Yes, I realize that I am way behind on my last trip recap, but I just wanted to bring up a few tips for booking international flights on Delta Skymiles (or any program for that matter).
Amanda and I have decided to go to Mauritius on our honeymoon. You probably haven’t heard of Mauritius, and that’s OK – I hadn’t heard about it until Amanda told me that she wanted to go there. From the pictures it looks gorgeous, so I had no problem saying yes!
What I wasn’t sure about was how to get there and if we could afford it. That actually became much easier when the points guy wrote about his trip to Mauritius this past summer and how he got there on Delta Skymiles.
Last weekend I spent a good 2-3 hours researching the trip and today I spent another 3 hours finalizing the plans and booking it with Delta over the phone. I thought it would be fun to share the process. If you want to book an aspirational award trip to an exotic location, follow these steps:
- Amass some miles with a travel provider. This can be done by earning miles on flights, promotions or credit cards. Credit cards are the easiest way to earn a lot of miles quickly, because you can only travel so many miles, but if you have reimbursable expenses with your employer, you can get a lot miles in a short period of time.
- Make sure your credit card has a big signup bonus of 50k to 100k miles/points. I highly recommend getting a branded credit card for your airline of choice and/or getting the Chase Sapphire preferred credit card.
- Understand the rules of getting “award” tickets on your airline and how much things cost. Some airlines are very transparent with pricing – they have a single price that is easy to understand. Delta has 3 levels of award tickets, ranging from low (25k miles domestic in coach) to high (380k miles international in business class). They are also always trying to screw you out of miles. However, Delta partner airline award redemptions are always at the lowest level – SCORE.
- Learn the partner airlines that share awards with your airline of choice. Delta is in the Skyteam alliance – which means I can fly on airlines like Air France, KLM, Korean Air, Kenya Air and many, many more. American is part of the OneWorld Alliance. United and Continental are in the Star Alliance. Each alliance has benefits and drawbacks.
- Decide on your destination. This may be the easy part, but there is a lot to consider. For example, did you know that you can stop over on your way to your destination for as long as you like? You can literally stay in Paris for nearly a full year before going to your final destination – all on one ticket!
- Find out if there is space available in coach or business class on each flight. This is more difficult than you may think, and I had to use expertflyer.com in order to find availability on Air France and Air Mauritius flights.
- Figure out each segment that you want to fly for your trip and write them down on paper. Traveling internationally, you can almost never book your entire flight on an airline’s website, because they are all on different inventory systems. With Delta, you can only book these awards on the phone, so it is important to write down each segment on paper.
- Call your airline to book the flight. Yes, you have to call them in order to get through to someone. Tell them exactly what you want: “I need 2 tickets in business class and I am going to read you the flight numbers for you to enter into your system.” It pays to be explicit, or else you will not get what you want. It took me 2 hours on the phone to book my flight, but it saved me a boatload of money this way (more on this below).
- Check in on your flight status periodically to make sure nothing has changed. While flight schedules in the US usually don’t change much (until the day of, when everything is delayed), this may not be the case internationally. Be careful that you don’t get screwed in the process.
I followed these rules and have been able to manufacture the honeymoon of our dreams that involves 6 nights in Mauritius, Oktoberfest in Munich, the Swiss Alps, Italian Alps, Mediterranean coastline and Paris. 2 tickets for 240,000 Delta Skymiles and $500 in taxes.
This may sound like a lot of money/miles to people, and by all means it is – you could get 10 round trip domestic tickets for this price. But to put things in perspective, this ticket would cost $8,698 EACH if we paid full price. The street value on 240k skymiles is only $2,400. By my math, we saved $15,000 by following these rules – (not that we would have actually spent that on a trip).
The only way we could afford to go to Mauritius in first class is through award travel, and the only way I would have known to do this is by reading every travel blog I can get my hands on over the past year.
Reading really pays off. Maybe it will for you too? To get started, I recommend these blogs:
More to come as the time approaches.