miles. So you could fly 7 people round-trip from Bangor to Norfolk for 175,000 miles, plus taxes & fees.
But you could book almost the exact same flights for only 15,000 British Airways Avios per person if you’re willing to make the 4-hour drive between Washington, DC, and Norfolk.
Also, because British Airways has a distanced-based award chart, they charge per segment for award flights. If you have to make a connection, you’ll pay more.
The other problem you might run into is finding 7 award seats on the same flight. The American Airlines website only lets you search for 6 seats at a time. And when I tried to search for more than 3 award seats at once, the low-level awards vanished!
So if you are willing to split up the family on 2 flights, this option could work. Or you could book the low-level awards with British Airways Avios points. And then book the rest of the award seats with American Airlines miles.
Get All the Award Flights You Need With Only 3 Bonuses
The best way to give yourself the most flexibility is with transferable points. I suggest earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Because you can transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to United Airlines and British Airways.
And you’ll have the added advantage of being able to
pay for your flights with points through the Chase travel portal. Which is a great option if there aren’t any open award seats on the days you want to travel!
A Couple Could Get 2 Chase Sapphire Preferred Cards & the Chase United Explorer Card
You’ll need at least 140,000 United Airlines miles to book 7 award tickets from Bangor to Norfolk. These credit card bonuses earn United Airlines miles or transfer to United Airlines at a 1:1 ratio:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
- Chase Ink Business Preferred – 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
- United MileagePlus Club Card – 50,000 United Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
- United MileagePlus Explorer Card – 40,000 United Airlines miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
- United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card – 50,000 United Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
A couple could each get a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, plus one get the United MileagePlus Explorer card. That would get you 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and 40,000 United Airlines miles after meeting the minimum spending requirements.
Pay With Points If You Can’t Find Seats!
If you run into a situation where there aren’t any award seats left on the flight you want, you can use the Chase Travel Portal to pay with points.
The number of points you’ll need is tied to the cash price of the flight. And you’ll get a different value for your Chase Ultimate Rewards points depending on which credit card you have.
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred, your Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents per point towards airfare. But with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem points for 1.5 cents per point through the Chase travel portal.
When you pay for flights this way, you won’t have to deal with blackout dates. And you’ll earn frequent flyer miles at the same time!
There are several options for flying a family of 7 round-trip from Bangor to Norfolk. You could book award seats on United Airlines for under $80 in total fees and 20,000 miles per person!
Or you could fly for only 15,000 British Airways Avios points per person by booking partner awards on American Airlines! But you might have a hard time finding enough low-level award seats for 7 people.
Have fun with the family in Norfolk, Ken!