How do I use my FF miles to get to Paris?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by SuperW2, Mar 25, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    This is going to be a pretty ultra newbie thread, but I guess that's why this forum is named as such.

    I'd like to try take my family (Myself, Wife and 2 Kids) to Paris this summer... I know the timing is bad for trying to get any kind of award flights, but semi limited with kids school schedule and my wife's non-terribly flexible work schedule. I don't really know where to begin. I've only booked 1 Frequent Flyer trip, ever, and it was very straight forward, Domestic, 1 Airline, 4 tickets, had enough miles in 1 account to book it.

    I have a number of miles on a bunch of different programs, most all from Credit Card sign up deals over the past 12-18 months...I'm not concerned with Business or First class, and know that I only have enough for Economy (if that).. I have a chunk of miles British (200k), but at a quick glance I see nothing available for booking for award tickets (via their Executive Club website) really for long stretches of time, and nothing in the summer. Between the wife and I, we also have AA (120K) , Continental/Untied (~300K) , Starwood, 80-85K-which would convert to 100K) but probably not enough in any one of those for 4 economy tickets.

    For Hotel I also have the Hyatt 2 awards nights (4 nights Total between the wife and I) that I'd hoped to use at the Paris Vendome and then maybe another 2-3 nights at a different hotel, but unsure of where or if I'll have any points left to get award stays (Starwood maybe?).

    Any help on where to begin would be greatly appreciated,

    *EDIT* FYI, I'm flying from the Left Coast, SFO/SJC/OAK

    Thanks!
    Sw2
     
  2. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Must everyone be on the same flights? With your miles in various accounts, you might want to think about trying to get you and one kid on a OneWorld itinerary (look for connections as well as nonstops on AA, BA, IB, etc.) and wife and the other kid on a Star Alliance tickets (such as UA, CO, LH/LX, etc.) It's rare to fine four award seats on the same flights.

    Another idea is to find several award tickets and then purchase tickets for the rest of the family (presumably you if the FF accounts are yours, although if you have status, flying might or might not give access to better award availability) . Yet another possibility is to use the miles for the long-haul transatlantic portion and combine this with cheap US domestic connecting tickets. You could also fly to a number of airports in Europe and then use a cheap or low cost carrier (such as EasyJet, you might want o avoid RyanAir) or even trains to get to Paris.

    I assume that you're logged into your FF accounts when you search.

    Look at the various fora here for specific tips for award search on various relevant airlines. Normally you book an award ticket with the carrier whose miles you're using, but you can usually use those miles on any carrier in the alliance, although you might have to call your airline to do this.
     
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  3. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    Agree with MSPeconomist that looking for 4 seats, especially at this late date, will be very difficult. Even getting 2 may be hard. But, there is hope. Please look at the following thread and it will give you some hints on the best way to look for available award seats and some of the tricks that are used by many of us.

    http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/newbies-guide-to-award-booking-without-elite-status.4124/

    In fact your post made me think that we should "sticky" that thread so it stays visible to everyone.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  4. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    You're better positioned than you might imagine.

    First of all, you're right, you do have a challenge in front of you. :)

    • Four seats on the same flights is harder than 2 is harder than 1.
    • Economy to Europe can be harder in the summer than finding business or first class
    • West Coast to Europe is harder than East Coast to Europe -- the West Coast transatlantics will be harder to get, and if you find East Coast transatlantic flights you then have to pair up domestic award inventory with it.
    That said, you've got enough Continental miles for 4 economy awards (220k needed roundtrip currently, price goes up 5k per person for bookings made come June).

    Or you have enough for 4 economy awards via British Airways (200k needed roundtrip for four people).

    Here's the downside to British Airways -- they add fuel surcharges to award tickets and that can be a worthwhile investment when redeeming for business class (an extra $450 per ticket may seem less of a deal when redeeming for a $5000 ticket -- but when redeeming for a $1000 ticket it hurts!).

    Another thing you could do is redeem 2 business class awards via British Airways, and 2 coach via American, for the same flights since they're partners.

    Here's the trick to finding available flights. And I agree see the thread linked above.
    • Consider whether you would break up and fly 2 and 2? If not, and you must look for four seats, then certainly search four at a time.
    • Search for the hardest flights first. With British Airways, try San Francisco - London (my guess, if anything is available, it'll just be first class). With Continental, try Lufthansa's San Francisco - Frankfurt and Munich flights and United's San Francisco - London. Odds are against.
    • Look for the overwater flights first. Then work to get to the international gateway city once you find a flight to Europe (eg if you found Chicago - Dusseldorf on Lufthansa, then look for San Francisco - Chicago and Chicago - Dusseldorf).
    • Consider alternate airports. E.g. If you can't find San Francisco - Chicago to connect up to Chicago - Dusseldorf, try Oakland.
    The Continental website is in general pretty good, the British Airways website is NOT. It often won't find perfectly available flights, especially when they involve connections with partners.

