It’s that time of year again. You may be wondering what the most valuable awards are and how to find them, which frequent flyer programs are easiest to work with, and if blackout dates will be an obstacle in your path. Or, you may be looking for some travel planning tips and current trends. Be on the lookout for a slew of summer travel bonuses; programs expect to see an increase in leisure travel during the summer months. Also, if you are looking for a quick way to earn an extra 1,000 miles, we have some ideas for you.
Awards Worth Looking Into
- Book a Delta Vacations package and earn 3,000 bonus miles, plus save up to $200 when redeeming miles for the purchase of a vacation package. This offer is valid through June 25; book your package by June 25 but you can travel through June 30. Also, for 50,000 miles you can book an unrestricted SkyChoice award (allows travel during peak periods) with Delta.
- Take advantage of Starwood Preferred Guest’s “Cash & Points Award Nights.” Book through April 30 for travel through Dec. 30 with a combination of points and cash. Depending on the hotel category, award night stays can be purchased with a combination of 2,800 points and $45 per night or 4,000 points and $60 per night.
- Book a United Escapes package (includes flight, car and hotel accommodations) and earn an additional 1,000 miles. United also offers Cruise4Miles: redeem miles for a cruise and earn miles for your purchase. Visit www.cruise4miles.com for further details.
- Accumulate three stays at Marriott Rewards hotels (the Marriott Rewards Take Two promotion), March 14 through June 15, and earn two free weekend nights at any category 1-4 hotel good through Dec. 31. In addition, you achieve Silver elite status (good through 2003) after making three stays. Marriott Rewards also offers a Hotel Sampler travel package (code 563) for 130,000 points valid at three properties in Hawaii. Divide your seven-night stay among three of Hawaii’s islands including Waikiki, Maui, Kauai, Ihilani and Wailea Beach.
- Book a vacation package through American AAdvantage at http://www.aavacations.com and earn a minimum of 3,000 miles. You can fully customize your vacation package (to even include theatre tickets and car rentals) and you can earn up to 10,000 bonus miles depending on the package. American is also offering travel between the continental United States, Canada or Mexico and the Caribbean, Bahamas or Bermuda for fewer miles between April 1 and June 15. They are offering a coach-class Plan AAhead award to the Caribbean for 25,000 miles or a first- or business-class Plan AAhead award for 55,000 miles. The award code for coach is AACRB25 and AACRB55 for first or business class.
- Take a Hilton Grand Vacations Club vacation in Orlando, Las Vegas or Hawaii and earn up to 20,000 bonus points.
Easy Ways to Earn 1,000 Points Plus
- Earn 3,000 bonus miles with America West FlightFund for online reservations through May 31. Fund a car loan through PeopleFirst.com and earn 5,000 miles with America West. Apply at http://www.peoplefirst.com. You can also sign up for EarthLink Internet access and earn 5,000 miles with America West. The registration code is 400065219. Apply by calling (800) 327-8454 (code 11100) or apply online. EarthLink Internet access costs $21.95 per month.
- Earn 2,000 miles with Northwest WorldPerks when you choose self-service check-in through May 31. E-ticket customers may check in for their flight using nwa.com check-in or an e-service center. For e-service center locations visit nwa.com. This offer is only valid on flights within the United States or from the United States to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The reference code is GNWP BONUS 2KNWA. Also, earn 2,500 miles when purchasing a Northwest ticket online for the first time through April 30 and earn 1,000 miles for subsequent online ticket purchases.
- Earn 1,000 miles with United Mileage Plus every time you purchase tickets online (E-Fare purchases excluded).
- Earn 1,000 miles with Continental OnePass when you sign up for online statements. Also, earn 1,000 miles every time you purchase tickets online and for international paper ticket purchases. Earn 500 miles for domestic U.S. paper ticket purchases.
