The Top 10 Insider Travel Tips
Anyone looking to maximise their miles, points or travel value will be presented with a massive array of tips, tricks, deals, loyalty schemes, credit cards, airlines, hotel chains, blogs etc.
While what works best for you is obviously very, very subjective, here is our updated list of what we consider to be 10 of the very best ways of maximising the value you get from your travel. Some of the tips might be well known to you already, but we’d like to think that whether you’re a novice or a seasoned traveller, there’s something in our list that will be of interest or use to everyone.
Plus, Tip 10 may just divide opinion a little…
Tip 1: Use your miles for DISCOUNTED Business Class redemption flights
This tip takes age old advice, but goes even further. The age old advice? Using your air miles for Business Class flights. Given that you will always end up paying several hundred pounds in taxes and fees on a redemption flight (i.e. even an Economy one), you will invariably find that, as a result, you are much better off redeeming your miles on a high value Business Class flight, where the amount of cash you pay is relatively low compared to the value of the ticket.
However, we do not like to stop there. There are a number of ways you can take this value further, by using your miles on discounted Business Class redemption options, where not only do you get the added value of a Business Class redemption, but the price is slashed. Examples are as follows:
Lufthansa Mileage Bargains
The monthly set of Lufthansa short and long-haul flights, offered at around 50% of the miles ordinarily required.
The Etihad GuestSeat is the super saver option for Etihad redemption flights. While short in supply, if you can bag one you will find that the miles required are reduced considerably from the standard OpenSeat redemption, as the following random example illustrates:
As you can see, 67,572 miles plus £251.65 for a Business Class flight from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi is excellent value, and noticeably better value than the OpenSeat option of 137,518 miles plus £194.55.
British Airways “Companion Voucher” – two-for-one redemption
Another classic tool for the frequent traveller, but often overlooked, is the British Airways American Express Card. Spend £10,000 on the Premium Plus card (£20,000 on the standard card) in a year, and you’ll get a reward flight “companion voucher”.
The companion voucher entitles you to one “free” redemption flight when you pay for one with Avios – you will however need to pay the taxes and fees on both flights. Here is a little tip on getting the companion voucher most cost-effectively.
Put simply, the companion voucher enables you to redeem your Avios stash in any class, and then get an identical second reward ticket without spending a single additional Avios.
When used wisely, this can save you a massive amount of Avios and secure a pair of top value redemption flights with British Airways.
Tip 2: Take out the American Express Gold charge card
The American Express Gold charge card is widely seen as one of the very best value “travel-related” credit cards available in the UK. The reasons are clear:
- It is free for the first year, and you can cancel without quibble at the end of this year.
- If you spend £2,000 on it in your first 3 months, you will get 20,000 Membership Rewards points. These convert to 20,000 air miles in a number of schemes, including Avios. 20,000 Avios will get you a return flight from the UK to, for example, Moscow, Istanbul and Malta.
- You get two free executive lounge visits each year with the card.
If you want to earn 22,000 bonus points (rather than 20,000), sign up to the card via this link.
Tip 3: Make good use of Tesco Clubcard
You might not expect a supermarket loyalty scheme to feature in a “top 10 travel tips” list, but there’s a very good reason for this: very cheap Avios and Virgin Flying Club miles.
Tesco Clubcard points can be converted to British Airways Avios Points at a rate of 1 Clubcard Point to 2.4 Avios. The smallest amount you can convert is £2.50 (250 Clubcard Points), which gets you 600 Avios.
For Virgin Flying Club, the rate is slightly more generous, with 1 Clubcard Point converting to 2.5 Flying Club Miles. For £2.50 of Vouchers (250 Clubcard Points), you will therefore receive 625 FC Miles.
Putting a value on frequent flyer miles is extremely subjective, but you really want to be trying to get at least 1 pence worth of value per Avios/Mile, which means that by converting your Clubcard Points to BAEC or Flying Club, you should (conservatively) receive 2.4x or 2.5x face value respectively.
