The first time I flew on an airplane I was in my twenties. I had never left the Midwest so I went everywhere: Japan, Africa, Europe, South America, India. I wanted to experience as much as possible on these trips – I’d probably never be back – so I meticulously planned jam-packed itineraries.
The downside to traveling this way is when you get back and need to go right back to work you’re completely exhausted. The whole point of vacation is to relax and re-charge but I’d need a vacation from my vacation. So I decided this winter it was time for a beach vacation.
My girlfriend suggested the hippie-filled eco-resort town of Tulum, Mexico, which is an hour and a half south of Cancun. I told her it sounded awesome, although I was a little disappointed there was no Señor Frogs (it’s been on my bucket list since High School).
We’ll be sleeping in an electrical-outlet-free cabana that’s right on the stunning beach, inhaling spicy huevos rancheros on the daily, and sipping mescal.
No hectic schedule. No commitments.No plans.
Here’s the cabana at Tita Tulum where we’ll be beaching ourselves, literally:
I get pleasure from doing this.
So to fly both of us roundtrip from Chicago to Cancun I paid a little over $100. We’re traveling during the peak winter season when the flights we’re taking cost over $900:
I was able to get these roundtrip tickets to Cancun for $100 by signing up for the Chase British Airways Visa Signature card.
Here’s the deal: after spending $2K on the card over the course of three months you receive a sign-up bonus of 50K British Airways miles, which they call Avios points.
I used 40K of my 50K Avios points to book the tickets.
British Airways? I’m Not Even British!
I’ve never flown on British Airways and I don’t know that I ever will. The secret with the British Airways card is that Avios points can be used on any of their partners: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, US Airways, and over a dozen more.
The flight we’re taking to Cancun isn’t on British Airways it’s on American Airlines. The only difference is that I logged in to my British Airways Executive Club account where my 50K Avios points are and booked the flights from there.
Why the Distance-Based Award Chart Is Amazing
British Airways has a distance-based award chart which puts it in the minority of airlines. For example, on United Airlines it costs 25K miles to fly roundtrip within the mainland U.S., Canada, and Alaska.
That means a roundtrip flight from New York (JFK) to Newark (EWR) will cost 25K miles the same as a roundtrip flight from New York (JFK) to Anchorage (ANC).
With the British Airways distance-based award chart it costs 25K Avios to fly roundtrip from Boston (BOS) to Dublin (DUB) or Boston (BOS) to Los Angeles (LAX) because they both fall into distance zone 4:
To determine how many Avios points it takes to get between two airports use Avios points calculator.
Before I signed up for the British Airways card I calculated that a flight from Chicago to Cancun in economy would cost 10K Avios points, so for both of us to fly roundtrip it would cost a total of 40K (with enough left over for another short flight or two).
When booking award flights on any airline there are always unavoidable taxes, fees, and carrier charges, but those amounted to a little over $100 for our trip to Cancun.
Saving $800 on airfare is when I get pleasure:
What to Avoid with Avios Points
First, British Airways is notorious for imposing huge fuel charges – upwards of $400 – when redeeming Avios points for tickets on British Airways or American flights to Europe. To avoid these charges redeem Avios points for European travel with their partners Aer Lingus or Air Berlin.
Second, when redeeming Avios points for a flight with layovers you’ll pay for each leg of the flight separately. This means to get the most value from Avios points you should focus on direct American Airlines or US Airways flights from any of their hubs:
- Charlotte (CLT)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- New York (JFK)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Washington, D.C. (DCA)
Fun Trips You Can Take with Avios Points!
Here are some awesome roundtrip flights you can book with 50K or less Avios points (in economy):
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Kauaii (LIH) – 25K Avios points
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Lima (LIM) – 50K Avios points
- New York (JFK) to Buenos Aires (EZE) – 50K Avios points
- New York (JFK) to St. Thomas (STT) – 20K Avios points
- Dallas (DFW) to Costa Rica (SJO) – 20K Avios points
- Dallas (DFW) to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) – 50K Avios points
- Chicago (ORD) to Cozumel (CZM) – 20K Avios points
- Chicago (ORD) to Dublin (DUB) on partner Aer Lingus (avoiding fuel charges) – 40K Avios points
Get the Card!
Typically there’s a $95 annual fee with the British Airways card but that’s just recently been waived for the first year.
All you have to do is sign-up, spend $2K within three months, and 50K Avios points are yours to enjoy. I don’t make any money promoting this card, it’s just one of the best deals out there right now for sign-up bonuses:
You can always check out my list of personally vetted credit cards for the current best deals. If you’re just starting to get into credit card churning, get my free churn plan here. Even if you don’t know about credit card churning check it out.