Award flights are now bookable through May 2014 with most of your miles. Not all award travel needs to be booked 11 months in advance, but for certain flights, you want to be looking as far out as possible.

One type of flight to think about booking now for May 2014 or next month for June 2014 is a west-coast-to-Europe flight.

Why book these now? What does space look like for May 2014 on key routes?

15 34

Award travel reservations can usually be made up to eleven months in advance. Often, but not always, eleven months out has the best availability. Eleven Months Out is my new series looking at what you can book today for travel in eleven months.

US Airways off peak awards are some of the best deals in all of award travel. Right now is an excellent time to book a roundtrip award to Europe or Brazil for February 2014 for only 30,000 US Airways miles. Or you can book a roundtrip to Rio de Janeiro in lie flat beds for only 55,000 miles roundtrip during Brazil’s summer!

What Are US Airways Off Peak Awards

US Airways offers certain awards in economy and business class for short periods of time throughout the year for steep discounts. Specifically the prices are:

  • USA to Europe roundtrip for 35k miles in economy between January 15 and February 28
  • USA to Caribbean for 25k miles roundtrip in economy and 50k miles in business during September
  • USA to South America roundtrip for 35k miles in economy and 60k miles for two months per year

For 2013 and 2014, here is the off peak calendar.

Image from usairways.com

US Airways off peak awards are the main reason I rate US Airways miles as more valuable than United miles, and the main time to use US Airways miles instead of United miles.

The 2014 award space is excellent to Europe and Brazil.

Every route I searched had off peak space available the majority of the off peak dates. For instance, Philadelphia to Madrid:

Green-ish blue dates have off peak space for 35k miles roundtrip to Europe.

I’ve been in Madrid during the winter. It’s cold, but not miserable, and possibly warmer than where you live.

Temperatures from wikipedia

US Airways also serves a few European destinations from Charlotte during the winter. The award space to Frankfurt is wide open.

Frankfurt is easy to score for 35,000 miles roundtrip.

Here’s the full list of European destinations on US Airways during the winter:

List from Wikipedia

Brazil

US Airways has two routes to Brazil with daily departures from Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. There are two off peak windows to Brazil in 2014. Space for the window from February 3-13 is wide open in economy and business class. This would be an especially nice time to visit Brazil during its summer.

Temperatures from Wikipedia

Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro–economy for 35k miles roundtrip

There is space for a weeklong trip in economy to Rio for only 35,000 miles February. Or you can splurge for lie-flat business class.

Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro–business for 60k miles roundtrip

There is plenty of space at the incredible 60k mile roundtrip price in business class to Rio.

The same pattern holds for space to Sao Paulo.

Charlotte to Sao Paulo–economy for 35k miles roundtrip

Blue-green space is 35k roundtrip in economy

Charlotte to Sao Paulo–business for 60k miles roundtrip

Blue-green space is 60k roundtrip in business

The March 17 to April 3, 2014 window of off peak dates to Brazil will begin to be bookable in a few weeks.

Planes

One incredible thing about these off peak awards is that US Airways has a world-class business class product on its A330s that it calls The Envoy Suite.

The A330 flies most European routes and the Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro route.

The Envoy experience is not fully flat on the 767 that flies to Sao Paulo. On 767s, the business class seats turn into angled lie flat beds. There is no first class on international US Airways flights.

Image from seatguru.com

Basically 60k miles is an unheard of price for such nice business class seats to such a great destination during its summer. Off peak awards to Rio for February 2014 are a steal.

But off peak awards aren’t perfect.

Off peak US Airways awards are restrictive. You have to find off peak space during a very narrow window. Yes, you can combine off peak one way and any other priced space the other way, but you won’t be getting nearly as good of a deal.

Furthermore all flights must be on US Airways planes (metal). While normally you can use your US Airways miles for flights on any of their partners, that is not the case for off peak awards.

If you don’t live in Charlotte or Philadelphia, you’ll need to find award space on US Airways flights to the gateway city at the low-miles price. That’s not always easy because US Airways doesn’t release a ton of domestic award space at the low level.

And don’t forget: like all US Air awards, the roundtrip price is charged whether you fly oneway or roundtrip.

Miles

Even if you don’t have any US Airways miles, you can rack up the miles you need very quickly to book this award space.

