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How a Family of Four Can Fly to Hawaii Via Miles (and Cards with No Minimum Spending Requirements)

I’ve mentioned before that the bulk of my readers’ emails contains questions on how to fly to Hawaii via miles and points. It truly is the “holy grail” of travel destinations for most American families.

It is for us, and I hope to take my kids there one of these days. I’ve put together a number of posts on various ways to travel to Hawaii via miles and points:

Reader’s request: Help Me Maximize My Existing Stash of Miles and Points for a Family Trip to Hawaii 

Korean SkyPass vs. Air France Flying Blue Program for Your Family Vacation to Hawaii

A Case Study: From Boston to Hawaii via Citi Thank You Points

My goal was to show that while not easy, this sort of trip is very much within your grasp as long as you have some flexibility and ability to meet minimum spending requirements on several credit card offers. But what if you are the type of family who is “allergic” to credit cards when it comes to everyday expenses? You pay everything with debit cards and cash. Maybe you got burned in the past by getting into debt and don’t want history to repeat itself. Is all the hope lost? No way.

If you and your spouse have a good credit score, you can sign up for 4 cards (total) that have no minimum spending requirements. Even if one of you doesn’t have a paying job or business, you can count household income on both applications. You will have to come up with some cash in order to pay annual fees, but in the end, you should have deeply-discounted tickets to Hawaii via miles as long as you know how to play the game. Oh, and don’t forget to cancel the credit cards before the next annual fee hits.

The Strategy for Hawaii Via Miles

Cards you will be applying for:

1) AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard (X 2)

  • Apply Here (direct non-affiliate  link)
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you make your first purchase in the first 90 days and pay the $95 annual fee
  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to four companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines
  • Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) when you spend $25,000 each calendar year
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1X miles for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Group 1 boarding
  • No foreign transaction fees when you make purchases outside the U.S.
  • Receive 10 percent of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back (10,000 miles maximum per calendar year)
  • Receive 25 percent in-flight savings on food, beverages and headsets
  • $95 Annual fee is not waived

So, once you get approved for the card and pay the annual fee of $95, you should collect 40,000 miles after the first statement closes. That amount will take care of 2 off-peak sAAver tickets to Hawaii from anywhere in Continental US. I live in Florida and roundtrip tickets to Hawaii rarely dip below $700 per person. So, if both spouses get this card, they should have enough miles for 4 one-way tickets.


Off-peak dates:

  • Hawaii:
    To Hawaii: December 29 – March 12, August 11 – November 18, November 24 – December 10
    From Hawaii: January 7 – March 19, August 18 – November 27, December 3 – December 25

Of course, there is a catch. There needs to be saver (lowest level) availability in order to make this trip happen. AAdvantage program has been going downhill lately, but with some flexibility, you should be able to pull it off. I randomly checked availability for Orlando-Kauai flights, and this is what I found while searching for 4 seats in the month of November:

Not  great, especially if your kids are in school. That’s why I can’t overstate the fact that you need to have lots of flexibility. Award availability will vary greatly depending on your origin city and destination in Hawaii. Availability looks better for 4 seats from DFW to Honolulu in August:


Something else to keep in mind. Let’s say you need to go during peak season. You would need an additional 5,000 AA miles per account. There are several ways to go about doing this.

You can redeem miles on one ticket per account, which would give you a 10% rebate on your miles (usually posts instantly, but YMMV). Then you can buy additional 3,000 AA miles for $88.50 (X2) in order to get the other two tickets. There is some risk in doing this and may be a headache if you have small children because you will need to link reservations. But it’s an option nonetheless.

If you can’t find sAAver availability, you can always redeem miles on two AAnytime level tickets (40,000 miles each) and just buy the other ones with cash. You’ll still come out ahead. I recommend you check on award availability to all Hawaiian islands because you can always buy a separate inter-island ticket with cash. Be flexible, that’s how you win with traditional miles.

2) Avianca Vuela Visa  (X 2)

Make sure to join their frequent flyer program first and put in code AVSPWE on credit card application in order to get 60K miles. 

