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Booking Award or $$ Trip to Hawaii - What are the best options?

Booking Award or $$ Trip to Hawaii - What are the best options?

Old Jul 24, 18, 4:44 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: HOU
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Booking Award or $$ Trip to Hawaii - What are the best options?

Hello folks,

I'm planning on a vacation to Hawaii (Maui) and am trying to figure out the best means of booking my flight. We are looking for the least amount of segments as possible - and it will no doubt require at least 1 stop. All of the MileSAAver fares require 2+ stops, so those are a no-go. We will have a baby with us as well.

First, some clarifications:
  • Flying from Houston (HOU or IAH) to Maui (OGG)
  • 70,000 American Airline Miles
  • 90,000 Marriott Reward Points
  • 66,000 Starwood SPG Points
  • 320,000+ AMEX MR Points
  • I have Platinum with American Airlines
  • Travel isn't until late October
Here is my problem - I want to get there using American Airlines. Ideally, I would like to book coach and use some of my 40+ 500 Mile Upgrades to be upgraded to first. Perhaps I am crazy in that thinking?

So either way, here are my choices:

40,000 x 4 (Wife + I) = 160,000 AA Miles (Coach - Requires "Anywhere")
67,500 x 4 (Wife + I) = 270,000 AA Miles (First Class)
Buying direct round trip right now is roughly $950 each - and that's for coach.

Options

1) Buy coach - and hope for an upgrade. I I can use my Amex MR (1 spg per 3 MR) in combination with my Starwood (20,000 spg per 25,000 miles) to transfer over the miles needed - which would be roughly 80,000 miles with the 70,000 I already have.

2) Buy First Class direct with miles... It will probably cost me most of my SPG and MR points though since I will need 270,000 AA miles total

3) Put Amex MR to SPG - and convert SPGs to Marriott's and buy a vacation package in order to get most of the miles - I can either make up the difference with more SPG -> AA Miles for first class, or book the coach.

4) Maybe something I'm missing or another option? Maybe wait and see if the fare goes down? though the mile cost remains the same.
Any tips are appreciated, I'm pretty new to the whole game of moving around points - I'm usually the type that can spend them directly or convert them to cash (1:1 ratio)

Last edited by s0me0nesmind1; Jul 24, 18 at 4:53 pm
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Old Jul 24, 18, 4:47 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
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1. Where are you flying from?
2. I assume you have no status (based on your profile). Is this correct?
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Old Jul 24, 18, 4:49 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by Antarius View Post
1. Where are you flying from?
2. I assume you have no status (based on your profile). Is this correct?
1. Flying from Houston - I can do HOU (Hobby) or IAH - preference for hobby since I live close to it
2. I do have status with American Airlines - Platinum. I also have plenty of 500 mile upgrades (30+)
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:05 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
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Originally Posted by s0me0nesmind1 View Post
1. Flying from Houston - I can do HOU (Hobby) or IAH - preference for hobby since I live close to it
2. I do have status with American Airlines - Platinum. I also have plenty of 500 mile upgrades (30+)
I personally would buy the tickets at that price. Not worth the mile burn. The SPG and Marriott points can be used in OGG

You have a couple of choices with regards to the upgrade. Use 15k miles + 175 to do a miles + copay award or use stickers. Depending on what days you fly, the former may be a better bet. If you are going Tuesday - Tuesday, then there is a decent chance that you could clear with sticker upgrades, but definitely check the load factors before booking.

If you are going via LAX or PHX, then coach isn't the worst. Actually from PHX coach is better. Ideally, IAH/HOU-DFW-OGG is the routing with the 772 and lay flat beds. That is where a miles+copay becomes worth it.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:12 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by Antarius View Post
I personally would buy the tickets at that price. Not worth the mile burn. The SPG and Marriott points can be used in OGG

You have a couple of choices with regards to the upgrade. Use 15k miles + 175 to do a miles + copay award or use stickers. Depending on what days you fly, the former may be a better bet. If you are going Tuesday - Tuesday, then there is a decent chance that you could clear with sticker upgrades, but definitely check the load factors before booking.

If you are going via LAX or PHX, then coach isn't the worst. Actually from PHX coach is better. Ideally, IAH/HOU-DFW-OGG is the routing with the 772 and lay flat beds. That is where a miles+copay becomes worth it.
Interesting. And yeah, the DFW is the one I was going to go for - simply because it just has way more first class. More first class = more likely to have extra space to be upgraded was my line of thinking.

When you say "stickers" are you referring to the 500 mile upgrades ? If so I can understand why, it's a stupid name.

I also saw the miles + copay award on the website and tried to understand the details, but it didn't answer most of my questions.... So if I pay for the miles + copay, do I automatically (for sure) get the upgrade? Or am I on a waiting list until a certain time? And if so, what happens if there is nothing left? Do I get a refund for the miles+copay? Based on the seating for the flight I'm eyeing, it's already down to only side seats (~10 - 12 total). Obviously couples booking the 2 middle.