Because Charlie recently had trouble getting the personal US Airways card and business US Airways card on the same day, I would recommend getting the personal US Airways card and Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express.

The Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard comes with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase.

The card also offers a 5,000 mile discount on award bookings, meaning that the 35,000 mile roundtrips in economy to Europe are only 30,000 miles and the 60,000 roundtrips in flying beds to Brazil are only 55,000 miles!

There may even be an offer to get 5,000 more miles on this card!

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express comes with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months.

Starpoints transfer 1:1 to US Airways miles, and if you transfer 20,000 points, you get a 5,000 mile bonus. So the 30,000 Starpoints in your account are worth 35,000 US Airways miles.

Combined, these two cards can get you off peak beds to South America or two off peak economy trips to Europe.

Recap

US Airways has released all of its 2014 off peak space to Europe, and the first tranche of its 2014 off peak space to Brazil. Book now for a winter vacation in Europe, or a sweltering summer in Rio.

The European space is 30,000 miles roundtrip for US Airways cardholders. The Brazilian space is 30,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 55,000 miles roundtrip in business class for US Airways cardholders. Charlotte to Rio and most European routes feature state-of-the-art beds in business class.

If you don’t already have the US Airways card, get it for the miles and the discount on award bookings. If you want to fly business class, get the rest of the miles you need with the SPG AMEX card.

Application Link: Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard

Application Link: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

19 77

Award travel reservations can usually be made up to eleven months in advance. Often, but not always, eleven months out has the best availability. Eleven Months Out is my new series looking at what you can book today for travel in eleven months. (This post is one month late, since New Year’s Eve is only ten months out.)

New Year’s Eve at Sydney Harbor is on my bucket list. Not only are you among the first in the world to ring in the New Year, but you’re in shorts and a t-shirt, watching fireworks over one of the most iconic buildings in the world–the Sydney Opera House–with over a million of your closest friends. That sure beats a winter in the US.

In general, getting to Australia with miles is one of the toughest tickets to nab. Add in traveling during peak times–Christmas, New Year’s, and their summer all in one–and most people don’t even know where to start. Surprisingly the answer is to use Delta SkyMiles to book flights on Virgin Australia.

When I think of easy ways to get places, Delta miles rarely top the list, so I first searched for New Year’s Eve 2013 on united.com and aa.com.

United

United flies two daily flights to Sydney (and on to Melbourne)–one from Los Angeles and one from San Francisco. Having flown in Global First on the LAX to Sydney flight, I can say that it is a great way to arrive in style.

Unfortunately United is not offering seats in any cabin from either city during December or January except for one seat in business class from San Francisco on December 2–far too early to be convenient for the fireworks.

United might be a good last-second option since it tends to release award seats in the last few days if the seats are unsold, but for now United miles are not useful to Australia for New Year’s unless you are willing to route through Asia.

Qantas via American Miles

American Airlines doesn’t fly to Australia, but its oneworld alliance includes Australia’s flag carrier Qantas.

I recently flew Qantas business class back from Melbourne to Los Angeles and enjoyed the experience, but it’s not one that you’ll have the chance to copy for New Year’s Eve 2013.

Qantas space, which is searchable on aa.com, has been released in economy on some December and January days on the Los Angeles to Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane routes, but there is no space in business or first class.

Dates with economy space from LAX to Sydney are green.

There are a few economy seats (and a few more via Melbourne and Brisbane), so if that’s what you want, they are a good value at 75k miles roundtrip–less than any other airline’s price. If you want to hold out for business or first class space, don’t bother. In my experience, Qantas won’t release any more space in any cabin between now and departure.

Virgin Australia via Delta Miles

The solution to getting to Sydney for the 2014 fireworks is to fly Virgin Australia with Delta SkyMiles. I’ve talked about Virgin Australia before. The gist is that business class bed is incredible, and the awards cost only about $130 in taxes–no fuel surcharges or other fees since they are bookable online.

And I’ve also mentioned the problem with searching Virgin Australia on delta.com–namely that you have to do it one day at a time since delta.com’s calendar doesn’t pick up partners.

That said, I will save you the time. As of the time of posting, there is 1+ business class seat from Los Angeles to Sydneyfor 150k SkyMiles roundtrip the following dates between December 15 and December 30, 2013.

