I just booked my summer vacation. This is the second flight I’ve booked recently using airline miles, so I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Acquire more miles. I have reward accounts for different airlines, and I make sure to fly each airline once a year to keep the accounts current. (Delta is the only major airline that doesn’t require this.) The other option to keep miles current is to make purchases with a miles credit card. I hardly ever use cash. When I book a flight, I check different search engines (www.travelocity.com, www.skyscanner.com, etc.) for the best price, then purchase the flight directly from the cheapest airline’s website. That way, I still accrue the miles and I’ll have better service if there’s an issue with the flight.
- Be flexible. Of course, if you can book that dream trip over six months in advance or travel off-season, you will get a better deal. But that’s not easy if you work full-time. I can’t anticipate what the needs are at my job that far in advance. (That’s a subject for another post, but for now, let’s say that I don’t want to miss opportunities at the office.) And I’m going on this trip with a friend, so even though it would be cheaper a month later, one has to compromise. Use the award chart and the award map to determine how many miles you will need to use for a particular flight and how far you can travel with your award balance. Try to go as far as you can with a particular reward value.
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Be sure to check the fees for the flight before purchasing. Fees for my flight were up to three hundred dollars higher within a few days of my desired dates.
- Use ’em or lose ’em. If you have a particular goal in mind, by all means, work towards it. But remember that the requirements change often, and your stockpile of miles will lose value if you don’t use them. In fact, airlines can rely on twenty five percent of users allowing miles to expire.