I think writing my 2018 Miles and Points Review post really lit a fire underneath me to get some travel booked for the coming year. As I wrote about in last week’s post, last August I booked 6 one-way flights to Amsterdam (remember, most airlines open up award availability 330 days in advance). Since that time I’ve been searching for 6 return flights – from every city in Europe that American flies to and One World Partners (AA partner airlines) – and I’ve just had no luck. Well, in the past week or so, American has opened up a ton of MileSAAver Awards for this summer (these are the lowest cost award you can find). Let’s take a look at what it took to book these award flights.
Outbound Flights – DFW to anywhere in Europe
These were easy. I start checking Expertflyer in the days leading up to my desired travel day to get an idea of how many award seats per flight were available. I was lucky that there were 7 award seats per flight on every day I looked.
30,000 AA miles per person x 6 = 180K AA miles. With my husband’s AA Platinum Pro status, we are able to select Main Cabin Extra (a few more inches of leg room than economy) seats which saves us a few hundred dollars.
Return Flights – Europe to DFW
This week, I saw a ton of availability on the Outbound for June and July 2018. Again, the return was looking sketchy from every city I chose. Pro Tip: Use the Advanced Search function on the American Airlines website, enter your dates, then scroll down and click on “American Airlines”only. Yes, you can fly on British Airways with your AA miles, but you’ll pay hefty fuel surcharges.
I was thrilled when I found 7 award flights from London and quickly called to change my outbound date. Pro Tip: American Airlines will allow you to change the dates free of charge on an award ticket as long as your departing/arrival cities do not change!
When booking economy flights, you always want to look for MileSAAver awards – Green means Go!
But wait a minute!!! I forgot about the airport departure fees that London Heathrow tacks on to your fare. Once I clicked through, I saw that for 6 award flights, I would have to pay over $1,000 in fees! That won’t work! Back to the drawing board. I kept entering in every European city – and finally found 6 flights from Zurich (only $300 in fees total). It will route us through Philadelphia, which isn’t ideal, but hey, we’re talking about nearly free tickets here. I booked it quick before it went away. Pro Tip: Remember you can hold an award reservation with American for 5 days free of charge. So book now, decide later – great for those of us with commitment phobias.
Lastly, while it took me five months to find our flights, I was determined to make this trip happen. My 3rd child is leaving for Marine Boot Camp at the end of July and I really wanted the 6 of us to have some quality time together before he leaves. Remember to book those big flights 330 days in advance. So if you’re planning to travel for the holidays in 2018, right now is the time to book those award flights!
Have you booked award flights for more than 2 people? What was your strategy?
Please share your tips in the comments below.