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In a post yesterday I mentioned that I was on a one-night trip to Seattle as part of a quasi-mileage run, and in the comments section there were a few questions that were generally asking why I would do a mileage run and/or why would I go to a city for just a night. Now I fully understand that within the world at large something like a mileage run or one-night trip is uncommon and sounds insane. However, within the miles and points community they are much more common, so it was a little interesting that my own mileage runs would come across as crazy or questionable to some of our own. Is it because I am a mom with a family at home that makes it crazier than if I were a single person (especially a single male)? Or, is it the concept all together that is simply wacky? It made me think about why I do it, and why it may not be crazy as it sounds.
What is a Mileage Run:
First, a mileage run is a trip taken primarily for the miles it earns. The elite qualifying miles are often the sought after prize, though the redeemable miles are also important. True mileage runners often book multi-segment trips and frequently try to do a “same day turn” and go right back home without leaving the airport. For example, a mileage run might be from Newark to Houston to Seattle to Dulles to Newark all in one day. If the fare permitted, some might try to also route that trip through San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, etc. to maximize the miles earned as much as possible. These trips are booked when fares are low, and the destination doesn’t matter nearly as much as the CPM (cents per mile) that the ticket costs. Anything under 5 cents per mile is pretty decent for a mileage run, and folks really start getting excited as the price gets closer to 3 cents per mile or less. I don’t (yet) consider myself a true mileage runner as the destination still very much matters, and not leaving the airport to experience the city sounds a tad depressing. I would rather have a somewhat higher CPM cost, but get to go somewhere I am interested in.
Why I (kind of) Mileage Run:
Some people like to race cars, some like to shoot guns, some like to scrapbook, some like to run…I like to fly. First and foremost I do this because I like to fly, and I like the process of being transported to a different place. You get on a plane in one city and a few hours later you are somewhere completely different. It is magical, amazing, and almost unbelievable, yet it is real and I can’t resist. Travel is my number one hobby, and I don’t need to spend a week in a new place to appreciate it.
I’m lucky that my hobby has other payoffs as well. One reason I am doing these semi-mileage runs is to try to reach United 1K status this year. I don’t know yet if that will be a reality, but I at least want to retain my Platinum status as the benefits are well worth it to my family. We benefit immensely from 8 free E+ seats at booking, 75% bonus on redeemable miles, free award booking changes, no close-in award booking fees, free same day changes, two annual regional upgrades, and a decent shot at occasional complimentary first class upgrades. If I do reach 1K I will get 4 regional upgrades and 6 global upgrades (some of which I will use domestically as if they were regionals), a 100% bonus on redeemable miles, and a very decent shot at some complimentary upgrades. I won’t know until later in the year when my travel is more certain if that is a realistic goal or not, but for now I am acting as if it is. This is my hobby and not only are the benefits great, but it is kind of a fun game as well.
I also mileage run because I like spending a little time in different cities. I often do these short trips on my own, and as a result I can move very quickly and do a large number of things without having to worry about pleasing anyone else. Some people understandably need time to adjust to a new place, a new time zone, get their bearings etc. I don’t need that when it is just me – I am fine just diving right in and going with the flow (until I get too exhausted and only care about sleep). In the last several months I have done very brief trips to San Francisco, Maui, Zurich, DC, and now Seattle and am so grateful to be able to take in some of the flavor of those cities.
I love to hear what people talk about in different places (the Seahawks playoff run and the potential return of a basketball team was all the rage in Seattle), taste what they eat, see what they wear, experience how they get around, etc. I happily live in a North Houston suburb near extended family, but my heart needs more than just the comfortable Texas suburban lifestyle where you drive everywhere, regularly eat via a drive-thru, and barely actually see anyone in your daily life as you are all segregated in your own vehicles going directly to and from work, school, etc. Mileage runs like the one I just did to Seattle let me happily have a life in a great community for my daughter, while still getting doses of other ways of living. This sounds so silly, but I loved that in Seattle I looked normal wearing tall leather boots over jeans whereas in my hometown I am often asked if I am going to ride horses or if I am in the Texas A&M Corp of Cadets if I wear boots in that manner because it looks “unusual” (and no, most people in Texas do not ride horses). Don’t get me wrong, I love my home, but there are things about other places that make me feel at home in a different way as well.
I am also lucky enough to have friends scattered in different cities around the country, so this is a great way to get a chance to connect with them face to face. In fact, just last night I had a delicious sushi dinner with Scott from Hack My Trip, his fiancé, and another guy that I have met via the MegaDos and some work he does with BoardingArea. It was like any other normal dinner with friends, only I had to fly on a plane to do it.
I also really want to continually become a better resource for traveling families by experiencing different hotels and different cities. The only way to do that is to travel. Being able to describe a hotel location, the atmosphere of a hotel, how walk-able the area is, how many families are there, how safe it feels, etc. can only be done if I have actually been there. I’ll never be able to go everywhere, but the more I travel, the more I know and can share.
Is it Crazy?
Those are some of the reasons why these short trips/mileage runs make sense to me. Is it still a bit crazy? Sure. Often I would like to have an extra night in a location, but when you start to be gone for several days, not only do the expenses really start adding up, but the impact on the family at home also grows exponentially. Even though there are real and tangible rewards of mileage runs, this is not an inexpensive hobby. It does not make economic sense for everyone to mileage run. Also, not everyone has the luxury of having someone at home to pick up your responsibilities while you are gone.
However, if you have the ability to do it from time to time, and you enjoy it, then I don’t think it is crazy at all. Heck, The Layover with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel seems to be a whole TV show devoted to making the most of a short amount of time in the city. If it is on TV it must not be crazy, right?! Though they should really do that show with a kid in tow…just saying.
A final example of why I don’t think it is crazy happened this morning while I was snuggled in a robe and blankets sitting in my room looking out at Seattle. I got to sit in the quiet and read the paper while drinking coffee in bed – an absolute parent luxury. I got a text from my husband that said, “Dog puked on stairs. Hysterica C (that means toddler has gone temporarily crazy). Server crash. Hope you are having a fantastic morning.” He didn’t mean it at all in a bad or sarcastic way, but just wanted to keep me in the loop. While I feel bad I wasn’t there to help, I was also ever so grateful for a moment of my own tranquility that I would not get at home very often simply due to the realities of family life. I get to return refreshed and ready to rock and roll with child meltdowns, dog messes, job emergencies etc. In fact, I get to almost look forward to them.
So no, I don’t think these short trips are crazy. In fact, I think they help keep me sane. Which of course may mean that I am crazy. Do you take true or pseudo-mileage runs? Why do you do it? Or, why do you not do it?