July 16, 2012
This weekend, long-held vacation plans were thrown out the window. Not one, but two itineraries now compete to replace the original.
Months ago, I booked a European vacation for my family. Our itinerary had us flying into Paris and returning from Amsterdam. I was proud that I had found business class seats in the summer at the cheapest rate Delta allows: 100K miles per person round trip. I used SPG and Club Carlson points to book fabulous looking hotels. I downloaded “learn to speak French” iPhone apps with the best of intentions (I will open those apps one day!).
Recently, Mrs. Miler and I noticed that our return from Amsterdam butted up closely to our son’s departure to away-camp. Would it be too much for him, we wondered, to return from Amsterdam and then set off for camp almost immediately afterwards? Luckily, as a Delta Platinum elite member, I can make award booking changes for free. So, I started looking for alternative return dates. Unfortunately, but predictably, all available options would have cost us a huge number of extra miles.
When I ran out of Delta options, I realized I didn’t need to stick with Delta at all. I have tons of Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred for free to United Miles so there was no reason I couldn’t cancel the Delta flights and book United / Star Alliance flights instead. As I thought about it more, I realized that not only could I cancel the Delta flights for free, but I could cancel the hotel reservations for free as well. In other words, we could go anywhere in the world our miles could take us. There will be plenty of opportunities to visit Europe in the future. If better options were available now, I realized, we were free to take them! But where should we go?
Vancouver and Beyond
A month or two ago I read from a blog (sorry I forget which one!) that a great use of British Airways miles was to fly business class between JFK and Vancouver on Cathay Pacific. I ran a quick search and found that award seats on those flights were wide open! One thing led to another and soon Mrs. Miler and I found ourselves shopping for an Alaskan cruise (in part, thanks to Rick’s recent post). With help from MileValue and Scottrick (more on that in a future post), we soon had flights booked from Detroit to Anchorage for the start of the cruise, then post-cruise Vancouver to NYC, stop-over, and finally NYC to Detroit. Except for the final leg, all is booked in first or business class and all of it is fully (or mostly) refundable.
Or Asia Pacific?
Early on Sunday, Gary from View from the Wing posted that United was pricing award flights to and from Hong Kong at only 4 miles per award! I jumped online and booked our first class flights to Hong Kong. The total fare came to 12 miles and $346.50. I booked a similar trip in February to coincide with our son’s winter break. I also booked a trip for my mom and her husband. Of course, I don’t think United will really honor these tickets, but I had to try! You can’t beat an international round trip first class award for 4 miles per person! If the tickets are really honored, then I’ll look into adding on additional flights to get to wherever we want to go in the region. Singapore? Myanmar? Philippines? We’re open to suggestions!
We’ll wait a few days before booking the Alaskan cruise to see if the Hong Kong tickets will be honored. If United does honor the tickets, we’ll cancel our newly booked award flights to Anchorage and NYC. We can always try again next year…