Using Your Frequent-flier Miles for Flights to Hawaii

••• Hawaiian Airlines will operate the JFK-Honolulu route using its newest and largest aircraft, the Airbus A330-200, seating 294 passengers, and offering the comforts of a spacious interior, increased legroom. Photo Credit - PRNewsFoto/Hawaiian Airlines

I keep reading how impossible it is to use your frequent-flier miles. I say, bull. I've never had a problem using my miles to find flights to Hawaii.

Saver Awards for Flights to Hawaii

You may not always be able to use your saver miles for flights to Hawaii, where it will cost you just 45-50,000 miles for a round-trip ticket. Yet, by being flexible with my dates, traveling mid-week and with a bit of luck, I can generally get a saver award for flights to Hawaii about half the time.

Consider a Standard Mileage Award

Most frequent flier programs, however, allow you to use a higher number of miles to book a ticket any day, anytime. This includes American Airlines and United Airlines, the two biggest carriers to Hawaii. Why would you want to use 90,000 miles for flights to Hawaii? If you consider than 100 miles equals $1, a ticket from the east coast using miles is worth around $900.

If the lowest fair available for the dates you want to travel is over $1000 round-trip, using your miles makes a lot of sense.

Earn Miles in Other Ways

Keep in mind that miles can be earned not only by flying with a paid ticket.

I use my airline credit card for most purchases. With frequent bonus miles for certain types of purchases the miles accrue at a nice, steady rate.

The key, of course, as with any credit card, is to pay your balance in full every month to avoid finance charges.

Watch Those Baggage Charges

You should also keep in mind that almost every airline (except Southwest as of November 2015) is charging for baggage.

The charges vary, but you can expect to pay at least $25 for your first bag and $50 for your second bag. A third item can cost as much as $100.

That gets really expensive if two of you want to take two bags each and maybe a set of golf clubs. That's at least $350 just for baggage roundtrip.

I rarely see anyone who flies to Hawaii with less than two checked bags, but if you want to save some serious money, pack light.

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A Dying Commodity, Don't Believe It

I've heard for years that frequent flier miles are on the way out. I don't believe it. I've seen no signs of that happening. Even when some of the airlines were in bankruptcy, they kept awarding those miles.

By 2015 most airlines base their awards on the price of the ticket rather than the miles actually traveled. Done are the days when you could earn 10,000 miles for a round-trip ticket from the east coast to Hawaii.

Sure, awards are all getting more expensive. Some carriers are charging more miles for a round-trip ticket. Some are assessing a surcharge for using miles or booking upgrades. Still, if you have them, use them and don't be afraid to keep earning them.