Play By Play of a Mileage Run

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Mileage runs are not normal, but in the quest for airline elite status sometimes they are a necessary evil. I explained how and why I ended up being a ‘Mileage Running Mommy’ for the day in this post, but that only tells half the story.

The other half is what it is really like to fly around for the day without actually going anywhere…while still managing life back at home. Recipe for disaster? Sort of. Recipe for an unusual day? Absolutely. Though shockingly, it didn’t feel that crazy. Though of course it is crazy, so I don’t recommend this sort of nutso behavior unless you are at least half as nutso as I am.

Mileage runs are for those who like airports!

Mileage runs are for those who like airports!

The early bird catches the plane:

Our morning routine is always a little crazy because getting C ready for school and checking out what happened in the miles/points/blog world overnight happens at the same time. Add to that getting ready to head to the airport for a morning flight, and well, you need to wake-up early to get it all done. This means up and on the computer working before the sun comes up while staying super quiet to not wake the sleeping mini-me.

Fortunately there was no packing involved since we will be home in time for dinner.

Deal with pre-schooler disappointment:

My tiny traveler likes to go everywhere with me, especially when it involves an airplane. She’s not thrilled that I will be in the air while she will be at school. I could have just not told her what I was really doing, but that strategy might have backfired if we experience delays so we opt for the truth and deal with the disappointment.







However, once she was reminded that it’s “pet day” at school, and Grandma will be driving her, all is again well with the world. My biggest tip if you are going to travel from time to time without your kids is to encourage them to become super obsessed with grandparents or whoever will be taking care of them in your absence.  This will work to your advantage when it comes time to leave them!

Grandparent reinforcements:

We could have taken her to school ourselves a little early before heading to the airport, but it makes for a happier kid to have something special for her when we are away. A grandma and grandpa chauffer counts as special in her mind, especially when the dog gets to come to school too for pet day! Really this was the perrrrrfect day for me to be away because, well, the dog got to come to school! What in the world is better than grandparents and a dog at school?


Pre-Check for the win:

Having Pre-Check means we didn’t waste any time today getting to the airport too early. We got to the airport and through security in just a few minutes. The old days of waiting in long security lines (at least at Terminal C at IAH) would have made mileage run day a lot longer and more stressful. This was easy peasey.



Staying powered up is key with a day on the move. I knew my plane was scheduled to have power outlets, but you never know for sure if it will work, so power up at any and all opportunities. As a side note, the new iPhone 6 really does have improved battery life over the 5.



The most important check-in of the day isn’t at the airport, it’s back with happenings at home. Pet day was a success. Smiles (and wings?!) all the way around. Happy kid means happy flying.


On-schedule and on-track:

The most likely risks on mileage runs are delays or cancellations. This isn’t like a longer trip where a couple hours of a delay can be annoying but has a minimal impact on the overall experience. On a mileage run, that can blow up things in a hurry, especially because we need to get home on time in order to make an event at C’s school tonight! I don’t like my mileage running antics to have any negative impact on the home-front, so it was a relief when we boarded and departed on time.


In fact, if the weather was bad or significant delays were expected I would bail on the trip before ever starting. My mom responsibilities are more important than my mileage earning quests.

Office in the sky:

This mileage run was particularly attractive because it was booked into first class. Not only does that mean we were earning elite and redeemable miles at a 150% bonus, but it meant our “office for the day” came complete with relatively comfy chairs and a meal.


Of course our view from the “office” was also phenomenal.


Did I mention there was also free DIRECTV?

If I’m 100% honest, this is almost a better set-up than I have at home during the day! Amazing views, minimal distractions, and someone to bring me food and drinks.  If only the plane had internet it might have been the perfect set-up!


Lunch date:

Did I mention I had a partner on this “day in the sky” adventure? Yup, my travel-reluctant husband miraculously decided a day in the sky with me was a good idea, so we made it into a non-traditional date day.


Holding hands, eating food together, you know, just a normal date. More or less.

United revamped their first class meal offerings a few weeks ago and the food was actually totally decent. I’ve described it as “Panera good” before, and that held true today. What that means to me is that the food isn’t amazing or anything you are likely to crave, but it’s now totally adequate instead of disgusting.

United Sesame Chicken Wrap

United Sesame Chicken Wrap

The roast beef salad, french onion soup, and sesame chicken wrap were all totally edible and absolutely improvements over the previous meal options of cheeseburger with crunchy buns and southwest wraps.

United Roast Beef Salad

United Roast Beef Salad

United French Onion Soup

United French Onion Soup

The chocolate chip cookies were as warm and gooey as always, with a dash of metallic airplane taste on the side.


On the return flight they served a chicken, corn, and salsa snack plate. The chicken wasn’t my all time favorite, but overall the plate was a great relatively healthy snack.

