From The Archives :: Going The Distance With Air Miles

[trip style = budget conscious]

{Editor's Note: this how-to air miles guide was originally published in April, 2010. It's been given a total refresh reroute for the present day.}

Air Miles = Happiness Using air miles is a wonderful thing. Most savvy travelers try to accumulate miles with one or two major airline alliances and redeem them to fly for free {other than taxes}. If you're a frequent flier, growing your miles is a breeze; if you're a casual traveler it can take 2-5 years, but when you book that free flight, it's worth the wait! Once you have a 747-worth of air miles, the best way to use them is: a} go as far as you can within your points allowance, and b} opt for a {free} stopover.

Go The Distance If you could fly from Vancouver to Calgary, or Vancouver to Montreal redeeming the same amount of air miles, what destination would you choose? When cashing in on your air miles for a vacation, why not go as far as you can? Air mile reward charts are all about the big picture. They don't present different mileage amounts for flights from Vancouver to Calgary versus Vancouver to Montreal, it's just 25,000 points {approximately} for domestic travel. Full stop. Therefore, when booking a flight with your air miles, go the distance!

Stop For Free Last summer I booked a cross-Canada trip to Ottawa, Montreal, New Brunswick {NB}, Nova Scotia and PEI with my Air Canada Aeroplan miles. Instead of using my air miles to take short trip, I opted to maximize them and fly to NB with a week stopover in Ottawa. Making the stop in Ottawa did not require additional miles. This air miles redemption trick also works for many US carriers, so if you're redeeming your air miles, why not kill two birds with one stone and stop somewhere you've always wanted to go for free! {Note, airlines only allow stopovers if they are generally between your arrival and departure point.}

Booking Travel With Air Miles & Maximizing The 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 stopover policy.
  • Book in advance for your preferred dates and destinations. Airlines only reserve a small amount of seats for air mile passengers.
  • Embrace the web. Most airlines now charge an extra fee for air miles bookings made over the phone vs on the web.
  • Even if you book your entire flight via air miles, taxes still apply.
[graphic by @tripstyler]