The Best Ways to Use Avios for Beach Vacations
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here - British Airways Visa Signature Card
The British Airways Executive Club is an incredibly versatile mileage program, whether you're looking to explore a new city, go skiing or relax on the beach for your upcoming vacation. Not only are Avios some of the easiest points to earn (they can be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, and the British Airways Visa Signature Card); there are a number of great sweet spot redemptions to book. Today we'll look at the best ways to use Avios for a tropical getaway this winter.
Before getting into the details, let's start with a quick overview of the Executive Club program. British Airways uses a distance-based award chart rather than the zone-based charts in place at the major US airlines. You can check out this guide for full details of some of the best redemptions, but one quirk of distance-based charts is that the sweet spots tend to be for flights of a certain distance rather than to or from a certain region or between specific cities. Since you'll be charged based on the distance of your flight, you'll want to do your best to book nonstop itineraries, as British Airways charges separately for each segment.
Thankfully you don't have to travel that far to find a relaxing beach vacation. For travel around North America, the best way to redeem Avios is for short-haul flights operated by American Airlines. Here are the distances and corresponding pricing you'll find for American flights using Avios (all flights are one-way in economy):
- Flights under 1,151 miles: 7,500 Avios
- 1,151-2,000 miles: 10,000 Avios
- 2,001-3,000 miles: 12,500 Avios
Remember that you'll need to find saver award inventory to book an American-operated flight with Avios, which isn't always easy, though ExpertFlyer could be a terrific resource to help with this endeavor. And to identify the distance of your flight, I'd suggest using GCmap.com.
So what are the best ways to utilize your Avios for a beach trip when the cold weather is getting you down? Here are my picks:
West Coast to Hawaii
While Hawaii is one of the most popular beach destinations for US-based travelers, flights can get outrageously expensive if you don't take advantage of the right fare sales or award sweet spots. Thankfully British Airways gives you two options here, as you can redeem Avios for flights on Oneworld member American Airlines or BA partner Alaska Airlines.
AA offers non-stop flights to Hawaii from its hubs in Los Angeles (LAX) and Phoenix (PHX), serving destinations such as Honolulu (HNL), Kauai (LIH), Kona (KOA) and Maui (OGG). All of these flights will fall in the 2,000-3,000 mile range, meaning award tickets will only cost 12,500 Avios one way. The catch, of course, is that you have to find sAAver level AA award space to book with BA. While that's not always an easy proposition, American has a ton of saver space available from Los Angeles to Hawaii, even for last-minute holiday bookings. Here is award availability from LA to Maui in December:
And here is availability to the quieter island of Kauai:
Ignore the award prices above; as long as you can find saver award inventory on nonstop, American-operated flights to the Aloha state, they'll price at 12,500 Avios each way.
Flexibility is the most valuable thing in travel rewards, and BA's partnership with Alaska Airlines adds over a dozen daily flight options from which you can choose. Alaska offers nonstop service to Hawaii from Los Angeles as well as San Diego (SAN), Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) and Portland (PDX). Unfortunately Alaska awards don't show on the BA website, so once you find your availability on the Alaska website or on ExpertFlyer, you'll need to call BA to book.
12,500 Avios for a one-way flight to Hawaii is an absolute steal for such an expensive destination, but the deal can potentially get much sweeter. Amex is currently running a 40% Avios transfer bonus through November 15, 2018, and these promotions are a faily regular occurrence. With this deal, you'd only have to transfer 18,000 Membership Rewards points to British Airways (worth $342 based on TPG's latest valuations) to book a round-trip beach getaway.
Miami to Mexico and the Caribbean
One of American's US hubs is Miami International Airport (MIA), offering an array of beach destinations for you to pick from in Mexico, the Caribbean and even parts of South America. Some of these flights are comically short, like the 184-mile hop to Nassau (NAS) in the Bahamas. If you're primarily interested in getting a good beach and willing to let the deal drive your specific vacation spot, here are a few destinations that each cost 7,500 Avios for one-way economy award flights from Miami:
These vacations run the gamut from luxury to low maintenance, family-friendly to non-stop party. They can give you plenty of nature and history-related activities along with a plethora a beach time, and this just barely scratches the surface.
Of course, if you take advantage of the 40% Amex transfer bonus, your award flights will become almost laughably cheap. You would only need to transfer 6,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $114) to book a one-way flight to these destinations, and a transfer of just 11,000 Avios would be enough for a round-trip itinerary.
You Don't Need to Leave the US to Find a Beach
There really is some magical restorative power to lounging on a beach, and once you hit that sand it won't matter whether you had to clear customs to get there or if you just hopped around the country. International travel comes with a whole host of logistic considerations (passports, phone plans, adapters, etc.), but there are plenty of great beaches within the US that you visit using your Avios.
As noted above, any American flight under 1,151 miles will only set you back 7,500 Avios each way in economy. The means that no matter where you live, there's a beach destination within reach. If you're planning a vacation to Miami, you could fly from any of the following cities (and many more) for 7,500 Avios each way:
- New York-JFK
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Washington-Reagan (DCA)
- Houston (IAH)
- Charlotte (CLT)
- Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
And once again, if you're not sure about your specific city, you can always use gcmap.com to check the flight distance. Even cities that are farther away like Boston (BOS), Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) or Phoenix would only cost 10,000 Avios to reach Miami. This is just over 7,000 Membership Rewards points with the current transfer bonus.
British Airways Avios are one of the best mileage currencies to use for shorter trips, as the lower portion of the distance-based award chart can be incredibly lucrative for short-haul flights. Whether you're based on the east coast, west coast or middle of the country, Avios can help you find the nearest beach for a relaxing vacation. And with so many options from which to choose, you have the flexibility to pick the Hawaiian island, Caribbean locale or domestic destination that best suits your travel goals.