Oh how I love Hawaii.  Who doesn’t?  It’s a dream destination that beckons year round with its radiant sun, gorgeous beaches, blue oceans full of marine life and friendly people.  It has a special magic. But it can be incredibly expensive to get there – especially for a family of three or four. Those airline tickets quickly add up, never mind paying for hotel rooms and excursions.

And even if you have accumulated some frequent flyer miles, the amount needed for award travel during high season can be steep. In February 2015 I flew our family of three to the Big Island on Alaska Airlines for 70K miles round trip each. That’s more than what is required to fly to Europe in the high season – and we weren’t flying business or first class. Even during low season, you can expect typical mileage redemption for travel to Hawaii to be about 45K miles roundtrip (much more than standard domestic flight roundtrip mileage redemption of 25k) on Alaska, United, Delta and American.

Right after that trip I realized there was a much better option.  Using British Airways miles.  This is because British Airways bases their mileage redemption charts on distance, and cities on the West Coast are closer to Hawaii then other U.S. cities.  My husband and I recently scored a dog sitting job on Maui, and I was able to book two flights for us for only 25K round trip each. HUGE difference.   We have a nice stash of British Airways miles, and given that British Airways charges hefty taxes on award travel to/from Europe, this seemed like a much better use for them.

So here’s the basics of what you need to know to travel to Hawaii using less miles.

How do I get British Airways miles?

You can rack up British Airways Avios (miles)  through opening a British Airways Visa Signature Card, or you can transfer points into British Airways from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. So if you are hoping to plan some future travel to Hawaii, consider opening the British Airways card, plus 1-2 Chase or American Express bank reward cards.  (Read more about the beauty of multiplying miles and points with bank reward cards). You can also transfer Avios from Iberia and Aer Lingus to your British Airways Avios account, so you could also look at opening an Iberia and/or Aer Lingus card.

Which departure cities should I fly out of?

There are 10 different U.S. cities with direct service to Hawaii that fall into the 25K round trip redemption category, per British Airways’ distance chart.

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Bellingham, WA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Portland, OR
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Seattle, WA

How do I book my flights?

You’ll be booking flights on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines – but using your British Airways Avios. To do this you need to:

  • Research direct “Saver” award flights on Alaska and American from one of the cities listed above to Hawaii.  It must be a Saver level award in order for it to be booked with British Airways Avios.  The easiest way to do this is to go to AA.com and search for award travel there. Disregard the amount of miles that are listed as needed for the flight, all that matters is that it’s an economy saver award.
  • If you find a saver award on American, you can simply go to British Airways‘ website and book it online there (after logging into your BA Executive Account).
  • If you find a saver award on Alaska airlines, you’ll need to call British Airways’ Executive Club at 1-800-AIRWAYS and they will book it for you.  Ask them to waive the phone booking fee.

That’s it!  My only other recommendation is to look into opening a Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton credit card to start racking up some hotel points as hotels in Hawaii are definitely expensive.  Or keep an eye out for those Maui dog sitting jobs, you never know when one might pop up.

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