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It's possible to spend avios for five people after all...

It's possible to spend avios for five people after all...

Old May 27, 16, 1:03 pm
  #1  
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It's possible to spend avios for five people after all...

If you're part of a five person family like me, you'll know that it's exceedingly hard to book avios rewards for a serious family holiday. I wanted to provide some proof that it can be done, if you try hard enough! So without further ado...

Requirement: Book avios reward flights one way LHR-MIA, leaving on the first day of the Easter holidays and arriving five days later to join our transatlantic cruise back to the UK. For five people (three adults, two "young adults").

Mileage situation: 207000 avios in a BA household account, some 120k in my account and the rest distributed among my wife and kids. I and the wife are both BA Silver, the kids are BA Bronze.

Mileage goal: Use as many miles as possible to keep the price (fees/taxes/etc) as low as possible.

Secondary goal: Make the trip as interesting as possible!

While on board our last cruise, we booked a transatlantic crossing from Port Everglades in Miami to Southampton UK on the Independence of the Seas. It seemed like a great idea at the time (the price was pretty incredible, putting us in a suite for the price we'd normally pay for adjoining rooms), and like a fool I said "it's ok, I will sort us out one way flights to get there". We got home, and I realised that one way in Business Class (I can't do long haul in economy due to back problems) was going to be...expensive. I started looking at options, and found out that buying business class tickets one way is *very* expensive (on BA over 20k for the five of us!). I found deals that could have got us there for about 6000, but these were return tickets with complicated routings where we'd just throw away the return half (why are there never good deals for one way??), and it was still three times more than I really wanted to spend...

There I was, having promised the world and unable to deliver. So I started looking at reward options, and while there was no availability in J direct to Miami, it was possible to get to JFK for 195000 Avios + 3,779. Add on 389 for economy class JFK-MIA, and 4168 became my target price to beat. This was twice what I wanted to pay in an ideal world (although to keep the wife happy I'd have probably paid it!).

Well, after much researching and lots of hard work, I now have tickets that get us all the way from Heathrow to the cruise port, transatlantic in J, for a total price of 1951.53 plus 192500 avios. I am very pleased with the result! This price includes LHR-MAD-NYCx-ORL and one way hire car from Orlando to the cruise terminal.

Here's how I managed to book it:

LHR-MAD
Only four free seats were available on flights LHR-MAD in economy. Prices for our day of departure are 220 per person in economy, so I booked four RFS economy and one RFS business class, for a total of 45000 miles and 105. We put my son in Business, meaning that we will all be able to sit in the lounge at LHR (two silver cards can guest the other kids).

MAD-JFK
This was the big turning point for booking the trip -- the realisation that Iberia release many many business class seats, but only for their own avios scheme. BA can only get you two seats on these flights, but Iberia can easily book nine at a time! They are also significantly cheaper, both in terms of Avios (BA 300k vs IB 250k) and money (BA 1800 vs IB 409 -- yes really). The trouble was, I didn't have enough avios, as avios in a household account can't transfer over. Then a promotion for buying avios in Iberia Plus was released, so I did the following:

- Transfer 110000 avios into Iberia Plus
- Buy 140000 avios from Iberia on the +40% promotion, at a cost of 1369.53
- Book avios redemption MAD-JFK for five people in J, cost 250000 avios + 409

Total cost: 110000 avios plus 1778.53. For five people. In J. Transatlantic. On the first day of the Easter Holiday. Damn that's a good deal.

EWR-ORL
Reward Flight Saver for 37500 avios plus 19. Yes 19. We could have bought the flights to Miami for 389, but this seemed like a good deal for avios -- the taxes and fees component is excellent!

ORL-Port
We have a Herz Hire car (a huge SUV to take all five of us plus all of our luggage) as a one way rental, returning it at the Everglades cruise terminal, for the princely sum of 49. Including insurance and charges!

I think I've accomplished all of our goals:
  • We leave from Heathrow (20 minutes from our house)
  • Lounge access for all five of us in Heathrow
  • Check luggage through all the way to JFK (BA and Ibera both OneWorld)
  • Business Class across the atlantic
  • Four nights in JFK
  • Flight to Orlando with 200 mile road trip to terminal, stopping for the night somewhere interesting on the way.

Aren't avios great?
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Old May 27, 16, 1:10 pm
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Good work! We are a family of six and use Avios all the time. Sometimes RFS in Europe, sometimes premium seats to the US. It usually seems to work out for us.
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Old May 27, 16, 1:19 pm
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Originally Posted by LondonElite View Post
Good work! We are a family of six and use Avios all the time. Sometimes RFS in Europe, sometimes premium seats to the US. It usually seems to work out for us.
Actually one thing I've noticed, since I've dropped from Gold it has become much harder...
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Old May 27, 16, 2:11 pm
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Really? For Y or premium cabins?
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Old May 27, 16, 2:33 pm
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With flexibility and forward planning it's always possible to find a way.

