By Toni Neubauer
Are you a free-flying spender of frequent flyer miles or a miles hoarder? If you tend to save your points for major international flights, this blog is for you. Here are eleven tips on using your mileage points when taking a trip with Myths and Mountains.
1. Buy a ticket.
You may get more bang for your buck by using dollars instead of miles. Before redeeming your miles, do the math. How do the miles relate to the dollar value of your ticket? What is each mile worth? It’s typically no more than 2 cents. If you’re getting less than 0.4 cents a mile, consider paying cash and hoarding those points a little longer.
Before you buy, if you’re not already enrolled in that airline’s reward program, join it. In fact, join as many airline reward programs as you can. The airlines do have different rules for point expiration, so read the fine print and know, for instance, you may need to take at least one flight a year to keep your points.
2. Book early.
Mileage seats are available about a year before the flight. It’s unusual for our travelers to book that early, but clients who can plan that far ahead do get the best deals with their reward points. Seats purchased with reward points become available about 330 days before the departure date. Upgrading availability is different, however. (See #7)
3. Book directly with the airline.
Airlines will not work with outside companies like Myths and Mountains, so we cannot negotiate prices, make reservations, or change schedules for you if you are flying with redeemed rewards.
4. Book one way.
It may be easier to depart on one airline and return on another, depending on what’s available the departure airports, and your schedule.
5. Check optional dates.
Depending on where you’re traveling, more reward seats may be available on, say, a Tuesday rather than a Sunday. If you’re willing to spend an extra day or two in your destination or departure city, you may have better luck getting a reward seat or an upgrade. According to frequentflyer.com, “Steer clear of the days immediately before or after holidays.”
6. Check internal, domestic airlines.
Some lesser known domestic airlines that only fly within a country or region will accept your miles with a major carrier.
7. Don’t rely on the Internet.
Since all available seats using miles may not be listed, do it the old-fashioned way: Call the airline to check on reward seats for your departure date options. Also, check availability frequently; some seats that are not available today may be released at another time.
8. Consider partner airlines.
Google this: “partner airlines of [insert name of major airline].” You’ll easily see that you can use American Airlines points on Cathay Pacific for your flight to Asia, for instance. Or that United partners with Thai Airlines. According to insideflyer.com, “Generally, Asian and Middle Eastern carriers offer a far superior product in all three classes over airlines based out of Europe. And most airlines from those regions trump the offerings of airlines based in North and South America.”
9. Investigate upgrading.
Free seats are great, but depending on the airline, using points to upgrade is an even sweeter deal, and your flight will be much more comfortable. The downside is that you will probably have to pay something–often the price of a coach ticket. And you still may not get that treasured upgrade. Airlines are more frugal now with upgrades than in the past. If you’re determined to fly in a business class seat, redeem enough points to buy it and don’t rely on an upgrade.
10. Ask for a courtesy hold.
It’s especially useful if you need to check other airline possibilities without losing the one opportunity you’ve found.
Caution: Airlines vary widely on their policies for holding reservations that use frequent flyer miles. Some airlines will hold a reservation for only 72 hours; others will hold for five days. Some require you to have the miles on hand, others don’t. And some only hold flights that are booked on their website. Always confirm the airline’s holding policy before reserving a seat.
11. Last but not least…
Have Myths and Mountains check your itinerary before your confirmation, just to make sure the scheduling works well with your trip logistics.