Yes, I said it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I like flying to Europe and Asia and everyone else in the lap of luxury as much as the next person. But being a semi-employed former graduate student who pays for all his own travel does leave me stretched at times. I fly cheap tickets so I can use the miles for other situations where cash doesn’t make sense.
Megan’s parents live in Amarillo, which is a particularly expensive destination and even more so over holidays. I used to be able to get $330 fares that routed through Houston, but no longer. We now pay $500+ and make tight connections in Denver. At least they have good steak in Texas.
I am using this post as an example to drive home the message why you should NOT rule out domestic travel as a valid use of your miles and points. Too often such practice is disregarded as nonsense. But the destination and class of travel are irrelevant so long as you get a good return on your redemption.
Megan’s job provides very limited vacation time, and we used most of it for the honeymoon. Christmas is on a Wednesday this year, so we’ll have to see them over Thanksgiving instead. Only one itinerary really made sense and at a cost of almost $1,000.
I doubt these flights were ever available for one of United’s discounted saver awards. But I happily redeemed 50,000 miles to book this flight as a standard award in economy class. (Okay, maybe not so “happily.”)
My own schedule is more flexible, of course. I cobbled together a mix of paid and award flights, taking Alaska Airlines down to Dallas a day early, spending the night at the airport Hyatt, and using Avios to fly American Eagle the rest of the way. I could do something similar on the return, but I’m leaving for Milan the following weekend (surprisingly, Europe is cheaper than Texas) and splurged to return home with Megan and spend more time with her.
It will still cost me about $500 altogether, but that’s better than $1,000 — or $2,000 for us both. Before you start talking about “discount” carriers like Southwest, they wanted even more.
Maybe my itinerary is not the best example. I enjoy these little challenges, exploring myriad options to find the best compromise of cash and a dozen different loyalty currencies that also fit my schedule and elite status goals. But Megan typifies the inflexible traveler who can still do well by making all the “wrong” choices when redeeming miles.