    E.g. I almost always find premium cabin flights with Briitsh Airways, maybe not LAX-LHR but at least LAX-IAH-LHR or LAX-LAS-LHR or LAX-PHL-LHR. In premium cabins IAH/LAS/PHX/PHL/ATL are among the absolutely most available flights. I realize that doesn't help you in looking for coach.

    Incidentally, for those with Delta miles consider Air France for business class to Paris this summer, the Washington Dulles flight goes A380 a week into June and after that business class is wide wide open most days, sometimes 8+ seats per flight.

    That's an initial take, it's a start, ask away and we'll see what we can do to help you understand how to get the most out of your miles.

    Best,
    Gary
     
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  5. Funtodoimpossible
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    Funtodoimpossible Gold Member

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    Also, be creative with your routings. You don't have to fly out of a US airport for the transatlantic portion.
    You can usually route through Canada to give you more options. The main Canadian gateways would be YVR and YYZ and by flying through Canada you add AC to the mix of possible carrier you can use with your UA/CO miles. If you go the Canada routes, other possible gateways for transatlantic flights also from YUL, YYC, & YEB.
     
  6. Punki
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    Punki Silver Member

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    There is always hope. My daughter once called me in late May and asked if I would get her a ticket to Paris on June 8th, returning on June 17th or something like that. I laughed and told her it was far too late to get such an award ticket.

    Since I didn't want to waste my time fooling with a hopeless cause, I gave her my MP number and pin and told her to try.

    Well, lo and behold, not only did she get the exact dates she wanted, but she even got them on saver awards. So, the moral of that story is that sometimes miracles do happen. Keep checking and maybe you will find one.
     
  7. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    I appreciate everyone's help... I'm looking now, and I might be able to get something to London (possibly from ORD or somewhere) and then get from there to Paris. Will have to try to find the SFO/SJC/OAK to whereever that might be separatly, but hopefully that won't be as difficult. I might have fewer options since my Continental/United Miles are split about 4 Ways (both programs for the wife and I) , making it more challenging.

    I passed the idea of splitting the kids and that didn't go well with the family (6 year old Twin Girls)

    It looks like the Hyatt Vendome in Paris isn't open the couple week window I have anyhow, but I might still figure something out.
     
  8. Art234
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    Art234 Milepoint Guide

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    As the others have said, it may be a challenge, and you may have to be flexible. As I see you are already working on it, please let us know how you make out and how we can help further...
     
  9. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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  10. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    THANK YOU! I thought I had remember seeing that but couldn't find the link.

    Update on my Search...Looks like flights out from various place in US to EU can be had for the saver award rates CO, BA,etc, but coming back to US pretty much the whole month of July has limited availability and only for the much higher award rates.

    Update #2... Can get from NYC to London on the dates I am looking for for 220K on CO (+$900) for all 4 tickets... Now need to see about getting from SFO/SJC/OAK to NYC using AA, BA or something that I can convert my Starwood Pts too!
     
  11. Skyvillager
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    Skyvillager Silver Member

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    As you already know - miles in your 4 CO and UA accounts can be merged into 2 accounts.

    Award availability varies between CO and UA.
    Before merging, you should:
    - find out which airline has lower rates for your tickets
    - place awards on hold (can be done with help from supervisor)
    - move miles around
    - call back to complete award purchase

    - Do you want to tell us your specific travel dates?

    - Have you looked at award availability - what have you found so far?

    I just spent few minutes reading your posts in this thread and checking co.com.

    The very first date I checked - July 11 - they show 4 or more saver awards available SFO-CDG with 1 connection. Return is available on any flight you want at standard rates.

    27.5 + 50 = 77,500 miles per roundtrip ticket
    x2 = 155k
    x3 = 232.5k

    For 4 tickets you need:
    77.5k in 4 accounts, or
    - 155k in 2 accounts each, or
    - 77.5k miles in 1 acct and 232.5k in another

    Can you make that happen?
     
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  12. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    I can travel between 07.15 and 07.31 and am looking at at 9-10 (but flexible) window during that time period.

    Right now I have 132K in one UA/CO account and 162K in the other
     
  13. Skyvillager
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    Skyvillager Silver Member

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    I suspect the $900 fees are due to extra charges for going via LON.
    You must eliminate LON from your itinerary!!!

    In my opinion, breaking your trip into 2 separate itineraries is asking for a lot of trouble (like lost luggage or missing NY-EU flight).
    I would not do it for adults, never mind when travelling with children.

    I strongly disagree with advice about using 2 awards for this trip. Such a waste of points and money!

    Find 1 itinerary SFO-CDG.
    Let me know if you need help.
     