Tip 4: Redeem your Avios wisely with the British Airways Reward Flight Saver
As noted at tip 1 above, one of the major issues with redemption flights is the notorious “taxes and fees” hit. There are few things more dispiriting in the loyalty traveller game than finally redeeming your hard-earned frequent flyer miles, only to find that you’re also having to pay substantial amounts of hard cash to cover taxes, fees, fuel surcharges etc. That’s what makes the BA Reward Flight Saver (RFS) such great value.
Put simply, RFS applies to Avios reward flight bookings on British Airways flights of 2,000 miles (in distance) or less: so essentially it applies to intra-Europe flights. It rather wonderfully caps all taxes and fees at £35 return for Economy Class and £50 return in Business Class.
RFS will therefore apply to your BA reward flights booked both through Avios.com and the BA Executive Club.
One “advanced” tip: RFS is not a fixed £35/£50 for returns, that figure is actually 2 x £17.50/£25 for each leg. As such, given that taxes on inbound UK flights (i.e. your return flight) can be extremely low, you may be better off booking the outward flight using RFS and the inward flight with the full tax (if it is lower than £17.50/£25, which it may well be). This will of course require you to make 2 separate one-way bookings.
Tip 5: Hotel status “fast tracks”, in particular Hilton Gold
Elite status fast-tracks are a great way to get valuable status with hotel chains without having to meet the sometimes exhausting stay requirements otherwise required.
To fast track to Hilton Gold, you can sign up via the “valued partner” link here. You will be enrolled in a Hilton HHonors Gold Status fast-track scheme, which will grant you Gold status if you make four stays at a Hilton hotel within 90 days of signing up for this offer.
The benefits of Gold status are substantial, including all the silver benefits above (except for a 25% rather than 15% points bonus), plus:
- 25% bonus on base points earned
- 5th night free on awards
- Late check-out
- Complimentary fitness center & health club access
- Free bottled water
- Free breakfast
- Guaranteed room upgrade
- Frequent upgrades to Executive rooms (with Executive Lounge access), regardless of the room purchased
- Free internet access
Hilton HHonors also offers a great Gold status fast-track offer to Accenture employees only, that also gives you the substantial side-benefit of free instant Silver status. To benefit, you need to enter your HHonors details (or sign up if you are not already a member) here, and provide your Accenture email address.
The other fast track status challenge worth shouting about is the Starwood Preferred Guest option.
Ordinarily, SPG Platinum status requires you to make a substantial 25 eligible stays or stay 50 eligible nights in a calendar year. However, the SPG Platinum Challenge gives you SPG Platinum status if you stay just 18 paid nights in a 90 day period (and for the challenge purposes, a stay does not include award/Cash & Points bookings, or bookings made through third party websites (e.g. hotels.com)).
Alternatively, the Gold challenge requires you to stay 9 paid nights in an 18 day period.
To take advantage of the SPG Platinum Challenge, SPG members need to call the relevant SPG telephone number to be enrolled, or you can email email@example.com. You should, however, be aware that the Platinum Challenge can’t be requested by members who have been Platinum within the last 5 years, and the same applies to the Gold challenge.
What are the benefits of SPG Platinum Status?
The benefits are set out in full here, and include:
- Three Starpoints for every U.S. dollar spent on eligible stays — a 50% bonus over Preferred.
- Your choice of welcome gift upon arrival — choose from bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast or local amenity.
- An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite.
- Complimentary in-room, premium Internet access.
- Complimentary health-club, Club-level and Executive-level access.
- Guaranteed room availability when your room is booked by 3 p.m., 72+ hours prior to arrival.
- Marriott Rewards Gold Elite, via the easy status match.
Tip 6: Book travel through TopCashback
We are massive fans of topcashback.co.uk at InsideFlyer UK, and it’s a key weapon in the arsenal of anyone looking to keep their travel spend down to a minimum.