  • Apply here (direct link)
  • Welcome Bonus of up to 60,000 LifeMiles for purchases made within the first 90 days after activation of your credit card
  • Up to LM 3 for every dollar spent on Avianca purchases
  • Up to LM 2 for every dollar spent at gas stations and grocery stores
  • LM 1 for every dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Two 50% discounts on award tickets redeemed, applicable for travel to Central America or Colombia from the United States
  • Free additional piece of baggage for travel between the United States and Central America
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee of $149 is not waived.
  • See my short review of this card

You have to click on application with 40,000 miles offer, and there will be a part to add the promo code AVSPWE :

There have been several reports of success in getting 60,000 miles after spending just $1. So, assuming both spouses get approved, you’ll each receive 60,000 miles after paying $149 annual fee. The bonus is more than enough to take care of  two one-way tickets, redeemable on United Airlines (Avianca partner). United award availability to Hawaii is usually decent. Few days ago one of my readers was even able to find low-level availability for four tickets during Christmas break. A miracle!

Here is Avianca award chart on United (and STAR Alliance) redemptions:

The cost of flights to Hawaii on United is 22,500 miles for one-way tickets in economy class. So you would have to first search United availability on its own website and look for flights that price out at 22,500 miles each way (the same as Avianca)

Then call Avianca, but brace yourself first. I’ve heard they are a pain to deal with. But that’s why it pays to do your research ahead of time. Have the number of the flight written down and feed all the details to the agent. The easier you’ll make it for them, the higher your chances of success will be.

If you are willing to buy 3,000 Avianca miles, you will have enough miles for 1 economy seat and 1 business class seat per account. Once again, you’ll have to make sure that low-level business class availability exists on United website (also prices out at 40,000 miles one-way). Personally, I would burn extra miles on a business-class flight from Florida to Hawaii in a heartbeat. Avianca frequently sells its miles for 1.5 cents apiece, so this could be a relatively cheap opportunity to fly in style.

Recap and Totals

So, assuming you’ll find sAAver off-peak availability on American and stick to economy flights on United, you’ll have a total out-of-pocket cost of $488, plus around $20 in taxes. Flying a family of four to Hawaii via miles for a little over $500 is a spectacular deal. And remember, you only have to spend $1 per card in order to collect the bonus.

Of course, you will still need to pay for lodging, rental car, food and activities. None of those things are free. I recommend you check VRBO, EndlessVacationRentals and AirBnB (my referral link, we will both get $35 toward a rental) for condo listings. Those will be your best bet when  traveling with family. Also, check Nancy’s post Am I crazy to skip the Grand Hyatt Kauai? for other ideas.

But taking care of flights is your first hurdle and the above strategy can help you overcome it. So if you’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii but couldn’t afford it, you can now make it happen without relying on cards with high minimum spending requirements.

If things don’t go as planned, you can always burn miles on a different flight and in the case of Aviator card, redeem them on hotels at a penny each. If you have any questions or the above information makes your head spin, feel free to email me at I assure you, this stuff is NOT rocket science. You just have to have persistence, patience and flexibility.

Readers, what other easy strategies would you like to add to fly to Hawaii via miles?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and 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.

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6 thoughts on “How a Family of Four Can Fly to Hawaii Via Miles (and Cards with No Minimum Spending Requirements)

  1. Hi,
    When I started collecting AA miles this was my ultimate travel goal. I now have 225,000 AA miles but still can’t find a super saver flight for the times we are available. We are a family of five. It’s super hard. The cheapest flight in August is 40k miles each way. Ugh. We just keep putting this trip off to collect more miles. I hope other travelers find more availability. I’ve been very frustrated with AA. It’s probably time to start collecting United so we can have another option. Thanks for the suggestion of flying back a different airline.

    • Michelle, I definitely hear you on AA award availability! It’s been getting worse and worse. Of course, it does depend on the route and the number of tickets you need, but a family of five who is tied to a school schedule is at a real disadvantage. I wish I could tell you things will get better, but I seriously doubt it.
      While getting saver-level tickets is preferable, I recommend you seriously consider just paying 40K miles for one-way tickets. If I remember correctly, you live on the east coast, so you will be getting at least 1 cent per mile in value. To me, that’s a good deal, especially if you accumulated the miles via sign-up bonuses.
      It will allow you to get the departure times you need, plus, AAnytime tickets are often eligible for exit row seat selection. Those have more leg room, which will come in handy for long flights from east coast.
      Of course, you would need return tickets. This Avianca offer could be perfect for that, actually, as long as you are willing to cough up $149 per card. If you have MR, UR or Citi Thank You points, you could also consider transferring to Singapore KrisFlyer program. It’s redeemable on United, and one-way flights cost 17,500 miles.

