I wish that this post was about using miles and points for a spontaneous, adventurous, last-minute fun getaway. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. A family member has been in and out of the hospital and is now in a nursing home, and I wanted to visit sooner rather than later.
Last year, Leana wrote a post about researching all of your options ahead of time for this type of scenario. Fortunately, I didn’t have to book a ticket and fly within a manner of days. I had a few weeks before I could fly, but my arrival and departure days were not flexible due to various factors. With my firm dates and short notice and adding the fact that I would be traveling to Denver during peak ski season, it did not bode well for ticket prices.
Still, I had several options to make this trip happen with miles and points. I had small amounts of Southwest and AA miles, a decent amount of Chase Ultimate Rewards and a sizeable amount of British Airways Avios at my disposal.
In addition to miles and points, I could also pay cash on a low-cost carrier. Both Spirit and Frontier Airlines service the route I needed.
Southwest Airlines is always the first place I check for tickets. It is usually the best deal on points, since the points price is tied to the ticket price.
Luckily, I was able to find a one-way ticket to Denver for $106 or 6144 points + $5.60 in taxes. A few days later, the price actually went down to $80 or 4403 points, so I made the change online.
The return trip did not have such attractive prices. The cheapest ticket I could get on Southwest was around $200 or 13,000 points. I decided to search for alternatives.
British Airways Next
Using British Airways Avios to book flights on American Airlines metal has proved useful to my family. Booking AA flights using British Airways Avios has several advantages. Points redemptions are based on distance, with the lowest domestic price of 7500 Avios. The route between my two cities falls in the 7500 points range. In addition, while AA charges a last-minute booking fee of $75 to book a flight on miles within 21 days of departure, British Airways does not.
Although in the past I’ve found a lot of nonstop award availability between Dallas and Denver on AA, the weekend I needed to travel had no availability. I couldn’t even use my AA miles to book a connecting flight. Bummer.
Google Flights to Bring Me Home
My next step was to look at Google Flights to see prices on various airlines for my specific return date. This site doesn’t show Southwest prices, but I had already checked on Southwest’s website.
I expected the cheapest fares to be on Spirit or Frontier, but that wasn’t the case. United Airlines had the cheapest one-way flights at ~$145.
If I booked the United flight through my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve travel portal, we could use 9680 Ultimate Rewards points (worth 1.5 cents each). This flight wasn’t even available through the United site on points. Even if it was, it would have cost 12,500 miles through United plus a $75 last-minute booking fee (although I may have gotten around the fee by using this tip mentioned on MMS). Booking with UR points from the CSR was the better deal.
For my round-trip flight, I spent 14,083 points + $5.60. This really could have been much worse, considering my firm dates and short notice.
My last step in getting this trip finalized was finding a hotel. I’ve never stayed in a hotel on that side of town, but I wanted something cheap and close to where I needed to be. For once, I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to sleep all five of us, since I would be traveling solo.
My default is to check Hyatt first, since I can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt. However, there were no Hyatt hotels close to my desired location.
Instead, I searched for Marriott hotels, since my husband has earned some Marriott points through his work travel. As luck would have it, there was a Fairfield Inn and Suites located less than half a mile from the nursing home. Bingo! And, it only costs 10,000 points per night.
Since the points are in my husband’s account, he had to call Marriott to make the reservation under my name. Unlike Hyatt and other hotel programs, he couldn’t make the reservation for a guest other than himself online.
Using miles and points for this last-minute trip saved me about $425. I could have covered this with cash, but it was nice to be able to use miles and points.
I do think it’s a good idea to have some emergency cash and miles saved for this type of last-minute travel scenario. Things can happen in a New York minute, and if you’re prepared with the means to travel on a whim, it can take away some stress from an already stressful situation.
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Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.