Whether it’s air travel, rail travel, hotels or even rental cars, you will invariably be able to chip off a bit more of the price by simply booking through TopCashback. By way of example, at the time of writing you can get 5.75% cashback (or more) on Marriott bookings:
It is of course free to use, and to the extent you use it for things you would have bought anyway, it is probably as close to free money as you’ll ever get.
Finally, we are delighted to announce that we’ve partnered with TopCashback to offer new members a very healthy 1,250 Avios, simply when you spend £10+ at any retailer on the site..
Tip 7: Start your journey outside the UK
With its Air Passenger Duty and expensive landing slots, flying from the UK often results in a number of costs being added to the price of your ticket. The solution? Leave the country.
Qatar flights from Scandinavia are one of the very best ways to secure a non-UK bargain, but there are numerous other options, including BA flights starting in Dublin. The savings don’t merely apply to cash flights either, you can save a small fortune in taxes and fees on, for example, your Avios reward bookings by redeeming with Iberia from Spain or Airberlin from Germany (with the latter, you need to book via BA Executive Club).
Obviously this doesn’t quite make sense as a tip – you can’t “start your journey” outside the UK as you’ll need to get to your “starting point”! With that in mind, tip number 10 should come in useful…
Tip 8: Book “low category” chain hotels
I am frequently asked what the best value hotel points redemption options are. Two obvious answers are IHG PointBreaks (see Tip 9) and SPG Category 1/2 weekend stays, which can be extremely good value (see further below).
However, Hilton can easily challenge both of these excellent redemption options, with their own 5k points a night hotels
There’s no time limit or other restrictions on these redemptions, save the standard rules on the rooms being subject to reward availability. Year-round, you can get a night at any of the former Hilton Category 1 hotels for a wonderfully low 5,000 HHonors points.
Bear in mind that Hilton Gold members (get fast-track here) will get breakfast for free, so you’re getting a night and breakfast for the 5,000 points. Plus, a lot of the former Category 1 hotels are Hampton by Hiltons, which include free breakfast for everyone, even on reward stays.
A night in a Hilton, with breakfast, for 5,000 Hilton HHonors points? That really is value.
Elsewhere, it’s always worth pointing out what excellent value can be found by making a points redemption at Starwood hotels’ Category 1 or 2 hotels (i.e. their “lower end” hotels).
The full Starwood points redemption chart is as follows:
As you can see, there is a substantial jump from Category 1/2 hotels to Category 3 hotels. In fact, you can stay at Category 1/2 hotels and barely make a dent in your Starpoints balance. As you can see, you’ll also save an additional 1000 Starpoints if you stay at the weekend (Friday or Saturday night).
So where are these hotels?
All current Category 1 hotels are listed here. European options include:
- Four Points by Sheraton Kecskemet Hotel & Conference Center, Hungary
- Aloft Bursa Hotel, Turkey
- Sheraton Athlone Hotel, Ireland
- Four Points by Sheraton Zaporozhye, Ukraine
- Sheraton Catania Hotel & Conference Center, Italy
All current Category 2 hotels are listed here. European options include:
- Four Points by Sheraton Panoramahaus Dornbirn, Austria
- Sheraton Zagreb Hotel, Croatia
- Sheraton Munich Airport Hotel, Germany
- Sheraton Roma Hotel & Conference Center, Italy
- The Westin Warsaw, Poland
- Sheraton Fuerteventura Beach, Golf & Spa Resort Canary Isles, Spain
- Sheraton Gran Canaria Salobre Golf Resort, Spain
- Aloft Liverpool, UK
- Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, UK
- Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Sofia, Bulgaria
- The Westin Zagreb, Croatia
- Le Méridien Vilnius, Lithuania
If you’re not currently a member of Starwood Hotels’ Starwood Preferred Guest scheme, you can join for free, here.
Tip 9: Book IHG PointBreaks as quickly as you can… if they work for you
Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) quarterly PointBreaks require a mere 5000 IHG Rewards Club points per night, and are widely regarded as one of the very best value “miles and points” redemption options available.