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  14. Skyvillager
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    Skyvillager Silver Member

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    SPG points convert to CO or UA miles at rate of 2:1 (2 SPG into 1 air mile)
    40k SPG => 20k CO/UA + 5k bonus
    80k SPG => 50k CO or UA miles

    However, SPG to USAirways will go at rate of 1:1

    You might find 1 ticket at standard rates or 2 tickets at saver rates using US Airways miles. Then:

    - open 1 or 2 new accounts with US Airways (there is promo to get 2k bonus for new ones);
    - place award(s) on hold
    - transfer SPG points into 1 or 2 USA accounts as needed
    - call back to complete award purchase

    Keep in mind - you want 4 tickets on same flight, but you have miles in different accounts.
    With 1 airline you will be buying awards on their own metal.
    With another airline - you'll need "partner awards".

    Just because CO shows 4 tickets available - does not mean USAir will have them too.
    You'll have to create a spreadsheet to keep all info in order - who has what, and which miles to move where.

    Let me know if yuo need help. I'm good with spreadsheets. :D
     
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  15. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks, I'll keep looking for a SFO -> CDG then...Seeing London for a couple days wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but I didn't like the extra $900 too much either.

    CO looks like 310K miles for 4 tickets (+$385) SFO to CDG (07.19-07.28) (all flights coming back are 50K for the CDG-SFO Segments)

    We also have AA miles (91K in one Acct and 35K in another) and I think the 80K SPG (between the 2 accounts) would convert to 100K AA, which would give me 225K AA available too.
     
  16. Skyvillager
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    Skyvillager Silver Member

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    CO/UA/US are in same, called "Star", alliance. That allows us to buy awards on 1 flight using miles from different CO/UA/US accounts.

    AA is in different one - called "One World".

    You will absolutely not be able to use AA miles to buy a seat on CO/UA/US flight.
     
  17. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Right... but AA does fly from SFO to CDG but it was even more miles than I would have with my current AA and even converting all my SPG.
     
  18. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    Remember that you can not combine miles in various AA accounts without paying a large fee. One thing you could think about is one way awards. They all have one way awards so you could go *A one way and AA/OW the other.
     
  19. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    Look at the availability of one ways. I believe you can book a o/w award on United and AA so you could do star alliance over there and one world back or vice versa. Not ideal with the long layover in YUL, but you could book the following o/w outbound with a United star award (found on ANA):
    7/18: AC780 SFO-YUL 23:05-7:20+1
    7/19: AC884 YUL-CDG 17:55-6:40+1

    Then take a look at AA for returns...though it will probably cost 60k miles/person for the return with no milesAAver awards, meaning you'd need to transfer all 100k *wood for a total AA balance of 245k (120k existing + 100k *wood + 25k *wood bonus), but be smart and transfer to accounts so you can pay in 60k increments (i.e. 60k in yours and 180k in your wife's, 120/120, 180/60) which will probably mean you'll end up with a bit less than 245k miles total.
     
  20. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    Not to add another fly in the ointment but about your hotel - are u aware that a lot of hotels in Europe (and the Vendome may be one) won't allow 4 people in one room even if 2 are children- I had an upgraded room and the only place another person could have fit - was on the floor! there wasn't room for a rollaway even if it is allowed .
    Also have you checked that there is award availability for the nights u want(I had a lot of trouble booking there last summer with award nights) - if there is I'd advise reserving it if u can cancel which I believe u can.
     
  21. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks for the warning, I'll have to look...When I book rooms, we always just say 2 people and have never had a problem (at least for the US)... Wife and kids hang out somewhere else when I'm checking in and then we all go up to the room later...our kids are still pretty small and can still share a single small bed with us.

    It appears that the Vendome didn't have availability the weeks we want to go anyhow.
     
  22. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    In the US most hotels have 2 full size beds or 2 queen size beds in "twin" bedded rooms. In Europe when they say "twin" beds they mean twins - not full, not queen.
     
  23. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Remember that European hotels generally require that passports be shown at check in. I think it would be very hard to sneak two children in and out without the hotel noticing. In Europe, hotels are frequently smaller and pay more attention to their guests. The better properties will have doormen, bellmen, etc. Some still keep keys at the front desk when you leave the premises, although this is becoming rare IME.
     
  24. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    After a few more hours of searching, it's not looking promising... I think I could get us there with miles (CO) if I did the SPG trasfer, but no availability at Hyatt's, and will have had to turn in most of my SPG points to use for other nights leaves me lots of nights hotels during high season.

    I was hoping for flights and at least 1/2 nights of Hotels covered by points, but not sure I'm going to be able to make it work with such short notice. Had I started a few months ago, I might have had better luck. Will need to keep looking and collecting the pts, but...
     
  25. Rlpro
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    Rlpro Silver Member

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    Sorry that Im not able to add any valuable tip or direction for you. But I just wanted to jump in and say how impressed I am with all of the great information and help in this thread. My head was starting to swim with all the possibilities for SuperW2 to pursue. So much creativity and willingness to help! Very encouraging......don't give up!
     

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