Dilemma: The airlines know when most families have a week-long chance to get away for some tropical fun. Accordingly, there is almost ZERO award space on American, United, Alaska, and Delta at the saver level for a convenient trip to Hawaii, even from a West Coast hub. Paid tickets are super-pricey, as are hotel accommodations. In short, this is a terrible time to be hunting for bargain travel, but my miles/points game is irrepressible!
Getting to Hawaii on Alaska Air Flights
After searching availability to all Hawaii airports from every Alaska Air option on the West Coast (and all the other airlines, too), I learned that Seattle gave me the best shot at a flight out during the early part of spring break week. Like the other airlines, Alaska basically only had flights in and out of Hawaii mid-week, which meant too little time on the islands to make it worthwhile.
I found two exceptions, the best of which was a Monday morning flight going directly from SEA-TAC to LIH airport on Kauai. Score! I was then able to find a flight from Santa Barbara to Seattle the previous day that I could tack onto the award booking at no extra charge. We get to fly out of our home airport early Sunday morning, hang out in Seattle for about 24 hours with family, and then continue to Hawaii Monday morning, all for a saver-level award redemption!
Miles/Points Used: 40,000 Alaska Air miles total for our two tickets.
Getting Back Home
This one turned out to be an even greater challenge than going to Hawaii. I thought I'd found two tickets available on an American flight from LIH to PHX (Phoenix). Then, we'd use our Southwest Companion Pass and miles to get back to California. I called to book the AA flight to PHX with Avios (British Airways) because they offer the cheapest redemption to and from Hawaii, but they didn't see two seats available. Sometimes airlines won't release the same award space to partners, so we were stuck without a way home.
Then, I remembered that Alaska is also a partner of British Airways and I quickly found a Thursday afternoon flight to Portland (PDX). We'll fly there on Thursday, use a few hotel points for a free hotel stay, and take a morning flight back to California on Southwest. While not the simplest route, the savings are worthwhile it.
Miles/Points Used: 25,000 BA Avios + 6,000 SW Miles
Why I Went to All This Trouble
Award space on the major US carriers to Hawaii is basically non-existent at the saver level for our dates. Even if it was available, it would cost us more in miles that have better redemption value when applied to international routes.
Of course, we could always pay for our tickets to Kauai. American is currently the best-priced major US carrier, offering our dates at just under $700 per person.
We're applying 71,000 miles to get to Hawaii and back during a very busy time of the year, instead of spending about $1400, which means our redemption value is 2cpm. For a "domestic" flight, that's very good, and all three airline currencies we are using are relatively easy to come by. There is the 10,000 points we'll use for a hotel in Portland to consider, but that is nicely counterbalanced by the opportunity to see family in Seattle at the front end of our trip.
This trip was brought about by our desire to use Wyndham points for a very specific award use (the beautiful Koloa Landing Resort). Check! We wanted to use miles to significantly reduce our biggest travel expense: transportation. Check!
Koloa Landing Resort goes for about $500 per night and they have now sold all of the cheaper rooms for our travel dates, so we saved $1500 minimum on accommodations. Add that to the airfare and we've saved nearly $3000 that many would spend for just three days in paradise. We don't have that kind of money to toss around, but if we did, we'd probably still use miles and points.
Think about the adventures a couple or family could have in Hawaii with $3000 if they didn't have to spend it on flights and hotels (maybe take a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian?). We'll use a fraction of that savings and live it up! This is why we play the miles and points game.
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