What's the best New Year's beach getaway using AAdvantage miles?
TravelSort reader Carlos writes “What's the best way to use miles during New Year's? My family of 3 lives in Chicago and we have 175K AA miles and 70K Avios points. We want to go any place warm with a beach in first class or business class.”
Great question–and a tough one, given that it's already late April and Christmas / New Year's is peak season for winter travel, both flights and beach resorts in the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii. As I mentioned to Carlos, the poor award availability during this peak time, especially for convenient flights with minimal connections, may mean it makes more sense to buy tickets to be able to depart on a more convenient day or time, especially when traveling with a young child.
Another possibility is to do a mixture of awards and paid flights and/or even have one parent and the child travel separately, as my family often does, in order to book premium class award tickets.
Another consideration is that many of the top resorts have 7-10 day minimum stays over the New Year's holiday, and many are already booked up for this period. So finding a great place to stay may not be that easy.
Nevertheless, here are my picks for warm weather beach getaways, both award travel and paid tickets, given the AA miles and Avios points Carlos has:
Award Travel Using AAdvantage Miles
As I mentioned above, award tickets are only available for certain days, and most of the award tickets, except for Miami, involve at least one connection.
1. Miami: American / US Air Business Class for 50K AA Miles per Person
Pros: Nonstop flight is only 3 hours
Cons: Miami isn't as warm as the other Caribbean, Mexican and Hawaiian destinations listed
2. Cancun: US Air Business Class for 60K AA Miles per Person
Pros: Only about 6 hours each way, including 1 connection
Cons: Cancun itself lacks true luxury hotel options; you'll need to stay in Playa del Carmen, about an hour away. Note that there can be rain showers in the afternoon, and that hotel pools that aren't heated can be a bit chilly
3. Cozumel: American / US Air Business Class for 60K AA Miles per Person
Pros: Better quality open water and drift scuba diving than Cancun / Playa del Carmen
Cons: Much of the calm western side of the island has rocky beaches; only a few are suitable for sunbathing or swimming. On the eastern side, there are often dangerous tides and undertows.
4. Puerto Vallarta: American / US Air Business Class for 60K AA Miles per Person
Pros: Very walkable, beautiful sunsets and mountains, more “old Mexico” character than Playa del Carmen
Cons: Not as many swimmable beaches as Cancun/Playa del Carmen
5. Jamaica: American / US Air Business Class for 60K AA Miles per Person
Pros: English spoken, friendliness of locals, great beaches with calm waters for swimming
Cons: Lack of true luxury hotels, generally slow service
6. Honolulu: American / US Air Business Class for 75K AA Miles per Person
Pros: Lots to do and explore on Oahu, or quick interisland flight if prefer the Big Island, Kauai, Maui or Lanai
Cons: Very limited award availability–best current bet would require departing January 1, returning January 14
1. Nassau, Bahamas: ~$800 per Person in Delta Business Class, via ATL
Pros: Just 5-6 hours each way, including 1 connection, less expensive than Grand Cayman or Turks & Caicos
Cons: Cable Beach not as nice as Grace Bay in Turks & Caicos or 7 Mile Beach in Grand Cayman
2. St. Martin: ~$1000 per person in Delta Business Class, via ATL
Pros: Great food in Grand Case / French side of St. Martin, nice golden sand beaches
Cons: 7-8 hours each way, snorkeling not as good as Grand Cayman
3. Turks & Caicos: ~$1100 per person in Delta Business Class via ATL or American Business Class via MIA
Pros: 6-7 hours each way including a connection, Grace Bay Beach one of the very best in the Caribbean
Cons: Food not as good as St. Martin, not as many activities or things to do as some of the other Caribbean destinations
4. Grand Cayman: ~$1000 per person in American Business Class via MIA
Pros: Just 5.5-6.5 hours each way, including 1 connections; good snorkeling, lovely white sand beaches, especially 7 Mile Beach
Cons: Very expensive
Where would you recommend for a great New Year's beach getaway from a cold Chicago winter?
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Photo: Tim Sackton, Flickr