Booking a half-priced award to Australia — reader success story

Feb 19, 2020

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader David, who combined an award sale with a generous stopover policy to score a great deal:

I was looking for a flight from San Francisco to Chicago in May to attend a friend’s wedding. Due to the wedding dates and my work schedule, my itinerary was not flexible and flights were expensive. I knew I could use Chase Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve for a flat redemption rate, but I wanted to see if I could do better with my Alaska Airlines miles.

I began by checking how much a simple one-way trip on Alaska would cost me, and found flights starting from 12,500 miles. Because SFO is an Alaska Airlines hub, I knew I could use their generous stopover policy to get myself another flight for later in the year. I found one where I could stop in San Francisco for six months before continuing on to Cabo San Lucas for a cool 15,000 miles. Tacking a flight to Mexico onto the wedding trip for 2,500 miles seemed great, but I kept searching.

Browsing Mileage Plan deals, I found that Alaska Airlines was offering 50% off economy awards booked on Fiji Airways. I wasn’t sure it would work if I didn’t start my trip with Fiji Air, but I figured it was worth a try. Behold: the same return flight from Chicago to San Francisco, including a six-month stopover in San Francisco and then continuing to Melbourne, Australia would only cost me 20,000 miles instead of the usual 40,000 miles.

I didn’t have any plans to go to Australia in 2020, but now I do! I’m glad I was able to combine my rigid travel (wedding plans) with my flexible travel (international vacation). Simply being curious and taking time to look at all my options got me a great redemption!

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Unlike some airlines that allow stopovers, Alaska Airlines lets you add a stop even on one-way awards. This policy is especially useful for West Coast flyers living near an Alaska hub, since you can pair flights home with outbound flights on a later trip like David did. Combining flights into a multi-city itinerary with a stopover in between usually costs less than booking them separately, and since the duration of stopovers isn’t capped, it’s not hard to find opportunities that mesh with your travel plans.

This sweet spot gets even sweeter when you also take advantage of Alaska’s distance-based award chart. These awards are priced according to the distance between the origin and final destination rather than the cumulative distance traveled, so in some cases adding a stopover and second flight costs less than booking either flight alone. As a Seattle-based flyer who makes frequent trips to Las Vegas and Detroit, I’ve made hay the past few years by booking LAS-SEA-DTW or DTW-SEA-LAS awards with a stopover in Seattle. So long as my schedule is flexible, this approach is invariably cheaper for me than booking round-trip flights. Try playing with Alaska’s multi-city search to see what opportunities you find the next time you’re contemplating a Mileage Plan award.

Related: Maximizing Alaska Airlines’ award routing rules

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending David a 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, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

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

Featured photo by Boy_Anupong/Getty Images.

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