Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Unexpected Ways to Use Your Frequent Flier Miles

by | September 25, 2014

I had the good fortune to spend this past weekend learning from some of the smartest frequent-flier mileage and loyalty-program bloggers out there, at the Boarding Area Conference (aka BAcon) in Las Vegas. For those not familiar, Boarding Area is a network of sites that share information, news, and advice for frequent travelers (from families to business folk); it was created by frequent-flier legend Randy Petersen (who also founded Milepoint, FlyerTalk, and InsideFlyer). And since I was sitting in a room all weekend with people who know how to get the most out of loyalty programs, I sought out some advice for the rest of us. We all know that frequent flier miles are more than just a way to earn free flights, but we’re not always sure when else to use them and what other perks are worthwhile. So here goes: four unexpected ways to use miles to make your next trip amazing.

1. Plan special events

“Airline miles and hotel points are often best used to book travel, but sometimes there are other ways to get big value out of them. We used SPG hotel points to get luxury box seats at a Cubs game at Wrigley field for my husband’s birthday one year and that made the trip to Chicago very special!”

—Summer Hull, Mommy Points


2. Put premium cabins within reach

“What many people don’t realize is how lucrative award tickets can be. Casual travelers tend to think of using their miles and points for domestic economy travel, but international premium cabins are more approachable than you might think, and don’t require that many more miles. I used 135,000 American AAdvantage miles per person to book Cathay Pacific first-class tickets for my mom and me for her birthday last year. That was an incredibly special experience—and something that wouldn’t have been possible for us without airline miles.”

—Ben Schlappig, One Mile At A Time


3. Upgrade your hotel stay

“Airline miles aren’t nearly as good for upgrades as they used to be (US airlines tend to charge cash—as much as $600 each way—in addition to miles for international upgrades) but hotel points can be a great way to upgrade. Hyatt is especially generous in this regard, charging just 6,000 points per night to confirm a suite when you pay a standard rate for a regular room.”

—Gary Leff, View From the Wing


4. Give someone an amazing gift

“One of the best ways to use miles/points is to give them to others by booking flights and hotels for them. To us this is one of the most rewarding uses of miles and points because we can share first-class flights and five-star hotels with family and friends who would never otherwise be able to experience luxury travel.”

—Daraius Dubash and Emily Jablon, Million Mile Secrets


5. Bring a friend on a business trip

“Autumn is peak time for meetings and conventions. It’s also a smart time of year to use your miles to bring a family member or friend along when attending one. Due to a decrease in demand for air travel during the fall “shoulder season,” it’s one of the easiest times of year to redeem miles at so-called “saver” rates. So redeem 25,000 miles and bring along someone special for a long weekend before or after that meeting in New York or Chicago or San Francisco. It’s a great way to spend some time together and have at least part of the trip subsidized by your company or client. ”

—Chris McGinnis, TravelSkills


In what unexpected ways have you used your miles? Tell us below.

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  1. MIT

    I just recently used my American Express miles to make a rather large purchase using my miles thru amazon which saved me over 1,500$. I had the Platinum card for over 15 years and have found out that is well worth the cost with the savings I have received,

  2. Laura Ratliff

    Delta miles can occasionally be used for magazine subscriptions! I don’t fly them too often, so it’s a nice way to burn up a few thousand miles.

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