A lot of people assume that to book cheap award flights, you have to know all the in's and out's of 'award booking.' Luckily for all of us, that's not even close to true. In fact, there are plenty of award flights out there that cost less than 10,000 miles-- including some international routes.
In this article, we'll look at how you can use your miles to book flights across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. Read on for tips on maximizing your miles with award flights from 5 major airlines.
Alaska Airlines: 5,000 - 7,500 miles
Alaska Airlines offers some great award fares on flights within the contiguous U.S. and Alaska. Within that region, Alaska's award chart is pretty straightforward: flights under 700 miles can cost as little as 5,000 miles; flights under 1,400 miles can cost as little as 7,500 miles.
Keep in mind, even one-way economy seats on flights under 700 miles can cost as much as 20,000 miles. As with any airline, you'll want to shop around and keep your dates flexible to get the best deal. Here are some example itineraries than run just 5,000 miles with Alaska:
- Anchorage (ANC) to Juneau (JUN)
- Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO)
- Vancouver (YVR) to Seattle (SEA)
As an added bonus, Alaska residents can join the airline's Club 49 to receive 2 free checked bags on flights with at least one stop in Alaska.
If you're looking to book a short flight or quick weekend getaway, Southwest might be your best option. Their "Wanna Get Away" fares can be ridiculously low, which is great news for ultra-budget travelers. With Southwest, you can find cheap fares for just about any domestic U.S. itinerary. Here are some options I've found after just a few clicks:
- Chicago (MDW) to Orlando (MCO): 5,639 miles
- Dallas (DAL) to Denver (DEN): 4,567 miles
- Washington, DC (DCA) to Charleston, SC (CHS): 5,706 miles
Don't earn points with Southwest? You can always transfer your Citi ThankYou Points or Chase Ultimate Rewards over to Southwest's frequent flyer program.
British Airways: 7,500 miles
British Airways used to offer some incredible deals on award flights in the U.S.: just 4,500 Avios (miles) for many one-way economy flights. But back in 2015, they nearly doubled that rate to 7,500 Avios. Even so, depending on where you are, you can take advantage of those award flights for a nice vacation. Here are some examples of British Airways' 7,500-Avios flights:
- New York City (JFK) to Bermuda (BDA)
- New York City (LGA) to Toronto (YYZ)
- Miami to Cancun (CUN)
- Miami to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO)
When you book with Avios, you'll still have to pay some fees and charges. For these flights, those fees can range anywhere from $5.60 to $32.00. Either way, that's not a bad deal if you're looking to save on a vacation or kick off a long trip.
United Airlines: 10,000 miles
United Airlines (along with American) is known for offering some of the priciest award flights out there. Still, there are deals to be found for the budget traveler. With United, you can find one-way domestic award flights in the U.S. for 10,000 miles on the nose. The catch: your route has to be under 700 miles. Here are a few examples of qualifying routes:
- San Francisco (SFO) to Seattle (SEA)
- Chicago (ORD) to Philadelphia (PHL)
- Tucson (TUS) to Denver (DEN)
I'll be honest: 10,000 miles for these flights isn't the greatest deal. Southwest and Alaska Airlines easily top that value with their one-way domestic award flights. Still, if you're looking to use up some United miles, this is one of their cheapest options.
American Airlines: 7,500 miles
American is right up there with United when it comes to pricey award flights. For the most part, you can find better deals on international award flights with a slew of other airlines. But if you're looking to book a quick one-way flight for less than 10,000 miles, American has options.
According to their award chart, you can book a few American flights for 7,500 miles: flights within Hawaii; flights within the contiguous U.S. (under 500 miles); and flights between the U.S. and Canada (under 500 miles). Here are some examples:
- Lihue, Kauai (LIH) to Honolulu, Oahu (HNL)
- New York City (JFK) to Montreal (YUL)
If this is the route you want to go, be sure to check the "all airlines" option when you search for flights. Many of these flights--especially ones in Hawaii, Canada, and Alaska-- are operated by other carriers. In fact, if you're interested in hopping around the Hawaiian islands, you can book the same 7,500-mile one-way award flights directly with Hawaiian Airlines.
If you didn't believe that you had options before, hopefully, you do now. Whether you're looking to book a free domestic flight or save on an international trip, there's an award flight with your name on it-- you just have to know where to look.