Rookie Alli


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I have finally decided where to redeem my two free nights that I got from opening a Citi® Hilton HHonors™  Reserve Card. I am going to use them for a weekend stay at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria in June.

As much as I would have loved to used my two free weekend nights for a stay in Asia or the South Pacific, the amount of travel it takes to get to those locations was a huge deterrent to that plan. Europe seemed like a much more feasible destination. Thank you to all the readers who commented with their reviews, suggestions, and opinions on where I should stay!

The Property

The Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria is a Category 9 hotel, and the King Deluxe room that I am staying at (for free) is going for $557/night the weekend that I am staying there, or 80,000 HHonors points. I could never have afforded spending $1,100+ on a hotel for the weekend, so the free weekend nights have put an otherwise unattainable luxury within my reach.

Why did I pick the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria? What was the booking process?

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Earlier this month, I received my two Free Weekend Night certificates from Hilton after spending $2,500 in four months on my Citi Hilton Reserve card.

Hilton has some incredible properties around the world that cost as much for a night as my rent costs for a month, so I want to use my two free nights for truly aspirational stays I could otherwise never afford. And I want you to help me pick a property, since I’m sure MileValue readers have stayed at all these properties.

Hilton Bora Bora Nui, I could stay here…

I decided that I only wanted to redeem my certificates outside of the US at either a Category 9 or Category 10 hotel–why settle for less, especially when it’s free? I want to take a nice trip next summer, so I am looking at redeeming the certificates for a consecutive Friday night and Saturday night stay in June. I came up with five finalists.

What are my options? Where should I stay?

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This past February, I applied for a number of cards, including the Citi Hilton Reserve. I got the card for the free Hilton Gold status and the big benefit:

  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in eligible purchases within 4 months of account opening.

I am excited to report that I now have my free night certificates!

What was my experience? How did I receive the certificates? How quickly did they arrive? Where am I thinking of using them?

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Today is the second day of the third week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds. Today’s deal will offer good value for people seeking a luxury hotel experience.

Today’s deal is for two-night stays at a number of Loews Hotels and Resorts.

View of the Pacific at Loews Santa Monica.

How can you get in on the deal?

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Today is the first day of the third week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds. I imagine that today’s deal will be great for many families out there.

Today’s deal is discounted packages for visits to the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal Orlando Resort

How can you get in on the deal?

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Update at 1:55 ET: These deals are not very popular it seems. None have sold out. You can still snag one if you’d like!

Today is the second day of the second week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds.

Today’s deal is discounted hotel stays from various Omni Hotels and Resorts across the country.

The pool at the Onmi Tucson.

How can you get in on the deal?

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My sister recently visited me in Buenos Aires. She was here for eight days, arriving on a Saturday morning and leaving the following Saturday night–meaning she took one full week off from work. We managed to pack a whole lot of sightseeing, touring, and eating into that time! I figured I’d share the things we enjoyed, the things we would pass on, and the things we would have done with more time, so you can plan one perfect week in Argentina.

Argentina is the world’s eighth largest country, so you can’t do it all in a week, but here’s what you can do. (With lots of photos!)

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Rookie Alli just flew her first international business class flight. I asked her to share the perspective of someone seeing the front of the plane for the first time. She flew United BusinessFirst, which is widely accessible to Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America with miles, so if you haven’t flown up front, pay attention to this trip report. For my perspective on the same cabin, see my trip report from London to Los Angeles.

I recently experienced my first flight that wasn’t in economy, flying from Buenos Aires to Newark in United BusinessFirst on my way to Washington, DC.

Was it worth the extra miles? What can you expect on your first trip in business class? How comfortable are those beds? Fly with me, and find out.

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San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina is a mountain town in the Lake District of Patagoina, located about 50km from the Chilean border. It sits right on the edge of the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, drawing visitors from all over to admire the spectacular lake and mountain views.

 Scott and I recently decided to use Avios to fly LAN from Buenos Aires to Bariloche for five days. The southern hemisphere has just entered fall. In Patagonia, that means cold weather quickly. Because of this, we wanted to get there as soon as possible to enjoy what little good weather remained (before ski season’s “good” weather.) We knew that the town would be relatively empty as Bariloche’s two peak seasons are the summer and the winter.

For the wonders of Patagonia, keep reading.

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Raise your hand if you like calling credit card companies. Seeing no hands, let me give you some tips to avoid a few calls.

If you’re a beginner to the miles-collecting game, signing up for airline and hotel loyalty programs before you apply for that program’s credit card can save you a few calls to the credit card companies.

Let me give an example.