I'm surprised you say to use the hotel points in Maui - everything seems overpriced. Best I can find is 20,000 for starwoods - and even those seem like a bit much.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:19 pm
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by s0me0nesmind1 View Post
Interesting. And yeah, the DFW is the one I was going to go for - simply because it just has way more first class. More first class = more likely to have extra space to be upgraded was my line of thinking.

When you say "stickers" are you referring to the 500 mile upgrades ? If so I can understand why, it's a stupid name.

I also saw the miles + copay award on the website and tried to understand the details, but it didn't answer most of my questions.... So if I pay for the miles + copay, do I automatically (for sure) get the upgrade? Or am I on a waiting list until a certain time? And if so, what happens if there is nothing left? Do I get a refund for the miles+copay? Based on the seating for the flight I'm eyeing, it's already down to only side seats (~10 - 12 total). Obviously couples booking the 2 middle.

I'm surprised you say to use the hotel points in Maui - everything seems overpriced. Best I can find is 20,000 for starwoods - and even those seem like a bit much.
1. Stickers = 500 mile upgrades. They used to be stickers or something at some point. So they are used interchangeably here and elsewhere.
2. Miles + Copay comes out of a fare bucket C. If you have an Expert Flyer membership, you can check if C inventory is available. If it is available, miles + copay will clear immediately. (SWU/System Wide Upgrades that EXPs and CKs get are the same bucket). If C = 0, you will be waitlisted. This will then clear in order of status and rolling EQD like all other upgrades. Typically C is released before R (500 miles upgrades) so miles + copay has a better chance (in my experience) of clearing than 500 milers.

You will not be charged unless it clears. If you do not clear, there is no deduction.

3. Hotels are a lot of points. But hotels are pretty bad $$$ wise in OGG as well. So fair point. I save my hotel points for SE Asia and stuff. But, based on the numbers above, I'd use them on hotels than burning all the points for the flight on an Anytime award
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:39 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
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In a week your Marriott and SPG points will be in the same system, and the new reward schedule will be in place, so I'd hold off on doing anything with those points right now.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:41 pm
  #8  
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Originally Posted by Antarius View Post
1. Stickers = 500 mile upgrades. They used to be stickers or something at some point. So they are used interchangeably here and elsewhere.
2. Miles + Copay comes out of a fare bucket C. If you have an Expert Flyer membership, you can check if C inventory is available. If it is available, miles + copay will clear immediately. (SWU/System Wide Upgrades that EXPs and CKs get are the same bucket). If C = 0, you will be waitlisted. This will then clear in order of status and rolling EQD like all other upgrades. Typically C is released before R (500 miles upgrades) so miles + copay has a better chance (in my experience) of clearing than 500 milers.

You will not be charged unless it clears. If you do not clear, there is no deduction.

3. Hotels are a lot of points. But hotels are pretty bad $$$ wise in OGG as well. So fair point. I save my hotel points for SE Asia and stuff. But, based on the numbers above, I'd use them on hotels than burning all the points for the flight on an Anytime award
Trying to understand expert flyer a bit - using it for the first time, but it's looking to me like all the auto upgrades are taken... which is a shame. Checked surrounding dates as well.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:42 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by kpfleming View Post
In a week your Marriott and SPG points will be in the same system, and the new reward schedule will be in place, so I'd hold off on doing anything with those points right now.
The only reason I ask is because there is a lot of discussion on if we should book a travel package (which comes with a 7-night certificate for a hotel and miles for an airline). The new packages aren't going to be as good - so people are indicating it might better to do it now.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:45 pm
  #10  
 
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Originally Posted by s0me0nesmind1 View Post
Hello folks,

I'm planning on a vacation to Hawaii (Maui) and am trying to figure out the best means of booking my flight.
Here is my suggestion.

First get an Expert Flyer subscription. They are able to query directly into the AA database and get real-time fare bucket availability.

In EF you can ask for Awards and Upgrades buckets, for either an exact date or +/- 3 days. Try that and get a feel for what might be available at the time you want to fly. Also note that EF has a list of exactly the fare codes for various upgrades and awards.

When you find flights that suit your needs with available awards or upgrades, then go to the AA website and get the reservation and put it on hold.

Call and say "I have record XYZABC and I want to buy the ticket if I can upgrade." This way you will commit to the ticket and get that upgrade at the same time in the same transaction. If you find an award flight that suits your needs, you can just reserve it on the website and need not call.

If they don't have any upgrades or awards that suit your needs, then you will go on a waiting list. Buy the ticket, then call and put your reservation on the wait list. If your reservation clears, then they automatically do the upgrade and charge your co-pay and miles. If you do not clear, then you are not charged anything.

