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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Marco, who saved money, flew more comfortably and earned extra miles on a recent business trip. Here’s what he had to say:

I work for a multinational company headquartered in Europe, and I have to cross the Atlantic on business every five or six weeks. I usually fly out on Sunday night and return on Friday, and non-stop service on American Airlines usually costs around $2,400 just in economy. At that price business and even premium economy are out of the question, but I’m still racking up a lot of EQMs and EQDs, and even reached Executive Platinum status last year.

While looking through the vast TPG archives I stumbled upon an article explaining American Airlines special fares, and figured I would give AA Vacations a try the next time I had to book a business trip. That opportunity came in January, when I checked AA Vacations and found a bundle consisting of a non-stop flight in premium economy and four nights in a hotel near work for only $1,800. Not only would I be saving my company $600 on airfare, but I’d also save an additional $440 on the hotel compared to booking both separately — all while experiencing the newly refreshed AA premium economy product. It was a win-win situation.

Since elite credits and award miles for special fares are based on distance (rather than cost), this 6,800-mile trip would earn me 10,200 EQMs, 1,360 EQDs and 14,960 award miles. As I was getting ready to book, I saw AA Vacations was also running a promotion offering 20,000 bonus AAdvantage miles (in addition to the standard 1,000-mile bonus) for select trips to Europe. Fortunately, my destination was eligible, so in the end I netted a whopping 35,960 miles for my flight. Thanks for the tips!

I tend to focus on award travel strategies, but there are plenty of deals on paid airfare that can help you save even if you don’t have a point or mile to your name. All the major domestic airlines (and most large international carriers) offer vacation packages for airfare, hotels and rental cars. As Marco experienced, the savings can be substantial and in some cases unbelievable, as you can often find air and hotel packages that price out lower than the cost of airfare alone. Even if you have no need for a hotel, you can just book a package for the discounted flight and stay somewhere else.

The downside of vacation packages is that you lose some flexibility. You may have fewer flight options, and the change and cancellation policies may be stricter than normal, so think twice about booking if your plans are still uncertain. Also, make sure to check your fare code so you don’t end up in basic economy, and read through the hotel’s policies to avoid unpleasant surprises (especially if you’re not planning to show up). Despite those warnings I think it’s worth checking package rates, especially when you travel abroad. Just know exactly what you’re getting into before you buy!

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Marco for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Angel DiBilio / Shutterstock.com

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