The 7 Best Deals in All of Travel

I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).


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 7 best deals in travel. What do you think?

  1. 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.

  2. 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 pay your cell phone bill with it.

    These points transfer to your choice of United, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, JetBlue, and more.

  3. Roundtrip first class between the US and Japan on ANA for 110,000 – 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles

    From the West Coast it’s just 110,000 miles for first class (90,000 in business class). My last reservation was a Houston – Tokyo Narita first class roundtrip for 120,000 miles and $169.26 in taxes (no fuel surcharges) but sadly ANA has increased its 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Bring 33 People into an American Airlines Admirals Club.

    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

  6. Mideast – Southeast Asia for 50,000 AAdvantage miles each way in first class 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

    If the diplomatic row between Qatar and neighboring Gulf states ever subsides you’d be able to 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 first class at the same time.


    Qatar Airways al Safwa Lounge, Doha

  7. 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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. Thanks for these useful tips and reminders, Gary. Much, much better than some of the “see a video of a drunk ranting about a flight attendant” stuff you’ve had way too much of lately.

  2. A better deal that either of the Alaska Mileage Plan options you mention is the following:

    1. At the lowest rate, one can fly on Alaska miles from LAS to SEA/PDX for 7,500 miles.

    2. Flying from SEA/PDX to LAX/SJC/SFO/OAK etc is between 5,000 and 7,500 miles at the lowest rate.

    3. However you can book a LAS to SEA/PDX flight with as long a “stopover” as you want and then continue to LAX/SJC etc for a grand total of 5,000 miles or the equivalent of 2,500 miles per flight! Their system functionally prices the routing as if it were an LAS to say LAX flight with a stopover. Hence the 5,000 mile total price.

    This concept works in other markets with Alaska as well. Play with their website and see what works for you.

  3. In regard to (6), Middle East to Asia Region 1 (Japan/Korea) is a far better redemption than this. You get to connect in Asia Region 2 for free and could do the Abu Dhabi – Singapore route PLUS fly to Japan or Korea for the same mileage. You can even throw in a stopover at the beginning or end of the itinerary.

  4. I took advantage of that last one a few years ago and it was fantastic. I used 70,000 Alaska miles to fly Cathay first class seat 1A from Chicago to Hong Kong (Stop for 4 days) then Cathay business class to Johannesburg. I love telling friends that I got a $25,000 seat for $200 in taxes and fees, because you know, I’d obviously pay out of pocket for that otherwise.

  5. 44k RAM business class from US > Morocco with free connections onwards in Africa, Asia or Europe. Easy to get 44k RAM miles with Etihad being a major transfer partner in all programs. My hunch is this will dry up soon with their new oneworld alliance.

  6. Gary, quick question… for Virgin deal. Let’s say I book something round trip. But with the idea of keeping the return flexible. Like changing it to a different date after I fly the outbound. For instance let’s say I book LAX-NRT April 5th and return NRT dec 20th. I fly the outbound. Then later let’s say in August when I wanna take the return, would I be able to change the NRT to LAX to August 5th? If so, until when am I able to do changes? Will there be change fees etc?
    Thanks!

  7. Well Gary that’s just an opinion isn’t it?

    In my opinion, getting a mileage award with two segments for less than the minimum of one segment is pretty cool and of greater merit. But that is also an opinion.

    But, since you didn’t come up with it, I must be wrong.

  8. It’s impossible to find anything on Alaska’s website because almost every result you get when searching for business class has “mixed itinerary” with coach for a major leg. What site do you use to search for true business class availability?

  9. Gary, re: ANA first class US – Japan…

    I recently-ish booked a pair of SFO-NRT round trip first class tickets via Virgin Atlantic miles (thanks for writing about it!), but my fees/taxes were significantly higher than what you quote for IAH-NRT – about $340 per person.

    What did I do wrong? Asking for my next time around…

  10. Re: Southwest Companion Pass…
    Qualifying for the pass is an either/or situation. Either 100 flight credits or 110,000 points via credit card spending. Unfortunately there’s no formula for combining flights + credit card points to qualify.

  11. Totally agree with ANA award at the top of the list. I’m enjoying sakura season in Tokyo courtesy of ANA first class ORD-HND. It was my first time in a Polaris lounge. Impressive. I paid a surcharge but don’t have the amount at my fingertips. Tokyo is much nicer than I recall from years ago. On the other hand, the Ritz Carlton not so much IMO.

  12. ANA was always adding surcharges….they just made them really low when fuel prices dropped and now raised them a little since oil prices have gone up.

    You can still fly QR/EY F for 50k but you have to fly DOH-KWI-AUH-SIN but you’ll get to go to Al Safwa and fly EY F. You might also have to pay ~€10 for Kuwait Visa fee (but free for US citizens) because EY doesn’t recognize QR so to them your travel starts in Kuwait and your bags will not be check beyond Kuwait by QR.

  13. AA is planning to restrict club access to those traveling on an AA ticket later this year. I think I will probably drop it at that point, as about half of my Admirals club visits I am on another airline.

  14. As Arthur points out a few of us are killing the AA lounge golden goose through abuse.

    The Alaska to Hawaii companion pass scenario of a stop over in Seattle is funny to me because even as a Midwest flyer it seems nearly impossible to get a quick connection on Alaska to Hawaii. They have much of the issues that Southwest has but in the outbound flights instead. Still a good deal though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *