10 award booking tricks you should know about for 2019


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Earn more, burn less, make those points stretch, stretch, stretch

That’s how we travel more and more, and we thought we’d throw 10 of our favorite tricks/perks/twerks whatever you want to call them – they are ways to get you more lux for less bucks. Even fewer bucks if you’re grammatically inclined 😉 Without further adieu…here’s 10 award booking trick you should know about for 2019!

1) Use British Airways Avios to avoid close in booking fees and redeem fewer miles

One of the most popular and highly visible sweet spots that bloggers publicize is using Avios to book One World partners at greatly reduced rates. Some things are popular because they’re really just that good.  This is one of them.

BA operates their redemptions based on distance, not region, so starting at 4500 Avios you can book flights that may cost you 12,500 with other programs. Buyer Beware, the 4500 redemption isn’t applicable in the US where rates start at 7500 Avios ( it was too popular I guess).

I recently used Avios to fly business class between Vienna and London. Just 15000 Avios for tickets that would have cost 22,500 a piece + $75 close in booking fee.  Avios are able to be generated from both Chase and Amex ( and Amex ran a 40% transfer bonus so it was really just 11k Amex points I used, or half the AA rate)

What’s even better than fewer miles? No close-in booking fees. If I’d flown off-peak like the example below, I could have done it for just 12,750 miles. or 9k Amex points. How insane is that?


2) American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards

I save well over 10k, maybe even 20k miles every year utilizing this “trick,” which is really just a little known perk that is associated with AA branded credit cards.  Here’s the deal…AA posts cities that you can redeem miles to fly to for a reduced amount of miles. Forget 12,500 for a one way econ ticket…hello 8,750 – my favorite use of this perk.

You’ll need to call in and the discounts range from 1000 miles roundtrip to 7500 miles roundtrip ( and can be applied at 50% for one ways ).  They may tell you that just originating in a city doesn’t qualify, but I’ve found a quick HUCA will resolve your issue.  I use this perk to save tons flying to and from Indianapolis

a screenshot of a ticket

3) United’s Excursionist Perk

Things get a little funky with United, and traditionally speaking, I’m not a fan of their rules and rates, but with every good rule… there’s usually an exception, and this is it.

What is the Excursionst Perk?

  • Must be roundtrip
  • Added segment must be outside of your origin region
  • Start and end in the same region

Simply put. It’s a free flight outside of the region you started in. So…if you want to fly roundtrip from Lax to London in business class, you could add in a flight from Rome to Budapest for the same price as the roundtrip it just has to be in the itinerary. You could fly LAX to LHR ( stop ) then fly Rome to Budapest ( get back to London ) and fly back to LA from LHR. You could hop around Europe then via train

There are some really creative uses to these…such as booking roundtrips to Europe but adding in an Asian Flight. Nick Reyes does a great job floating ideas at FM – check it out.  

4) Avianca’s add on a segment to reduce the total miles needed

Avianca prices their tickets per segment, and one fantastic little trick is adding on segments that reprice your itinerary down. Let’s look at Lufthansa First Class from JFK to Frankfurt. Lufthansa first class is UH-MAZING.

a small teddy bear in a small drawer in an airplane

Here’s how Avianca prices this ticket to Frankfurt.

a graph of a flight schedule

But add on a flight to Dusseldorf…and suddenly it drops. Be creative. Be, be creative.


5) Use Aeroplan or Avianca to avoid United’s close in booking fee

United will charge you a fee to book one of their award tickets within 21 days of travel. UGH! We hate fees. If you use Aeroplan or Avianca you’ll significantly reduce those fees. Aeroplan will be roughly $5 US and Avianca is roughly $30. A helluva a lot better than the $75 premium you’ll pay on United’s own site.

a screenshot of a computer screen

6) Singapore’s $150 trick + stopover and waitlist perks


You want to fly the best possible cabin right? Well, if you didn’t already know…Singapore will allow you to waitlist that next cabin up as long as you have the miles needed to do so. Singapore has recently changed their waitlist protocol ( they now end the waitlist at 2 weeks prior to departure ), but it’s still worth utilizing and I actually was able to get 3 Suites cleared months in advance. CHA-CHING – Suites here we come!

a stuffed animal on a seat
Miles in Singapore Suites

$150 Trick:

