Trying to decide the steps to booking your next flight to go on vacation can be difficult. Do I want to pay cash and get points on my credit card? Should I book through the travel portal? Should I transfer to a travel partner? Talk about analysis paralysis! Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Let’s go through the three steps that will give you a better idea of how you can approach booking a flight next time.
Let’s say that we want to go on a trip to Maui, and we live in Los Angeles. Additionally, let’s say we have 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards. We going to go in April before the summer prices jump up.
First, I will look at Google Flights to get an idea of cash prices and what airlines can get me from LA to Maui. Google Flights is a great way to find that information quickly. Just remember that Google Flights doesn’t show Southwest, so you’ll want to check their price on their site.
There are some really reasonable prices. With flights this cheap, I’d be tempted to pay cash and save my points for hotels.
One of the steps to booking your next flight includes looking in the travel portals. Since we have Chase points, we will look in the Chase Travel Portal. Here are the results in April from LAX-OGG:
As a point of reference, United Airlines and Alaska had similar prices. Points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred are worth 1.25 cents per point in the portal.
Our Chase Ultimate Rewards from the Chase Sapphire Preferred will transfer to United, Southwest, British Airways (among others), and each flies from LAX, so let’s check them out.
Wow, that is a great deal! One thing I am learning is to go to Hawaii before summer if you want a good deal! Let’s check out Southwest Airlines.
Southwest is even cheaper at 15,600 pts. Remember that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card welcome offer is 60,000 Ultimate Rewards. A family of 4 could get to Maui on one welcome offer – this is a super good deal. Just remember that if you go during peak travel times, you might not find a deal like this. Other locations could vary in price also.
Another option is British Airways. You won’t actually be flying on British Airways but will be flying with their partner American Airlines. AA offers direct flights from LAX-OGG, and they are priced at 26,000 points per person. I wouldn’t do it in this scenario because the other options are much cheaper, but this can be a great option when the other airlines are charging more points.
So what do you do? Here are your choices:
To be honest, these are all pretty good options. Most of the time, it is pretty obvious what you should do, but in this instance, it really is up to you. You might want to consider which option has the best flights for your family. Personally, I would want to save my Ultimate Rewards for hotels that will probably run $500+ a night and just pay for the flights. However, if you are trying to take a family and need four tickets, you may want to go Southwest and use cash or other points for an Airbnb or hotel.
Because this turned out so similar, let’s do another scenario.
This time we want to fly from Denver to Paris for a romantic getaway. We live in Denver and are going to fly economy class in April. Let’s go over the same steps to booking a flight.
It will cost us about $1,000/couple to fly to Paris in April. It would cost much more in the summer.
We will look at United as it is the easiest transfer partner from Denver-Paris using Ultimate Rewards. This is what I found:
I also checked AirFrance and found flights with a similar price, 29,000 points each way.
Can I tell you how shocked I am that the travel portal is the cheapest option? That is because those cash prices are so low. This is a good reminder always to check the travel portal too!
I usually fly business class to Europe, and that (along with traveling when cash prices are high) is where you really save by booking with a transfer partner. Let’s check that out. Let’s do the same steps to booking your flight to Paris, but this time you insist on business class!
This is deceiving because I only had 90,000 points, so the rest was with cash – If I had the right amount of points, it would be 192,400 points for a roundtrip business class seat.
Okay, in this situation, the cash price to Paris is more than I want to pay. I am also not paying more to use the portal than to transfer with a partner. This example shows why I usually transfer my points to a partner because it is the cheapest option. I love that I can fly business class seats by just using a credit card to pay for my normal expenses. When I go to Europe on United Airlines, I generally can find a business class seat one way for 70,000- 80,000 miles if I am flexible with my dates.
The best steps to booking your next flight are by following these three simple steps. Take the time to check the cash price, find out how much it is to use points through the portal, and how much to transfer to a partner and then decide which is the cheapest rate or the best way to book based on your circumstances. Following these three steps will make you feel more confident that you got the best deal.
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