David Fleming is a former TV reporter turned travel expert who runs mrjetsetter.com. He offers advice on the best ways to use frequent flyer miles to travel the world in style. His motto: “Why spend $15,000 on a first class ticket when you can get the same seat using miles?” With all the different travel sites and frequent flyer programs, we took some time with Mr. Jetsetter so get some insite on the best way to travel.
What are the best days/time to book or fly?
When you’re talking about booking a paid fare (not an award ticket using miles) it’s long been said better fares can be found on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, returning the same days. But I’ve found prices can actually fluctuate any day of the week. In this highly competitive travel industry where people can search for flights by hopping on the internet (as opposed to calling airlines one by one,) the best days to look for flights are everyday. Keep your options open.
Does which browser you use when booking really make a difference?
I sure hope not! But I did recently read a report in the Wall Street Journal that said Mac users in certain cases spent 30% more for hotels booked on Orbitz, than PC users. Orbitz says it’s not true!
Which airline has the best miles program? Or can you give us a rank of best to worst?
This is a question I get a lot. It really depends on where you want to go. For travel in America and to/from Europe, I like United’s frequent flyer program. It’s very easy to re-deem your United miles for flights on United or it’s partner airlines like Lufthansa (great for Europe) and Singapore Airlines (fantastic for Asia.) The worst miles program in my humble opinion is Delta’s. It is very difficult to find low-mile reward seats using Delta points. However, you can sometimes find great values using Delta’s program for flights on Air France, between American and Europe. British Airways’ Avios program is fantastic for inner-Europe award flights or even from LAX to Cabo. I recently flew that routing and it cost me just 7,500 points each way!
Which credit cards are the best for earning frequent flyer miles?
Let me say this off the top for full-disclosure purposes: I don’t recommend getting a credit card unless you have excellent credit and pay off your bill every month in full (i.e.: don’t revolve the credit.) That being said, I have amassed close to 1,000,000 points signing up for various credit cards with incredible offers. For example, one time I earned 100,000 British Airways points for getting a Chase BA Visa card that had a 100K bonus if you spent $2,500 on the card within 3 months. On another occasion, I earned 100,000 American Airlines points for signing up for a Citi Card with that big bonus. Right now, the cards I carry in my wallet are the Chase Sapphire Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express. The Chase Sapphire earned me 50,000 points (good for flights on United, British Airways and Korean Air) after signing up and spending around $3,000 in 3 months. The Starwood Amex card is great because you can transfer points to many different airlines and also use it for hotel stays at a slew of Starwood properties like “W” Hotels, Sheraton properties, St. Regis and Westin Hotels.
Do you recommend booking through the airline directly or a 3rd party site?
I say, “Shop around!” First check places like Orbitz, Kayak and Expedia to see the prices they offer. Then go to the airlines’ respective sites to see if they can beat the price.
International travel vs. domestic, anything we should know?
Yes. There is a distinct difference between domestic service and international service. Seats are radically different (better) in First and Business Class on long haul, international flights over the water. And the food is often gourmet in upper class international flights. If you are going to use your frequent flyer miles, use them for First or Business Class international travel. That’s where you get the best deals!
What’s the best way to conquer holiday travel?
With a smile! It’s going to be rough. Long lines at the airport to get through security. Get there early, and if you can, pack just a carry on. You might want to print out your boarding pass in advance or send it to your smartphone so you can go straight through security and head to the gate.
Does how far in advance or what time of year have any influence on ticket prices?
Generally yes. The rule of thumb is you don’t want to wait to the last minute or even a week or 2 before your travel to purchase your ticket, unless a special last minute promotional fare comes up. The airlines make a lot of money off of last minute travelers who book with high fares!
Are there any good websites, tools or features we should be aware of when booking flights?
Yes! Firstly, I would strongly suggest people not lose anymore frequent flyer miles! Everyday, airlines cancel thousands and thousand of miles. Those could be YOUR MILES! They simply expire. So keep track of your miles with awardwallet.com. It’s free, easy to use (I do it,) and it’s a one-stop shop for keeping track of all your miles and award points–not just airline points, but hotels and car rentals programs too! When it comes to looking for award seats, I often use expertflyer.com I love that site. It’s subscription based and actually will send you an email the moment an award seat gets released on a specific airline.
Is there any other general advice you have for my readers?
It’s never too late to start earning points. Begin by opening up frequent flyer accounts with all the airlines you fly. Open up hotel frequent guest accounts like Starwood, Hilton and any other hotel chains you stay at. And if you do use a credit card, make sure you have one that earns you points!
You can find out more secrets about award travel at mrjetsetter.com