The global list of participating hotels is here. It’s rarely the most glamorous list of hotels, but for 5000 points a night it remains a great deal. Availability is limited, so the key with PointBreaks is to jump on it as soon as the list is released and if you see a hotel that works for you, book it – you will almost certainly have bagged a bargain.
Clearly, if you’re not already a member of IHG Rewards Club, then this offer won’t be much use to you. However, you can join here and then participate in future PointBreaks, should you have racked up enough points.
Tip 10: The Ryanair fare finder
Yes, we have done it. A top 10 insider travel tips list includes Ryanair on it. After gently hanging our heads in shame, let’s move on to why: the fantastic Ryanair fare finder.
If you’re after a guide to the best available fares with Ryanair, the Ryanair fare finder is a wonderfully comprehensive option – it will allow you to simply set a starting point should you wish:
You can then set a budget if you choose, and the results will order themselves based on price (as you can see, you can insert dates at this point if you need to):
Or map should you prefer:
One of my preferred exercises is to put in an “anywhere, any date” search from London, just to see what (sometimes comically) low fares are available. It’s great for impulse flying too – as you can see, the Oslo example above is certainly competitive at £4.99. However, even where you need to be substantially more prescriptive on dates, destinations etc, this is still a great way to see the very lowest fare available to you, and often indicates that, with a little bit of flexibility, you can save a lot.
Disagree? Have a better tip? Livid at the Ryanair inclusion? Feel free to discuss the above or your own in the comments below. We are very open to the debate!
Air Malta set to relaunch its frequent flyer scheme
The details are scarce, but Air Malta has cryptically hinted that it is set to relaunch its much-maligned frequent flyer scheme, Flypass.
So what do we know?
Well, not a great deal to be honest. What we do know about the existing scheme is it’s poor value, cumbersome to book and very limited in its options. So, any change is likely to be a welcome one.
However, information on the potential changes are rather thin on the ground.
The emailed communication from Air Malta Flypass is interesting, but limited in its detail, to say the least:
Needless to say, we’ll keep you posted on developments…
A massive 30% – plus a further 5% – off cruises
The fantastic Royal Caribbean cruises are offering a massive – 30% off and free wifi on selected sailings booked by 4 September 2017.
In addition, book by 7 August 2017 via TopCashback and you’ll earn an exclusive additional 5% cashback.
With this offer, there’s a vast number of heavily discounted cruises, but perhaps the standouts are the Caribbean cruises for as little as £412 all-in. Bear in mind that’s subject to 5% cashback too, so the final price will be sub-$400.
- 4 July – 4 September 2017
- Selected 2017 & 2018 sailings only (1 Oct 2017 – 31 Dec 2018)
- Sailings 6 nights and above
- 30% off all guests in stateroom
- Wifi applicable to 1st guest in stateroom only
Flash Sale – 50% bonus miles or points on hotel bookings
Via a seven day flash sale, you can currently earn a 50% miles/points bonus when booking hotels with Kaligo.
Kaligo has been covered by us several times before. They offer miles from a range of frequent flyer programmes, when you book hotels using their service. Depending on the hotel, room cost and loyalty programme selected, you can sometimes get a sizeable haul of miles for a hotel you were going to book anyway.
How to benefit from the Kaligo bonus
To benefit from this Kaligo bonus, you need to sign up here (if you haven’t already) and then book through the flash sale portal here. You then need to book your hotel stays between 25 July 2017 and 31 July 2017 for check-in dates between 25 July 2017 and 31 December 2018.
The great thing about this Kaligo bonus is that it applies to all the loyalty schemes they are affiliated with, so whichever one you choose, you’ll get 50% bonus miles with.
The bonus offer is available to both new and existing Kaligo members.
What’s the downside to booking hotels with Kaligo?
Basically, the rates Kaligo charges are almost always higher than you can find elsewhere – sometimes substantially higher. BUT – it can still make sense to book with Kaligo.
It’s all worth remembering that it’s quite easy to get a 15%-20%+ discount/rebate most of the time through cashback sites and Hotels.com etc, so make sure you do your calculations carefully.
