Ultimate Honeymoon: The Caribbean for Free with British Airways Avios
Why the Caribbean?
Here’s our fourth installment in the Ultimate Honeymoon series: the Caribbean.
The Caribbean is a highly desirable place for honeymooners from the US:
- It has world class beaches, snorkeling, scuba diving–all that one might want on the traditional honeymoon
- The proximity to the US makes it easy and (relatively) cheap
- On certain islands, you could split your time between beaches and exploring tropical rain-forests, but it might be hard to pry you away from that pristine beach.
- At a max of 2-5 hours from the US, it’s just so convenient
How to Get There:
Pay for Airfare
Deciding which island in the Caribbean will probably be the hardest part of your planning–there are just so many choices. To throw out a few data points on airfare, U.S. to:
- Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Jamaica etc… ≈ $519 – $670
- Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Saint Vincent, Sint Maarten etc… ≈ $690 – $1,120
So, yes, heading just a few hours to the southeast of America can easily cost you $1,000+ per person! Now here’s how to do it with airline miles (for free!):
Use British Airways Avios miles/points
The first thing to know about British Airways Avios points is that, because British Airways is a member of the Oneworld Alliance, you can use its points to book flights on American Airlines. The great news is that American Airlines basically has a monopoly on flights to and within the Caribbean.
Furthermore, British Airways/Iberia Avios miles are : on the surface, it seems like you’re getting a bad deal on award redemptions. But, as with anything involving miles, it opens up possibilities to find great values on non-stop short distance flights.
Partner awards that especially interest me are the direct flights from Miami on AA. In many cases, Miami ends up being a short hop to exotic and foreign destinations. A big thing I look for when I travel is to get away from what’s familiar and comfortable — and you don’t necessarily have to travel across the globe to achieve that. Using your British Avios to book on American Airlines can be your answer to a relatively inexpensive honeymoon in this part of the world.
Benefits of using British Airways Avios to consider when researching:
- As briefly stated above, British Airways’ award chart has some great values for getting from the U.S. to the Caribbean:
How to get British Airways Avios
- Earn 50k Avios by signing up for a Chase/British Airways credit card:
- You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Avios (see bottom of post for tutorial on transferring). Points transfer at a ratio of 1:1 so you’d need in the ball park of 18,000 to 80,000, depending on distance and if travel is in economy or business class. Currently, the best American Express signup bonus is for the Premier Rewards Gold card with a bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points–not a great deal. It’s been 50,000 – 75,000 points in the past, so you might want to wait for that offer again:
Sample dates of: Monday, Sept 15 to Monday, Sep 22
Day 1: Dept New York-JFK to Antigua-ANU
Day 1-4: Relax on Antigua
Day 4: Fly from Antigua-ANU to Tobago-TAB
Day 4-6: Explore Tobago
Day 6: Take early morning ferry from Tobago to Port Of Spain. Sightsee a bit before taking a flight from Port Of Spain-POS to Miami-MIA. Spend the night in South Beach.
Day 7: Fly from Miami-MIA to Newark-EWR.
Destinations Leaving New York
View AAtoCaribbeanOnly-FromNYC in a larger map
|Dept||Arrive||Miles||Zone||RT Econ||RT Biz|
|JFK||New York - Kennedy||BDA||Bermuda, Bermuda||762||2||15,000||30,000|
|JFK||New York - Kennedy||PAP||Port Au Prince, Haiti||1530||3||20,000||40,000|
|JFK||New York - Kennedy||SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||1603||3||20,000||40,000|
|JFK||New York - Kennedy||STT||Saint Thomas, U.S.V.I||1629||3||20,000||40,000|
|JFK||New York - Kennedy||SKB||St Kitts, St Kitts and Nevis||1743||3||20,000||40,000|
|JFK||New York - Kennedy||ANU||Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda||1779||3||20,000||40,000|
|EWR||Newark, NJ||CUR||Curacao, Netherlands Antilles||1997||3||20,000||40,000|
|JFK||New York - Kennedy||BGI||Bridgetown, Barbados||2094||4||25,000||50,000|
Destinations Leaving Dallas-Ft. Worth-DFW
View AAtoCaribbeanONLY-DFW in a larger map
|Dept||Arrive||Miles||Zone||RT Econ||RT Biz|
|DFW||Dallas/Ft. Worth||MBJ||Montego Bay, Jamaica||1548||3||20,000||40,000|
|DFW||Dallas/Ft. Worth||PLS||Providenciales, Turks and Caicos||1699||3||20,000||40,000|
|DFW||Dallas/Ft. Worth||SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||2166||4||25,000||50,000|
Destinations Leaving Miami-MIA
View AAtoCaribbeanONLY-MIA in a larger map
|Dept||Arrive||Miles||Zone||RT Econ||RT Biz|
|MIA||Miami, FL||FPO||Freeport, Bahamas||112||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||NAS||Nassau, Bahamas - Paradise Island||183||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||MHH||Marsh Harbour, Bahamas||205||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||ELH||Eleuthera Island, Bahamas||226||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||GGT||George Town, Bahamas||326||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||GCM||Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands||455||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||MBJ||Montego Bay, Jamaica||527||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||PLS||Providenciales, Turks and Caicos||579||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||KIN||Kingston, Jamaica||588||1||9,000||18,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||PAP||Port Au Prince, Haiti||714||2||15,000||30,000|
|FLL||Ft. Lauderdale||PAP||Port Au Prince, Haiti||721||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||POP||Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic||740||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||STI||Santiago, Dominican Republic||752||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||BZE||Belize City, Belize - International||769||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||RTB||Roatan, Honduras||769||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||SDQ||Santo Domingo, DR||849||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||SAP||San Pedro Sula, Honduras||869||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||LRM||La Romana, Dominican Republic||890||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||PUJ||Punta Cana, Dominican Republic||911||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||BDA||Bermuda, Bermuda||1045||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||1046||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||STT||Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands||1108||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||AUA||Aruba, Aruba||1137||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||STX||Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands||1140||2||15,000||30,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||CUR||Curacao, Netherlands Antilles||1196||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||SXM||Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles||1224||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||SKB||St Kitts, St Kitts and Nevis||1271||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||ANU||Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda||1333||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||PTP||Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe||1376||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||FDF||Fort De France, Martinique||1469||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||UVF||St. Lucia, St. Lucia - Hawnorra||1506||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||GND||Grenada, Grenada,||1540||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||BGI||Bridgetown, Barbados||1613||3||20,000||40,000|
|MIA||Miami, FL||POS||Port of Spain, Trinidad||1624||3||20,000||40,000|
Intra-Caribbean Flights with Avios
British Airways flies a surprisingly large number of routes within the Caribbean. These options can save you hundreds of dollars if you’re interested in doing some island hopping and really opens up your possibilities. Here are the destinations served:
As stated in the caption, any flight in Red on the map or with a designation of BA in the below chart is 100% bookable with British Airways Avios miles. All of the flights are under the 651 miles threshold and therefore qualify as “Zone 1” and will only require 4,500 Avios miles for a one-way flight.
