Hawaii Tickets – Miles or $$$

Since Joann and I are getting married in Hawaii and a lot of our friends are doing research on flights, I decided to write about how we decided to snag our tickets.

Here are a few things you need to know about our particular situation:

  • Continental (CO), with the nonstop flight from EWR-HNL, is our most desirable option
  • 1 Round Trip coach ticket costs 40,000 OnePass miles
  • Normally, the price for 1 Round Trip coach ticket is $700-800
  • At the time, we had about 160,000 OnePass miles

Knowing this, I started researching which payment route we would take.

The obvious answer was use the miles and get 2 free RT tickets. Free is free right? To most, yes. To me, I want that value. Regardless, I booked us the award tickets because that’s the reason we had been banking so many miles anyway.

So last month when CO had a crazy fare sale for most of the country to fly to Honolulu (HNL) and fares were around $500 for EWR-HNL, I went into a frenzy telling everyone I knew to book their flights now. However, first thing was first; I canceled our award tickets and bought the tickets outright with money. CO charges a fee ($50 for Silver Elites) to cancel award tickets and redeposit the miles in your account. That’s right, I actually knowingly paid a cancellation fee even though I already had tickets ready to go.

There were a few reasons I knew this was the right move. For one, this was the lowest price I had ever seen from the east coast to Hawaii. Last September, we paid around $800 for the same trip so the savings were huge. If you have the money, always buy the tickets. Save the miles for a flight you can’t normally afford.

Then, there was the matter of earning miles. It is about 10,000 miles RT between EWR and HNL, miles you don’t earn if you’re flying on an award ticket. Now that we were on a revenue ticket, we’d be earning those FF miles (and I’d even get a 25% bonus as a Silver). It’s a much better feeling (to me) to fly knowing I’ll end up with 12,500 miles at the end of my trip, especially considering that I got them for so cheap*

The most important aspect of redepositing our OnePass miles and saving them for another day has to do with the routing rules of CO’s award tickets. Basically, when using miles to book a ticket, you are allowed one stopover (this lasts longer than 24 hours and is NOT your destination) and two open-jaws (flying into one city and leaving from another). It might not sound like a big deal but if you like to go to different places and you want to maximize your value, this is huge.

Let me give you some examples. Instead of flying EWR-HNL-EWR, try this on for size. You still go to Hawaii, but maybe on your way back you want to stop and visit friends in San Francisco. SFO becomes your one stopover and is within the rules, no extra mileage.

Stopover: NYC - Hawaii - San Fran -NYC

Now an open-jaw example. You can fly to LAX from JFK and then return home from SFO, while landing in EWR. You are responsible to make your way from LAX to SFO. Again, no extra mileage.

Open Jaw: JFK-LAX-SFO-EWR

With those 2 powerful options when booking award travel, you can get really creative and pack a lot into one trip. That might not sound appealing to some but the more I can do/see on vacation, the better. I can relax when I’m dead. This is where my boredom at work and dream travel come into play. I’ll just let the screenshots speak for themselves.

NYC - Rome - Athens - NYC

NYC - Japan - make your own way to Bangkok - Sydney, AUS - NYC

NYC - Seoul - Bangkok - Singapore -NYC

In the example above, you would visit 3 countries on one award for the exact same amount of miles as a simple NYC – Asia round trip. You just need to get yourself from Thailand to Singapore so you can fly home. Nothing a cheap flight on a low cost carrier couldn’t fix… or maybe a chance to try out the A380 First Class Suite ;)

I’m just trying to open up the eyes of the casual traveler who wants to travel more, just as I’ve been enlightened recently. Most people who have airline credit cards just redeem them for emergency tickets and end up paying double mileage due to lack of availability. There’s nothing wrong with that; miles are a great emergency travel fund because tickets can skyrocket just days before the flight. Others will just redeem them for ho-hum domestic RT’s. That’s fine too but I want more out of the miles I worked to get.

It’s probably a lot take in so sorry for the information overload, but that’s what I do -process a crapload of data and hopefully make it usable to you. All it takes is some creative planning, knowledge of the rules, and a simple desire to travel. Your FF miles can go a lot further than you thought.

 

*This is a relative term that gets thrown around a lot but like I said, IF you can afford the ticket, buy it and earn the miles.