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The second you move abroad, you become a lot more popular! That far flung country looks a lot better to family and friends as soon as they know they’ll have a free bed and tour guide. My sister wanted to come visit me in Argentina in mid-May, so we set out to find her the best award ticket possible. Only one minor problem. As of two months ago, she had zero miles.

We ended up booking her n roundtrip from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires for a weeklong trip for 60,000 United miles. We even added a free oneway to Hawaii for next year for no extra miles and only $2.50 in taxes. This Anatomy of an Award should illustrate how to get from zero miles to a dream trip in two months, United free oneways, United’s hold policy, and the secret United award space open to United card holders.

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Unfortunately, all great trips must come to an end. Three-and-a-half months before the end of my stay in Argentina, it is time to book my oneway return to the US: from Buenos Aires (EZE) to Denver (DEN).


I need to be be in Denver for a wedding at the end of July. Because of this, my travel dates are limited–I want to maximize my time in Argentina while still arriving in Denver before the wedding. This gives me about five days of wiggle room.

As this is a oneway trip, I only want to book an award with an airline that will allow me to book a oneway award for half the price of a roundtrip. Luckily, the American Airlines AAdvantage miles I currently have will allow me to do this. I got 105,000 AAdvantage miles last fall using the (now defunct) two-browser trick.

I really wanted to use these miles instead of my new United miles, which I plan on using to Europe at some point.

Searching for American Space

I began with the most simple of searches on Buenos Aires to Denver. There was no MileSAAver (low-priced level) award space available in any class–only AAnytime (high-priced level). MileSAAver space would be 30,000 miles, and I am not going to pay double that just to sit in the back of the plane.


Rookie tip: just because my first search showed no space at the miles price doesn’t mean there is no way to find the low miles price. Many airlines’ award search engines don’t show all their partners’ award space, which always prices at the low miles price.

This is such a case. doesn’t show LAN–a South American member of oneworld–space.

Searching for LAN Space on

Knowing that American Airlines does not show the available space for all of their partner airlines, I next searched because it displays more oneworld airlines than does, and American Airlines miles can be used to book all the oneworld space found on

My first search was for Buenos Aires to Denver. The original date I searched returned no available award space in either Economy or Business.

Something to remember when searching for partner space on is that you must use the tabs that list the surrounding dates in order to see if there is available partner space. Skipping this may result in you missing out on available space. Additionally, you have to run a new search in order to change the class that you want to search for.

Unconvinced that there was zero available award space in any class on any partner flight during the week I needed, I decided to search segment-by-segment.

Rookie tip: award search engines often miss possible itineraries that have connections because of flaws in their computer programming. You can search possible routes segment-by-segment to construct awards yourself that you will later call the airline whose miles you are using to book.

I used Wikipedia to see what US destinations LAN flies to out of Buenos Aires.

So this time instead of searching Buenos Aires to Denver on, I searched Buenos Aires to Miami. A quick search showed me that there in fact was business class space on a number of LAN flights that week!

They weren’t the direct flight I wanted, but I could handle a stop in Santiago. And they weren’t in economy class, but I was willing to spend 50,000 miles for a business class award. That sure beats the 60,000 wanted for an economy ticket.

I had found my way to Miami! Now I just needed to find space on a flight from Miami to Denver. Because I was flying international business, I would be allowed to fly domestic first.

Rookie tip: On international business class awards, your domestic portions can be in economy or first class on planes with only two cabins.

I ran a search on looking for first class award space from Miami to Denver, and found that there was availability on the day that I needed.

Unfortunately, the only direct availability comes with a 12 hour layover in Miami. Any suggestions on ways to pass the time?

I can live with this three flight business class award with a 12 hour layover in Miami to get to Denver when I want to and for a good price.


Knowing I would be unable to book this award online, and that I was booking with American miles, I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to make the reservation. I gave the agent my account information, and the flight numbers I had picked out. I requested to hold the reservation for a few days before ticketing. The agent complied, telling me that they would hold the award for five days–standard operating procedure for American Airlines. Two days later, I received a rather cryptic email from American:

When I called the number, I was told by the American agent that they were not supposed to hold reservations for seats on LAN flights, and that I would need to ticket the reservation immediately. By politely explaining that I had to confirm a detail before ticketing, the agent allowed me to hold the reservation for a few more days before purchasing the ticket.

Here is my complete itinerary:

This complete itinerary cost my 50,000 miles and $102.30 in taxes including that unavoidable $25 American Airlines Telephone Ticketing Services fee.

 At least I’ll be getting 5,000 miles back because I have an American Airlines credit card. And I’ll have a chance to enjoy lie flat business class on the LAN segments, which is something I haven’t yet experienced.

