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Today’s post comes from Ross Loehr, a traveling father of two

The AAdvantage Program takes a lot of flak, but I just used it to save almost $4,000.  I have found that it offers good availability from my home airport of JAX and if you are willing to do some digging you can probably find some great redemptions options as well.  AA miles are easy to accumulate from Barclays and Citi credit card sign-up bonuses.  Our family held about 400k American Airlines miles before my most recent redemption but even after the booking this weekend, we still have over 250k miles.

Dynamic Pricing is Coming

I originally became nervous about AA redemptions when I learned about the Delta and United moves to dynamic pricing.  I figured that an American adjustment to this award redemption strategy would inevitably follow.  After reading Ian Snyder’s post about the AA move to dynamic pricing and the potential disappearance of MileSAAver award availability, I realized it was time to lighten up on AA miles while these reward redemptions are still an option.  That was my catalyst to book a trip to Europe for our family of four.

Minimize Fees

Anytime you are using points to fly to and from Europe on a domestic carrier, you should try to book flights on that carrier’s plane (for my redemption that means American rather than a partner airline like British Airways or Iberia) because the taxes and fees will always be cheaper.  Being that our travel window was February, we decided to focus on southern Europe in the hopes that it will be warmer.  After looking at several airports in Portugal and Spain and using the AA website option to search for American Airlines flights only, the clear-cut best choice was Madrid.  This was perfect as I have always wanted to go there anyways.  We decided on a loose plan to head to southern Spain and Portugal after a few days in the capital and moved forward with our booking.

Make the Most of Your AA miles with “Off Peak Date” Redemptions

Since our itinerary dates were within the window of MileSAAver Off-Peak Dates we were able to lock in a rate of 45k miles plus $56.93 per person in taxes and fees for main cabin fares.  We did have an additional charge of $129.90 for our 2-month-old son who will still be a lap infant when we fly.  Lap infants are typically charged about 10% of an adult fare for the same class you are flying on international flights.  In this case, we had to call to add him to our itinerary as we could not add a lap infant online.  All in for me, my wife, our 4-year-old daughter and infant son, we paid 135k miles and $300.69 for roundtrip flights from Jax to Mad.  Since my wife recently earned the sign-up bonus on the Capital One Venture card,  we were able to use the “Cover Your Purchase” feature to eliminate the $300+ taxes and fees charge as well.

(SEE ALSO: Get up to $500 back with a new Capital One card)

(SEE ALSO: 4 Things to Know Before You Apply for a Capital One Card)

Prior to booking, I did a search for the cash price on the MileSAAver flights we were considering, and they were $1,299 per person.  Our 2 months old, would have still been $129.90, so all in we would have paid $4,026.90 for our airfare to Madrid had we not used miles.

Our redemption to Madrid earned us a value of about 2.76 cents per AA mile.  With another 270k miles in the bank and the looming threat of devaluation on the horizon I am eagerly looking for other options to make the most of my AA miles before the benefits of MileSAAver award availability vanish for good.

Book While You Can

Since this elimination of MileSAAver pricing could occur at any time (it actually did over the weekend even though AA said this was a glitch), now would be a great time to book a flight and take advantage of some sweet spots in the AA award chart before they potentially disappear.  The MileSAAver Off Peak and MileSAAver options offer a sizable savings over the AAnytime options.

I have found the best value from our home airport to be Europe, Central America and Mexico, particularly during Off Peak dates.  We were able to take advantage of the additional discount that is offered by booking MileSAAver Off Peak flights.  For reference, the details and dates for MilesSAAver Off Peak award redemptions availability are listed below.

If you are sitting on a stack of AA miles now may be a good time to look at where you want to go and see if you can find some MileSAAver rates while they are still around!  Where do you think the best value is on the AA redemption chart?

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