But wait…According to Jarvis Marcos, if you’re booked on a flight that offers Suites, but not the new Suites, and the new Suites are available, you can ask to switch to the New Suite flight for $150 a person. You’ll then be poppin’ bottle in the best first class product in the sky.  That sounds like it’s worth the Ben Franks

a bed with white sheets and pillows in an airplane
courtesy of Singapore Airlines


But wait…there’s more. If you’re flying on Singapore metal, and you’d like to spend a few days in a city rather than just layover and munch on some airport Cinnabons…Singapore will allow it. Just call in and request it, and pay the $100 fee. A cool route to Asia is Singapore Airlines LAX to Tokyo..I’d recommend a stopover before continuing on to Singapore. High Five!


7) Look at Roundtrips for avail and Call Australia to book Etihad with AA miles

Who doesn’t want to fly like this? First Class on steroids – the apartment. But…you can’t find avail. DRATS Batman, what will Gotham do?

a seat in a plane
Apartment 5H

VFTW reported this trick. When can it be useful? Often times Etihad’s website will show flights from the US to Abu Dhabi as unavailable only to show the same flights as avail when you search roundtrip. Uhhhh…nice try Etihad, we got your number, or rather AA’s Australian number: +61 02-9101-1948

8) Call 408 352 9323 to make faster British Airways bookings

This was first reported by Angelina Travels. It’s fantastic, and if you need to call – use this number.

a teddy bear on a bed
Briitsh Airways First Class

9) Utilize Alaska’s Stopover to maximize award booking value

Alaska is hands down one of my favorite programs to use. They offer incredible rates on some of the world’s best products, AND they allow a stopover on one way redemptions. Our favorite utilizations are going to Africa and Australia and using a stopover in Hong Kong to soak up one of the best and diverse cities in the world. The biggest restriction is you can’t mix airlines, unless its with Alaska.

  • Fly LA to Hong Kong in First Class, STOPOVER, and onward to South Africa in business for just 80k points total
  • Fly from Hong Kong to LA in Cathay First, STOPOVER, then fly from LA to New York in First for just 70k points

two men sitting at a table with food on it

10) Take advantage of Aeroplan’s roundtrip award routing rules to bake in stopovers

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express and has some of the best redemption prices in the game. 70k for a Lufthansa First Class – sign me up! But…did you know that if you book a roundtrip using Aeroplan miles you can add in some extra stops?

Here’s the details:

  • 2 stopovers or 1 stopover and 1 open jaw.
    • Fly From Chicago to Sao Paolo, STOPOVER, Sao Paolo to RIO ( your destination ), then RIO to Santiago ( Stopover) and then fly back to Chicago.
    • Or…Fly from Chicago to Sao Paolo, STOPOVER, Sao Paolo to Rio ( Destination), and then fly back from Santiago to Chicago.

a stuffed monkey on a chair

Hope this helps!

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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  • HoKo April 2, 2019

    “I recently used Avios to fly business class between Vienna and London.” Isn’t this route operated by a crappy intra-european “business class”? Was there no space in Y?

  • Mary February 6, 2019

    WHAT DOES “HUCA” mean?

  • […] 10 Handy Award Booking Tricks:  For those of you who do your own award bookings and are looking for ways to stretch your miles or cash, you should check these out.  Some you may know, some you may not. […]

  • ChickB January 31, 2019

    Please take a look at how your posts show up on Flipboard on an iPad. Or, possibly, any device with a small screen.

    First, often there’s an issue where you upload large res pictures which results in the article itself being nearly unreadably small. Second, Flipboard puts the full file structure of all your posts above your actual post, making it incredibly painful to read. This post on Flipboard on a iPad is a perfect example of both of these issues.

    I’ve tried to attach pictures but the system won’t allow it, feel free to drop me an email if you can’t replicate the problem and would like me to send you screenshots of the issues.

    • Miles January 31, 2019

      ChickB – trying to resolve this, but it appears to be an isolated FlipBoard thing…displays properly on other outlets. Thanks for the head’s up

  • Antonio January 31, 2019

    AMAZING!! I didn’t know the LifeMiles trick, which will come in super handy this summer. Thanks!!

    • Miles January 31, 2019

      Happy to help! Thanks for reading

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