I keep reading how impossible it is to use your frequent-flier miles. I say, bull. I've never had a problem using my miles to find flights to Hawaii.
Saver Awards for Flights to Hawaii
You may not always be able to use your saver miles for flights to Hawaii, where it will cost you just 35-40,000 miles for a round-trip ticket. Yet, by being flexible with my dates, traveling mid-week and with a bit of luck, I can generally get a saver award for flights to Hawaii about half the time.
In fact, for my September 2008 trip to Hawaii I was able to get a saver award using 35,000 miles on United in June 2008. I chose to fly on September 11, which remains an unpopular day to fly.
Consider a Standard Mileage Award
Most frequent flier programs, however, allow you to use a higher number of miles to book a ticket any day, any time. This includes American Airlines and United Airlines, the two biggest carriers to Hawaii. Why would you want to use 70,000 or 90,000 miles for flights to Hawaii? If you consider than 100 miles equals $1, a ticket from the east coast using miles is worth between $700-$900.
If the lowest fair available for the dates you want to travel is over $1000 round-trip, using your miles makes a lot of sense.
Earn Miles in Other Ways
Keep in mind that miles can be earned not only by flying with a paid ticket. I use my airline credit card for most purchases. With frequent bonus miles for certain types of purchases the miles accrue at a nice, steady rate. The key, of course, as with any credit card, is to pay your balance in full every month to avoid finance charges.
Watch Those Baggage Charges
You should also keep in mind that almost every airline (except Delta as of September 2008) is charging for baggage. The charges vary, but you can expect to pay at least $15 for your first bag and $25 for your second bag. A third item can cost as much as $100. That gets really expensive if two of you want to take two bags each and maybe a set of golf clubs. That's at least $360 just for baggage.
I rarely see anyone who flies to Hawaii with less than two checked bags, but if you want to save some serious money, pack light. If you're staying in a condo hotel you'll likely have laundry facilities in your unit. Many hotels have laundry facilities as well.
A Dying Commodity, Don't Believe It
I've heard for years that frequent flier miles are on the way out. I don't believe it. I've seen no signs of that happening. Even when some of the airlines were in bankruptcy, they kept awarding those miles.
Sure, awards are all getting more expensive. Some carriers are charging more miles for a round-trip ticket. Some are assessing a surcharge for using miles or booking upgrades. Still, if you have them, use them and don't be afraid to keep earning them.
More Articles in this Series
Part 3 - Cheap Eats in Hawaii
Part 5 - Renting a Car in Hawaii
Part 8 - Free in Hawaii