10 Tips for Using Miles and Points to Travel to Australia
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A lot of folks have Australia on their bucket list, because it’s a great place to visit, no matter when you go. But planning a trip to Australia can seem difficult and expensive, especially if you’re traveling with a family!
I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of using miles to get to the Land Down Under. And it definitely doesn’t have to be expensive!
Here are 10 things you can do to make booking your Australia trip easier!
1. Start Looking for Tickets Early
Link: When Is the Best Time to Book Award Flights?
Link: A Quick Trip Down Under: Part 1 – United Airlines International Business Class to Australia (and, Food!)
Although you can luck out planning a trip to Australia at the last minute (like I did), I don’t recommend most folks do this!
Airlines usually start selling tickets ~330 days in advance, so it’s a good idea to start looking for flights as soon as you know you want to take a trip. This is especially important if you want to travel at a busy time, like the holidays or Spring Break.
2. If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
Link: Use ExpertFlyer Like a Pro: Part 1 – Introduction to ExpertFlyer
Airlines don’t necessarily make award tickets available right away. If you’re not able to find seats for the flights you want, keep checking. The airline might decide to make more seats available, or someone who’s already booked a ticket might change their plans and leave their seat open.
You can also use the airline search engine ExpertFlyer to set up email alerts for specific flights. So once you know what you’re looking for, you can sit back and let ExpertFlyer do some of the hard work for you!
3. Try Different Airlines and Connecting Cities
Link: Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 12: Australia & New Zealand
Link: Plan a Bucket-List Trip to the South Pacific and Beyond With the Increased AMEX Delta Offers
There are a lot of airlines you can fly to Australia, and you can redeem every type of airline mile or credit card point with multiple airlines thanks to partnerships and alliances. So make sure to do some research and get an idea of all of the options available to you, and search multiple airlines for the award flights you need. Don’t forget to include international airlines, like Qantas and Air New Zealand.
You’ll often have to connect somewhere on the way to Australia. It might be somewhere logical like Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji, or Tahiti. Or it might be a little more out of the way like Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand, or Japan. The more flexible you can be about your airlines and routes, the more options will be available to you.
4. Be Flexible With Your Dates
It can take some work to find award tickets, especially for highly desirable flights (like those to Australia). And it’s extra hard if you’re traveling at popular times.
If you can be flexible with your travel dates, your search will be much easier, like leaving Thursday instead of Friday. Or a bigger change, like traveling over the summer instead of Spring Break.
5. Try Different Departure and Arrival Cities
When you sit down to search for tickets, the logical place to start is looking for flights from your home airport to the city you want to go to. And you should start there, just in case you get lucky!
Often though, this won’t immediately get you the results you want. Because Australia is so far away, virtually all flights to Australia leave from major hub airports on the West Coast like San Francisco and Los Angeles, or big Texas airports like Dallas and Houston.
So if you’re looking for a non-stop flight to Australia, or even a flight that gets you most of the way there (like to New Zealand or Fiji), start searching for flights from those major US airports first. Once you’ve found the longest flight of your trip, it’s easier to search for the domestic flights you need to get to and from your main flight.
This also works on the other end. If you can’t find a flight to Sydney, try looking for flights to Melbourne or Brisbane. Once you get somewhere in Australia, it’s much easier to find the flight you need to get from there to your final destination.
6. Travel to Different Cities in Australia With British Airways Avios Points
Link: Use British Airways Avios Points to Get Big Travel in Australia
If you can’t find a single award ticket to your final destination, or you just want to visit more than one city while you’re there, British Airways Avios points can help you get wherever you need to go in Australia for cheap!
You can use British Airways Avios points to book flights on oneworld partner Qantas (Australia’s national airline), and you can get almost anywhere in Australia for under 10,000 points!
Because you can transfer points to British Airways from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Starwood, you have a lot of flexibility using transferable points to travel within Australia.
7. Consider Booking Coach Seats and Using a Waitlist
If you’re looking to fly to Australia in Business Class (much recommended on such a long journey), it can be really hard to find available award flights. Especially if you’re booking for several people! If you can find coach award flights but not Business Class, see if the airline has a waitlist for Business Class you can join if you book a ticket in coach.
Team member Keith did this on United Airlines, and was able to get SIX Business Class seats from Sydney to Los Angeles!
This method isn’t guaranteed to work, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll at least have tickets to Australia in coach!
8. Watch for Newly Announced Routes
Several airlines have announced new routes from the US to Australia in the past few months. For example, United Airlines started flying from Houston to Sydney in January, and Qantas plans to start flights between San Francisco and Melbourne later this year.
This can be a great way to use your miles! The new routes won’t have many tickets sold on them yet, so the airlines may make award seats available so they can start filling up their planes. And as a bonus, new airline routes often come on the newest, most comfortable planes!
9. Consider Using an Award Booking Service
Some folks love doing the work of long searches, piecing together award tickets, setting ExpertFlyer alerts, and calling airlines, but not everyone does! If that’s something you enjoy too, then make that part of your trip.
But if you find the process is more frustrating than fun, or if you’re really struggling to use your miles, it might be time to call in the experts at an award booking service.
10. Don’t Forget to Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization!
Many travelers to Australia require a visa, which requires a long process of interviews and fingerprints. Fortunately, that isn’t the case for US citizens. But there is still something you have to do before your trip!
The Australian government requires that you get an electronic travel authorization (ETA) before departing for Australia. And if you don’t have one, your airline won’t let you get on the plane!
But it’s easy to get one online at https://www.eta.immi.gov.au. It costs 20 Australian dollars (~$16) and is good for 1 year, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply. You don’t want to be trying to fill out the application at the airport waiting to check your bags!
Using miles and points to travel to Australia can be tricky. But flexibility makes your search a lot easier!
Trying different dates, cities, and airlines can help you find award tickets. And insider tricks, like using airline waitlists and watching for new airline routes, can help you get an edge on the competition!
If you’re not having any luck, or the search is becoming frustrating, an award booking service can help.
Have you booked award flights to Australia? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!
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