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Best Use of FF Miles?


Lucky
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When we went to Brazil earlier this year, our coach trip only cost us $61. That's because we used FF miles on American, and got the lowest offer at that- just 40,000 miles round trip. Soon I am paying 40,000 miles to go to Chicago! I get miles every chance I can. (It hurt the other day to see a guy pay for his groceries in cash, over $100...the miles, the miles!)

 

Now I have enough to fly to Bangkok, or anywhere in that direction, in first class. I have flown there so many times in coach, once in United Business, and once in United First Class. This was before the sleeper seat and all the trimmings, but it was still pretty nice. I have walked past those seats so many times I want to sit there once before I am done. At least, I think I do. If you just numb yourself to coach, the trip will end eventually and you will have a lot more miles left to go to new places.

 

And there is part of the rub here. I don't know that I want to go to Bangkok again. It had so much charm when I first started going there. I was fascinated. But now, crowds, heat, more crowds and more commercial attitudes have replaced the Thai innocence...if there was ever innocence. The Thai smile just doesn't seem as deep these days as they come into their own. But, I tell myself that I have to get out of the tourist zones, that I have to try new places. When I checked availability on United, I noted that the return flight stopped in Beijing or Shanghai- places I would like to see. Well, Shanghai.

 

Europe is also on my list. A month there right now seems just what the doctor ordered. But not with Olympic crowds. I was just in Brazil, and the high Rio hotel prices are a deterrent. (Yes, I know- apartments are now the way to go.)

 

Every year, when the heat starts its attack on the desert, I want out at this time. I have both the freedom to go, and two dogs who disagree with that. But think about that trip to Bangkok in firs class- 140,000 miles. I got most of them by applying for credit cards, so it is like icing on a cake. I want to eat it, but I don't want it gone!

 

I hope others have some thoughts too. :)

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Hey Lucky,

The very best use of your FF miles, if on United, is to book an "around the world trip". You will fly on UA and their Star Alliance Partners, such as Lufthansa,Singapore, Thai, etc. You have to travel in one direction, cannot go backwards on your itinerary and can make as many stops for as long as you want and meet the rules. The maximum time for the trip is one year ! I have done four of these, and purchased a business class ticket and then upgraded to FC with the lay flat seats using my miles. One of my trips took me from Chicago to Germany (Frankfort and Berlin) then on to Beijing, then to Tokyo and then back to Chicago. Another trip took me to Frankfort, then to Belgrade, then on to Dubai and Abu Duabi, then to Singapore, then to Sydney, then to LA and eventually back to Chicago. You can purchase the tickets in coach, business or FC, but the best value is in coach or business and use miles to upgrade. The fares were so reasonable, I almost felt guilty. My last trip like this was four years ago, so not sure it is still the bargin it once was or if the rules have changed, but every time I booked it was directly with UA and the agents were especially helpful getting me a routing to maximize the trip. Plus, if you purchase coach or business, you earn miles at the same time you are using miles for the FC upgrades. I had to book several months in advance, but that was not a problem for me. So, go for it. You can see a lot of the world this way. I have another trip like this that I want to take that will include South Africa,so I hope they don't abandon this fare and route structure.

Good luck and enjoy those miles.

DD

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At least, I think I do. If you just numb yourself to coach, the trip will end eventually and you will have a lot more miles left to go to new places.

 

I hope others have some thoughts too. :)

 

For me, it would depend on the airline. Most of my FF trips to Europe in the last twelve years have been on Lufthansa. Of course, even on Lufthansa coach does not compare with first class or business class. But, the service is excellent even in coach...and every flight has been on time.

 

I have only flown first class on flights from the east coast to California. It's great, but I would prefer to have some of those miles back that I used to upgrade. As you wrote, The trip will eventually end at your final destination no matter where you sit.

 

Suggestions for Asia: Japan, Hong Kong.

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Thanks for participating, guys. Diverdan, that is an interesting suggestion as I would love to do one of those trips. But it does take a time commitment beyond what I could give, that is, unless the bf and dogs could come as well.

Lurker, check your mail box each day to see if I send you the miles!

I have been to Hong Kong several times, not that the bf isn't ready on a moment's notice to return. Sorry to say that I don't like Japan. I have been there 3 times and find it too much of what is bad about New York, insofar as crowds and expenses. The Japanese people did nothing to endear themselves to me with their racism. I was not allowed to go to a gay bar or sauna since I was not Japanese. (Yes, they have them for westerners, but I didn't go there to socialize with westerners.) The Japanese are all bowing and scraping when you are spending money, but beyond that they want nothing to do with you.

