Hello! I’m new to using FF miles, and could use some guidance on how to make the most of the ones I have. I’m not a frequent flyer (2-3 times/year); to date, most of my travel has been domestic, but I have visited the UK and New Zealand, and am about to go to Central Europe for three weeks this September. Assuming traveling solo in Europe doesn’t totally freak me out, I plan to do more international travel in the future. Specifically, I’m in the very early stages of planning a 2-week trip to the Netherlands and Belgium in April 2012, and am thinking about possibly spending 2-3 weeks in Switzerland and Austria in September 2012. I’m a member of the American Airlines FF program, and right now have 82,000 AAdvantage miles to play with. I don’t fly enough to care about getting elite status; the perks that come with a business class ticket are enough for me. So I’m mainly interested in using my miles for award tickets or upgrades. I do have the Citibank AAdvantiage card, and estimate I can get between 10,000 to 30,000 miles per year just from using that card. So, here’s my (pleasant!) dilemma: which of the following three options uses those precious miles the most efficiently? Option 1: I can get a round-trip coach class award ticket from my home airport of OMA to BRU, routing through ORD, departing Sunday April 15 and returning Saturday April 28. (Those dates are perfect for me!) PROS: Free ticket! What’s not to like about free? And the award ticket only costs 40,000 miles, leaving me plenty for that possible Switzerland trip. CONS: It’s coach class both ways. My prior LAX-AKL coach experience has me appreciating the merits of flying business class on long-haul flights (especially overnight ones). And AA isn’t showing a direct OMA-ORD connection for the departure leg; instead, I’d have to go OMA – DFW – ORD. It does allow me to get very early flights, so if everything went well I’d be in ORD by noonish – plenty of time to catch the 5 PM flight to BRU, and (more important), it allows time to fix things if anything goes wrong. But any time you add a connection, you increase the chances of a problem; a direct OMA-ORD morning flight would be better. Option 2: I could spend 70,000 miles to get an award ticket with a business-class seat on the ORD – BRU leg (50,000 miles), and come back in coach (20,000 miles). PROS: Free ticket! And it offers a good compromise between comfort and affordability – business class when I need to sleep, icky coach class on a daytime flight where I’m going to be awake anyway. And I can get a direct OMA-ORD flight. CONS: I still have to put up with a coach class seat on the return flight. The only direct OMA-ORD flight AA will let me choose leaves in the afternoon; I’d only have a two-hour layover in ORD. If anything goes wrong with that flight, I’ll probably miss my international flight. And April is thunderstorm season on the Great Plains, and they generally start forming in the afternoon… And it’s nearly twice the FF miles as the 100% coach-class ticket; I won’t have as many miles left to play with next fall. Option 3: If I’m correctly understanding what’s posted on the AA site, I could buy a round trip coach-class OMA-BRU ticket, then pay 50,000 miles and $700 to upgrade the two international segments to business class seats. PROS: Business class both ways! It only costs 10,000 more miles than the round trip coach class award ticket; I’d have a reasonable number of miles left for next September’s trip. Plus, I’d earn economy miles on the flights (and more miles if I paid the fees with my AAdvantiage credit card), making the actual total FF miles expended on the upgrades less. And I could probably get that morning direct OMA-ORD leg that I’d prefer. CONS: It’s not a free ticket. (Although paying less than $2,000 for a round trip international flight is not bad at all…) I can’t book it myself; I’d have to call the AA Reservations line and have an agent book it for me – which means I can’t be certain I’d even be able to get the upgrades at this point. I’d have to talk to the agent first to find out. I’ll have to pay a $20 booking fee, too. So – which option do you think makes the most sense to pursue? Right now I’m inclining toward option 3, although option 1 is also tempting.