Deal alert: Ski season flights to Vail from $127 round trip on American Air
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Editor's note: Don’t book travel unless you fully understand the penalties around changing or canceling if the COVID-19 situation still warrants such measures in the second half of the year. TPG does not recommend leisure travel at this juncture, but we are crossing our fingers and toes for travel later in 2020 and in early 2021.
Are you getting stir-crazy yet? It won't be safe to travel for a few months yet, but a traveler can dream. In fact, having something to look forward to — in the distant, healthy future — may help make this weird, uncomfortable time pass faster. And what better domestic winter destination to dream about than Vail, Colorado?
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If you are interested in getting something on the books, or even just want to daydream about travel, here is a sampling of one-way paid and award flight deals we are seeing to Vail for the second half of 2020 and into early 2021. Even better yet, American Airlines currently offers fee-free changes on all tickets booked before May 31. And if you're sitting on a stash of American miles, you can get a round-trip ticket for 20,000 AAdvantage miles plus $11.20.
The only drawback is that many of these fares begin in basic economy. Basic economy means different things to different airlines, but you may not have free use of the overhead bins for a carry-on bag, and you probably won't be able to select your seat, get an upgrade, or earn PQM/PQS/PQDs. However, it’s possible to defeat many of basic economy’s negative aspects by having elite status or a cobranded credit card. Main Cabin begins at just $100 more round trip, so this is a time when the cost may well be worth the splurge.
To find a deal, head to Google Flights and enter your origin and destination cities. Scroll through the calendar function to find dates and prices that work for you. Finally, click through to book directly with the airline or an OTA like Orbitz or Expedia.
Airline: American Airlines
Routes: New York, Los Angeles, Miami and more to Vail
Cost: from $127 round trip, or 20,000 AA miles
Dates: September 2020 to March 2021
Pay With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel; starting Jan. 1, 2021 earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), Citi Prestige® Card (5x on airfare), Citi Premier® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on airfare), American Express® Gold Card (3x on airfare when booked directly with the airline) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel)
The information for the Citi Prestige 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.
Here are some examples of specific flights that are available:
Newark/New York (EWR) to Vail (EGE) for 20,000 AAdvantage miles and $11.20 round trip on American:
Miami (MIA) to Vail (EGE) for $127 round trip on American:
Los Angeles (LAX) to Vail (EGE) for $128 round trip on American:
Newark/New York (EWR) to Vail (EGE) for $131 round trip on American:
How to find your own flight deals
The above is just a sampling of what we’re seeing to Hawaii, and it’s highly likely the routes you are most interested in aren’t on this list. That’s not a problem if you know how to search for your own flight deals, and here are some of our favorite tools for doing so.
Related: Tips for finding cheap award flights
Explore with Google Flights
Start exploring at Google Flights. You can search flights to your dream destinations from multiple airports to help you spot the best deal. Or, you can search from your destination (“Where from?” field) to any gateway in the United States by typing “USA” in the “Where to?” field. You’ll get a map showing the cheapest flights to airports around the country.
Decide if you’ll pay with cash or points
When you find an airfare deal, you’ll need to decide if the deal is best on cash or points. That’s a personal decision that only you can make (and conserving cash right now isn’t a bad plan). There's no right answer here, but if you have the opportunity to use just 10,000 to 12,500 American miles each way, that's not a bad deal.
Understand cancellation policies before buying an airline ticket
Finally, before buying any airline ticket in the current realities, understand the cancellation and rebooking policies for the carrier you book. Airlines have been adjusting their policies to be more friendly for future bookings, but what that means can vary from airline to airline, and they may differ depending on whether you used cash or miles. While you’re now often able to rebook an airline ticket for a future date without a change fee, just remember that you’ll likely still be on the hook for any fare difference from your old ticket to the new one.
If you’re booking an airline ticket with points or miles, here are the best ways to avoid change and cancellation fees on award tickets. You can also factor in using a credit card with good built-in travel insurance (though that doesn’t kick in simply because you choose not to travel.)
No one can guarantee when we’ll be able to travel. The coronavirus situation is fluid with no firm end date in sight — yet. If you’re willing to make some speculative bookings for the second half of this year or early 2021, you could end up traveling and having a fantastic time — or you might need to cancel or rebook for a future date. Go into each reservation with your eyes open and a firm understanding of the cancellation/rebooking terms.
Let us know in the comments below if you decide to book something for late this year or early 2021.