Get the most from your miles

69

I write a lot about how to get points and miles, but I don’t often write about how best to use them.  The main reason for this is simply that I’m not an expert award booker.  Sure, I’ve booked quite a few award flights with my Delta miles, but I have limited experience with other airlines.  However, I know enough to know that if I try to book a complicated itinerary on my own I will do a ton of work, I will experience lots of frustration, and I will most likely end up with a sub-optimal itinerary. Luckily for me, and for everyone else in the same situation, there’s a simple way to make sure you get great value from your miles: use a good award booking service.  Award booking services work with the points and miles you already have to find the best possible flights to suit your needs.

Are they worth it?

Typically you’ll pay an award booking service anywhere from $100 to $150 for one traveler, and usually less for each additional traveler.  If you’re booking a simple domestic round trip award and can find saver-level seats on your own (25K miles in coach, for example), then there’s very little reason to look to a  service.  If, however, you have a complicated itinerary or a big international trip in mind, an award booking service may be a good idea.  A good award booking service should be able to help you book an awesome trip for fewer miles and with much less aggravation than booking it yourself.

Here are some potential advantages to going with a good award booking service:

  • Better Award Availability.  Many people assume that if their airline tells them there are no award seats available, then it must be true.  A good award booking service can often find the seats that don’t appear to exist.
  • Save Miles & Money.  A good award booking service will know which of your points can get you to your destination and back for the lowest cost in terms of both miles and cash.  Ideally they know which options to avoid due to high fuel surcharges or unfavorable award charts. And, they know how to stretch your miles further by taking maximum advantage of flexible routing rules such as layovers and open-jaws.
  • Better flight experience.  A good award booking service will know which flights have the best seats and service and will try to get you on those flights.  And, they’ll proactively find itineraries with the fewest stops and shortest layovers (while avoiding layovers that risk missed connections).
  • Less Aggravation.  Booking award travel can be a huge headache.  Simply finding available award seats can be difficult.  With some airlines, booking award travel can be extremely difficult even when the award seats are available!  A good award booking service will do the hard work for you even if it means calling an airline a dozen times until they find someone who knows how to book your flight.

 

And the Best Award Booking Services Are…

I don’t know!  I know several bloggers who offer award booking services and who sound like they know what they’re doing, but I don’t yet have firsthand experience for comparing one to another.  I recently used MileValue’s service (and will review the experience soon), but I don’t have any other experiences to compare to.  My plan is to use award booking services when I can, and I’ll review them according to the categories listed above (better award availability, save miles & money, better flight experience, and less aggravation).

Reader Experiences

Have you used an award booking service?  If so, who did you use?  Did they save you miles & money?  Did you have a better flight experience?  Was it significantly easier than doing it yourself?  Please comment below.

Advertise Your Service

Usually when people try to advertise in the comment section, I send those comments to the spam folder.  Today I’ll make an exception.  If you have an award booking service, put the URL to the service in the text box named “Website” and use the big text box to write up why your service is worth checking out. 

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