How to travel the world in luxury while paying budget rates using loyalty schemes

In a major new series starting next week Grown-up Travel Guide will show you how to win at the frequent flyer game.

You must have seen them – the advertisements in the inflight magazines, the leaflets by the check-in desk, the banners on the websites. All promoting the airline’s frequent flyer scheme – or indeed the hotel’s loyalty programme, rental car company’s membership cards or even the supermarket’s bonus system. If you’re like most people you’ll probably have dismissed them all as a waste of time. There seems to be a major misconception among air travellers that frequent flyer cards are something businessmen use to skip the queues at airports and that you have to be flying twice a day all year to be able to benefit from them. Even when folk begin to investigate a little further, many people come away with the impression that that these loyalty programmes only work out in your favour if you live in the USA. This series is going to change your mind and show you why you should join up and how you can actually use the miles and points for travel and accomodation that you probably would never have thought within your reach.

Most importantly, you don’t actually need to travel that much to accrue the points you need. You can buy them at a discount, win them in promotions and earn them in ways completely unrelated to flying.

I get the feeling you’d like me to back up my claims with some evidence, so I will.

I have just managed to book travel from little old Trondheim in Norway to exotic El Salvador using air miles. This will be quite an adventure and involves 9 separate flights, 4 in First Class and 4 in Business, with a 2-day stopover in Chicago. The cost? 125,000 US Airways miles and just over US$150 in fees and taxes. Oh and I have never set foot on a US Airways plane. Sure I had to buy the miles on this occasion, but I took advantage of two separate promotions to ensure that I paid less than half the going rate. I was over the moon with the final cost – which was a little more than I paid for a single return flight to New York last year in economy – for the record I have only ever flown economy so this trip next month will be a revelation…

We’ll be providing the full details of how I did this and of how you can do something similar even cheaper.

I’m quite new at this game too, so we’ll be learning together and I’ll share everything I discover in this series. We’ll be looking at airline programmes and will turn our attention to hotels and car hire schemes in future articles. Crucially this will all be from a European perspective. There is no denying that living in Norway (or the UK for that matter) excludes us from the juiciest offers – Americans can get hundreds of thousands of points from signing up to credit cards affiliated to loyalty programmes. But there are offers available to us on this side of the pond too – and we’ll ‘point’ you in the right direction. See what I did there?

Here’s to an exciting journey!

This is the introduction to the series: “How to travel the world in luxury while paying budget rates using loyalty schemes”.

Part One is here: The basics: What is a frequent flyer scheme and why should I care?

Part Two is here: So which frequent flyer programme should I join?

Part Three is here: Frequent flyer jargon buster – what are they talking about?

Part Four is here: Frequent flyer essential concepts – what you need to know

We hope you enjoy this series – if we have missed anything out or you have questions or comments please do let us know in the box below – and make sure you sign up for email updates or subscribe to the RSS feed by using the links on the right so you don’t miss a thing from Grown-up Travel 

Image obtained from under Creative Commons (c) Kim Seng

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

Articles: 1259


  1. Dear Andy –

    Really enjoying your site. As a former travel agent for 20 years you are teaching me things I never knew – especially the little known places most tourists miss.

    I am interested in your forthcoming tips on airline travel using points.

    My impression is that they are seriously limiting the avaiability of seats except at very inconvenient times during the week.

    Waiting to hear your secrets.

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