      Of course, you could also wait and hope that AA saver availability will open up. And it might, you never know. But it’s good to have a Plan B in place.
      A few more strategies I recommend:
      1) Try searching for tickets to a different island then the one you want.
      2) Search for availability from another airport that may not be as close to your house. It could even make sense to use Rapid Rewards for a positioning flight and have a short layover before flight to Hawaii. If you want to save AA miles for something else, this could be a decent compromise.
      3) Search for three or four sAAver seats, and then redeem miles at AAnytime level on the last ticket. Or you can buy the fifth ticket with cash or using flexible points.

      Let me know how it goes and good luck!

      • Thank you for the advice. We’re now trying to juggle college, high school and middle school vacations along with AA availability. It’s crazy! I miss the preschool days when we could just pull them and away we went!

    • @Michelle LOL That’s a tough combination, for sure! Honestly, if you can somehow collect miles for return ticket, consider burning AA miles at 40K level. I know it stinks, but if it gives you the dates and departure times you need, that’s all that matters. Miles only devalue over time, so maybe it’s better to go for “bird in hand.” Depending on the price of tickets, it could be the best solution. I aim at getting 1 cent per mile, but your valuation may be different.

  2. Unless you live on the West coast, it can be difficult to find saver award availability for most airlines during the summer months and Christmas/fall/spring break when kids are out of school. For people living east of the Rockies, it may be easier to simply book a cheap flight to LAX or the SF Bay area, then find award availability from there to Hawaii. To make that paid flight “free” you could use Barclay Arrival points or a cash-back card, Miles-wise, West coast to Hawaii routes can actually be cheaper with some programs like BA Avios. Also, make sure you are searching routes to other Hawaiian islands besides Oahu (HNL) While there are things that you’ll want to see on Oahu if you’ve never been, I personally find the other islands more interesting and relaxing. Honolulu has something like a big resort city vibe and some of the worst traffic jams in the US. Fly into Maui (OGG), Kona on the Big Island (KOA), or Kauai (LIH). I believe United also flies from LAX to Hilo (ITO) on the Big Island, at least on a seasonal basis, which would be handy for visiting Volcanoes National Park. Island hopping is fun and also opens up options for your return flight to the mainland by departing from a different airport. Inter-island flights are cheap via cash or miles. To cover a family of 4, get the signup bonus for the Hawaiian Airlines card OR transfer Membership Rewards points to Hawaiian OR look at award charts for airlines that partner with Hawaiian (i.e. United charges 6000 miles one-way).

    Final tip: Try to spend at least 10 days in Hawaii. Most people experience jet lag for the first 1-2 days. You’ve put forth the effort to get yourself there, take the time to properly relax and enjoy it!

    • @Erik I completely agree with you. That’s why I was shocked when one of my readers said he found saver availability to Hawaii for four people (!) during Christmas break. That rarely happens. Though to be fair, they were using Singapore miles on United.
      American low-level availability is extremely poor these days, but sometimes you can get lucky. I wouldn’t even bother to hope for sAAver tickets during Christmas break, but summer may be doable if you are flexible. And I agree, it could pay to just fly to an airport on the west coast and connect form there. That’s what I’ve mentioned to my reader Michelle earlier.
      I think the tip on getting Hawaiian miles for inter-island flights is an excellent one. Their co-branded Barclaycard is certainly an option, though one would have to forego other offers for the time being. I personally love Arrival Plus: $500 off travel, can’t beat that!
      I’m a bit intrigued by the fact that Avianca chart lists inter-island Hawaii flights as a redemption option. This is odd because Hawaiian Airlines does not partner with Avianca. My guess is they just copied United award chart because all the other redemption levels match. But who knows. I wonder if codeshares would qualify?

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