The 10 Best Deals in All of Travel

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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 10 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. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card is offering 80,000 Rapid Rewards points with $5000 spend within 3 months. Boom. [Offer expired]

    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. Delta business class using Virgin Atlantic miles. Delta can charge 100,000 miles for a saver award between the U.S. and Europe. Virgin Atlantic charges just 50,000 miles for that same flight. They charge just 60,000 miles each way for Delta business class between the U.S. and Asia, India, or Africa. And as long as your ticket originates in the U.S. and avoids London as a destination you’ll avoid fuel surcharges as well.

  5. 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.

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

    Thirty three isn’t unlimited but the Citi Executive card 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 DFW A Concourse

  7. 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

    It’s worth noting that you can actually fly Mideast- Asia 2 – Asia 1 and vice versa, more flying for the same number of miles provided you have an allowable route. So Cathay Pacific Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong – Dubai is the same number of miles as just Hong Kong – Dubai.

  8. Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles for domestic United first class is just 12,500 miles — even to Hawaii, and even with connections (coach is just 7500 miles). Citibank lets you transfer points to Turkish Airlines. Find United saver award space, for instance using the Aeroplan website, and call Turkish to book.

  9. Royal Air Maroc business class using 44,000 Etihad miles each way. They fly Boston, Miami – New York JFK, and Washington Dulles to Casablanca and beyond. You can include a connection in this price, but though I’ve seen claims of successfully getting a stopover I’ve never managed it. You can use this to go to Europe, the Mideast, pr North Africa for instance and award availability is quite good for two passengers.

    You can transfer American Express® Gold Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, or even Citi’s ThankYou points to Etihad and book this award.

  10. 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, 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 »

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  1. Useful stuff. There are so many quirky opportunities out there that it’s very tough to keep track. Good to get this reminder. If you want to do more of these periodically, I’d welcome them.

  2. RE: Cathay Pacific US – Asia in first class for 70,000 Alaska miles each way

    How far in advance you have to search for these seats? They are very elusive!

  3. Like many of your posts, this one was very informative. However, I think I need a more basic tutorial. For example I have AAdvantage miles, live in Dubai and would like to go to Egypt in December (or perhaps Singapore) from Abu Dhabi (Etihad) in business or first. Where do I start?

  4. #11. ANA round the world ticket. Can easily piece together a RTW itinerary in business class for 115k

  5. @Kalboz
    Space opens up around 11 months ahead, then more about 2 weeks beforehand if there’s unsold inventory. One thing that I really wish bloggers would mention more prominently is that only one seat in first is available per flight until the 2 weeks in advance point. I normally book my wife in first and myself in business, hoping that one first class seat comes available close in. It’s worked so far. Hope that helps.

  6. Super – check off 5 for me 🙂
    #2 Years ago but still use for bonus category/only chase AF card
    #3 only 93,000 MR Points to VA – parlied this RT into 2 RTW trips
    #7 doing both Etihad and Qatar
    #9 Did JFK-CMN 797-9 nice ride great city then I was off to AUH
    #10 this is for next March and I just looked for a lot of dates

    Where would you rank AS 180K for Emirates First JKF-DXB-ICN? Lots of miles, but gets me to come back with AA 50K on Etihad. 3 maybe 4 showers in a row. 🙂

  7. No doubt the Companion Pass can be very valuable but you have to meet a certain profile to achieve that level of value — someone who travels extensively domestically, frequently with someone else, and generally with the same person or small group of people.

    I’m a frequent Southwest flier and my most frequent domestic destinations (MDW and ABQ) are well served by Southwest. But it’s relatively rare that I’m flying with someone else and if I do it’s perhaps one flight a year with my wife and one flight with each of my kids. I’m unlikely to eek out much more than $400 to $500 of value from the companion pass.

    If we’re not wiped out in the coming economic apocalypse and reach retirement age healthy enough to travel, then the math for me and my wife might be quite different.

    Agree with @WR2 that the ANA around-the-world fare is an outstanding bargain. My daughter is doing a semester in India this fall and I was able to get her there and back (booking about seven weeks before departure) in business class and with brief stops in Seoul and Istanbul for 115k AMEX points — less than what a simple round trip would have cost.

    The only thing better would have been doing this when the transfer bonus was in effect!

  8. Emirates First Class from JFK to Milan or Athens, round trip, for 100,000 JAL miles. I’ve done both routes. That . . . is . . . luxury.

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