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Avios – The King of Spontaneous Travel

Written by Charlie

For most people, a trip involving an airplane is more than just an afterthought. There is a lot of research and searching that goes into booking a ticket before the ticket is booked. Those same people would not even consider getting a ticket to leave today or tomorrow – the thought would be that it is not possible!

This is where we say hi to our friend, Avios, the king of spontaneous travel!

Using Avios for Spontaneous Travel

Of course, I am talking about the frequent flyer currency of British Airways. There points, what they call Avios, are the perfect solution for short-term, single segment travel as it only costs 15,000 Avios for a round-trip within 1,151 miles of your departure! Not only that, but AA would charge you $75 to book within 21 days – Avios has no such charge.

What got me thinking about this again was a recent request that was made to me to help someone book a ticket for the next day for a quick one night getaway. If you purchase such a ticket, you can expect to pay a huge amount of money!

One of the examples is Toledo, OH to Chicago. Toledo does not have much commercial traffic at all anymore, but the TOL – ORD route is what they do have. As such, these flights can be quite expensive – especially last minute.


The last minute price for TOL – ORD on American Airlines

If there is availability, the last minute travel via an award booking made with Avios is only 15,000 Avios – just like always!

Spontaneous Travel

It is nice at times to just decide that “I want to go to Chicago tonight” or “I think I want to NYC for the day.” The cost of those airline tickets to allow that kind of spontaneous trip definitely puts the thought back in a box quick! But, with Avios, it is not only possible, it almost beckons you to do it. Think about it – only 15,000 points to go someplace like that round-trip. Considering how easy it is to generate points (more below) that can be transferred to Avios, it definitely is an easy decision.

Where To Go?

Sometimes the question is about where you want to go on such a trip? While you can use Avios to go beyond the 1,151 mile point, it begins to cost more. The same is true for a city that forces you to make a connection (because Avios are priced by segment).

If you are not in a hub operated by Alaska Airlines or American Airlines then the answer becomes a lot easier – you are headed for a hub or focus city of those three. Those cities that fit that description are:

Alaska Airlines

  • Boise, ID
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Portland, OR
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Seattle, WA

American Airlines

  • Chicago, IL
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami, FL
  • New York, NY (LaGuardia Airport)
  • Boston, MA
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY (LaGuardia Airport)
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Washington, DC (Reagan National)

That is a fair number of potential destinations. If you are within 1,151 miles of any of them, use that as your starting point. Of course, if you live in one of those cities, you can have your pick of spontaneous destinations!

Award Availability

Some people complain that it is “impossible” to find tickets on AA. That has definitely not been my experience! In fact, there are many times that I am seeing 7 seats available on American Airline flights! Some of that is at the very last minute!


Plenty of availability!

The nice thing about having so many cities to choose from is that you can simply try another city if your first city does not work. The chances are, if you are going to a hub city, that you will have plenty of flights to choose from and at least one of them should show some availability.

Booking Avios Awards

To start, go to the British Airways’ website. You must have registered for an account (free) and you need to login before searching.

Cheapest Marathons

Cheapest Marathons


The next screen will take you to your options. Select them and then continue on to the payment page! You are done!

Getting Avios

British Airway Avios are one of the easiest airline currencies to get. They are transfer partners from Ultimate Rewards (Chase) and Membership Rewards (American Express). In addition, they have their own co-branded credit card (can be had at times with 100,000 Avios bonus). As another good option, you can also transfer SPG Starpoints to British Airways. If you transfer in blocks of 20,000 Starpoints, you will be given an additional 5,000 Avios as a bonus in the transfer (not a very good option given the value of Starpoints).

If you have a Chase Ink card, you can purchase $200 gift cards at office supply stores and earn 5 points per dollar. Purchasing 5 of those cards will cost you around $40 and give you 5,000 Ultimate Reward points. These points can be transferred to British Airways at 1:1, so that simple purchase gives you enough Avios for a one-way ticket! That is pretty quick and easy to be setup for spontaneous travel!


Thanks to Avios, our king of spontaneous travel, we can pick up at a minute’s notice and spend the night in some great city – for only 15,000 points round-trip! That you can book these awards right up until departure with no fee is not a small thing. The airlines you are booking these Avios to fly on (American) charge you $75 to book awards within 21 days. With Avios, it is free.

Have you booked spontaneous travel before? Did you use Avios? There is really not a better airline currency for such trips. If you have not tried it before, you should definitely give it a shot sometime!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Agree Avios is great to have in North America because AA doesn’t offer short haul awards. Plus as you note, great for last minute trips if seats are available (and you’re not an AA elite who doesn’t pay those last minute fees). I use them regularly for positioning flights at US airports from my base in YYZ. And I also like the dynamic pricing which makes even the cash portion acceptable if you don’t want to use all your miles. While I get most of my Avios miles from transferring cc credits (Amex MR, Diners Rewards and RBC Avion up here) I occasionally post AA flights. One thing to know: if you plan to use them for flights on BA (in Europe or Africa) having at least one airline mileage credit on your account every year drops most of those horrendous surcharges BA levies on its own metal (and IB’s). Just booked JNB-CPT and saved $110 by having a flight posted…$50 vs $160 in fees.

  • This is true and I love Avios. But beware of some rules and trends. I’ve never found economy award space on USAirways Shuttle flights LGA-DCA/BOS and DCA-BOS with less than 7 days advance notice. First class award space yes. Also BA does not permit certain award routings that AA does permit. For example BOS-PHL-DCA cannot be booked in Y for 4,500 Avios. BA will book it by tel but will charge you for two one-way awards.