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Getting well positioned for a flight to Hawaii

Getting well positioned for a flight to Hawaii

Old Jul 9, 14, 1:03 am
  #1  
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Getting well positioned for a flight to Hawaii

I'll try to keep this short so as not to bore anyone...

I'm going to take my family of 4 (myself, wife, two kids) to Hawaii in Nov 2015. I've been saving up points/miles for awhile, but don't have enough as of yet and would like opinions on how to best position myself.

I think the chances of getting 4 saver tickets on the same flight is next to nothing, especially considering that my dates aren't flexible due to school schedules. As a result, I want to position myself to have enough points to book standard awards. If saver is available, that'll be great, but if not I'll book standard.

Here's what I have:

AA: 110k (wife has about 55k)
US: 55k (wife has 60k)
United: 0
Delta: 7k
UR: 330k
MR: 163k
SPG: 180k

There's a flight I've identified that I want for coming back, from HNL-EWR on united, and then continue on to CVG, CMH, or DAY from there. Assuming that flight is still available next Nov I'm planning on transferring all my UR to united and booking 4 Business/First tickets on that flight with lie-flat seats. That will cost 360k miles for standard reward redemption. I'll either get the United card to make up that difference, or by the end of this year when I book I'll likely have that many UR points to transfer.

The problem now is getting to HNL from CVG, DAY, or CMH. This will have to be the Sat before Thanksgiving, 2015. I *might* be persuaded to go Friday or Sunday instead, but there'd need to be a very compelling reason to take my daughter out of school another day or cut my vacation by a day. Given this, after all my research, I think my best options are either Hawaiian Airlines or AA. Here's what I can see myself doing for each scenario:

Hawaiian:
Wife and I both sign up for Barclay Hawaiian credit card, get 70k miles pooled into a family account. I then transfer another 80k points from MR to Hawaiian for a grand total of 160k miles. This gets us four standard awards in coach from the mainland to HNL. There's a non-stop from JFK that I would want. The biggest disadvantage is that Hawaiian doesn't service CVG, DAY, or CMH. I'd be responsible for getting my family to JFK, LAS, LAX, etc to hop the Hawaiian flight. That could end up costing $700-$1000 just doing that.

AA:
I sign up for AA Executive, either 100k or 75k offer. I also concentrate more spending on these cards to build up my balance. If needed, I can transfer 40k SPG points to 50k AA points. All that combined and I could end up with 250k or more AA miles by end of year. Using this year as a barometer, saturday travel would be out because it would be 90k for standard coach on sat. But both Friday and Sunday show decent Business/First availability with standard awards between 47k and 67k, so 250k would be enough for four of those award seats. Flying AA I could pretty much leave from any of the three airports around where I live.

I could also just by cash tickets for the one way, but would prefer not to.

Must haves:
1) Must all travel together, I don't want to split my family up for this

Nice to have (in order of preference):
1) As non-stop as possible. I much prefer a longer flight to reduce total travel time. Hence the long flight from JFK rather than laying over on the west coast.
2) Preferably leave in the morning on the east coast and get to HNL in the afternoon. Arriving to HNL late in the evening doesn't sound appealing with young kids.
3) First/Business is preferred, but not crucial for getting to HNL
4) If First/Business, lie-flat seats are preferred, but not at all crucial.

So, seeing as this will require a few credit cards regardless, what do you all think is my best option? Hawaiian seems easier to accomplish from a miles perspective, because I can use my stash of MR points. AA seems far more flexible, but hard to get enough points. Is there another option I might be missing entirely? I'd really appreciate some help as I've never booked an award flight before, other than southwest, so I'm a little overwhelmed trying to get 4 award seats together.

Last thing I'll mention: I know I have a lot of starwood points that I could leverage, but I'm trying to save as many of those as I can for hotel stays in Hawaii. I could maybe part with 40k, as I mentioned, but wouldn't want to use them all for airlines unless I could get round trip business/first with them and then use UR points to transfer the Hyatt for hotel stays.

Thanks a lot for any thoughts! I tried to do as much research as I could before posting, I just want to make sure I'm not missing something obvious.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 1:04 am
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wow... I didn't keep that short at all!
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Old Jul 9, 14, 6:34 am
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Do you already have the Chase Hyatt card? The signup bonus is 2 free nights systemwide for $1k within the first three months, so that would free up some more of your SPG points.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 8:58 am
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You might want to reconsider going biz/first. The flight isn't so bad in coach (or Economy +) if you connect. That might save some miles for you.

Also, consider buying some tickets and using points for some. Maybe you could get 3 with points and pay for one?

I think that Hawaii is the goal and not flying first/biz.

