All expat families know that the cost of flying overseas to see family and friends regularly is pretty crippling at times. Especially as more children are added to the mix, the number of seats goes up, and the fact that you want to fly at peak times around the school holidays.
This is definitely the case for my family. We like to get home twice a year during the summer and at Christmas – but for the same price, we could be enjoying a two-week all-inclusive holiday in a 5-star resort twice a year. We have to make sacrifices to be able to fly regularly – and I feel like I have the skills of a fully-fledged travel agent as I scour flight comparison websites and study the calendar.
This year, however, we managed to slash the price of our summer flights in half simply by shopping in the right places. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we literally saved thousands of dirhams by collecting air miles with a company called Air Miles Middle East – and as few people in the UAE seem to know about the benefits, I wanted to tell you how we did it.
When I first found out about Air Miles Middle East last year by picking up my card one day in The Toy Store, I logged onto the website to discover where else I could collect the miles. Once I knew where I could collect miles, I just made sure I showed the card to the shop assistant every time I made a purchase over the months that followed – and the miles quickly started clocking up.
Where to collect miles
All the stores are listed on the Air Miles Middle East website, but the main stores I shopped in included Spinneys, The Toy Store, Hallmark, African + Eastern, Damas, and Sharaf DG.
You can also collect air miles while travelling, with partners including Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Budget Car Rental, Careem, and Booking.com.
And if you have an HSBC Credit Card (which we do), you get double the miles when you shop at these places, which is how we started to build them up so quickly.
How to collect
This is the best bit, as the company has just launched an App in the UAE, available in both the Apple Store and Android.
Search “Air Miles ME”, download the app, create an account (or add existing account details) and simply show your phone to the cashier when you make a purchase and they will scan it to add your points. It’s really easy to keep track of how many miles you have saved so far – and no need to remember your card (I’ve often forgot my card, which is seriously annoying!) Download the app here.
How to spend
We decided to save up all our Air Miles throughout the year so we could cut the cost of our summer flights. You log onto the website, search for dates and locations (like any flight booking system) and then see how many air miles you need / how much cash you’ll need to top up.
We found it incredibly easy to browse the cheapest flights and then book the flights – and within a hour, everything had been confirmed and we had a booking reference for the British Airways website so we could log in and manage our booking directly. I’ve got to be honest – I was expecting it to be harder, but I was impressed.
However, if we didn’t need flights, there are lots of other ways we could have spent our miles. I could have booked hotels, treated myself to a new iPhone, spent the miles on shopping at Spinneys, Hallmark or The Toy Store, or saved them to dine out with the family or treat myself in a spa. The app allows you to easily redeem e-vouchers for all these places.
There is also a new feature on the app where you can unlock a selection of new deals around Dubai every Monday – and you only need 100 Air Miles to be able to unlock them. Air Miles Monday offers will include 2-for-1 deals with The Entertainer and those with new partners, such as Costa Coffee.
All the options on how to spend miles are listed on the Air Miles Middle East website.
Our flight back to the UK is now booked and confirmed for the end of June – and I literally can’t wait to spend a month in the UK over the summer months.
Stanley is excitedly counting down the days until we board our flight – 27 today, for those interested! And I’m looking forward to getting out of this heat for a while with my ever-growing bump! So see you soon UK; we can’t wait to see you!