Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
Since I’m now in my third trimester of carrying Tiny Traveler #2, our travels have not surprisingly slowed down a bit. I had one more one night trip booked for early May, and then that was it for air travel and me for a while. The precipitous drop-off in travel bookings came both from the pregnancy itself, and from the time when my husband was between jobs and we basically put a freeze on booking new travel. However, as the days have gone by I’ve started to again get that “itch”. Yes, you fellow addicts know the one, the itch to hop on a plane and go somewhere new. You can fight it, you can delay it, you can ignore it, but it doesn’t always go away on its own. It’s our blessing and our curse.
My husband is working his tail off at his new gig and doesn’t really have any days off yet, so I knew we couldn’t do any big trips, but more and more I wanted us to do just one more weekend getaway before that becomes much harder for a while with an infant. Back before the SPG award chart changed earlier this year I threw a virtual dart at the wall and booked a weekend stay at The Phoenician Resort in Arizona before it went from 12,000 points per night to 20,000 points per night. I didn’t know if I would be able to actually travel on that weekend, but I figured there was no harm in locking in something and hoping for the best. I could always cancel with no penalty until a few days before the trip and refund the points if it didn’t work out.
For a long time I assumed I would be cancelling the award stay, but then I decided I really wanted to go. Even though I am now quite large and increasingly uncomfortable, the idea of swimming in warm water in Arizona for a weekend sounds fantastic. They also have a Kid’s Club, a splash pad, a 165 foot water slide, and it looks like a very swanky place to just relax and have fun for a couple of days. In other words, it looks totally perfect for one more easy family vacation before things get a bit crazier for a while and it is somewhere we have never been. You could almost even call it a “babymoon” even though we are bringing our 5 year old, and I really am not a fan of the “babymoon” phrase.
Since I already had the room booked on SPG points, the main problem was flights, especially since I had waited so long to decide that this trip really did sound like a winner for our family. Houston to Phoenix on US Airways would cost just 7,500 British Airways Avios each way in economy, which would have been ideal. However, there was no award availability to be found that weekend on US Airways, or really anyone else for that matter. Paid flights started at a somewhat reasonable price, but the lower priced tickets were at times that didn’t work for us, and we really didn’t have very much time flexibility given that my husband has to work pretty much a full day Friday, and we need to be back at a decent hour on Sunday to get ready for the week ahead. Basically it was a deal hunters worst nightmare with a close-in booking, Friday and Sunday travel days, and virtually no flexibility on dates or times.
The flights that would work for us started at about $412 round trip each, and when you multiply by 3 that takes a quick weekend getaway to the realm of unrealistically expensive in a hurry. However, I wasn’t about to give up on the idea of floating in warm Arizona water with my big belly that easily, so I found a solution. Since US Airways operates a nonstop flight from Houston – Phoenix, this seemed like the absolute perfect time to use the $99 companion certificates that come with the US Airways Credit Card (that you can no longer apply for).
There are several caveats and blackout dates associated with this certificate which you can read about here, but this trip met all the necessary criteria to be eligible to use the companion certificate. Each certificate is valid for up to two $99 companions, so I sucked it up and paid the $412 for my round trip ticket at our ideal flight times, but then my 5 year old and husband were both added on for just $99 + taxes/fees each. All of the sudden we had cut our family’s airfare costs for the trip virtually in half and brought it back to a doable expense level.
The grand total for our peak travel time flights would have been about $1,236 if we just booked as normal, but using the companion certificates dropped our total to $666 – a savings of around 46%! This was great because we were still able to book the exact flights we needed and earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles on our flights. I love using airline miles to travel instead of paying cash, but you need to have some back-up tools at your disposal for when award availability is just not there for the flights you are after.
I’m very much looking forward to one more weekend getaway as a family of three, and it absolutely would not have been possible without using hotel points for the room and the companion certificate to bring the airfare prices back to a reasonable level. I like “free travel” the best, but I know that with as many trips as we take that is not always going to be an option so I’ll settle for “free” hotel rooms at a luxury resort and 46% off airfare. If you have the US Airways credit card, remember to utilize those companion airfare certificates before they expire by the end of 2015.
Have you been able to put your companion certificates to good use one last time?