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Over the weekend I wrote about my current travel dreams and plans since I was gifted a few minutes to indulge in those thoughts as my baby slept in a little later than normal that morning. Many of you took the time to share where you are with planning future trips, and I loved reading every single one of them! It’s beyond great that most of us in this hobby can relate to simultaneously planning trips that are both on the near and far horizons.
When looking at the destinations on y’alls lists that aren’t just “pie in the sky” dreams, but are actual trips that are being planned, it is absolutely amazing to me how miles and points can help make so many amazing destinations a reality. Along those lines, today I wanted to focus on not just which trips we are dreaming and planning for, but how we are working to make those trips a reality.
I mentioned a little bit of how I was funding the trips heavily using miles and points in this post, but I’ll go a little deeper into that here, and again I would love to read how you are focusing your mileage earning energy to make those trips a reality.
Miles and Points Used to Take My Family to Australia/New Zealand
This trip has been on my radar for roughly five years. In fact, back when dinosaurs roamed the internet and the US Airways Grand Slam was still in action I was earning US Airways miles from that promo hoping to use them to fly business class on a Star Alliance partner to New Zealand. I even started planning that trip a few years ago only to realize my heart wasn’t in it and I stopped since it was way too big of an investment to do when the timing didn’t feel right.
Well, life continued to be pretty busy the last couple years and this big trip kept getting put off “until next year”. The US Airways Grand Slam never returned after 2011, and heck US Airways is no longer even an airline. Of course my US Airways miles converted to American Airlines AAdvantage miles, but we weren’t able to find the availability we needed via OneWorld partners for the 3.5 of us to fly in a premium cabin (and while I’m no first class snob, Australia is too far for me to want to want to manage in coach).
Since US Airways miles were no longer usable for Star Alliance partners by the time we got around to actually putting this trip together earlier this year, we turned to United and MileagePlus miles. Since United is our airline of choice thanks to our Houston location, and Chase Ultimate Reward points from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card convert 1:1 to United, we were able to scrounge up the 450,000 miles it costs for the three of us to fly round trip in a mix of first and business class (though ultimately we should get some of those miles back since first class has been killed on that route). I’ve been asked many times how we earned that many miles without doing anything crazy and the truth is that it took both of our accounts and a few years to get to that total.
Some of the total was earned from actual flying during the years I flew 75,000 – 100,000 United miles annually, some was from getting and using the United MileagePlus® Explorer Cards, and some was transferred in from Chase Ultimate Rewards. Both of our United accounts have remained pretty meek since using that many miles. In fact, Little C may currently have the largest MileagePlus account in the family since we have never used her miles! This was a trip that we earned for and planned towards for years – it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. Ultimately we ended up using a different mileage currency than we initially planned, but since this hobby is in constant flux that didn’t come as too much of a surprise. This trip is absolutely doable by most anyone in this hobby, but just don’t expect to earn enough miles to book Australia in business class for a family overnight. This is a long term goal that may take a couple of years to attain.
Miles and Points Used to Take My Family to Europe
It is no big secret that the American Airlines AAdvantage award chart is likely going to undergo changes at some point now that the merger with US Airways is pretty much complete. As such, using my AAdvantage miles is somewhat of a priority when possible, so I hoped to use them to fly at least the three of us to Europe in summer 2016 in business class (too early to tell if it will make sense to bring then Toddler S). My AAdvantage balance is pretty healthy thanks to getting AAdvantage Citi sign-up bonuses through the years and the influx of US Airways miles via the merger.
I had booked our business class outbound flights into London on American Airlines operated flights for 50,000 miles each and was working on planning the return when this happened and all the sudden it made more sense to purchase the tickets, earn miles, and save our AAdvantage miles for another time.
The majority of our hotel nights in Europe are in suites and family rooms booked using Club Carlson points and taking advantage of the “last award night free” perk that came with the co-branded Club Carlson credit card until June of 2015. We booked dates based on what we hoped would work out before that devaluation hit and as luck would have it we were ultimately able to book flights to align with those hotel reservations. This is a good example of taking advantage of favorable award charts while they are around, even if ultimately you are guessing a little into the future in terms of what trips you may be able to take.
Miles and Points Used to Take My Family to Hawaii
This is a trip I am hoping to take with my family in the summer of 2017 but have not yet booked as it is still too far in the future to secure flights or hotel rooms. Instead, I am still in the strategizing phase of this trip cycle. I love Hawaii and have been multiple times, but this will likely be the first trip there as a family of four, and may well be the first trip we take when Baby S is over two years old and has to have her own seat (though she will likely start having her own seat well before then).
In recent history I have been able to use miles or confirmable upgrades to fly us to Hawaii at the front of the plane, but since my United status is dwindling (unless a miracle strikes) and first class award seats x 4 is pretty pricey, this flight may instead be at the back of the plane. Eight hours is a pretty long flight, so we might break it up connecting on the west coast and letting the then two and seven year olds stretch their legs for a bit before heading out over the Pacific.
I will likely still have a healthy AAdvantage balance to work with, may book on United using Singapore Airlines award chart as I have in the past, or I may wait and pounce on a Hawaii fare war discounted ticket that seems to pop up from time to time. I will likely have a few options for flights, but lodging may be a bigger challenge for my crew.
I will probably want to at least have a suite for us, if not skip the hotel route all together and opt for a house or condo. This will likely be our “big trip” for that summer since it makes sense to do fewer larger trips with a family than lots of short trips, and I don’t want us to all be cramped in a 300 square foot room for a week or so on our summer vacation with two young kids if we can help it. So, I’ll continue to earn Hyatt points since I may use them to again stay at a nice suite at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, but I’m not ruling out trying out a house or similar for part of our trip.
Now that you have a little peek into how we earned/are earning towards our big trips I can’t wait to hear how you are making your travel dreams come true!!
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