 

(For some reason, going to Europe on FF miles also requires payment of huge fees, supposedly for gas and tax. They don't charge these going west or south, and I don't know why.)

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Lucky, whereever you decide to go, if international, utilize one of the star alliance partners (Singapore for asia and Lufthansa for europe) if you are booking business or first class. If you are booking coach, the domestics are very similar. Unfortunately, the domestic carriers provide a sub-standard premium product in comparison to the two airlines mentioned above. A secondary thought, but if you book one of the international carriers, try to book daytime hours for departure (prior to 7 pm). It really adds to the premium experience to be able to take in all the amenities that the airline has to offer; otherwise, if leaving later, the crews are focused on bedding down the passengers for the night and you really miss some of the unique customer service. Good luck in planning; what a great problem to have......."where or where should I go?"

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That is funny Lucky that you should say that about Bangkok. I used to go there twice a year. This went on for the better part of ten years, and then suddenly everything there began to change, slowly at first, then one day you looked around and all that Thai charm was diluted in the 'hustle'. I even at one time wanted to retire there, but the country has really changed, to the point where I don't think that it is a place that I would enjoy longterm. You were talking about FF miles and I remember how long that flight was, especially with that 2 hour lay over in Narita. I would always use my miles to upgrade to business. I flew Northwest and their business is actually decent, but flying coach that distance can be brutal.

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Diverdan, here is an article from the Washington Post on how to do just what you recommend: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/frequent-flier-miles-and-a-practically-free-trip-around-the-world/2012/05/17/gIQAghMRYU_story.html?hpid=z4

A fascinating use of miles!

 

bigvalboy, I am glad that we agree. I was wondering if it was unique to me, that feeling that things have changed and Bangkok more commercial now. It used to be so sweet to hook up with a guy who never seemed to care what you spent, just enjoyed the experience. And they were usually some of the nicest people too. I felt real friendship, not a bar thing.

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Fees to Europe

 

(For some reason, going to Europe on FF miles also requires payment of huge fees, supposedly for gas and tax. They don't charge these going west or south, and I don't know why.)

 

Lucky, are those payments of huge fees to Europe recent? I flew to Stockholm in August, and Paris & Prague in 2010, and do not remember huge fees. The three round-trip flights were FF. I am glad you mentioned it. (I fly from Philadelphia or Newark not LAX, that may explain a lot.)

 

On Japan, you have been there more often than me. I understand and agree with many of your comments. I must have gone to fewer gay bars because I did not have the problems you mention.

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Lucky, are those payments of huge fees to Europe recent? I flew to Stockholm in August, and Paris & Prague in 2010, and do not remember huge fees. The three round-trip flights were FF. I am glad you mentioned it. (I fly from Philadelphia or Newark not LAX, that may explain a lot.)

 

Over the last 2 years, several European countries have introduced very hefty departure taxes. The biggest offender has been the UK who have upped their taxes substantially. It is not based on what you paid for the ticket....but rather the distance you fly from the UK to your destination. Also, if you fly in first or business class (even on an award ticket), the fees are much higher than when you fly in economy. Its like some kind of luxury tax.

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It is suppossed to be a carbon offset tax. US airlines are fighting it through diplomatic channels, as are the asian airlines. If europe doesn't relent on this, you will see the other airlines impose those fees too, even though the money will never be used for carbon offsets.

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The Olympic crowds will only be in London. So anywhere else you go in Europe shouldn't have Olympic crowds. But if you are going in Summer you will still have the typical summer crowds. The issue with Europe is that it tends to be more expensive in general compared to Asia. If you're spending all of your miles, you might as well get your miles-worth and go to Asia. If you've only done Thailand, there are plenty of other interesting places in SE Asia. Cambodia, parts of Laos, Vietnam, Burma. All have their charms. This fall I am headed to Taiwan, Hong Kong and back to Thailand (which I love). I am going Cathay Pacific first class (JFK-HKG) and business class (HKG-TPE-HKG) using AA miles and BA Avios. And returning from Bangkok in Thai Airways business class to Beijing and UA F class from PEK-IAD using UA miles. Of course Asia in summer time can be unbearably hot and you need to pay attention to monsoon season. Finding seats can always be tricky if you don't plan way ahead, but many airlines open premium seat availability at the last minute.

 

Keep an eye out for new credit card sign up bonuses and you can have your miles balance built back up in no time!

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