Anywhere But Here: The Best Miles For International Travel From the US
These are the best miles for international travel. If you’re feeling cooped up and looking to go “anywhere but here”, we’ll break down the miles for award tickets leaving the US and going elsewhere. Depending on what miles and points currencies you have, this should help you see what your options are for good redemptions to see new places. Let’s go region by region and see what the best miles for international travel are for each of them. We’ll cover economy and premium cabins for each of these, as well. Destination: anywhere but here!
Starting close to home, international travel doesn’t get much simpler than going to Canada. Given that the US and Canada are both massive, the points you need can vary a lot depending on where you’re starting from and where you’re headed. Here are some good options for miles to use when flying to Canada.
If you’re looking at long-distance flights to Canada (ex: Los Angeles to Toronto), then Turkish Airlines or Singapore Airlines are your best bet at 7,500 miles one-way, per person. Availability can be tough to find with Turkish sometimes. Shorter flights (ex: New York to Toronto) could be as low as 5,000 miles with Alaska or 6,000 miles with Aeroplan. Remember that Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is getting overhauled in November. These quotes reflect the upcoming pricing.
Unless you’re booking an exceptionally long route (Miami to up above the Arctic Circle maybe?), plan for the short flights to cost 15,000 miles with Turkish, American, Aeroplan, or British Airways (just the short ones). If you’re flying more than “super short” distance, the price for everything but Turkish goes up, so stick with them.
There are no “true” first class flights operating between the US and Canada.
Moving across the southern border, these are the best programs to use for cheap award tickets to Mexico. Since flights can range from super short to several hours, we’ll consider both of those.
Unless you’re on a super short flight (less than 500 miles), you won’t beat Turkish Airlines: 7,500 miles. That’s per person, one way. Next-best options would be Aeroplan or Asia Miles at 10,000 miles with either of those.
When it comes to business class, the comparisons aren’t even close. Turkish Airlines’ 15k for business class is the same price you’ll pay for super short flights with Aeroplan. For anything over 500 miles or for any other program, expect to 50% more miles–at minimum.
There are no “true” first class flights operating between the US and Mexico.
Dreaming of beaches and turquoise waters? These are the best miles for international travel to the Caribbean. Some airline programs include the Caribbean with Central America in a region separate from the US (ex: ANA, Turkish) while others include it in the same region (ex: Aeroplan, American Airlines). The latter will obviously lead to cheaper mileage requirements.
From the East Coast, pay 10k miles per person with Asia Miles. For those coming from the West Coast, pay 12,500 with American Airlines or 15k with Delta (remember that they have dynamic pricing, so this can go up on busier dates).
If you’re heading to the Caribbean in business class, pay 20-25k per person from the East Coast, depending on distance. This covers Aeroplan, American Airlines, and British Airways. From the West Coast, American Airlines charges 25k miles per person each way.
There are no “true” first class flights operating between the US and the Caribbean.
Moving across an ocean, we’ll check out other continents and regions in alphabetical order. First up: Africa. Some award programs look at “Africa” as a region, while others divide it between sub-Saharan and Saharan regions. Additionally, some include the northern African countries in their Middle East region. I’ll note any differences here.
For economy flights to the southern parts of Africa, look at Virgin Atlantic and expect to pay 28k-31k per person, depending on distance. To northern Africa, Virgin Atlantic is still your best bet, paying 20-28k per person.
If you’re looking to go to Africa in business class, several options abound. For the shortest itineraries (US East Coast to West Coast of Africa), look at Korean SKYPASS (80k round-trip, because they don’t do one-way partner awards) or Asiana (40k one-way). Otherwise, a great option from any point in the US to any point in Africa is ANA. Pay 104k round-trip with ANA (they don’t do one-way awards).
For first class awards, there are important notes from the outset. You could get paired onto a “mixed cabin” itinerary with some flights in business class. Bear that in mind. Additionally, not all airlines offer first class, and programs like Garuda Indonesia and Air France don’t allow partner bookings onto their first class products. Here are actual options for first class travel to Africa.
Use Asiana to pay 80,000 miles per person going to Africa in first class. Since they’re a Star Alliance member, this will put you on Lufthansa first class, which you can only book 2 weeks in advance. If you’re looking for oneworld or Etihad first class products, use American Airlines (120k).
Asia is huge. It’s the biggest continent. Interests can vary between the beaches of southern Thailand to culture and history in numerous countries. For the sake of examples without digging too far into the weeds, I’ll refer you to to this article on the best miles for flying to India, if the sub-continent or central Asia is your destination. Here, we’ll break down the best miles for international travel to the Pacific coast of Asia.
Japan’s ANA considers all of the US48 to be one region, and they’re the cheapest. Fly to China or Japan for 40-45k round-trip with ANA (one-way bookings not possible). To southeast Asia, bump that up to 55k.
If you’re heading across the Pacific in business class, pay 80k round-trip with ANA if you’re going to China, Hong Kong, or the Philippines. Heading to Japan? Subtract 5k. Heading to Vietnam or Thailand? Add 20k.
Your best bet is Alaska Airlines. Starting in their “Alaska and contiguous US” region, you can get to Asia in first class with Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific. If you fly on Cathay, it’s 70k regardless of destination. Japan Airlines is 70k for northern Asia and 75k for southern Asia.
The points & miles community is drowning in options for award redemptions for Europe. Here are the best miles for international travel to Europe, highlighting any variations for distance.
