Mailbag: What’s the best way to use frequent flyer miles for a trip to Hawaii?
If you’re like 99% of Americans, then you’ve dreamed of taking a vacation to Hawaii.
If you’re the other 1%, then it probably means you already live in Hawaii, like reader Naomi:
We are a family of five living on one of the outer islands of Hawaii. We only have use two cc, reg Amex and a Hawaiian Miles (but the rewards aren’t that great) This past January my husband said that the only thing he would change about our lives would be to travel more.
Unfortunately due to the prohibitive costs for travel outside of the islands we are only able to take a vacation every few years. This year we wanted to take our children to Disneyworld. Airfare alone was over $5,000 add on room, park tickets, food, etc it’s over $11,000!
So his request seems like a far off dream. And that has made me very sad. I started earnestly looking into ways to make my husband’s request possible and to make a long story short, here I am. I think this would be perfect for us.
No matter which camp you fall in to, the goal is the same; to use miles and points to get to and from Hawaii, whether its to return home to the mainland or to return back to your own slice of paradise in Hawaii.
So what type of frequent flyer mile balances are needed to travel to the “most isolated inhabited area in the world?’
The regular US carriers
For many of the major carriers, the price is set at 40,000 miles for a roundrip economy ticket. This includes USAir, United, and Delta. To fly business, you are looking at between 70k-80k. You can use milez.biz to see all your pricing options for tons of carriers.
American Airlines is a little better or a little worse, depending on the time that you fly. If you fly off-peak, you can get a roundtrip economy ticket for 35,000 but if you travel during peak season, a roundtrip economy ticket is going to cost you 45,000 (learn more about traveling saving miles by traveling off-peak in this post).
An extremely interesting option for those living on the West Coast is to use British Avios points. I’ve mentioned before how they have extremely good value in limited situation, and West Siders you’re in luck because this happens to be one of them!
The amount of Avios points need for a flight is based on the distance you travel, and so if you are flying from Los Angeles to Honolulu, you only need 25,000 Avios points for a roundtrip economy ticket!
This is a steal, especially when you consider that the Chase British Airways card is currently running a 100k point promotion! You could potentially net yourself 4 roundtrip tickets to Hawaii!
Of course, if you are planning on flying from somewhere farther away, you’ll be paying more Avios points. Dallas will cost you 40k, Chicago 45k, and most cities from the East Coast will be 50k or more.
Depending on where you are flying from, and your mileage balances in other programs, this may make sense to you.
To figure out how many Avios points you need is a bit confusing, since not only does their website suck (you can try to enter your cities in BA’s Avios Calculator, but it will only calculate it if there is a direct flight between the two) and they also charge you per leg.
If you want to fly from San Francisco to Honolulu, you’ll have to pay for the leg from San Fran to LA and then pay for the leg from LA to Honolulu, even though LA is just a layover.
Flying from San Fran is still only a total of 32,500 miles roundtrip in economy, so it’s still a great deal, just aggravating to figure out. As I mentioned above, BA’s website isn’t smart enough to calculate that for you.
Ok, so how do I suggest figuring out how many BA Avios points are needed? I’ll show you two ways (one easy, one harder) using Philadelphia to Honolulu as an example.
The Easy Way
1. Go to milez.biz and put in the two cities that you want to travel between
2. Select BA Executive Club from the dropdown menu.
3. Milez.biz will show you how many BA points you need, calculated via a layover in whatever city makes the most sense. You’re done!
The Harder Way
1. Go the OneWorld Interactive Map and plug in the city you are leaving from and the city you are going to.
2. Have “no preference” selected under the with airline tab and make sure to have “include connections” and “include codeshares” checked.
3. This will show you all the routes possible between Philadelphia and Honolulu. You see that we could connect through Chicago (which milez.biz showed us) or Dallas.
4. Enter the information for the first leg in to BA’s Avios point calculator, either PHL to ORD (Chicago) or PHL to DFW (Dallas) depending on your preference. Write down the mileage needed.
5. Enter the next segment, either DFW or ORD to HNL (Honolulu).
6. Add the two amounts together and you have your total number of Avios points needed. If you have more than two legs on the trip, repeat step 5 until you’ve gotten all the way from your starting point to your end point.
Ok, so why would you ever choose the harder option? I’d recommend using it if you instead of just laying over in a city, you’d prefer to stop there and spend some time. Since you are booking each leg separately, you can stay for as long as you want in each place. I’d also recommend it for huge nerds like me who love looking at maps all day!
If I just used milez.biz, I’d only have seen the option to stop over in Chicago. But what if I hate deep dish pizza, the Bears, and wind but love cowboy hats, oil, and tacos? By using the harder method, I saw that I had two options, and I could pick either of the two to stop in for a bit before heading on to Honolulu.
Now that we know what miles are needed to get there, it’s time to look at what are the best current credit card signup bonuses to score you that free trip.
Best Credit Card Deals to Earn You a Trip to Hawaii
1. Citi/AAdvantage Visaand Amex- Each card gives you 50k miles, so you can score 100k AA miles with this deal. That’s enough for 2 roundtrip tickets right there! Read more about my breakdown of the deal, and how to make sure you get both cards, at the Best Current Deals Page (#1 deal, right at the top).
2. Chase British Airways Visa- (read my full review here) This card can potentially give you 100k BA Avios points. You’ll get 50k points after your first spend, 25k more after spending $10,000, and 25k more after spending an additional $10,000. If you are able to make this kind of spending, then this card is a great one for you to get. Even if you aren’t going to make the $10k or $20k in spending, this card still has some potential because you’ll get 50k Avios points right off the bat! Especially recommended for people on the West Coast who are trying to get to Hawaii!
3. Chase United Explorer- If you are able to get the targeted offer (see this post about how to do that), you’ll receive 50k after spending $1,000 in 3 months. The regular offer is only 35k (30k after $1,000 in 3 months, 5k for an authorized user) so make sure to see if you can get targeted.
4. Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold [The Ink Bold is no longer available, but the Ink Plus is still available] or both- Both cards earn you Chase UR points, which transfer instantly to United miles. The Chase Sapphire comes with 40k signup bonus, whereas the Ink Bold comes with a 50k signup bonus but a higher minimum spend.
If you think you can meet the minimum spend requirements easily, than you can double dip and get both at the same time for a total of 90k United miles, good enough for 2 roundtrip economy tickets to Hawaii with room to spare!
The Sapphire and Ink Bold are both currently listed on the Best Current Deals page if you’d like to read more.
5. Barclays USAirways Mastercard- The sign up bonus is only 40k but that is enough to get you one roundtrip ticket to Hawaii from anywhere in the United States. Check out the Best Current Deals page (#3) for my full review and how to “churn” this card.
Any other good ways to get to Hawaii using frequent flyer miles? Did I miss something? If you’ve been to Hawaii, do you have any advice on things to see/do/eat? Comment below!
(Photo courtesy of Bogdan Suditu)