The flights in Green are operated by Seaborne Airlines and codeshared as American Airlines flights. The American Airlines site confirms that you can book Seaborne Airlines flights with American AAdvantage miles (link): “Use AAdvantage miles to book award travel on Seaborne flights to or from San Juan, Puerto Rico and the routes noted below, with the AAdvantage participating airline awards. These awards allow travel on any combination of AAdvantage participating carriers.” It does state that, to book a flight, you’ll have to call the American Airlines reservation line to inquire about award availability and to book. A quick search on AA.com confirmed that the award space isn’t visible online. When I searched for British Airways Avios space on one of the Seaborne Airlines routes, San Juan-SJU to Fort-de-France-FDF, it came back that the route isn’t operated by BA or any of its partner airlines. This could mean that it is not possible to book the Seaborne Airlines routes with Avios or that you simply have to call British Airways to book– in the same way you must call AA to book with their miles.
|ANU||Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda||SKB||St Kitts and Nevis||62||1||4,500||BA|
|GND||Grenada, Grenada,||UVF||St. Lucia||131||1||4,500||BA|
|UVF||St. Lucia||POS||Port of Spain, Trinidad||217||1||4,500||BA|
|PLS||Providenciales, Turks & Caicos||NAS||Nassau, Bahamas||399||1||4,500||BA|
|TAB||Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago||ANU||Antigua||417||1||4,500||BA|
|ANU||Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda||PUJ||Punta Cana, DR||444||1||4,500||BA|
|GCM||Grand Cayman||NAS||Nassau, Bahamas||467||1||4,500||BA|
|SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||VQS||Vieques, Puerto Rico||39||1||4,500||AA/BB|
|SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||EIS||Beef Island, BVI||96||1||4,500||AA/BB|
|SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||VIJ||Virgin Gorda, BVI||103||1||4,500||AA/BB|
|SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||PTP||Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe||331||1||4,500||AA/BB|
|SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||DOM||Dominica, DR||369||1||4,500||AA/BB|
|SJU||San Juan, Puerto Rico||FDF||Fort De France, Martinique||424||1||4,500||AA/BB|
Here’s a quick comparison of how much money you could save by booking one of these routes with points instead of $cash$:
How to Book an American Airlines Award with British Airways Avios
- Search AA.com –> Book Award Travel for available dates. If you’ve made your mind up on a destination, then search until you find dates that will work and make notes. If you’re flexible on destination but have fixed dates, then I suggest searching all of the routes and making detailed notes– this will help you put the puzzle together later. Full guide on searching American Airlines availability.
- If you don’t already have the miles, Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to BA Avios
- Login to BritishAirways.com –> Executive Club –> Spending Avios –> Book flights with Avios and search the exact dates and cities you found from the AA website. If all is well, you should find your flights. Proceed through the booking process.
I always select the top choice which represents points due + taxes only. Any of the choices further down are essentially giving you a choice to buy Avios for 1.3 cents. Some might see this as a good deal, others not. Personally, I skipped it because, with the promo going on, I can transfer AMEX points to BA Avios at a cheaper price than buying those same miles for 1.3 cents/Avios. For example, if you expect to earn 1.5 cents/points on your AMEX and you add in the 35% bonus, you’ll find that you can transfer AMEX miles to Avios at a cost of 1.11 cents/point vs buying them for 1.3 cents.
- All done! You can now head back to AA.com and add the new itinerary to your account by searching the flights and dates. This should load up your full reservation in the American Airlines system and allow you to review and pick your seats.
BOTTOM LINE: Using British Airways Avios miles could be your answer to free honeymoon flights to crystal clear waters and great beaches without having to travel too far from home.
Distance based awards differ from normal awards in that the number of miles required varies upon the distance travelled. Often times, with British Airways Avios for example, it is based on distance by each segment. Traditional awards have specific values for each region, for example a Delta award from ANYWHERE in the US to ANYWHERE in Europe is 60k in economy.