What I Could Have Done

I could have booked a free stopover in Miami if I had more flexibility in my travel dates. Since Miami is my international gateway city, it is the only place on the itinerary that I would have been able to book a free stopover.

I could have had a shorter layover in Florida. When I searched for availability from Miami to Denver, I saw a few routes that would allow me to leave Florida hours earlier by flying out of Ft. Lauderdale (FLL). I could have had a three hour layover–rather than a twelve hour one– by taking a taxi to and flying out of Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami on my last leg.

I could have rolled the dice: after not finding any space on American for a date remotely close to the one I needed, I consulted Scott. He told me that American rarely opens up last second award space, but United open up a ton. If I wanted to use my United miles and book in the last week, I could probably have snagged an easy Buenos Aires to Houston to Denver itinerary.

Here’s what Buenos Aires to Denver looks like for this week for instance.

EZE-DEN for this month. Pretty good space is open at the last minute.

In terms of getting the best deal, this may have been the way to go–simply wait until mid-July and start searching for available space on United. I could have potentially saved 20k miles by flying economy. However, I am extremely risk averse and would prefer to have my flight locked in more than a week or two prior to departure. Plus I really would prefer to use American miles instead of United miles for this trip.


This award is a relatively simple one, but it highlights some good rookie tips too.

If you are searching for a route and keep coming up with zero availability, that does not necessarily mean that you will have to adjust your dates. Use Wikipedia to see where your airline flies to from your origin airport, and then do your search. This often yields hidden space that did not show up before.

Know where to search for each partner. In this case I searched for LAN space at and American space at then combined them by calling American.

Don’t forget that you can fly domestic first class on international business awards.

Every airline has different stopover rules on awards. American’s rule allowed a stopover in Miami that I won’t be using, but it’s nice to know the option.

Some airlines open last second space, and some don’t. Even if you think you have the miles to get space at the last minute, you might prefer to lock in your award in advance to save yourself the stress.

Join the 1,300 geniuses on Twitter and 3,000 mavens on Facebook who follow MileValue for more tips, tricks, and deals. Subscribe for one free, daily email on the top left of the page, so you never miss another post.

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One of the most common reasons why people think frequent flyer miles are worthless is because they had a bad experience with miles expiring. After all the effort put into collecting miles, it would be quite a shame if they expired without taking you on a dream vacation.

If you’ve ever had any of these questions, you are in the right place for answers: How long do you have until your miles expire? What can keep them from expiring? If you close a credit card, do the miles expire? Are the rules the same for all miles and points?

Will closing my co-branded card cause my miles to expire?

Closing a credit card that is co-branded with an airline (such as the Citi AAdvantage card or Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card) will never, by itself, cause your miles to expire. Co-branded credit cards deposit the miles you earn from signup bonuses and spending directly into the account you have with the airline, so they are no longer linked to the credit card. I have a United card. You can see that miles earned with a Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card are transferred to United:

And I confirm that by logging into my United account. So if I ever cancelled that card, the miles would still be safely in my United account.

What will cause my miles to expire?

What does cause miles to expire, however, is a lack of activity in the program account for a specified period of time.

  • Delta miles do not expire.
  • American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Hawaiian Airlines’ miles expire after 18 consecutive months of account inactivity
  • British Airways Avios expire after 36 consecutive months of account inactivity.

Full details on the expiration policies for some major airlines can be found here:

Delta SkyMiles Program

American Airlines AAdvantage Program

United MileagePlus Program

US Airways Dividend Miles Program

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles Program

British Airways Avios Program

The danger of mile expiration does often come when you cancel a credit card. If I cancel my Citi AAdvantage card, I am no longer earning American Airlines miles on purchases. I have to make sure that there is some sort of activity–either earning or redeeming–in my AAdvantage account within the next 18 months, or I will lose all my miles.

Luckily keeping your miles from expiring is trivially easy. Any earning or redeeming keeps them active.

How can I keep my miles from expiring?

If you are coming up on the 18 month deadline and need a quick way to keep your miles active, there are a number of things you can do.

  • Dining programs: Signing up for dining programs allows you to earn miles when you eat out at certain restaurants. Scott has details on how to use this to keep your miles active here.
  • Purchase miles: Purchasing miles is normally a bad idea, as you end up paying more than the value of the mile. However, if you need to keep your miles active, you can purchase a small number of miles in the program you need to keep active. Hawaiian Airlines charges $14.78 for 500 miles. United charges $35 + 7.5% tax for 1,000 miles. Google “purchase [airline] miles” to quickly be taken to any airline’s mile purchase page.
  • Donate miles: All the major carriers allow you to donate miles to non-profits such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Operation Hero, UNICEF, and various other charities. While this is best done out of the goodness of your heart, a donation of miles will also keep your account active. Scott has a post on where you can donate miles here.
  • Preservation fee: US Airways allows you to pay a $9 preservation fee after 15-17 months of account inactivity. This extends the life of your miles for another 18 months.