Enjoy!
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Old Jul 9, 14, 10:00 am
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Originally Posted by szehui View Post
Do you already have the Chase Hyatt card? The signup bonus is 2 free nights systemwide for $1k within the first three months, so that would free up some more of your SPG points.
Thanks! I did know about that, if my wife and I both get it that could be 4 nights of hyatt stays. I was thinking we'd both get United cards from Chase for this app-o-rama, but we could do Hyatt for the next one this fall or early next year.

Originally Posted by farbster View Post
You might want to reconsider going biz/first. The flight isn't so bad in coach (or Economy +) if you connect. That might save some miles for you.

Also, consider buying some tickets and using points for some. Maybe you could get 3 with points and pay for one?

I think that Hawaii is the goal and not flying first/biz.

Enjoy!
I'm not super picky about first going out there, that's strictly a nice to have. I do want it coming back though so the family can sleep. The HNL-EWR flight, assuming it's the same next year, leaves HNL at night and lands at EWR at noon, it's a 10-ish hour flight. In lie flat seats my kids and wife could probably sleep that entire flight.

Plus, for whatever reason, on United standard economy seats seem to be almost as scarce as saver seats. But there are a plethora of standard business/first seats available. I'm not even sure I could find space in coach.

As for some award tickets and some cash, this sounds like a great option! The main concern I have is it doesn't seem like I'm able to put everything on one reservation. So if there were any issues and we needed to be rebooked that might cause some headaches trying to stay together. Do you know if there are any methods to getting everything on the same reservation? From everything I've seen it doesn't look possible other than just having notes added to each reservation.

Thanks so much for your input!
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Old Jul 9, 14, 10:47 am
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"As a result, I want to position myself to have enough points to book standard awards. If saver is available, that'll be great, but if not I'll book standard."

Just remember that, if you search aa.com or united.com for four SAAver seats, and four are not available, you will only be offered the higher-priced awards, [b]even if one or two or three SAAver seats are available. So be sure to search for fewer than four seats if four low-tier seats are not available. It's a lot cheaper to book two low-tier seats and two higher-tier seats than four higher-tier seats.

Certain Citi/AA credit cards give you a 10% rebate on redemptions, but the rebate is capped at 10,000 miles/year/AAdvantage member. So it might make sense for both you and your spouse to get a card. And there are some versions that offer a waiver of the first-year's annual fee (but not the Executive card).
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Old Jul 9, 14, 10:56 am
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I do not understand your comment about standard award economy being scarce. First, that award has no restriction. If a seat is available on the flight, you can book it. That is why it costs so much.

I agree on not worrying about first class seats... it really does not get you anything on United... especially on the way out. For me, the miles would be more valuable for an additional trip than the comfort of lie-flat on the way back.

There is no way to have award/cash flights on the same reservation. In addition, there is no way to actually link a reservation. A note is possible; but then you are dependent upon an agent actually reading the note if there is a problem... and caring about what it says.

You may want to think about splitting up... each of you with one of your children. Might free up more options.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 11:46 am
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Originally Posted by wharvey View Post
I do not understand your comment about standard award economy being scarce. First, that award has no restriction. If a seat is available on the flight, you can book it. That is why it costs so much.

I agree on not worrying about first class seats... it really does not get you anything on United... especially on the way out. For me, the miles would be more valuable for an additional trip than the comfort of lie-flat on the way back.

There is no way to have award/cash flights on the same reservation. In addition, there is no way to actually link a reservation. A note is possible; but then you are dependent upon an agent actually reading the note if there is a problem... and caring about what it says.

You may want to think about splitting up... each of you with one of your children. Might free up more options.
I appreciate you taking the time to help me, thanks!

Perhaps I'm using the wrong terminology, or even searching wrong, but as an example I did a search for IAD - HNL on Nov 22, 2014 on united.com. 1 person, and searched using award travel. There are a bunch of flights listed, however no saver space and not one flight has Economy Standard Award space listed either. Every one lists Standard First / BusinessFirst availability. These same flights are available for cash purchases of economy tickets, so I took that to mean that even standard awards on united were capacity controlled to some extent. I could be missing something here, please let me know if I am as it would open up a lot more options for me.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 12:49 pm
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A United MileagePlus Explorer will get you several things: Check baggage fee waiver, Expanded saver award availability, Access to Standard awards on every routing right up to the last seat, and 35-55K miles.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 1:40 pm
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I know you said you don't want to stop on the West coast (and maybe you know this) but you can get from the West Coast to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios (which you can transfer some of your UR points towards). You would have to get to the West coast to do that but maybe find some cheap flights to one of those cities.

I'm a family of 6 in Nebraska and finding flights from Omaha for 6 people to Hawaii is near impossible on points but from say LAX it's not that bad.

Good luck!
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Old Jul 9, 14, 1:56 pm
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Originally Posted by KennyBSAT View Post
A United MileagePlus Explorer will get you several things: Check baggage fee waiver, Expanded saver award availability, Access to Standard awards on every routing right up to the last seat, and 35-55K miles.
Thanks! And nice blog post!