In economy, you can’t beat Virgin Atlantic and its 12k miles per person from the East Coast to western Europe. From the West Coast, pay 20k with Alaska Airlines or British Airways. To the eastern parts of Europe, pay 20k with Virgin Atlantic from the East Coast and 22.5k with American Airlines from the West Coast. These are all per person and one way.
Flying business class to Europe? Use Korean SKYPASS (80k round-trip, because they don’t do one-way partner awards) or Asiana (40k one-way). Those prices are valid from anywhere in the US48 to all of Europe.
You can book Lufthansa awards up to 2 weeks in advance. Unless you have elite status with Air France, you can’t book their first class product with points & miles. The same applies to Swiss. Other options include American Airlines and British Airways. The best real option is Asiana at 50k one way per person. Asiana is in Star Alliance, so you’re looking at Lufthansa flights here. Other airlines will show you first class prices but can’t actually put you in first class seats on this route.
I’ve made the Middle East a separate region because it’s separate in many award charts. It also has a ton of carriers located here, so flights in and out of their hubs may offer different pricing than just lumping it in with the rest of Asia. Here are the best miles for international flights to the Middle East.
To fly to the Middle East in economy, you can pay 30,000 miles per person each way with Asia Miles. That’s from the East Coast. If you’re heading to Israel or Jordan, the distance is less, so pay 23k miles with British Airways. From the West Coast, pay 27k with British Airways or 28k with Virgin Atlantic, depending on distance.
Fly business class from the US to the Middle East using 47,000 miles one way with Turkish Airlines‘ Miles & Smiles program. Plan B is 104k ANA miles round-trip.
The Middle East is known for its first class products. Options include Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways. Surprisingly, though, the cheapest option for first class to the Middle East is departing anywhere in the US48 or Alaska going the wrong way. Take Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and then connect to the Middle East. This will cost 70,000 Alaska miles. If you want to take an airline from the Middle East, use 80k Asiana miles for a one-way flight on Etihad in their famous apartments. That’s the same number you’d use with Alaska to book British Airways first class to the Middle East, FYI.
There’s a big range here. It includes the obvious ones like Australia and New Zealand, as well as lots of Pacific islands that are among the least-visited countries in the world. Let’s look at options for a few points in this wide region.
If you’re traveling to Fiji, use 35,000 United miles for a one-way or 75,000 ANA miles for a round-trip ticket. To Sydney, use 60k ANA miles round trip for each person. That price is good from anywhere in the US, but you can get 30k one way with Asia Miles from the West Coast. If you’re headed to Auckland, New Zealand, use 75k ANA miles round trip or 40k Avianca LifeMiles for a one-way ticket. Those on the West Coast could even get to Auckland for 30k Virgin Atlantic miles.
For Fiji, business class passengers will pay 55k Alaska miles to fly there on Fiji Airways. Plan B is flying with ANA for 120k miles round trip. If you’re going to Sydney, use 105,000 ANA miles for a round-trip business class ticket. 55k Alaska miles will get you there on a one-way ticket with Fiji Airways or Qantas. To Auckland from the West Coast, use 45k Virgin Atlantic miles. If you’re on the East Coast, you’ll use 55k Alaska miles or book a round trip with 120k ANA miles.
First class to Fiji would involve passing through Australia on Qantas first class. You’ll need 108k miles from the West Coast and will book with Qantas itself. If you’re on the East Coast, use 220,000 American Airlines miles to get to Fiji in first. Fly to Sydney with Qantas first class using 70k Alaska Airlines miles. Going to Auckland in first class is the same price and will also fly on Qantas via an Alaska booking.
Because different airline programs break up South America differently, we’ll compare 3 cities here. We’ll look at Bogota (Colombia), Santiago (Chile), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). This will give you a good understanding of the zones and distance-based programs.
You can fly from the East Coast to Bogota with just 10,000 Asia Miles if you find routes via Miami direct to Bogota. Otherwise, fly to Bogota with 15,000 Asiana or American Airlines Miles. If you’re coming from the West Coast, bump the AA number to 17,500.
To Rio de Janeiro, use 25k Alaska Miles or 25k Asiana. That works from anywhere in the US48.
For Santiago, use 25k miles with Asiana or Alaska. That’s from the East or West Coast.
From the East Coast to Bogota, use 25k Asia Miles or 25.5k with Asiana. From the West Coast, use 27.5k Asiana or 30k AA.
To Rio de Janeiro, use 35,000 Asiana miles for a one-way ticket or 45k with Alaska. ANA is another option, needing 88k for a round-trip ticket. Those same prices will get you to Santiago, also.
The only airline with first class flights between the US and South America is American Airlines. And they only fly it to São Paulo GRU, the biggest airport in South America (the previous offering to Buenos Aires EZE was terminated). You can fly from Miami, Dallas-Ft. Worth, or New York JFK. The best option is booking via Etihad Guest for 62,500 miles. You’ll need to call to book, and the chart is here.
There it is. You can go to any continent, major region, or other country with this information. And you can maximize your miles by using the best miles for international travel referenced in this article. Remember that these are standard, and prices can deviate based on busy times of the year with many programs. Additionally, not all borders are open right now, and restrictions related to COVID-19 are in effect in many places. Make sure to check before booking and before traveling.
If you’re wondering what miles you can use with these programs, check out our transfer partners list here.
Any others that you think deserve to be on the list? Planning to book any of these? Let me know!