Cheapest Award Flights for Your Family

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There are several posts out there about some of the best business and first class award redemptions, but many of those ring in at over 100,000 miles each which can be tough to stomach when you have have a family with three, four, or five travelers to buy for.  What about the other end of the spectrum?  I think it is time to share some of the cheapest award flights that require the lowest number of miles!

We all hear about the entry level 25,000 mile domestic round trip saver award, but did you know that isn’t the cheapest award out there?  Here are eight different examples of round trip flight awards that would cost less than 25,000 miles each!

Of course I don’t recommend hoping on a redemption just because it is cheap any more than I recommend hoping on a premium cabin redemption just because it is a premium cabin.  However, I think it can be useful to know what only a handful of miles will get you and your family in case you want to brainstorm how to stretch the miles you have to create a vacation you both want and can afford.

Flights on Alaska, American, and US Airways starting at 4,500 Avios:

This one is pretty well documented, but so lucrative that it is worth repeating.  Flights up to 650 flown miles on British Airways partners such as Alaska, American, and US Airways cost just 4,500 Avios each way.  Longer flights from 651-1,151 miles cost 7,500 Avios each way, which would still be just 15,000 miles round trip.  There are no last minute booking fees with Avios, so this can even be your ticket to spontaneous travel.

4,500 point Avios

As an example, being able to go up to 650 flown miles means that from Dallas, Texas, you should be able to fly one-way as far as Omaha, St. Louis, Des Moines, Denver, Albuquerque, El Paso, Monterrey (Mexico), Birmingham, and Memphis all for just 4,500 Avios each way per person.  That is just 9,000 miles per person round trip!  Obviously there are lots of airports even closer, but those are some of the furthest examples you could each from DFW without going over 650 flown miles.

Not exact estimation of 650 miles from DFW

Not exact estimation of 650 miles from DFW

If you have a few more miles to spend, you can fly from DFW as far as Fargo, Las Vegas, Cancun, Columbus, and Orlando for just 7,500 Avios each direction as those destinations are all under 1,151 miles flown.  Keep in mind that British Airways charges per segment, so those amounts are assuming you are on a nonstop flight.

Given how easy British Airways Avios are to rack up thanks to:

  • Being a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Plus® Business Card
  • The Amex Membership Rewards program and cards like Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card
  • Having its own British Airways Visa Signature® Card
  • Being a transfer partner from the Starwood Preferred Guest program

..these inexpensive redemptions all that much more valuable and attainable.  It’s been a while since we have had a transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to British Airways, but that has happened in the past to give you as many as 50% bonus Avios when you transfer.  Low award flight costs + easy to rack up miles makes this a winner for many families.

Flights on United and Star Alliance partners starting at 20,000 miles round trip via ANA:

Just like with British Airways Avios, distance based charts can be your friend if you are trying to stretch miles for a family getaway.  If Star Alliance operated flights are more your style, then you can use the ANA award chart to fly up to 2,000 flown miles round trip for 20,000 ANA miles – you can even have stopovers with this one (read this post for more ideas).  For just 2,000 additional miles, for a total of 22,000 miles, you can fly 2,001 – 4,000 miles round trip.  That means you could fly from Newark to Salt Lake City and back on a United operated flight for just 22,000 miles via ANA.  That’s not a huge savings over the 25,000 that award would cost you on United, but it all adds up when you have to buy several award flights for your family – especially if you have a couple of geographically close cities you want to visit.

ana award chart

For example, if you want to maximize stopovers you could fly on United from Washington DC – LaGuardia – Portland (Maine) – Chicago – Washington DC and have stopovers of however long in New York, Portland, and Chicago all for just 20,000 miles if you keep the flown miles under 2,000.  That is a bunch of vacationing for just 20,000 miles!

United Airlines flights start at 10,000 miles:

If you aren’t looking for stopovers or booking through “foreign” programs, then remember that even United flights are just 10,000 miles each way if the flights are 700 miles in length or less.  We use this to fly from Houston – Wichita sometimes when the cash prices are high but we want the direct United flight.

American Airlines round trip flights as low as 15,750 miles:

This means if you have a card like that then you could book Houston – Calgary in September in coach for 17,500 American Airline miles round trip via the reduced mileage awards + you would then get 1,750 miles back via the 10% rebate that comes with that card (assuming you pick dates with MileSAAver availability).  That comes to 15,750 total miles for the round trip ticket to Canada in coach. – See more at: http://mommypoints.boardingarea.com/2014/07/15/save-7500-miles-american-airlines-awards/#sthash.B0PcWm28.dpuf

With American Airlines you can get Citi Discount Mileage Awards for up to 7,500 miles off round trip flights to rotating cities, which means the awards that are normally 25,000 miles are just 17,500 miles round trip.  On top of that, some AAdvantage Citi cards give 10% of the redeemed miles back, bringing the total cost down to 15,750 miles for round trip flights from places like Houston – Vancouver.  Those are huge savings over the standard 25,000 mile round trip flight prices.  There are currently reduced mileage award cities announced through November 2014.

