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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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?
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.