This is a cautionary tale on the importance of having a Plan B when transferring valuable flexible points to miles. And we are not just talking run-of-the-mill valuable, but super duper valuable currency such as SPG. So, last Friday I’ve mentioned that I went ahead and dumped 40,000 SPG points to Avios due to 35% bonus on transfers (no longer valid). But first, let me give you a backstory.
If you have been following my blog for awhile, you probably know that my plans change five times before I commit to something. That’s why I love miles and points, they give me a degree of flexibility. Plus, we frequently vacation with my husband’s family, and they also change their mind five times.
Off to St. John!
So, originally, we were planning on a mega trip around United States in May of 2017. I’ve written about it and mentioned that we were going to visit New York, Washington DC and Niagara Falls. Well, my sister-in-law started talking about doing this and that, and we got into an argument.
I reminded her that we have small kids who will be pooped if we do everything she had in mind. Long story short, we’ve decided to scrap the entire trip and possibly do it the following year. That is if we can agree on some sort of a compromise (right!).
Anyway, instead, my SIL has decided to go for a week to St. John with her parents. It’s a beautiful island and I was fortunate enough to spend a day there while on a cruise, many years ago.
I’ve always wanted to go back and take my kids with me. My in-laws really wanted us to come as well. So, I started looking at award availability to St.Thomas. The absolute cheapest way to get to that island is via Spirit off-peak redemption. It costs only 2,500 miles one-way to fly nonstop from Fort Lauderdale to St.Thomas. Unfortunately, this price is only valid during the time when kids are in school.
I have taken my children out for a few days here and there, but I wanted to go to St. John for at least five nights, and that would be pushing it. You see, we already plan to take the kids out of school for two days in October (separate post on it later). I haven’t yet met their teachers, and would rather not start out the year by telling them: “Oh, by the way, we have already booked two non-refundable trips. Deal with it!”
Avios rocks (when there is sAAver availability)
Aside from Spirit, the best option for Floridians is to use British Airways Avios program. It costs 7,500 Avios to fly one-way from Miami to St. Thomas. However, Miami is four hours away from our house, so it’s very inconvenient. Additionally, my in-laws were planning to stay in St. John longer, so we would have to get to Miami on our own. My husband absolutely hates driving, and he absolutely hates Miami.
I checked AAdvantage availability, since we would be redeeming Avios on American-operated flights. The schedule wasn’t up for the dates we needed, but it appeared that there was a fair number of award seats during the first part of the month. My mother-in-law had 25,000 Avios, and this would take care of three one-way tickets from Miami to St.Thomas.
I had about 47,000 SPG points at the time, and offered to take care of their return flights. If I transferred 40K SPG points, I would have a total of 67,500 Avios. If you deduct 22,500 Avios needed for three one-way tickets for my in-laws, it would leave me with 45,000 Avios.
My plan was to try to redeem 30,000 Avios for our four return tickets from St.Thomas to Miami. That way, we could drive back with my in-laws. For the flight to St.Thomas, I had a different plan. I was going to burn 15,000 remaining Avios for one ticket form Tampa to St.Thomas. Avios program charges per segment, so it would end up being 7,500 Avios+7,500 Avios for Tampa-Miami, Miami-St.Thomas flights (read more on Avios program).
Combining Avios with AAdvantage
What about the other three tickets? I was going to book an identical itinerary via AAdvantage. It charges the same amount during that time of year: 15,000 AA miles. The pricing is flat, so you can potentially fly all the way from Seattle and still pay the same amount. I was going to ask someone to drop us off at Tampa airport.
Of course, things didn’t work out as planned. Since the bonus on SPG to Avios was due to expire July 5th, I had to make a speculative transfer and hope for the best. It took five days for SPG points to hit my BA account. Unfortunately, when we looked, there was nothing available on the dates we needed, at least not the price I would be willing to pay :
My kids are getting out of school on May 25th, and the closest date available is May 23rd. We could probably get away with it, but then we would have to come back on May 31st. My husband is already planning on taking close to two weeks off for our trip to Europe, and this would be really pushing it. Not to mention, it’s incredibly inconvenient when you leave and come back in the middle of the week.
Bye bye, St. John and SPG points
After some back and forth, it was decided that my in-laws would just go without us during the first part of May. We were able to utilize Avios and book AA-operated flights online without an issue. To be honest, I’m a little relieved. This would have been an incredibly difficult trip and I pulled the trigger on transfer before really thinking it through.
First, we would have to drive to Tampa, then connect in Miami. After landing in St.Thomas, we would need to catch a taxi to the port and take a ferry to St. John. And last but not least, we would have to take another taxi in St. John. And that is assuming ferries would even run when we landed. My husband would go into a dark mode, guaranteed.
Ironically, it would have been better for me to do this Jet Blue match deal (also dead). Jet Blue flies from Orlando to St.Thomas, and its program is revenue-based, so no need to worry about availability. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to do a mileage run, it was totally out of the question. I have small kids, and it’s not that easy for me to just jet off whenever I feel like it.
So, now I’m stuck with 45,000 Avios miles and have no specific plans to use them. I’m sure I’ll be able to utilize this currency eventually, but I so wish I still had my precious SPG points. My precious…
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.