And the award for the worst travel advice of the year goes to….

…. this “Travel + Leisure” travel “expert” that is offering advice on CNN. You’d think it would be hard to get advice wrong in a one minute clip, but I guess I’m wrong.

Let’s go through some of the advice that this “expert” offers CNN viewers:

They’re actually being a little more flexible. They’re allowing you to maybe even book one leg or trying to let you use your miles before you’ve accrued them.

First of all, I have no clue what the first part of that means. “They’re allowing you to maybe even book one leg.” Huh? Second, with only a few exceptions (like Lufthansa), airlines don’t allow you to “use your miles before you’ve accrued them.” I can’t think of any US airline that allows this off the top of my head. Furthermore, the miles have to be paid back or else you pay a hefty fee, so no one will be getting away with a fast one here.

Call the airline directly. The supply of seats is constantly changing and you’re going to get the best answer from someone on the phone.

While this might have been the case in 1999, I disagree with this advice for the most part. The best results will come from doing your own research online, using online award availability search tools, either on the site of the airline you have miles with or on the site of partner airlines with better award tools. Agents are notoriously uncreative and will often only look at direct routings, while you can find more creative routings online. Furthermore, you avoid fees by booking online.

The best return on your miles is often an upgrade and the math substantiates it. Is it better to spend 50,000 miles on an inexpensive seat or on a great seat?

Neither. The best use of your miles is for a premium award ticket, in my opinion. I’m not sure what math you’re using, but my math certainly doesn’t substantiate your conclusion. It’s better to spend 100,000 miles on a business class international award ticket than pay $1,000 for a ticket, pay $1,000 in co-pays, and then use 60,000 miles to upgrade roundtrip, in my book.

(Thanks to FlyerTalker blueone for bringing this to my attention)

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Sounds as “expert” as the government “experts” on the economy!

    On the final point, are you sure he didn’t mean that when redeeming domestically, it often makes sense to redeem 50K miles for first class rather than using the same number of miles for a “peak coach” seat? In other words, when the airline requires you to use extra miles to obtain scarce inventory, an F seat is often available for the same price at the “saver” level.

  2. Oh lucky – you have to remember that television appeals to the lowest common denominator, which means many viewers are not sophisicated enough to know about all the online tools – it’ll take more than the 60 second script allocated.

    Also, while I agree with you that international premium awards are best bang for the buck, again many of the viewers don’t have more than 50,000 miles banked away. Bringing awareness of the upgrade award is probably the next best thing (well good for them, but not for rest of us who are looking for upgrades).

  3. Gib Sinep, I’m betting she did mean for domestic awards, but she didn’t clarify that. She made a blanket statement and said that her math substantiates it, which I don’t follow.

    ptahcha, I can appreciate that she’s trying to appeal to a broad audience and I realize not everyone has six digit balances in multiple accounts, but c’mon. Those 50,000 miles could go towards a coach award to Europe as well, which could be a good deal during the summer for some flyers.

    The fact that she got so much stuff wrong (like being able to borrow miles from airlines) in such a short amount of time is just sad. If I only had 60 seconds for a similar thing I’d instead talk about the value of focusing your miles in one program, accruing miles through partners like hotels, car rental companies, etc., and also how valuable signing up for airline credit cards can be, which could have appealed equally so to the “lowest common denominator,” in my opinion.

  4. > The best use of your miles is for a premium award ticket, in my opinion.

    I’d say that very much depends. I generally prefer to buy cheap international economy tickets and upgrade my way into C. Why? Because I need the EQM. Not all of us have the spare time to fly across the country purely to earn miles. So my valuation of those miles used for upgrades also includes the benefit of 1K or 1P the next year.

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