Expert Flyer takes the guess work out of this kind of thing. You can see exactly what they have available and make plans. That sure beats sitting on the phone saying "Try this.... try that....".
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Old Jul 24, 18, 5:59 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Have you checked AA Vacations? I recall an earlier thread promoting discounted first/biz to Europe when combined with hotel, may also work for Hawaii.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 6:05 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Have you checked AS? Their economy seats to Hawaii from the West Coast are some of the lowest prices available, <redacted> The pmVX 32X out of SFO have much better first class cabins, standard AS 737 first class is tolerable for the 6 hour flight.
Either use the AMEX MRs to pay for the tickets, or sign up for the AS BofA credit card, which includes a companion pass - only pay for one ticket!

Last edited by JDiver; Mar 2, 20 at 10:46 am Reason: Please do not suggest TCC Rules violations
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Old Jul 24, 18, 7:39 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
Have you checked AS? Their economy seats to Hawaii from the West Coast are some of the lowest prices available, <redacted>. The pmVX 32X out of SFO have much better first class cabins, standard AS 737 first class is tolerable for the 6 hour flight.
Either use the AMEX MRs to pay for the tickets, or sign up for the AS BofA credit card, which includes a companion pass - only pay for one ticket!
Yeah to be honest, it didn't look too bad cash price wise. The problem is I have no status to upgrade.

As far as mileage, it costs 40,000 miles (coach) each way - so a total of 160,000 for a round trip for the 2 of us. Doesn't look that great to me? First class is even worse at 80,00 miles each way for a total of 360,000.

The AS BofA cc for companion definitely sounds intriguing though if I was willing to do coach I suppose. Problem is, I really want this to be relaxing for once. Normally we fly coach and I just wanted to treat the wife for once.

Got any tips as to how to find a friend that is willing/able to give up 2 upgrades? Any idea how much people generally pay?

Last edited by JDiver; Mar 2, 20 at 10:47 am
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Old Jul 24, 18, 7:43 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
Have you checked AA Vacations? I recall an earlier thread promoting discounted first/biz to Europe when combined with hotel, may also work for Hawaii.
Sadly I'm taking this trip to use a Marriott voucher for 7 days... so hotel is already taken care of.... Is it really that big of a difference? I tend to experience the same airfare costs even when booking vacation packages.

Originally Posted by QueenOfCoach View Post
Here is my suggestion.

First get an Expert Flyer subscription. They are able to query directly into the AA database and get real-time fare bucket availability.

In EF you can ask for Awards and Upgrades buckets, for either an exact date or +/- 3 days. Try that and get a feel for what might be available at the time you want to fly. Also note that EF has a list of exactly the fare codes for various upgrades and awards.

When you find flights that suit your needs with available awards or upgrades, then go to the AA website and get the reservation and put it on hold.

Call and say "I have record XYZABC and I want to buy the ticket if I can upgrade." This way you will commit to the ticket and get that upgrade at the same time in the same transaction. If you find an award flight that suits your needs, you can just reserve it on the website and need not call.

If they don't have any upgrades or awards that suit your needs, then you will go on a waiting list. Buy the ticket, then call and put your reservation on the wait list. If your reservation clears, then they automatically do the upgrade and charge your co-pay and miles. If you do not clear, then you are not charged anything.

Expert Flyer takes the guess work out of this kind of thing. You can see exactly what they have available and make plans. That sure beats sitting on the phone saying "Try this.... try that....".
Signed up for a trial of expert flyer. Thanks for the tip. Sadly the "C" code in Expert flyer is showing 0 for the flight to OGG for... pretty much any that I choose. Sounds like no automatic upgrades all around

For some reason I feel like the flight might get cheaper as well - I am afterall booking this out 3 months in advance.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 9:12 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
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Maui is aspirational for people world wide and with good reason. Be very glad you have a hotel nailed down in your pocket already.
Have you considered using miles outbound in economy for the daytime flight and using Biz or First for the awful red eye back to the mainland? Been there, done that and I would prioritize premium cabins for the flight back to the mainland if you do not have enough miles or do not want to use a ton of miles in premium class.

Also, if you choose to fly in a premium cabin from Maui, whether on miles or a paid ticket, GET TO THE AIRPORT EARLY!! The last time I flew back on miles from OGG my sister complained about how early we arrived. There was a couple that arrived shortly after we did that were bumped out of First/Business even though they had confirmed seats. We heard the wife berate her poor husband for 2 hours. Yikes. Sister stopped berating me soon thereafter. Nuff said.
If you get a rental car, the gas lines at Costco(very close to the airport) are LOOOONG. Might be worth paying a bit more for gas elsewhere but I suspect all gas stations will be crowded regardless-factor that into your timing for arrival. I suggest that one of you drop off baby, a spouse and luggage(remember all bags need an agricultural inspection which can add time to checkin) and then the other spouse head to get gas and return the rental car(and the shuttle back from the rental car office to the airport incurs additional time).
Hope this helps with your trip plans.
Maui is really beautiful and worth the effort to get there and back. Do not even get me started on how expensive food is. OMG
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