I’m Using Airline Miles for Holidays

This summer Girlfriend and I will be visiting the United States of America! After two business trips to New York and Seattle, it’s time for some holiday time in the country of unlimited possibilities. And because I don’t like paying a lot, I’m using my airline miles for holidays this time!

Perks of Business Travel

Earlier I wrote about the value of business travel. Being able to get a lot of frequent flyer miles is also part of that value.

Because when you travel for work, not only do you get the perks of having great experiences working with in cultures, and getting bonuses for working abroad, I also get airline miles!

These miles are coming from my favourite airline KLM, with whom I fly to all of my business related destinations and even some personal ones.

How to Save Airline Miles

Airline miles might look like an attractive option to fly for cheap, but they can be a bitch to collect. With just the occasional flight here and there you will never be able to save up as enough miles.

How did I save them? It’s simple: you simply fly a lot. And then, nothing much happens. The reason is simple. The trip I booked to go to the USA with my girlfriend costed me 93,000 miles. With the flights I currently book to my European client, I get about 800-1000 miles per round trip.

You do the math, that’s a lot of flying to be able to purchase “free” tickets for your holidays. So it’s clear that just flying won’t get you enough frequent flyer miles to go on holidays. Unless you fly business class to Asia or the US every week, you have to come up with other options to earn miles.

The first one for me was to sign up for the Flying Blue credit card from American Express. I used to own the Gold Card, because it gave me a free year (no 170 euro fee!) and a lot of bonus miles (10,000) for signing up. Also, it yielded additional miles for spending money (1 mile per euro) which increased my mile intake by a lot since I used the card a lot for business expenses that I could get reimbursed. I quit the card after I stopped traveling so much.

The other option is using airline partners such as hotel comparison sites and car rental companies to earn airline miles. With my previous employer we had to book hotels ourselves, and I did this via the KLM partner site. I always went for the hotel within the given budget that gave the most miles. These days I can’t do it with hotels (they get booked for me) but I still do it with car rentals, getting 300-500 miles per rental.

How to Use Frequent Flyer Miles

Now that you know (roughly) how to earn miles, it’s time to learn how to spend them! You can spend miles with KLM (and any other airline) in different ways.

One of them is buying stuff in their web shop. DO NOT DO THIS! You don’t get a lot of value for your miles that way.

What you should do is using your miles to book reward tickets, which are tickets paid for in miles, or buy upgrades for existing tickets. Both offer more value than buying products.

Buying a regular economy class ticket with cash and then upgrading to business class with miles can be good value sometimes, especially on longer flights. However, you still have to pay quite some cash out of pocket for the regular ticket before upgrading. It’s cheaper than paying for business class for sure, but still!

I’m doing the economy reward ticket route this time. I booked two return flights from Amsterdam to the US and paid for them with my miles.

Now our Trip is Cheap!

You have to know the price of a ticket consists of the actual flight itself, and a lot of taxes and fees. You have to know you can only pay the flight part with your miles, the taxes and fees have to be paid for separately in cash.

Still the tickets I booked are super cheap now! The route we fly would cost us over 800 euros per person. Now we’re paying my 93,000 miles for the two of us, plus 200 euros each for fees and taxes.

For 200 euro, you can’t fly from Europe to the US and back. Not even with one of the Scandinavian budget airlines. Let alone with direct flights, checked bags included, free meals and drinks.

I’m very happy we can do this. Did you ever fly for almost nothing, using your airline miles for holidays? Let me know!

6 thoughts on “I’m Using Airline Miles for Holidays”

  1. This is a great article, thanks for putting the info out there. Honestly I was always thinking that the most rewarding credit cards and mile programmes would be American, but this is good to know. You’re the first article I read about European airmiles!

    In the future when I’ll be traveling more for work, I’ll also be saving miles. Plus I love KLM as an airline!

    The US is amazing and you’re going to love it. Where will you go? Enjoy!

  2. Free holidays are always great.

    Airmiles and hotel points led to one of my favourite free holidays to…Amsterdam. I was travelling so much I had loads of points and was a Silver/Gold card holder. That meant that even though we had booked an economy flight with the points we were upgraded anyway – not that it makes much difference on a flight from London!

    Similarly when we go to the hotel we were upgraded to a suite and they even sent up a complimentary bottle of wine and a fruit basket.

    Despite not paying a penny I felt like a real baller! Happy days.

  3. These days you can fly from Europe to the US for as low as €300. So spending that many points on an economy ticket and paying €200 in taxes is a waste of points if you ask me. You should have just bought your girlfriend a ticket in cattle class and used your points to get you a seat in business class! :-P

    • The lowest price we could find was 330 each. That was not possible in the weeks we are going. I think this particular airline was offering something like 450 euros excluding check-in bags.
      With KLM we fly for 185 each, with a direct flight, including bags. Can’t beat that.