Jan 14 2012
AWARD TICKET BOOKING TIPS – PART 1
Well, I’m looking at my “to do” list from you all and I know many were wanting help with award booking. So here is my first post in this series. I’ve decided to do it today since I spent several hours this afternoon deep in search of award seats to Prague for myself & my mother-in-law. As I previously mentioned, I’m planning a “Momma Getaway”. I’m late in my planning too because I didn’t know who my travel companion was going to be until just recently. All my girlfriends could not go for one reason or another, so my mother-in-law loves to travel like me so I decided to ask her. We travel well together and she has the means & time to go. The last trip we took together was 4 years ago when we went for 2 weeks to Italy. It was just an incredible trip. I had been before with my oldest son (when he was 2) and my hubby. Both trips were fun in different ways.
So today I had my work cut out for me. I wanted to use Delta miles and my mother-in-law only had American Airlines miles. I knew I could transfer some Membership Rewards points to British Airways and get us a flight together since they are an AA partner. But something very very important to remember with British Airways is their taxes are outrageous when you fly from U.S. to Europe. So I decided we would fly separate making the mission a bit more complicated. I now needed to organize our award ticket dates & times to match pretty closely so we could meet up easily. We wanted to go in August. August is high season in Europe and hard to find award seats if you don’t book early. We wanted MileSAAver economy seats for only 60,000 miles. Because I know the system, I know how late in the game I am for these especially in August. Ideally you should always book your tickets 330 days in advance when most airlines make their tickets available for award booking. This is when you’ll find the most availability. Airlines only allow a certain amount of award seats per flight. That being said, if you are willing to pay double miles you can fly pretty much whenever. So I set out on my mission this afternoon when it was nap time at our home. I brought out all my tools. Below is a list of all the tools I use when I go to work looking for award seats. Not just one but all at times. Several windows open at a time. Working back and forth between them.
Note: You can find all these links again when you need them under the Resources tab on the top of my blog.
Today, I used Award Nexus, Expert Flyer & the Airline Award Chart, plus Delta, Iberia, and Air Frances websites. I first used Expert Flyer to see where it found seats. Then I went to the different airline website to confirm what it found. Many times you will not find the award seats for a partner on the airlines website. For example, today when searching for a seat from SFO – PRG on AA, I couldn’t search on AA’s website, because it wouldn’t show those partners. You are forced to call & book over the phone. So I had to search on British Airways website and Iberia’s website to see seats. So once I found the seats I had to call AA and tell them what exact flights I wanted. It was tough finding tickets today, but at the end of the day I got my seats. I was excited. Tickets to Prague in August planning last minute in the award world. It was a score! One thing I want to share too is that I’ve really had a negative perspective on Delta for awhile. Maybe I’ve just read too many bad reviews calling them Skypesos and how people hate having their miles so much they want to give them away. But I tell you today if my mother-in-law would have had some Delta miles she’d be flying a direct flight SFO – PRG in August that only cost 75,000 miles & $50 in taxes. Sweet deal for last minute booking. This flight on Delta is almost $2,000. Let’s do the math. $2,000/75,000 miles = .02666 cents per mile. I would say that is a great value. Not to mention, I didn’t pay a dime for this miles, they were free! I am really loving Delta today. The fact that Delta let’s you fly for just 15,000 more miles when their aren’t the lowest available seats on all segments is awesome. So here is today’s example.
Because I initially couldn’t find any MileSAAver seats (30,000 one way) SFO – PRG with AA. The next step up is AAnytime (60,000 one way). No kidding! So if you don’t find MileSAAver seats, you can certain fly but it will cost you double. Pretty crazy, I know. Now here is how it works with Delta. They have a low, medium & high chart. When I booked my flight I could find one direction SFO – PRG which was the lowest miles and the other was medium. So I paid 30,000 one way and 45,000 the other way. Not bad at all.
Here is what you get with American. If you can’t find the MileSAAver at 30,000, you just go straight up to 60,000 one way. So they really have no MEDIUM miles price. They only have off-peak (which is based on the calendar (see below),low & high. Bummer deal! So you can see how Delta miles beats out American miles in this situation. The only thing American has going for it that Delta doesn’t is the MileSAAver off-peak at 20,000. So if you really plan in advance (330 days), you could fly SFO – PRG for 40,000 miles and that is a sweet deal!!! So planning in advance I’d take the AA miles, last minute the Delta miles win!
Hawaii: Jan. 12 – Mar. 8; Aug. 22 – Dec. 15
The Caribbean and Mexico: Sep. 7 – Nov. 14
Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela: Jan. 16 – Jun. 14; Sep. 7 – Nov. 14
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay: Mar. 1 – May 31; Aug. 16 – Nov. 30
Europe: Oct. 15 – May 15
Japan: Oct. 1 – Apr. 30
Some other tips to know & remember about award redemption with American & Delta.
Can hold ticket for 48 hours
This gives you time to decide or get the miles you need into your account. In my situation today, I transferred Membership Rewards points (instantly) to my Delta account. You can also transfer Starwood points also According to The Points Guy, these post on Wednesdays. Not as quickly as Membership Rewards.
Can hold ticket for 5 days.
You can purchase up to 40,000 miles per account. They usually post in 48 hours.
You can transfer Starwood points to AA.
Lastly, my entire flight & hotel accommodations for 1 week in Prague this August is costing me a grand total of $51 (airline taxes). So let me tell you who I have to thank.
First, I’d like to thank American Express and the Membership Premium Rewards card. I scored 75,000 Membership points last year for their card. I had previously used some of the points but had some left to add to some other Delta miles I had. Then I’d like to thank Radisson for the 100,000 points they gave me during their Stay One Night Get 50,000 points promo. I usually never do any of these offers but I had to have surgery at Stanford (no fun) in December and had to stay 1 night before surgery and 1 night after discharge before my husband could drive me home. Well, when this promo hit the airwaves I knew for sure I could make some lemonade out of this situation. So I guess I’m glad I had surgery in December because otherwise I wouldn’t have my 7 free nights in Prague. I’m still pinching myself.
So folks, stay tuned because I’m always going to be bring it! All the deals you can actual do! Just for the average “Jo”. You don’t need to filter through all those business traveler bloggers anymore. I do the filtering. Remember you don’t need to travel for business to earn big miles & points and travel the world on a dime! I feel so blessed that I’ve learned this hobby well and I can now share all my knowledge with you my readers. It gives me great pleasure to know I’m really helping other live their dreams. Remember, I’m always available for questions. Don’t hesitate to fire off an email. I’ll help in anyway I can.
What have you got planned this year? Please share your big scores and what you’re doing with them! If you don’t have any yet, keep reading my blog and you’ll find lots of them.
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