Next month my family and I are headed to Japan and France on the way back for a four-week vacation. This big trip has been my goal ever since I started collecting points and miles. At first, I wondered if it would be possible. I wasn’t sure if I could ever rack up enough miles to do it, especially because I wanted to book flights for four people in business class.
Thanks to a lot of strategic planning, and more than a few lucrative miles and points redemptions, it’s happening. We’re traveling at the peak of summer, flying in lie-flat seats and staying at some aspirational properties. In fact, we’ll be enjoying a trip worth over $30,000, for about the same cost as our usual family vacation in the States.
It would be an understatement to say that I’m very excited.
How to Do it Yourself
The process was like working a jigsaw puzzle. There are a lot of different ways to approach the task. Because I knew that flights in business class would cost hundreds of thousands of points, I opted to buy many of the points I needed through a lucrative share miles promotion from US Airways. It’s currently available until June 30th, but may not be back once the carrier completes its merger with American Airlines. Here are the steps I took:
- I started by getting a US Airways Mastercard. My husband did the same. While the card carries an $89 annual fee, it also provides a 40,000-mile sign-up bonus. This gave us a nice bank of miles to share during the promotion. Since I knew the share miles promo only happens once or twice a year, I got the card, continued to build miles using it, then waited to pounce.
- When the deal happened, we were able to share 50,000 miles at 1 cent apiece and have them deposited into a single account; the recipient got an instant 100,000 mile infusion, for a total cost of $567, including taxes and fees.
- We then redeemed 90,000 miles for each of the four business class tickets from San Francisco to Japan. Our trip includes a two-week stay in Asia, then we fly to Paris for a two-week stopover allowed on the award ticket, then home again to San Francisco. All for 90,000 miles.
The bad news is that not all of the above deals still exist. The good news is that you can still get similar deals:
- First, you can still get the US Airways Mastercard with the same 40,000 mile sign-up bonus.
- The share miles promo is still around. In fact, it’s happening right now through this month, so act quickly. The terms have changed a bit, though. The cost to share each mile is now higher (1.5 cents apiece), and the miles bonus is divided between the transferee and the transferer. In other words, if you share 50,000 miles, one account will get a total of 75,000 miles (50,000 + 25,000 bonus), and the other account will get 25,000 (the other bonus. This will cost $836 (1.5 cents per miles + a 7.5 percent tax recovery charge + a $30 fee).
Although you can no longer redeem 90,000 miles for a round-trip flight in business class, you can still enjoy a few very generous redemptions on US Airways:
- For 110,000 miles, you can fly to North Asia and include a free stopover in Europe. This was the exact redemption we made, although for us it was 20,000 miles cheaper. Depending on the amount of miles you have, you might also consider redeeming 120,000 miles for the same ticket in first class that would be an amazing use of only 5,000 miles each way.
- Another excellent 110,000-mile redemption is business class to Australia, with a free stopover in Asia.
- For a few more miles than the 90,000 I spent (120,000), you can book a business class flight to Central Asia, with a free stopover in Europe.
A couple of other details:
- No account can receive more than 50,000 bonus miles during the promotion. This means that you can transfer up to 100,000 miles from your account. Both you and the person you are sharing with earn 25,000 bonus miles each.
- You must be a Dividend Miles member for at least 12 days to participate.
For us, the US Airways share miles promotion was definitely the best way to make this big trip happen. I’m still amazed that we were able to fly around the world, in lie-flat seats, for the same cost as our usual family vacation in California. I can hardly wait for the trip to start!