Here is a quote from my last post:“I would rather fly non-stop and be miserable in coach than have a connection and be upfront.” Yeah, about that… Once again, I didn’t follow my own advice. The truth is, while I have certain ideas on how to redeem miles, I have to take into account my kids and husband. Sometimes, non-stop flight may not be the way to go, even if the price is right. That’s the dilemma I faced recently when trying to decide on whether to burn miles or pay cash (via flexible points).
As I’ve mentioned few weeks ago, next May we are planning to go on Alaska cruise. Everything is booked, so I have zero flexibility on dates. I had access to United (via Ultimate Rewards transfer) and AAdvantage programs. Southwest hasn’t yet loaded the flights for next May, so this option was off the table. Let me show you my reasoning process.
Flight from Tampa to Seattle
There were no saver economy seats (12,500 one-way) available via either programs. That’s not really surprising considering the fact that the flight is on a Saturday. Getting 4 saver seats on the same weekend flight is akin to spotting a unicorn.
Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.ne
That is one bizarre looking unicorn, a perfect fit for my blog!
Anyway, I started my search for one award seat instead of four (always check, just in case), but nothing popped up. However, AAdvantage had saver first-class tickets available for 25,000 miles each. The departure time was good, and connection wasn’t too long, but not too short either.
Hmm, let’s see what flights are available for purchase.
The connection is a bit tight, otherwise, it’s a decent option. I could burn my Ultimate Rewards points and get these flights for 20% off by going through their travel center. Yes, you read that right, I have no problem burning Ultimate Rewards in order to conserve cash. But are there any non-stop options?
Bingo! But wait… It gets in at 9:25 PM Seattle time (12:25 AM Florida time). That equals cranky kids (and parents), no doubt. Second, the flight is almost 6 hours long. I’ve mentioned last time how much my husband loves sitting in a tiny economy seat. Also, we would have to buy food and pay for checked luggage. Suddenly, this option didn’t seem like a no-brainer.
Back to square one. United flight seems to be the better of the two, since it would get us to Seattle earlier. But once again, we would have to pay for checked luggage, buy food, and my husband would have to suffer for 7.5 hours. Of course, being married to me for many years, he is used to considerable amount of suffering.
There was also an option of waiting for Southwest flights to open up. But it would be on a Saturday (equals higher price), and who knows what kind of schedule they would have. And once again, the flight would be in economy=miserable husband.
I decided to redeem AAdvantage miles for first class. Was it a good decision? I honestly don’t know. It’s a ton of miles, that’s for sure, since we had to book 4 tickets. But here is what we’ll get:
1. Lunch and dinner. Worth around $50 (to me).
2.Free checked luggage. Worth $50, period.
3. More legroom. Worth $150 (to me). For CPM junkies, the flight is currently going for $630 per person, but I would never pay that much.
4. Configuration of 2 seats per row, instead of 3 in economy. Since it’s 4 of us flying, this is a nice perk. It means not having to deal with potentially annoying neighbors. Once I sat on the plane (for 6 hours, yikes) next to a guy who according to him, hangs out with Richard Branson and Dalai Lama.
5. Happy husband. Worth… ??? That one is hard to put a price on, but I would say, at least 50 bucks.
Flight from Seattle to Tampa
Once again, I decided to go for saver first-class tickets, but the decision was much easier to make. Let me show you why. My husband said he has no desire to spend a night in Seattle after the cruise and just wants to get home. Since the ship docks in the morning, it takes some time to clear immigration and customs. The cruse line recommends that passengers don’t schedule flights till at least noon. So, my options were severely limited. Here is what our first-class flight would cost in economy:
Suddenly, that 25,000 miles first- class redemption didn’t look so bad. I do want to add that I have Citi Prestige card that lets you get 1.61 cents per point on American flights (including codeshares, which is the case here). However, I’m saving those points for transfer to Air France next year, so would prefer to conserve them. Plus, even if you get the flight for less than 20,000 Citi Thank You points, the price for economy isn’t that much better compared to 25,000 AAdvantage miles which I value at 1 cent. When you take into account free checked bags, free food and extra comfort on a relatively long flight, it’s hard to argue with value even for a cheapskate such as myself.
I was really excited to find 7 seats in first class since my in-laws are coming with us. But… my sister-in-law wouldn’t even consider taking a flight that would get us to Tampa at midnight. Did I ever mention that you have to be realistic when dealing with miles? Plus, when you leave from Seattle at 1 pm and take a connecting flight, you will not get to Tampa, Fl. by dinner time. Shocking, but true. Anyway, she refused to compromise. So, I had to come up with an alternative. Fortunately, there was one. AAdvantage had 2 saver economy tickets the following day on Alaska. The flight is non-stop and gets you to Tampa at a reasonable time.
It was decided that my sister-in-law and my daughter would spend a night in Seattle. I don’t really like the idea of being separated from my kids, but this is probably for the best. And there is no arguing that redeeming 12,500 miles is an incredible bargain for a non-stop cross-country flight on a holiday weekend.
I’ve said many times that value is in the eye of the beholder. If a new reader comes across my blog, he/she may make an assumption that I’m totally opposed to redeeming miles for upper class or staying in fancy hotels. If you’ve been following my site for some time, you know this is simply not the case.
Yes, the blog is geared towards a middle-class family on a budget. And yes, I believe in setting realistic goals. But I don’t like to be limited or stereotyped on how I should be traveling. And neither should you! Make decisions that work for YOU and forget what everyone else is doing. The only wrong thing when it comes to miles and points is not using them. Don’t be a hoarder. Having millions of miles is not something to be proud of, IMHO.
Perhaps it would have been more logical to book that non-stop flight from Tampa to Seattle. After all, we have two small kids, and extra connection adds to aggravation and stress. But it simply came down to my husband’s comfort. While it’s not a big deal for me to sit in economy for 6 hours, for him, it’s pure torture. Of course, my devotion has its limits. He would like to have a third kid. Umm, no.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.