Not quite, but pretty close. Here is a question I got from one of my readers a few days ago:
” I have 8 in the family (6 kids) and I’m hoping to take them to Lima, Peru over spring break of this year. We need to fly from Miami and have some flexibility when it comes to dates (last two weeks of March would work best). Here are my balances in various programs: 200k AA miles, 160k Avios, 150k Ultimate rewards. What are my options? Also, a few questions.
I’m hoping this person has already booked everything so I’m not unleashing competition for those very same seats. He actually told me I could publish this. Anyway, here are a few points to note:
1) If you have a large family, book early.
I realize things happen and sometimes it’s not possible. But if you know your vacation schedule for the next year, don’t leave stuff like that to chance. In this case, the reader is planning to fly out in less than two months and has a family of 8. It’s very tough to put an award trip together under those circumstances. But is it impossible?
2) Don’t give up before you check all of your options.
In this case, I knew the cheapest way to get from Miami to Lima is via Avios program (British Airways). The cost is 12,500 Avios one-way with no fuel surcharges. The program also doesn’t charge close-in booking fees unlike AAdvantage. But before going to BA.com I checked American Airlines (British Airways partner) in order to get an overall picture. Unfortunately, it will only let you put 6 seats in award search. Here are my findings:
It appears, there is award availability for 6 seats on some days. The reader indicated that he has some flexibility, so he could potentially get most of his family members taken care of. But are there more than 6 seats? For that you can call AA.com or you can check BA.com (get a free account there first) and see what comes up:
As you can see, the flights are on American Airlines. AA.com does not show availability on LAN but BA.com does:
This particular LAN flight involves a connection which is not ideal with 6 kids. Still, it’s an option. BA.com is one of the best places to search for OneWorld availability. Another option is Qantas.com You can’t transfer Avios to LAN but you can book LAN flights with Avios. Miles issued by specific airline program are only redeemable through that program, but can be used for partner-operated flights.
3) Consider buying some of your tickets.
As you can see, there are 7 economy seats on the flight from Peru back to Miami. Flights are non-stop and cost 12,500 Avios one-way, 2,500 mile discount compared to AAdvantage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find more than 6 seats on the outbound flights, and one-way tickets to Peru on American Airlines were quite expensive ($1,000 per person). There were decent options on other carriers, but you would have to send one of the parents alone with all 6 kids.
Roundtrip tickets on the same exact AA flights (with award availability) would run at $438 per person, so I think the best thing to do would be to book 6 seats with miles and just pay cash for the other two. Reader’s existing 160K Avios stash would take care of award flights and he can consider using Ultimate Rewards to book paid airfare. He would get 1.25 cents per point toward flights, which isn’t bad at all.
I’ve said many times that using Ultimate Rewards to book flights is often considered travesty by hobbyists, but makes a lot of sense for families on a budget. Right now the offer on Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with 55,000 points, which is as high as it gets. This is an excellent bonus for beginners and you can read about it here It pays me commission. If you have a business, you may also want to look into getting Chase Ink Plus (read about it here) Note that some report that they were able to get this offer with a waved annual fee by applying in-branch.
Open-jaws and stopovers with Avios
Sign-up bonuses to help you pay for passports
I put together a post awhile back on this very topic It lists cash-back bonuses that can help offset your expenses. I just added TD Cash Visa to it which has a sign-up bonus of $200 after spending $1,500 in 3 months. The offer is set to expire February 29th and does pay me commission.
While not as glamorous as getting 50,000 (has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?) miles, $200 will pay for real non-negotiable expenses like passports. Someone who has 8 people in the family needs all the help they can get. I can’t even imagine having 6 kids, that is one tough woman. #Respect
Getting 8 award tickets on any international trip is tough. You might come pretty close, but usually you will have to pay for at least a few tickets. Fortunately, that’s what flexible points are for. Earn and burn.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.