Air Miles = Happiness Using air miles is a wonderful thing. Most people try to accumulate points with one or two major airline consortiums and then fly for free (other than taxes) once they've accumulated enough mileage. But here's a little-known fact: cash in on your air miles by going the distance, in other words, go as far as you can within your points allowance and opt for a (free) stop-over.
2 Examples Recently I booked a cross-Canada trip with my Air Canada (Star Alliance) Aeroplan points. I figured if I'm so keen to see the rest of the world, I should probably explore more of my own country first. Instead of using my miles to take short trip, I opted to maximize them and go from Vancouver, BC (YVR) to Moncton, NB (YQM) with a week-long stopover in Ottawa (YYY). This way, I get to spend a week exploring Canada's Capital over Canada Day, and a week touring around the Maritimes! Done and Done.
I also have some points with American Airlines (One World). Looking into the options, I discovered that AA includes the Caribbean within the lowest tier of its Continental US points allowance. Excellent. To put this in perspective, you could fly from NYC to Boston, or Seattle to Aruba for the same amount of points. Tough choice... The mileage difference is huge; herein lies the beauty of maximizing airline points. Reading the fine print, within the lowest points allowance, the Caribbean portion of travel is only applicable for a 2-month period from September - November (tail-end of hurricane and low season), which is why I would fly to one of the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) islands outside the hurricane belt AND to the Caribbean's furthest point.
How to Book Travel with Air Miles and Maximize your Distance
- Travel the farthest you can within your available points.
- Do your homework. Once you know how far you can go check to see if there are blackout dates, etc...
- Find out your airline's air miles stop-over policy. If you want to further maximize your trip, using the second example above, you could conceivably Fly to Curacao with an extended layover in Miami--all with the same amount of points.
- Book in advance. Airlines only reserve a small amount of seats for airmiles passengers, so book early to make sure you get the dates and destinations you want.
- Embrace the web. Most airlines now charge an extra fee for air miles bookings made over the phone vs on the web.