How to effectively ‘buy’ AAdvantage miles at a discount with AA Vacations

May 8, 2020

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Editor’s note: At TPG, our top priority is providing our readers with the information needed to make educated decisions about travel and rewards-earning strategy. This is not the best time to travel, domestically or internationally, as airlines have cut major parts of their route networks. But we are sharing this information to provide value for future travel once coronavirus concerns have subsided.

There have been a number of good mileage sales recently, including one from American Airlines. The carrier is currently selling miles for as little as 1.79 cents apiece, which is a pretty solid deal if you know how to maximize AAdvantage redemptions and understand the risks of buying miles during the coronavirus outbreak. However, this isn’t the best deal for AAdvantage miles right now; as it turns out, you effectively “buy” miles for even less when you book certain American Airlines Vacations packages.

American Airlines Vacations is currently offering up to 30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when booking select vacation packages. Some of these start at under $400 per person for two-night trips and include round-trip flights and accommodations. Featured destinations include major tourist hotspots in Aruba and Mexico, with dates available in late 2020 and early 2021.

We’ll walk you through the three bonus offers that American Vacations is currently running and show you some of the best deals and how many miles you can earn. But first, let’s run through the risks of booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak.

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In This Post

Should you book travel now?

There’s no doubt that you shouldn’t travel right now, but what about booking travel for later in the year?

We’ve seen a number of excellent travel deals over the past couple of weeks, with cheap airfare and wide-open award space taking center stage. But before you jump at the chance to book these deals, it’s important to understand the risks that come along with booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak.

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.)

The first is that there’s no guarantee that travel will resume as normal by the end of the year. As much as we’re crossing our fingers for a full containment soon, there’s no way to tell when it will be safe to travel internationally again. That said, the spread has shown signs of slowing here in New York City and some airlines have seen bookings pick up (albeit, slightly) over the past couple of weeks.

In addition, many airlines are in tough financial situations right now, with American being one of them. The carrier’s stock has dropped significantly since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, and we’ve seen American put some of its jets into long-term storage and make huge route cuts due to lower demand. This signals that the airline is in for a tough financial year going forward.

We’re confident that American will survive this temporary drop in demand, but there’s always a chance that the airline could go insolvent. Your AAdvantage miles and future travel bookings could be worthless if this happens, so make sure that you’re confident in American’s future before you book one of these packages.

Related: When will we start traveling again? American and United hint at future in latest decisions

What is American Airlines Vacations?

American Airlines Vacations is a booking service that offers airfare, hotel and car rental packages at special rates and awards bonus miles to AAdvantage members. Typically, members will earn an extra 1,000 American miles on all American Vacations bookings, but can frequently earn more by booking specific destinations during special promotions.

There are a few things to be aware of when booking through American Vacations. The first is that the way you earn miles on flights booked through American Vacations is different than how you earn on flights booked through AA.com. Instead of earning based on how much you spend, you’ll earn miles based on miles flown. This is because American classifies tickets booked through American Vacations as “special fares“.

This can be a good or a bad thing depending on how much your ticket costs. If you purchase low-cost airfare through American Vacations, you may come out ahead if you’re flying on a relatively long flight. On the other hand, shorter flights and more expensive fares could earn fewer miles. You can calculate the number of miles you’ll earn using the chart on American’s website.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can’t use hotel elite status benefits or earn hotel points on stays booked through AA Vacations. Unfortunately, most hotel groups require your stay to be booked directly in order to use these benefits. This is a nonissue for boutique hotels and resorts, but can be a downside for those booking Hyatt, Hilton, IHG or Marriott stays through the vacation booking portal.

Earn up to 30,000 American miles with these promotions

American Vacations is offering three different mileage deals. All three of these offers present a great way to earn AAdvantage miles when booking a vacation, with bonus miles ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 American miles. This is in addition to the 1,000 American miles you’d earn when booking a standard American Vacations package and the miles you’ll earn when you fly.

One of the perks of booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak is that it can be very cheap. You can book some of these deals for under $500 per person, including round-trip airfare and hotel stays. Per person rates drop when you book for multiple people too, so this is a great way to book family vacations over winter or spring break. However, it should be noted that only the person who actually books these packages receives the mileage bonus.

Most of these deals are valid until May 27, 2020, and we don’t see any of them selling out any time soon. This means you have plenty of time to request time off work and budget the trip, so there’s no need to rush to book.

Before we start, we should make it clear that you shouldn’t book one of these deals solely for the bonus miles. You’re only awarded the miles after you take the trip, so check out our roundup of the best ways to earn American miles if you’re interested in traveling to one of these destinations.

Save $25 per night on 4+ night bookings

American Vacations is currently offering a $25-per-night discount on all bookings of four nights or more made through American Vacations by May 13 when you use the promo code “TravelLater” at checkout. There’s nothing that states that this promotion cannot be combined with the bonus miles earned in the following deals in the deal’s terms and conditions, but it never hurts to call American Vacations to double check before you book.