  • December 16 direct on Virgin Australia
  • December 17 direct on Virgin Australia
  • December 22 via Brisbane on Virgin Australia
  • December 24 direct on Delta
  • December 29 via Brisbane on Virgin Australia
  • December 30 direct on Delta (this flight lands on January 1 and misses the fireworks)

And there is lots of space on the return from Sydney to Los Angeles between January 1 and 12.

  • January 3 direct on Delta or Virgin Australia
  • January 6 via Brisbane on Virgin Australia
  • January 7 direct on Virgin Australia
  • January 8 direct on Virgin Australia
  • January 9 via Brisbane on Virgin Australia
  • January 10 direct on Virgin Australia
  • January 11 direct on Delta or Virgin Australia
  • January 12 direct on Virgin Australia

To search for business class space on delta.com, start on the advanced search page.

Select only flights that price out at 150,000 miles because that is the low business class price with Delta miles from the US to Australia. Feel free to mix low price Delta space and Virgin space–which is all at the low miles price. Picking out a suitable outbound and return will cause the award to price at 150k miles and $130.

Getting to Los Angeles

The real issue I have with SkyMiles is domestically. There just isn’t a lot of space offered at the low level, and you need every segment of your award to be low miles price space for the award to price at the low level of 150k miles.

There is no trick to make space appear that doesn’t exist, but be sure to check:

  • domestic first class space on Delta
  • domestic economy space on Delta
  • space on Alaska

Any of that space that you find at the low level can link up with your international flat beds to get you to Sydney in style for the fireworks.

Getting Delta Miles

There are a few ways to get Delta miles. The main two are to fly Delta or open new credit cards.

The credit cards that earn Delta miles are all issued by American Express. Any card that earns Membership Rewards–AMEX’s proprietary points–can be a Delta card since Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to Delta (with a $0.60 per 1k mile fee, capped at $99.) The SPG American Express with a 25k point sign up bonus can be transferred to 30k Delta miles.

Delta also has its own co-branded cards.

The Gold Delta SkyMiles card has a 30k mile sign up bonus after $500 in spending in the first three months.

The Business Gold Delta SkyMiles card has the same 30k miles sign up bonus after $500 in spending in the first three months.

If you get the both, that’s a solid 60k miles after only $1k in spending–a pleasant alternative to some of the super high minimum spends that other cards have.

Recap

Book now if you want to see the fireworks in Sydney on New Year’s Eve 2013. Your best bet is to accumulate 150k Delta SkyMiles to fly on Delta or Virgin Australia in business class direct to the fireworks from Los Angeles.

You can earn the miles through Membership Rewards-earning cards, the SPG AMEX cards, or the Delta SkyMiles cards from American Express.

8 29

Award travel reservations can usually be made up to eleven months in advance. Often, but not always, eleven months out has the best availability. Eleven Months Out is my series looking at what you can book today for travel in eleven months.

The award calendar’s for the major airlines are now all open through Christmas:

  • American Airlines, December 26
  • US Airways, December 29
  • Delta, December 30
  • United, January 1, 2014
  • British Airways, January 2014

(Southwest’s schedule won’t be open through Christmas for several more months.)

This post would be very similar to the one I wrote last month about booking Thanksgiving travel, since mot people traveling over Christmas also want domestic travel. A few quick searches show that there is space now on these airlines around Christmas, but don’t expect that to last. Book now if you see a good miles redemption when you are used to buying expensive last minute tickets.

See Eleven Months Out: Booking Thanksgiving Travel Now for more step-by-step information with screen shots.

Award travel reservations can usually be made up to eleven months in advance. Often, but not always, eleven months out has the best availability. Eleven Months Out is my new series looking at what you can book today for travel in eleven months.

Thanksgiving is in less than 11 months. Turkey, pie, potatoes, family, and giving thanks may be your highlights, but travel doesn’t have to be a lowlight. If you know where you’ll be celebrating this year, you can book an award now saving hassle and hundreds of dollars later.

I booked an award last January from Los Angeles to Richmond roundtrip for Thanksgiving 2012. I’ll break down how I would book the same award for 2013 if I were so inclined.

Thanksgiving this year falls as late as possible, Thursday, November 28. Last year I travelled Tuesday to Sunday, which this year would be November 26 to December 1.

Checking for Awards

The four legacy carriers will all charge 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy for an award within the continental US, Alaska, or Canada. Taxes on an award will be $2.5 per segment, capped at $10. US Airways will charge you another $25 as an award processing fee.

