One way to find cheap airfare is by not having a set destination, but instead allowing low prices to dictate where your next trip will be.
The same principle can be used when booking award travel.
Where do your miles and points want to take you?
There are 2 free airline tools I like to use when thinking about how to effectively and efficiently use my miles and points when planning upcoming travel. These time-saving tools allow me to check a wide range of award availability all at once.
On the United website, there is a tool that allows you to search United’s Monthly Featured Saver Awards. These are routes on United flights that “may” have more saver award seats available.
Navigate to United’s homepage and click on the MileagePlus tab. From there, click on “Use Award Miles.” You can search with this tool regardless of your what your MileagePlus account balance is.
Scroll down the “Use Award Miles” page to the Air Travel category on the right hand side. Click on the “Make the most of your miles with featured Saver Award routes” link.
The “Monthly Featured Saver Awards” page lets you select from 8 different United hub departure cities and designate the month you would like to travel. Depending on when United has updated this tool last, there could be up to 6 months to search.
Once you select your departure city and month, a list of domestic and international destinations will be listed in the blue table. Pay attention to destinations with the orange sun icon next to them. Destinations with this icon are “hot”, which means there is extra award availability during the selected month.
To the right of the blue table, United also shows information about routes with good saver award availability during select time periods.
If there’s a destination you’re interested in, click on the “check for available seats” link listed after the destination city to search for award seats.
This United search tool helped alert me to the extra saver award availability from Newark to Geneva, Switzerland while planning for a European ski trip! I was unsure where we should fly into and the saver award availability ultimately helped to frame our ski trip itinerary.
I also used this tool when looking to book a relatively last minute summer trip and discovered flights from Newark to Calgary with abundant saver award seats. With this information, my incredible trip to the Canadian Rockies was born!
Another tool I like for this type of flexible search is the American Airlines Award Map. The Award Map allows you to search regions of the globe to find award space, although the key here is to search for MileSAAver seats, rather than AAnytime award space.
From the navigation menu at the top of the American Airlines website, click on the AAdvantage tab and select “Award Travel.” Scroll down the page to “Hints on booking award travel” and click on “Explore the Award Map.”
Fill in the information to tell the Award Map where you want to fly from, the region where you would like to go, the dates of your travel, the number of passengers, and the total number of miles to use. The amount of miles available to use doesn’t have to match your actual AAdvantage mileage account balance.
Tip: Use the AAdvantage award chart to figure out how many miles are needed for MileSAAver awards and enter that amount to ensure that only MileSAAver awards show in the results.
By clicking on the “More Options” link, you can search round trip or one-way travel, which cabin class you prefer to fly, nonstop or 1 stop itineraries, and whether to search partner airlines. For example, on searches from North America to Europe, American Airline’s partners include British Airways, AirBerlin, Finnair. U.S. Airways award space will also be shown.
Tip: The Award Map doesn’t show award availability on all of American’s partners. Availability on carriers like LAN or Cathay Pacific will not be searchable with this tool. Use the Award Map and OneWorld Alliance partner British Airways’ website to get a more complete picture of OneWorld award availability.
I did a sample search for a round trip flight from New York City to Europe. I entered my dates and 40k miles. American Airlines offers off-peak MileSAAver awards between North America and Europe for just 40k miles between October 15th and May 15th.
The results show more than 20 pins for cities with available awards. On the left hand side of the map, each possible destination city is listed. By clicking “Book Now” from either the map pin or city list, you will be taken to flight options to choose from.
Tip: For European awards, beware of British Airway’s awful surcharges! Opt for flights to Europe with American, U.S. Airways, AirBerlin, or Finnair instead.
The American Airlines Award Map just helped me find Finnair and AirBerlin MileSAAver awards for our upcoming travel to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest!
United’s Monthly Featured Saver Award availability tool and American’s Award Map tool can be helpful when planning award travel. By searching a wide-range of departure and destination cities all at once, you will save time and find solid ways to redeem your miles!
How do you plan when searching for award seat availability? Please share in the comments below!
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