Earn 30,000 miles with Hard Rock Hotels

American Vacations is currently offering 30,000 bonus American miles when you book a flight and hotel package at select Hard Rock Hotel locations in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. You can earn bonus miles on stays of two or more nights at these Hard Rock Hotel locations:

  • Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya
  • Hard Rock Hotel Cancun
  • Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta
  • Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Punta Cana
  • Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos

You can book these trips from any of American’s U.S. gateways, but we’ve found that the best deals depart from Miami (MIA) and Dallas (DFW). Miami generally has the cheapest fares as it’s American’s Central and South American hub, so there’s no need to connect.

The Hard Rock Hotels deals are a bit more expensive than the other deals listed here, though. One of the best deals we found was for a two-night package deal at the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun departing from MIA. This trip costs $776 on many nights in early December, but the price drops to $546 per person if you’re booking two people in the same hotel room. You’d earn 31,000 miles for booking this package, effectively letting you buy American miles at a rate of 1.76 cents each based on the cost of one person.

If you prefer a longer trip, you can book a four-night trip in early November for just $864 per person on a two-person itinerary. This makes you eligible to use the $25 per night discount we discussed earlier, dropping the total cost of the trip for two people to just under $1,629 (or $814.50 per person). This trip is more expensive, but you’re still getting a rate of 2.62 cents per mile based on the cost of one person (and a longer trip).

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

Earn 25,000 miles with Dreams Resorts and Spas

Dreams Sands Cancun Resort
(Photo courtesy of the Dreams Sands Cancun Resort/AMResorts.)

Until May 27, American Vacations is also offering 25,000 bonus miles on bookings of two or more nights at all-inclusive Dreams Resort and Spa locations around the world. The majority of Dreams properties are located in Central America and the Caribbean, but there’s also a single location in Las Palmas — a Spanish island off the coast of Morocco.

Some of the best deals we’ve found are at the Dreams locations in Mexico. There 10 different Dreams properties in Mexico, with some of the best deals being in Cancun.

For example, we found a two-night stay at the Dreams Sands Cancun Resort and Spa that departs from Miami for just $355 per person on a two-person itinerary. This would earn 26,000 American miles, effectively letting you buy miles at 1.37 cents each based on the cost of one person.

Even better? A four-night stay at the same resort costs just $504 per person in November before the $25 per night discount previously discussed. This means a couple could book the property for just $908 for a four-night stay, which is a fabulous deal for a sunny winter getaway.

Earn 20,000 miles when you book select packages in Aruba

Finally, we have American Vacation’s broader Aruba sale — until May 27, you can earn 20,000 bonus miles when book a vacation package in Aruba. There is no minimum spend or number of nights required to get the bonus, so you can theoretically stay in Aruba for one night and still earn the 20,000-mile bonus. In addition, we’re not seeing any exclusions from this deal, so all Aruba hotels on the AA Vacations site should be eligible to earn the bonus points.

Coral Beach Aruba

There are some excellent deals to be had too. For example, you can book a vacation package that departs Miami and includes a four-night stay at the Coral Reef Beach Aruba resort for just $426 per person when you travel as a party of two. This can be combined with the $25-per-night credit we discussed earlier, meaning that each person pays just $376 for all of their air travel and accommodations.

Other resorts are offering excellent deals. You can book a two-night stay at the Karibu Aruba Boutique Hotel for just $364 per person when traveling on a two-person itinerary. You’d earn 21,000 miles on this trip, so you’re effectively paying 1.73 cents per mile when based on the price of one person.

Save more with an American Airlines credit card

You can reduce the price of your stay even more if you hold an American Airlines cobranded credit card that’s issued by Citi. These cards offer an additional 10% discount on all nonflight costs associated with your American Vacations itinerary and can be stacked with the mileage deals discussed in this article. This discount can make a real difference, especially if you’re booking a vacation package that includes a more expensive premium hotel.

AAdvantage Credit Card American Vacations Link

In order to get the discount, head to the American Vacations website and log into your AAdvantage account. The booking system should see that you have a cobranded credit card and automatically apply the discount to your purchase. You can verify that you’re getting the discount by looking for the “Welcome, Citi® / AAdvantage® Cardmembers!” notice at the top of the American Vacations webpage.

Don’t have an American Airlines cobranded credit card? Here’s a look at some of our favorites:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Unfortunately, you can’t stack any of these deals with the American Airlines Vacations credit for elite members that takes effect July 1, as it can’t be combined with other offers.

Bottom line

These American Vacations packages can be a great deal if you’re looking to book a tropical post-coronavirus getaway. From a mileage perspective, we think that the Dreams Resort and Spa deal is the best. You can book these packages for as little as $355 per person, letting you buy AAdvantage miles at a rate of 1.37 cents per mile, based on the double-occupancy cost for one person. This is lower than TPG’s valuation of 1.4 cents per mile, and a sunny getaway in Mexico doesn’t hurt either.

We don’t recommend purchasing one of these packages only to earn miles, though. You do need to take the flights and stay at the hotel you book with your package, and miles are credited to your AAdvantage account after you complete your trip. That said, make sure you want to visit these places before you purchase your vacation package.

Just make sure to keep the risks of booking post-coronavirus travel in mind; there’s no guarantee that the virus will slow down by the end of the year, so make sure to understand your vacation package’s cancellation policy before you book.

Featured photo by Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock.

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