How to use frequent flier miles

Mar 8th, 2010, 10:05 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 5
How to use frequent flier miles

I realize this is a dumb question. We are planning a honeymoon and have generous family members who have offered to pay airfare with their FF miles. The best deals I'm finding online are for packages that include airfare. Can we book these package deals and pay airfare with the miles? I'm so confused.
winstonsgrrrl is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,224
Best use of award miles is to book premium class international -- but this depends on how many miles you've been gifted. If you wish to go to the Caribb and you have 120000 miles, for example, your family is essentially offering to fly you in business or first class for this special occasion. These tickets normally sell for thousands of dollars (although same flight in coach could be purchased for $300 pp). If going to Europe or Asia, you would need more miles to fly in first or business.

You can find good hotel deals without airfare. You cannot combine these things -- awards are separate transactions with airlines. Find out your award availability (and then hold the reservation) and then look for accommodations.
fishee is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 10:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,044
First, congratulations are in order.

Second, that is indeed generous of your relatives, but the gift comes with some complications.

First, you need to know (or tell them) where you'd like to go and when. Travel to many popular destinations at popular times (such as Hawaii in the winter, Europe in the spring/summer, etc.) using FF miles can be quite difficult, as the airlines do not make many seats available for redemption since too many people are willing to pay for those seats.

Usually with vacation planning, one picks the location, dates and accommodations, and then shops for airfare that fits. When using FF miles you often have to do it the other way around... see when there are seats available, then build the dates (and accommodations) around that. Flexibility is the key to successful use of mileage programs.

So it's a conversation you need to have with your family members. What destination, and when are important, followed by which airline their miles are with. Some FF programs have "peak" and "off-peak" redemption rules for certain destinations, in which a trip to say, Europe, requires 40,000 miles in "off-peak" months (say, October - March) and 60,000 in peak months. Your family members might not have enough miles to cover both of you at the higher rate.

Or maybe your honeymoon plans are flexible enough that you could shop for available seats to your preferred destination, then move your own schedule around to fit availability.

Where and when do you want to travel? Is economy okay or are they offering to pay for a premium cabin? What FF program is involved? The details are quite important.

Finally, no, you generally cannot match FF redemption flights with package deals including accommodation.
Gardyloo is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 3,931
Just to add to what Gardyloo said, the relatives with the FF miles will have to be the ones who actually book the FF tickets. It can be a bit of work to book FF tickets for one's self, and trying to do it for others is even more complex. Make it easy on them by giving them a few options that work for you and don't be rigid on time, layovers, etc. Good luck.
Brian_in_Charlotte is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 11:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 5
Thanks so much for the insight! Our family members haven't said anything about how many miles they're offering, what program they're with, etc. I had no clue to ask this, either. We are very flexible with our destination, but not so much the dates. We just want beachy, tropical. Hopefully that's not a tall order in August.
winstonsgrrrl is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 11:30 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,568
Another aspect of FF miles redemption is that usually you cannot combine miles from different people to buy a single ticket (possible with sometimes hefty transfer fees). For two travelers, you'd need either one donor with all the miles or two who each have enough for one ticket. E.g., if each ticket is 60k miles, donors with 90k and 30k wouldn't work even though the total is 120k. Investigate these terms for the airline you will be using (as well as its destinations and alliance partners).
kayd is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 11:42 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 5
kayd--Thanks for your response. All of our miles will be from one donor. (Fiance's brother in law.) It will be our wedding gift from fiance's sister and BIL, so I guess that's why I put family memberS in my original post. lol
winstonsgrrrl is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,224
you've gotten great advice from the ff experts.

With beachy and tropical, keep in mind that hurricane season is roughly july-oct in the Caribbean basin (which is why that's low season). So you might want to consider Hawaii or Mexico Pacific if you're looking for a sandy beach in Aug.

If your bil flies and vacations ALOT he may be quite adept at figuring this out for you. In that case, he won't be surprised at all by your questions -- i.e. how many miles are you working with and which airline program and hopefully he'll take over once you give him some poss destinations and time windows. If he doesn't, come back to this forum

If you are planning for this coming August, gardyloo is tly right that availability may be limited so no time to waste -- get an email to the bil today about the details. And congratulations.
fishee is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 08:41 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,008
One airline that does let you pay for vacation packages (airfare, hotel and/or car) with FF miles is American Airlines. But the exchange rate is not that great IMO. You might be better off using miles for your airfare and paying for your hotel.
bettyk is offline  

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