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The best deals at any given time will change, and I always assume that the very best one won’t last.
There’s a tendency in travel towards mean reversion, with outlier offers disappearing and new ones popping up. That’s alright — as long as you’re taking advantage of the best deals while they’re around.
Here are what I think are the 8 best deals in travel. What do you think?
- Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. Arguably the single best benefit in all of travel is the Southwest Companion Pass which is earned after 110,000 points in a year – and credit card points (including signup bonus points) count. Your designated companion can fly with you for just taxes regardless of whether you’re traveling on a paid fare or points. While points transfers from hotel programs no longer counting towards your total, points from credit cards do — both bonuses and ongoing spend.
And now is the perfect time to earn a companion pass, the beginning of the year, since you’ll earn the pass for the remainder of the current year and the entire next year.
- Best Signup Bonus to Boost Your Points Quickly. Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has an 80,000 point signup bonus after $5000 spend within 3 months. That can even be enough for a roundtrip business class award ticket between the US and Europe. (Chase points are super valuable because they transfer directly to a variety of airlines and hotels.)
It earns 3 points per dollar on travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and 3 points per dollar on shipping and advertising on social media and search engines, so great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google. It also comes with $600 protection against theft or damage when you use it to buy your cell phone.
These points transfer to your choice of United, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, and more.
- Roundtrip first class between the US and Japan on ANA for 110,000 – 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
You can transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club from Chase Ultimate Rewards (e.g. Chase Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred), American Express Membership Rewards (Premier Reward Gold Card from American Express, Amex Everyday), and Citi ThankYou Rewards (Citi ThankYou Premier), Citi Prestige).
From the West Coast it’s just 110,000 miles for first class (90,000 in business class). I recently booked a Houston – Tokyo Narita first class roundtrip for 120,000 miles and $169.26 in taxes (no fuel surcharges).
You can put the award on hold for 24 hours. Points transfer from partners instantly. Roundtrip travel is required, Virgin Atlantic awards have a $50 per passenger change fee, and a cancel/redeposit fee of $50 as well. No changes are permitted within 24 hours of travel.
- Alaska Airlines $99 Companion Ticket. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature has one killer benefit, but it’s one of the best benefits in travel. Each year you get a companion economy ticket that costs $99+tax just for having the card, and you can pretty much always use it because it books into the same revenue inventory that the paid ticket does.
In other words the companion even earns miles. And you can use it for any itinerary bookable through Alaska. Book East Coast to Hawaii roundtrip if you want. And even book a Seattle stopover if you wish.
- Bring 19 People Into a Priority Pass Lounge — or 33 People into an American Airlines Admirals Club.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a more generous Priority Pass benefit than Citi Prestige or the Platinum Card by American Express. Instead of unlimited visits and two free guests, you get unlimited visits and unlimited free guests.
Unlimited free guests does mean unlimited free guests, as this person learned bringing 19 people into a lounge. An individual lounge can impose capacity controls when they’re too crowded, but you can bring as many people into a lounge as that lounge will bear and there’s no cost for entry.
Thirty three isn’t unlimited but the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has an interesting quirk. This is the card that comes with an American Airlines Admirals Club membership. Authorized users on the card have no annual fee. You can have up to 10 authorized users. Each one gets access to the Admirals Club on their own by presenting their card, and each can bring in two guests. That’s eleven total cards per account and a single annual fee, and each of the 11 folks can bring 2 guests. Consider splitting the cost of the card’s $450 annual fee with friends or family.
American Airlines Admirals Club New York JFK
- Mideast – Southeast Asia for 50,000 AAdvantage miles each way in first class Fly Doha – Bangkok in Qatar first class on the Airbus A380 (including use of the business class bar) for 50,000 miles.
Qatar Airways Airbus A380 Business Class Bar
Or fly Etihad Abu Dhabi – Singapore in first class for 50,000 miles, which is great value considering this is true international first class and an over 7 hour flight (not to mention access to Etihad’s first class lounge enroute).
Etihad First Class Lounge, Abu Dhabi
Once the diplomatic row between Qatar and neighboring Gulf states subside you can fly Doha – Abu Dhabi in Qatar’s regional first class, unlocking access to their al Safwa first class lounge and connect Abu Dhabi – Singapore in Etihad’s Boeing 787 first class at the same time.
Qatar Airways al Safwa Lounge, Doha
- Cathay Pacific US – Asia in first class for 70,000 Alaska miles each way… or add on Africa for no additional points. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan allows you to book stopovers on one way award tickets, and charges just 70,000 miles each way for first class on Cathay Pacific between the US and Asia. Fly to Hong Kong, stop over, and continue to another Cathay Pacific destination in Asia.
Cathay Pacific First Class
The funny thing is that Alaska charges the same price for awards to Africa on Cathay Pacific as they do Asia. So you can connect (or stopover) in Hong Kong and continue to Africa without spending any more miles.
Sadly Cathay no longer serves Johannesburg using an aircraft with a first class cabin, but Hong Kong – Johannesburg (a 13 hour flight) as a ‘free’ add-on in business class still isn’t bad.
- Visa Infinite $100 Companion Airfare Discount. This isn’t provided with every Visa Infinite but it does come with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. You get $100 off whenever booking tickets for 2 or more people together. It can be used an unlimited number of times.