What if my miles have already expired?

Hopefully you are reading this before your miles expire. If, however, you let your miles expire, some programs let you buy back the miles you lost for a fee. These reactivation policies vary from program to program.

For example, American Airlines allows you to reactivate any miles that expired dating back to 2002. They charge $200 for up to 50,000 miles, $400 for up to 75,000 miles, and $600 for 75,000+ miles. US Airways allows you to buy back expired miles within 18 months of their expiration. They charge $400 to reinstate 100,000+ miles, $250 to reinstate 50,000-99,999 miles, etc.

The policies for buying back United Airlines miles and Hawaiian Airlines miles can be found by following the links.

In general, buying back your miles is a great deal. I would gladly pay $400 for 100k US Airways miles, which are enough for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe. But, it’s better not to let your miles expire and have to pay the fee.

What about my bank points?

All that was about frequent flyer miles. Bank points are quite different.

Closing a credit card that earns bank points can cost you all of the points in the account. These cards hold the points that you earn in the credit card account–for example, the Ultimate Rewards points that you earn using your Chase Sapphire Preferred card are held in your Chase Sapphire Preferred account. If you were to simply cancel this card, you would lose all the points you worked to accumulate.

Luckily, transferable points are easily transferred to another account within that loyalty program. In order to avoid losing transferable points when you cancel a card, transfer them into another account within that loyalty program before you cancel.

In our example of cancelling a Sapphire Preferred, you would need to transfer your Ultimate Rewards into another account of yours that holds Ultimate Rewards to avoid the points disappearing. You could achieve this by transferring them into your Chase Ink Bold account or your Chase Ink Plus account.

Or, of course, you could transfer the points to one of the airline, hotel, or rail partners, so you could transfer the Sapphire Preferred’s Ultimate Rewards to United before canceling.


Frequent flyer miles do not expire when you close the credit card used to earn them, but they do usually expire after a set number of months of inactivity within that airline’s loyalty program account. In order to avoid your miles expiring, you can keep your account active by doing anything that changes the account balance like redeeming miles, signing up for a dining program, purchasing miles, or donating miles. If you accidentally allow your miles to expire, some airlines allow you to reinstate them for a fee.

Transferable bank points will disappear from your account when you close the credit card used to earn them. In order to avoid losing these points, transfer them to a transfer partner or another account within that bank’s loyalty program before you close the credit card.

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Not sure where your miles can take you? Not sure if you have enough miles to contact the MileValue Award Booking Service or whether you’d be better off getting a Free Credit Card Consultation first?

In order to determine if you have enough miles to take that trip you’re planning, look at the award chart for the program where you have your miles. Don’t worry what partner you want to fly. Look at the chart that corresponds to the airline with which you have a miles balance.

Here are the award charts for the four major US carriers:

American Airlines Partners Award Chart

United Airlines Interactive Travel Destinations Award Chart

Delta Award Travel Mileage Chart (travel from the US)

US Airways Partner Award Travel Chart

All four of the legacy carriers have region-to-region miles. Their award charts group travel destinations into regions, and set a fixed number of miles needed to travel from one region to another.

That means it doesn’t matter whether you are going Los Angeles to Paris or New York to London–both are North America to Europe and cost the same number of miles.

You will have to determine what region your departure and arrival cities are located in by using the chart’s region legend. Then you’ll read the miles price off the chart, which varies based on three factors:

  • Cabin: Is your award in first class, business class, or economy?
  • Peak or off peak: American and US Airways have discounts for flying certain routes certain times of the year.
  • Low/Saver or Medium/High/Standard/AAnytime: Only a small fraction of all seats can be had for the headline price on the chart. These seats are called low or saver award seats by the airline, and are what we strive to book. Other seats are usually available at double the price of these seats and go by names like standard space or AAnytime space.

American Airlines

The award chart used by American Airlines is a good place to start. American splits the world into nine zones. Find out what zone your departure and arrival cities are in by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on the Zone Definitions.

Clicking one of the regions brings up a pop up with the countries in that region. Here is Asia 1:

There are two things to keep in mind when looking at American’s award chart: all of these miles prices are for oneway travel, and this chart shows the miles prices for all of American Airlines’ flights as well as their partner airlines.

