Get the Most From Your Airline Miles in These 5 Overlooked Cities


Arguably the best part of joining a frequent flyer program is when you've earned enough to redeem for a free plane ticket. There are ways to get more value out of your miles, though, than just getting a ticket for the first place that comes to mind.

For starters, international destinations are a better value. The value of each point rises with the cost of the ticket. For example, an international flight might cost twice as much as a domestic ticket, but the points required to redeem a free flight are only 1.5 times the points for a domestic ticket. For one flight, you might only get a $0.50 per point, but for another, you might get a few dollars per point!

Also, award miles value are sometimes counted by region. So if you book a domestic flight, you can still get a good value out of your miles by comparing different destinations in the same region. And don't forget seat availability. It's not a good idea to get your heart set on a location only to discover that there are never any award seats available.

If you're counting down the days until you're able to redeem your free flight, here are some often overlooked international destinations that can give you great value for your miles while discovering a new and unique part of the world.

1. Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, referred by those who know and love it as "Valpo," was once the most important port in South America and is full of recently-renovated 19th century architecture. Many boutique hotels have sprouted alongside new and innovative restaurants. There have been promotions in the past for as little as 30,000 miles.

You can fly into Santiago, which is an international hub, and take a 90-minute bus ride to get to Valparaiso from there. Santiago is easily accessible from many hubs in the U.S. such as Los Angeles, Houston, and New York, with plenty of seat availability for those looking to redeem awards.

2. Helsinki, Finland

Finnair releases a fair amount of reward seats, especially in the winter, so you're sure to get an authentic colder-weather experience. You can expect to use 20,000 miles in economy or 50,000 in business class with the American Airlines loyalty program. Flights are nonstop from JFK.

Of course, if you do travel in the winter months, you'll easily be able to reward yourself for braving the colder temperatures with a soak in the traditional Finnish sauna.

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

This beautiful city in Denmark is easily accessible with Scandinavian Airlines, offering nonstop flights from the east coast (Newark and Washington) to the middle of the country (Chicago) and on the west coast as well (San Francisco). Scandinavian Airlines offers plenty of economy seats for reward mile redemption. If you're looking to fly business class, you can easily find a seat with United.

Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark as well as the country's biggest city, with picturesque architecture and many unique, historic sites to visit. It is known for among other things its vibrant design scene and wide offering of innovative dining experiences.

4. Malé, the Maldives

Interested in booking an island getaway? The Maldives are easier to get to than you may think, and you can use your miles to do so. To score the best value use miles from any Oneworld airline. This alliance of 15 airlines includes American Airlines, Japan Airlines, British Airways, and other well regarded carriers. Note that you can also use American Airlines AAdvantage Miles.

Just 70,000 miles will get you there and back in economy.

In the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are a series of over 1,000 islands. There is excellent diving and snorkeling, not to mention fantastic, nearly untouched beaches. For a more urban experience, you can check out Malé, the bustling capital.

5. Mexico City, Mexico

Getting to Mexico City is an easy flight from anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. You can get a nonstop flight from Montreal, Toronto, multiple airports in New York, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles.

Southwest Airlines is now serving Mexico and the Caribbean, with a great offer of unlimited reward seats, according to their website.

Mexico City is one of Latin America's largest and most vibrant hubs, with a population of over 22 million people and amazing street food (tacos, tlacoyos, tlayudas, and burritos, just to name a few).

Beyond the delicious culinary offerings, Mexico City is a center for art and the museums here are world-renowned. Architecturally, the city is diverse and portrays an interesting and unique history, from the Palacio National that houses some of Diego Rivera's most beautiful murals, to Bellas Artes that permanently feature Jose Orozco artwork plus other displays that change over time.

Bonus Tip: Get an Around the World Ticket to See More

Did I say five cities? Well you can actually enjoy your miles in scores more cities around the world instead!

Using awards to buy an Around the World ticket is actually becoming quite rare, but there are still some options if you want to book multiple destinations. An Around the World ticket can allow you up to 16 different stops, and it can definitely save you money when compared to booking all of the legs of your trip individually.

If you are redeeming with Star Alliance, you can purchase an RTW ticket for 200,000 points.

The best travel rewards credit cards will offer flexibility and award seats to the destination that you want. A card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred will allow you use their travel portal to book with your points as well as transfer points to airline partners to book directly. An airline credit card would limit you to that particular airline and its partners, but if you have a strong preference for a certain airline and its destination selection meets your needs, then you may be able to build up points faster by being a frequent flyer. (See also: Which Airline Loyalty Program Offers the Highest Value?)

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