- Earn 2,000 miles with US Airways Dividend Miles when you enroll in MCI’s long distance plan. Call (888) 667-3645 or http://www.mci.com/usairways to enroll. Also, earn 500 points when you sign up for Dividend Miles online statements.
- Earn 1,000 miles with American AAdvantage when you sign up to receive your account summary via email (eSummary) and another 1,000 miles every time you book your tickets online.
- Earn 1,000 points with Hilton HHonors when you enroll online through Dec. 31. Current HHonors members are eligible as well.
Good to Know
One good tip to keep in mind: use your miles for your children’s tickets and pay out of your pocket for your own, you will earn miles faster this way.
If you need to make last minute changes to your travel plans or last minute travel plans for that matter, keep in mind the various program policies on changes. With Continental OnePass, changes or cancellations must be made 10 days in advance and there is a $35 fee. Continental will also redeposit your miles for a $35 fee. When booking 10 days or less in advance or re-depositing miles with Northwest WorldPerks, there is a $50 fee. There is no fee for flight or date changes with Northwest. There is no service charge for date or time changes with Delta SkyMiles. US Airways Dividend Miles also allows changes to flight times or dates for no fee, but US Airways does have a fee for changes to the point of origin, destination or stopover. America West FlightFund allows changes to travel dates, times, common airports, and interchangeable hubs for no fee. Tickets booked less than four days in advance with America West incur a fee.
Summer Blackout Dates
Several carriers have eliminated blackout dates: Delta SkyMiles, Northwest WorldPerks and United Mileage Plus. Several carriers do not have summer blackout dates, but they do at other times of the year. Despite the absence of blackout dates, be wary of award capacity controls. Award capacity controls translate as first come, first served. Limited numbers of seats will be available for award travel in peak travel periods. Also, keep in mind that many hotels have blackout dates as well. Look out for the following summer blackout dates:
- Air Canada Aeroplan blackout dates: Between Canada and Europe: June 14-Sept. 29 (Fridays and Saturdays); Between Canada and Japan: April 26-30 and Aug. 9-12 (eastbound), May 1-6 and Aug. 15-18 (westbound); Between Canada and Korea: July 10-15 and Aug. 12-17 (eastbound), July 15-20 and Aug. 18-22 (westbound); Between Canada and Mexico: July 1-31 (northbound Thursday to Saturday), August 1-31 (southbound Friday-Monday); Between Calgary and Phoenix: April 5-9 (northbound); Between Canada and South America: June 21-Aug. 25 (northbound Friday-Sunday), June 29-Aug. 25 (southbound Friday-Sunday) and Between Canada and Tel Aviv: Aug. 30-Oct. 6.
- US Airways Dividend Miles: Between North America and Europe: June 15-Oct. 12 (Saturdays).
Summer Travel Trends Interview
Inside Flyer spoke with LaDonna Epler, senior travel planner for AwardPlanner. AwardPlanner offers travel award planning services to frequent flyers. Epler offered some insight into the upcoming summer travel season, along with some tips for award travel planning success.
IF: What are some of the easiest vacations to book?
Epler: Hawaii, the Caribbean and St. Thomas are all relatively easy to book.
IF: What do summer travelers seem to be looking for this year?
Epler: Travelers are looking for warm, fun places for their family. So far not too many people are planning European vacations. The popular location this year seems to be Hawaii; I’ve had a lot of phone calls from travelers wanting to plan a Hawaiian vacation.
IF: How does summer travel in 2002 compare to previous years? Does travel seem to be down?
Epler: I wouldn’t say travel is down; it is comparable to previous years. Although, I’ve noticed travelers seem to be more careful when spending their miles. If they can’t get an award for the normal amount, they won’t take it; they aren’t interested in the extra mileage awards. I also predict more people may be going on road trips this summer; things are certainly different this year.
IF: Do you have any summer travel planning tips?
Epler: Take advantage of the Hilton HHonors VIP awards. You receive two round-trip tickets and a six night-stay. These awards are more likely to be available because they come from a different inventory.