The main part of American’s award chart is at the bottom. You find your origin city’s zone along the top of the chart and your destination city’s zone along the lefthand column.

You’ll notice that each square has three or four different values. These are the miles prices available for each class of travel: Economy Off Peak, Economy, Business, First. The miles price you see is how many miles, in thousands, you will need for that trip each way.

The rightmost column breaks down which classes are available for travel between those two zones. The breakdown of peak dates and off peak dates, which are different for each region, is in the Economy Off Peak Season Dates box on the bottom left of the chart.

Let’s look at a specific example.

If I wanted to fly from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile in Business class, I would first determine which zone those two cities are in–North America and South America Zone 2 in this case. I would then find both zones on the chart and line up which class I want from the righthand column. As you can see, this award would cost me 50,000 miles each way.

So far I’ve ignored the top section of the chart. Let’s talk about it. The top section of the chart is for those traveling within one zone or specified group of countries:

These zones are listed along the top, and the options for what class you can travel in are listed in the lefthand column. Simply line up which zone and class you want, and the chart tells you how many miles, in thousands, you will need for that trip each way.

Sometimes award charts will also let you in on certain rules related to award travel. Look at the top left of the American chart.

These symbols show up throughout American’s chart. They all relate to American’s unique rule that, except in special cases, you cannot transit a third region on an award from one region to a second region. See The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Rules.

If you have ever booked an award on American, you may have noticed that it offers MileSAAver and AAnytime award seats, its names for low- and high-miles-price seats. But on this chart, this distinction is not found. That is because this chart is the partner chart, and partner space is always bookable at the MileSAAver (low) level. Here’s American’s chart for awards on American flights; you’ll notice the MileSAAver/AAnytime distinction.

United Airlines

United publishes a PDF of their award chart that you read just like American’s, but they also have an interactive award chart that lets you visually select your origin and destination.

Below you can see that I selected an award originating in the Mainland US, Alaska & Canada region of the North America zone with a destination in the Southern South America region of the Latin America and Caribbean zone.

Once you have made your selections, a box will pop up below the map detailing how many miles your award will cost you. As you can see, United lists both the oneway and roundtrip prices for Saver and Standard–their names for low- and high-miles-price–award space in economy, business, and first class. United allows you to book a oneway for half the price of a roundtrip.

My economy roundtrip Saver Award from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires will price out to 60,000 miles.

United’s is my favorite chart to use because it is so easy and straightforward. However, it’s tough to compare prices between zones. Sometimes it’s nice to see how much more or less one trip is compared to another.

If you like to compare this way, United also provides a PDF of its award chart in the more traditional spreadsheet layout. The PDF also includes the Star Alliance award chart. This is exactly like American’s partner award chart. It makes no distinction between Saver and Standard awards because all partner space is low-miles-price space.


Delta has a fairly straightforward award chart as well. Below is the chart for travel originating in the US (excluding Hawaii.) Find what region your destination city is in using their definitions and find that region in the lefthand column of the award chart. Simply read across to determine how much your award will be, based on what class you want to fly in. The first three miles prices are for Economy Low/Medium/High–Delta’s three-tiered version of Saver and Standard award space–and the last three miles prices are for First or Business Class Low/Medium/High.

Delta charges you the roundtrip price whether you book oneway or roundtrip, so obviously we only book roundtrip Delta awards. But the award chart is listing oneway prices based on a roundtrip purchase. Basically, if you only book a oneway ticket, you will be charged double what is listed here.

If I were flying Economy from Chicago to Istanbul (in the Europe region), it would cost me 30,o00 miles each way, for a total of 60,000 miles.

If you are traveling from an origin city outside of the US, you can find the rest of Delta’s award charts here.

US Airways

US Airways has a very straightforward partner award chart. You select your origin and destination regions along the sides of the chart based on their definitions at the bottom of the page. There are three roundtrip miles prices listed, in thousands of miles: one each for Economy, Business, and First class.

The US Airways partner chart only shows low-miles-price awards, just like the American partner chart and United’s Star Alliance chart. This is because all partner space is always bookable at the low-miles price.

You can see the different levels of award space available on US Airways flights by looking at the US Airways award chart. Like Delta, US Airways has a three-tiered version of Saver and Standard award space: Low, Medium, and High.

US Airways offers some off-peak dates for travel on their own flights. Here are US Airways Off Peak dates, which are a fantastic value to Europe and South America.


Miles are an arbitrary currency, so you can’t intuit how many you need for a trip. You need to know how to check the sometimes intimidating charts with their low/medium/high priced awards, off peak dates, different cabins, and different charts for partner travel.

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