United snack plate

United snack plate

TV time:

I watch very little TV at home, but get to binge on daytime TV while in the sky. Cupcake wars, E News, Property Brothers, I’m all caught up. Ask me anything. I even kept up with the Kardashians and their recent Thailand trip which absolutely gave me the bug for Thailand. Proof that good things can come out of trash tv…occasionally.

Fall Foliage:

Since I live in a location almost devoid of fall, I am drawn to experiencing fall in other locations when we travel. Even though I didn’t really get to experience Michigan, I got to spot some signs of fall from the air. From the air, the Detroit we saw was really pretty.


Airport Sightseeing and Working it Out:

When we landed it was time to walk around the Detroit airport as much as possible to get the blood flowing.

Of course when we walked by the Lufthansa lounge we had to pop up in for a quick peek (thanks to Star Alliance Gold status). The lounge was small, but had an above average sized bathroom, fresh fruit, a few snacks, and beverages.






If you are ever going to do something bizarre like a mileage run be sure to walk around to rack some miles up on your shoes between flights. We could have just stayed at the gate since we were flying the same plane back to Houston, but it was a much better choice to start walking as soon as we landed.

The views from the various airport windows weren’t half bad!


Picture Perfect Mileage Run:

This was a picture perfect mileage run, assuming there is such a thing. First class seats, accelerated mileage earnings thanks to the fare class, low ticket price, same day turn, a companion to hang out with, and we were home in time for the C’s school open house and dinner.  In truth we were pretty tired after it was over even though we didn’t actually do anything all day.

I would love to really visit Michigan one day, but this was a super easy and comfortable way to rack up some miles that will help me hit the elite status I want for next year. The elite status that this trip will help me earn will benefit the whole family in 2015.

I wouldn’t want to do this on a regular basis, but it didn’t feel as crazy as it sounds (and I know it sounds crazy) and there are far worse ways to spend a day than in the air.

Landing back in Houston

Landing back in Houston


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  1. Looks like you had a good time.
    I did 3 of these in the last 2 days as well thanks to the $144 DTW-IAH fare in F, though mine involved way too much ERJ time out of the 6 segments and only 1 was in a 737 this time around. Booked a total of 12 of these runs and hoping to get to *gold to requalify.
    Glad your run went well–mine was frought with delays due to the chicago mess

  2. You picked a great day to fly into Michigan. The colors are starting to turn in Southeast Michigan. It’s been a fabulous fall so far.

  3. I guess I just don’t get it. No thanks. Sounds like a waste of a day but again I don’t travel that much so I guess I don’t know the benefits.

    • In some ways it is a waste of a day, but the rewards of getting over the status hump are worth a day of flying around for us. Wouldn’t be worth lots of these days though!

    • I do not consider it a waste of a day, even if there were no benefits. To some people this is a relaxing and stres free day. No phone calls or people to depend on you. There are train buffs who love riding trains so this is no different.

      If you enjoy it, is it really any different than a day at the beach or a spa or playing chess? Relaxation is very subjective. Now if this same trip is in coach that really changes the dynamics.

  4. Hi Summer! How do you find these fares? (like the $144 DTW-IAH fare in F mentioned by Alex) do you search them on your own (if so how?) or are they mostly tips from your network of bloggers?

    • Bill, a combo of Twitter, blogs, and the mileage run forum on Flyertalk. At the very least I would recommend following @theflightdeal and @airfarewatchdog on Twitter.

  5. Hi — I’ve read about the data pointing to airline travel as one of the strongest single components of climate change. How do you feel about that in conjunction with your flying habits? (I mean this question completely respectfully!)

    • Ralph, I’m certainly not an expert on climate change though it wouldn’t take a big leap to conclude that air travel as a whole likely has a negative environmental impact when taken at face value. I’m all for more fuel efficient planes and avoiding waste when possible. I absolutely wish airlines offered the option to not fly a flight and still earn the miles. I would have been all over that in this case for many, many reasons. United would sell me the elite qualifying miles, but at a rate much higher than I paid to fly yesterday.

      None of that really answers your question because I don’t have a great answer to it. I think the benefits of travel for my family hopefully outweigh the damages, but it would be tough to argue that a mileage run by itself has great value from an environmental stand point.

      Hopefully some of the other things we do as a family from an environmentally conscious standpoint help offset it to some degree, but it certainly is an issue that I do think about from time to time.

    • Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but climate change prevention is a political impossibility. It’s a global problem with individual political actors in charge, who’ll never agree to take the necessary steps to tackle the problem. All you can do is focus on adaptation and mitigation.

  6. One of my favorite activities when I have long layovers (mileage runs or not) is to lounge-hop. Unfortunately it just makes me less happy with my usual United lounge. 🙂

  7. My wife and I took advantage of PHL-DFW for $88RT! In her words “this feels like being on vacation”.

    It was a great day. Just her and I and decent food at DFW.

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