I recently got 5 avios seats in F return to Washington DC the week of the February half term. 480k avios + 2 x 241 = bargain!
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Old May 27, 16, 3:15 pm
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Good work - same situation with a family of 5 - so I appreciate the time it takes to search out the best deals. Looking to burn through my AVIOS stash to provide great travel experiences whilst getting full value for them.
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Old May 27, 16, 3:51 pm
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We are a family of seven and managed to book return CE tickets to Rome for a week's holiday in August. We had very restricted dates so only achieved by searching for every destination in Europe that had availability for 7 reward seats. It was somewhere in Spain or Rome. Kids are so excited!
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Old May 27, 16, 3:57 pm
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Thats good - but it ain't Carling.

Seriousley, great effort - that is a good find indeed.
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Old May 27, 16, 4:07 pm
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Originally Posted by SimonsMiles View Post

Total cost: 110000 avios plus 1778.53. For five people. In J. Transatlantic. On the first day of the Easter Holiday. Damn that's a good deal.
Thats a pretty good deal. I have to mention though, the code for Orlando is MCO! (ORL is for general aviation).
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Old May 27, 16, 6:30 pm
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Originally Posted by SimonsMiles View Post
[*]Flight to Orlando with 200 mile road trip to terminal, stopping for the night somewhere interesting on the way.[/LIST]
Aren't avios great?
Not sure what time your flight gets into Orlando but the 200 mile road trip is not a big deal that you would need to "stop for the night". Presumably you have to spend the night somewhere as your cruise is the following day so why not just stay somewhere close to Ft. Lauderdale? Just personal preference but I like waking up the morning of my cruise close enough to ensure there aren't any last minute snafus such as oversleeping or an accident on the main highway to get me to the city where the cruise port is.

You can do the drive from Orlando either on the Turnpike or avoid the tolls and use I-95. The M25 they are not so it won't take you 2 hours to go 10 miles.

Plenty of great places to stay close to or in FLL right on the beach. Get up, enjoy breakfast, maybe spend a couple of hours on the beach, etc.

On the other hand, if you do have the time, my vote would be to go see the Kennedy Space Center.
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Old May 28, 16, 12:29 am
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Are you overnighting in Madrid?

If not, you're carrying a big risk of misconnecting along the way which given the stakes are a rather expensive cruise, could prove to be a false economy...

For the record I managed to book two trips on miles for 5 last year in J. No jokers or anything fancy either. Summer trip of Lhr-pek-hkg-bki//sin-Lon in August, then Lhr-Szg-Lhr over new year.
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Old May 28, 16, 3:48 am
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Originally Posted by Swiss Tony View Post
Are you overnighting in Madrid?

If not, you're carrying a big risk of misconnecting along the way which given the stakes are a rather expensive cruise, could prove to be a false economy...

For the record I managed to book two trips on miles for 5 last year in J. No jokers or anything fancy either. Summer trip of Lhr-pek-hkg-bki//sin-Lon in August, then Lhr-Szg-Lhr over new year.
I spoke to both Iberia and BA, and they have both said that since the connection is OneWorld to OneWorld, it would be protected (and luggage would be checked through).

We did allow for six hours at MAD, to be on the safe side...
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Old May 28, 16, 3:51 am
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Originally Posted by justhere View Post
Not sure what time your flight gets into Orlando but the 200 mile road trip is not a big deal that you would need to "stop for the night". Presumably you have to spend the night somewhere as your cruise is the following day so why not just stay somewhere close to Ft. Lauderdale? Just personal preference but I like waking up the morning of my cruise close enough to ensure there aren't any last minute snafus such as oversleeping or an accident on the main highway to get me to the city where the cruise port is.

You can do the drive from Orlando either on the Turnpike or avoid the tolls and use I-95. The M25 they are not so it won't take you 2 hours to go 10 miles.

Plenty of great places to stay close to or in FLL right on the beach. Get up, enjoy breakfast, maybe spend a couple of hours on the beach, etc.

On the other hand, if you do have the time, my vote would be to go see the Kennedy Space Center.
You're right, we will likely visit somewhere interesting on the way (we get to MCO at 10am) but sleep nearer the cruise. We visited the Kennedy Space Center last year :-). We'll probably head out east and drive down the coast, and likely stay overnight somewhere around Boca (maybe go back to the Boca Beach Club, which is a lovely place to stay).
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Old May 28, 16, 3:57 am
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Originally Posted by shefgab View Post
Thats a pretty good deal. I have to mention though, the code for Orlando is MCO! (ORL is for general aviation).
Doh! You are absolutely correct. I did panic and run to check the booking, but thankfully the confirmation email says MCO :-)
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