Monday, 10 March 2014

BOOKING A HOLIDAY ON AWARDS, A CASE STUDY II

LET'S TRY THIS FROM IRELAND THIS TIME !



Those that have been following my blog will remember my posting from a while back recounting my last major holiday and how I used frequent flyer points to book the vast majority of it. You can see that posting HERE.


THE DECISION MAKING

Those who are season travellers on awards will know that you have to plan well ahead in order to have a good chance at getting flights, and you have to be reasonably flexible with your exact destinations and durations of stays. This is even more the case when you are trying to match multiple award flights, as I would be doing on this journey. With that is mind, I started planning our November "major" holiday at the beginning of the year. Although I'd achieved brilliant value for money on my last awards USA holiday, I'm a year more experienced, and this time I decided to see just how cheaply I could do a really top class holiday. Here was my criteria for this trip.
  • A dual-centre holiday, one place with lots of activities and buzz, the other a beach resort with  guaranteed great weather.
  • West coast USA should feature (our last trip was east coast, focusing on Miami)
  • Stay in cities that have IHG, SPG or Radisson properties, i.e. the hotel groups with which I have good points totals.
  • Begin the journey from Ireland
  • End the journey with a short stay in San Francisco (but not too long, too cold in November !)
The last two bullet point would be crucial in reducing the overall cash layout. On our previous trip, we had saved significant avios by using a 2-4-1 companion voucher, the use of which means that you are only charged avios for 1 person, and pay the taxes and fees for two people. However the downside of that is that the journey must begin within the UK and fly on BA planes, which means you have to pay UK air passenger duty and BA taxes which are very significant. Beginning our journey in Ireland would help reduce these cash costs. As I live in Northern Ireland, Dublin airport is only 1:45 hours drive away. Ending in San Francisco would give me a chance to try for the direct SFO->DUB flight that Aer Lingus is starting from April (Aer Lingus USA flights can be booked using Avios, and has very low taxes).

Early on, we decided that Las Vegas would be our "high-octane" city. We've been a few times, and always enjoy the fact that there are lots of shows and activities to keep you occupied.

For the Beach resort, Hawaii was the initial choice. Its great weather all year round and there are a range of good SPG properties on many of the islands. However I was mindful of the fact that this was just a 2 week holiday, and we didn't want to have a significantly long flight in the middle of it. Vegas -> Hawaii would be a good 6-7 hours.

For the above reason, I looked around and saw that Los Cabos, Mexico, was a much more reachable beach resort from Las Vegas. At that time of the year, the weather is guaranteed, and we had thoroughly enjoyed Cancun the year before. I knew that AA could get me from Vegas to Los Cabos, and a quick check on the hotel websites told me that SPG had two decent beach hotels in the area, with IHG also having a good Holiday Inn as a backup. Finally, Alaska Air flies directly from Los Cabos to San Francisco, which suited perfectly. (you can book Alaska flights using either BA avios or AA miles).

So assuming that I could arrange the flights, the holiday would be Las Vegas, Los Cabos, San Francisco. The next step was to start with some rough dates and see if I could get the various reward flights to mate in with each other.

more tomorrow.....

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