Citi Reduced Mileage Awards

US Airways round trips as low as 20,000 miles:

If you have The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® then you can get 5,000 miles off a redemption that is operated solely on US Airways flights.  This means that a saver round trip within the 48 states, Alaska, and Canada can cost you just 20,000 miles instead of the standard 25,000 miles.  If you take advantage of their off-peak awards, then you can even go to the Caribbean for as low as 20,000 miles round trip if you have the co-branded card!

Southwest Flights for less than 4,000 points:

The price of a Southwest award flight is directly tied to the cash price, so when there is a sale or a very inexpensive route then the points price on Southwest can be quite low.  For example, Southwest is currently having a sale where flights are “as low as $73 each direction”.  On the Dallas – Wichita route that price is indeed $73, and the corresponding points price is just 3,777 points.  You can earn those points with the Southwest credit card or transfer them in 1:1 via Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Southwest Flights

It isn’t a “fancy” redemption, but it is a very, very economical one, and a way to really stretch points.  If you happened to have the Companion Pass then two could fly for that one-way points price!

Virgin America trans-con flight for around 7,000 points:

Just like with Southwest, Virgin America points have a fixed cash value toward flights, so when flight prices are low so are points prices.  As an example, here is a flight from JFK – LAX for just 7,163 points one-way.  Right now they are even handing out 2,500 – 7,500 points as a bonus after you take your first paid flight and 500 points just for joining.  You can also rack up Virgin American Elevate miles by using their co-branded credit cards.

Virgin America

Alaska Airlines Intra State Awards for 7,500 miles:

If you want to fly Alaska Airlines, Penn Air, or Ravn Alaska within one state, including Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington, you can do it for as low as 7,500 miles each way via an intra-state award ticket.  Keep in mind those same Alaska operated flights may be available for just 4,500 Avios if they are 650 miles of less, but this is still another option that might be especially useful within Alaska.

These are just a few examples of flight awards that are out there for even less than 25,000 miles round trip for you to keep in mind in case a family vacation on a limited points budget is on your planning to-do list!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Great writing! I’m living in Tampa, FL, and I has never found any flight available via British Airway so far. Do you have any advice in this?

    Thank you so much for your sharing.

    • In addition, you can get excellent deals out of Tampa with Avios, heading south to the Caribbean and Latin America using LAN or AA from Miami. You have to pay more Avios since there’s a connection, but the totals are still often very good compared to using AA or other miles.

      • I have never see any flight available from my local airport, Tampa, to somewhere else. It keeps saying that not available for the dates I chose. In addition, I plan to take a trip to Southeast Asia in next summer, do you think it is possible to book cheaper ticket via British? Thank you for your sharing.

        • Jep, search by segment. For example, search from Tampa to Miami and then from Miami to somewhere else. You can then call to book over the phone with BA.

  2. Jep, well try looking on American Airlines for saver award flights and those should be bookable via British Airways if they are on American, US, or Alaska operated flights. Tampa isn’t a hub, so you will have to connect probably in Miami for most AA flights.
    TomJ, thanks – transfer ANA 1:1 from Membership Rewards.

  3. Aeroplan also has a discount for short haul awards in North America where it costs only 15k roundtrip. Has to be AC metal, but can be useful.

  4. Thanks for the great information! I dream of redeeming miles for first or business class, but more often than not we just need to get from point a to point b with as few miles as possible. Thanks for addressing the needs of most of us and providing information and tricks that we can actually use.

  5. DBest, for sure. Need to do a more comprehensive list rather than just a “sampler platter” soon. That one would certainly be on it, as would the Spirit Airlines 2,500 mile flight!

  6. I hope I’m not OT, but the problem I have is booking saver business class for my family of three on any American flights. It seems that American does not make more than two saver business class seats available on any flight, (although we are able to obtain three seats through American for partners such as Iberia). Do you know of any work-around for this problem?

  7. Great post Summer. I copied your post for my resource files.

    I am currently debating whether to transfer Diners Club points to SAS for a 10,000 points award ticket within Norway for a route that is nearly $500 for a purchased ticket.

    Many of the low award tickets are regional tickets available within state or country through regional airlines that are very expensive to purchase or points costly in other airline frequent flyer programs.

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