United and US Airways

These two are grouped together because both types of miles can be used on either airline’s flights. For both, I would search for space at united.com.

Just like 2012, united.com shows tons of space now for a roundtrip from LAX-RIC in both cabins.

LAX to Richmond. Green means space in economy and business.

Here’s a sample itinerary with economy space.

Here’s a sample first class itinerary on November 26.

United.com also displays US Airways award space. Here’s a first class itinerary.

The return is the same story–availability any day I choose.

RIC-LAX

Picking an outbound on 11/26 and a return on 12/1, both in economy, brings up the payment page and confirms a price of 25,000 miles and $10.

I could book that with United miles with a few more clicks. To book with US Airways miles, I would call 800-622-1015. The phone fee would be waived if the award included any partner-operated segments like United flights, but with the $25 award processing fee, the total would be 25,000 US Airways miles and $35.

American

American’s site, aa.com, shows award space for American and Alaska. AA.com is showing pretty good space in economy and nearly perfect space in first class.

LAX-RIC economy
LAX-RIC in first

The same pattern holds for the return. There’s a lot of space in economy, and space every day in first.

RIC-LAX in economy
RIC-LAX in first

My preferred date and cabin for the outbound–economy on the 26th–didn’t have space, so I made a dummy booking for a day later.

Delta

Delta is ridiculed for having the worst award space for good reason: it does have the worst award space. Around Thanksgiving is no different. Though with a lot of flexibility or if I were to fly on Thanksgiving itself, I would be able to book a 25,000 miles award.

LAX-RIC in economy. Green is a day with 25,000 mile roundtrip space. Yellow is a day with only medium-priced economy available.

The return would also require some flexibility, pushing my return back to the Wednesday after Thanksgiving to get a 25,000-miles-roundtrip award.

RIC-LAX in economy. Green is low-priced economy awards. Yellow is medium. Blue is high.

First class for domestic Delta awards costs only 45,000 miles roundtrip, 5,000 fewer miles than other carriers charge. That’s if you can find low-miles-price award space.

Thanksgiving Day is the only day with low-miles-price space in first class LAX-RIC

Putting together a roundtrip economy ticket, the award prices at the standard 25,000 miles and $10 as long as I was flexible on dates.

British Airways

Avios would be a poor deal on the itinerary I’m looking at in this post. An Avios award would use American Airlines and route through Dallas. Every segment of an Avios award contributes to the price, so the total would be the sum of LAX-DFW, DFW-RIC, RIC-DFW, DFW-LAX. Each of those segments is 10k Avios and $2.5, so the award would be 40k Avios and $10!

But if your travel plans call for a short, direct hop from your home airport on American or Alaska, Avios will be the best deal for an award.

Southwest

Southwest’s schedule doesn’t open up a new day eleven months out every day. Instead it opens up a new chunk of a few weeks every few weeks. The schedule is currently open through August 9, 2013 only seven months out.

Cash Ticket

Before purchasing any award, I check the cash price to make sure I’d be getting good value for my miles. I searched kayak.com with flexible dates from LAX-RIC roundtrip and got the following prices.

United is leading the pack at $449. The final step is to decide whether to book with miles or cash. Sometimes I say Just Book with Cash. Let’s plug this into the Mile Value Calculator to see how many cents per mile an award would garner versus buying the ticket.

[wpcc id=”1″]

I would plug $449 into value because that is the cost of the ticket, and I value it at least that highly. $10 are the taxes and fees. 25,000 miles used. 5,072 miles foregone because LAX-IAH-RIC roundtrip, the routing of the Untied ticket is 5,072 miles.

Plugging it all in means we would get 1.45 cents in value from the award. That’s a pretty bad value for all the miles discussed so far except Delta miles.

That means, in general, I would prefer to book this ticket with cash instead of as an award, saving my miles for the future and earning more with the trip. Specific circumstances would change whether I actually booked with miles or cash. If I were miles-rich or cash-poor, I might book with miles instead.

Recap

There is great availability now for Thanksgiving 2013, and it will deteriorate in the next few months. Check your potential travel plans today to see if there is space, check how much a cash ticket would cost, and decide which is a better deal.

Mommy Points beat me to the idea of booking now for Thanksgiving 2013 travel.

Follow Me