I knew about the extra access to economy saver space, I didn't know that the card actually gave you access to extra standard award space too. That's great news!

Originally Posted by slider34 View Post
I know you said you don't want to stop on the West coast (and maybe you know this) but you can get from the West Coast to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios (which you can transfer some of your UR points towards). You would have to get to the West coast to do that but maybe find some cheap flights to one of those cities.

I'm a family of 6 in Nebraska and finding flights from Omaha for 6 people to Hawaii is near impossible on points but from say LAX it's not that bad.

Good luck!
I looked at that because I could burn some MR points to transfer to Avios, but that requires AA saver availability right? In order to book AA with Avios, there needs to be the lowest level saver available? That's likely a problem because my dates are so inflexible. I'll look into it a bit more though, thanks!
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Old Jul 9, 14, 2:18 pm
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Originally Posted by klepton View Post
Thanks! And nice blog post!


I looked at that because I could burn some MR points to transfer to Avios, but that requires AA saver availability right? In order to book AA with Avios, there needs to be the lowest level saver available? That's likely a problem because my dates are so inflexible. I'll look into it a bit more though, thanks!
Correct, forgot about the exact dates but worth a shot of looking at least
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Old Jul 9, 14, 2:54 pm
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If you pick up some WN points you can position to any of the West Coast cities and then continue with 12.5K Avios on any AA or AS Saver level seats.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 3:46 pm
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- From your home airport choices of CVG, DAY or CMH, I gather you're from my neck of the woods (DAY). I'd consider looking at departing and/or arriving to ORD as you search for availability.

Not sure how far you are from any of those airports, but by the time you drive, park, check bags, security, probably some small delay, flight time...it's about the same amount of time as driving to ORD (5 hours from where I live). And most of the connecting flights are regional jets which increases the odds of delays and cancelations.

After getting burned by that a few times, we've often opted to drive. It's even easy enough to drive up after school on a Friday and get a hotel by the airport, fly out Sat morning. And you're more likely to find a non-stop or at most, one-stop, from ORD.

The other aspect is that often I find that the award availability is tight on the connecting flight (due to so few seats to begin with) but better once you get to the hub.

- You can use BA Avios for getting to JFK for the HA flight, 4500 Avios from CMH, if the cost is an issue.

- First class services to/from HI really leave a lot to be desired, frankly I don't feel it's worth the extra cash or miles.

- I gather you're only looking at HNL as your final destination? The other islands would give you more options, albeit without as many non-stops from some airports of course. And I know everyone has their opinions, but Oahu is my least favorite (not to say it's bad per se). In any case, though, any of the other islands will be good.

- With award redemptions, and especially multiple people, the more flexible, the better. If your dates are fixed, and particularly over a holiday week, there will likely be some tradeoffs involved.
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Old Jul 9, 14, 6:25 pm
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Originally Posted by 84fiero View Post
- From your home airport choices of CVG, DAY or CMH, I gather you're from my neck of the woods (DAY). I'd consider looking at departing and/or arriving to ORD as you search for availability.

Not sure how far you are from any of those airports, but by the time you drive, park, check bags, security, probably some small delay, flight time...it's about the same amount of time as driving to ORD (5 hours from where I live). And most of the connecting flights are regional jets which increases the odds of delays and cancelations.

After getting burned by that a few times, we've often opted to drive. It's even easy enough to drive up after school on a Friday and get a hotel by the airport, fly out Sat morning. And you're more likely to find a non-stop or at most, one-stop, from ORD.

The other aspect is that often I find that the award availability is tight on the connecting flight (due to so few seats to begin with) but better once you get to the hub.

- You can use BA Avios for getting to JFK for the HA flight, 4500 Avios from CMH, if the cost is an issue.

- First class services to/from HI really leave a lot to be desired, frankly I don't feel it's worth the extra cash or miles.

- I gather you're only looking at HNL as your final destination? The other islands would give you more options, albeit without as many non-stops from some airports of course. And I know everyone has their opinions, but Oahu is my least favorite (not to say it's bad per se). In any case, though, any of the other islands will be good.

- With award redemptions, and especially multiple people, the more flexible, the better. If your dates are fixed, and particularly over a holiday week, there will likely be some tradeoffs involved.
I'm actually in Middletown, almost smack dab in between DAY and CVG. I have looked at ORD, as United has a nice non-stop to HNL. I kind of took it out of contention though because it wasn't lie-flat seats for coming back. I had considered driving there Friday night after school like you mentioned and getting a hotel. Honestly the thing holding me back is I don't want the 5 hour drive back after a red eye.

We're actually taking a cruise from Honolulu, which is why I'm only looking to come and go from there. The cruise will hit 3 of the other islands.

Thanks for the insight! I think I'm being talked out of first class, so ORD might become a player again.
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