If you are booking chain hotels (Hilton, Marriott, etc) through Kaligo you won’t earn hotel points or status credits and probably won’t receive status benefits.
There is potential value to be had with this Kaligo bonus, but do your homework. Always compare prices on hotelscombined / trivago etc, and consider the discounts/rebates you can get by booking with other sites.
FREE international money transfers at proper exchange rates
TransferWise has been around for a little while now. Essentially, it’s an international money transfer service that, unlike your bank (or, God forbid, Western Union) transfers your cash to foreign currencies at the market rate.
Anyone who’s seen the clip that banks generally take via their horribly punitive exchange rates will know that any transfer service offering market rates is well worth a look.
The service is extremely straightforward. You arrange the transfer via your Transferwise account (providing details of the recipient account, obviously). The full payments to be made and received are made extremely transparent via your TransferWise account, so there are no nasty surprises. You can even make the transfer via debit/credit card.
You then transfer the money into Transferwise, who pass it on to the beneficiary account in the new currency.
TransferWise is also extremely fast, with the transactions sometimes completing on the same day.
What’s the catch?
Ordinarily, TransferWise makes its money via a small commission charged, On GBP to Euro transfers, for example, you’ll pay 0.5%.
Eliminating the catch!
While you’ll still generally find TransferWise to be the best value option, regardless of the commission fee, we are making life very easy for you by making your first transfer (minimum £200, maximum £500) absolutely free!
To benefit, you simply need to sign up via this link.
InsideFlyer is coming to the UK… tomorrow
We hope you’ve noticed that things have been a little quiet at euflyer for the last couple of months. There’s good reason for that – we’ve been working hard on bringing InsideFlyer to the UK market.
What is InsideFlyer UK?
In short, it’s a dedicated resource for the UK-focused frequent, or not so frequent, traveller. Whether it’s travel tips, deals, advice, miles & points angles or indeed anything else UK travel-related, we are here to inform and assist you. Plus the site comes complete with a UK-dedicated travel forum: that is pretty much a first.
Use of “airplane”, “deplane” or indeed any other Americanism will result in instant forum suspension*.
As well as dedicated UK articles and forums, we will also be bringing you a variety of targeted deals and travel tools. The InsideFlyer brand has some great connections, and rest assured we will be making the most of them, for your benefit.
Sneak preview? The forums are already up and running – you can sign up, read and contribute here:
We may be part of the InsideFlyer brand, but we of course are, and will remain, a UK-focused resource. It’s our absolute reason for existing.
*Ah no it won’t, but we really will be working hard to ensure the forum remains at all times relevant to the UK market, wide a net as this may be at times.
We’ll be back…
You may have noticed (at least we hope you have…) that euflyer.com has not posted for a little while. There’s a reason for that: some big changes are coming.
We are aiming to rebrand and relaunch later this year, and will keep you fully informed of developments. Needless to say, we are aiming for the new website to be as useful a resource as it possibly can be for the European traveller, and are very excited about the developments.
In the meantime, are you interested in joining us..? (more…)
20% off Iberia flights to Latin America, 10% off flights to Spain
Iberia has launched a “flash sale” promo code for flights from the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Italy to Latin America and Spain.
To benefit from the discount, you need to book your flight today or tomorrow (so 16 or 17 June, 2015) and depart before 17 July. The discount code only applies to return flights, operated by Iberia, Iberia Express and Air Nostrum.
The promo codes are as follows: (more…)
4 nights for 3, or 20% off weekends – at IHG hotels in Europe
IHG hotels are currently offering a minimum of 20% off weekend breaks, or 4 nights for the price of 3 at over 500 hotels across Europe.
The “exclusive” deal is available only to IHG Rewards Club members, but given that you can join instantly for free (link here), that’s effectively everyone.
Note that if the “4 night for the price of 3” doesn’t work for you in midweek, you will still benefit from a 13% discount. (more…)