Category: Award Travel

Successful bookings using miles and points by Miles Moneyball

2014: Chicago/Washington D.C. Round Trip

2014: Chicago/Washington D.C. Round Trip

Trip Synopsis

Round trip Economy Class Chicago to Washington D.C. on American Airlines for 9K British Airways Avios

MMB analysis

Redeeming British Airways Avios on domestic short haul on American Airlines often results in excellent values. BA used to charge 4500 Avios for flights less than 650 miles. Assuming a regular revenue ticket of $200 between the two cities, this redemption yields better than two cents/Avio.

How will it work out today

British Airways has rolled up 650 miles and under to 1150 miles range and charge 7500 miles instead for US domestic tickets, although the ultra short distance is still available outside of the US.

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Washington, D.C 612
Washington, D.C. Chicago 612
Total 1224

MMB Highlights

  • American Airlines Admirals Club lounges

I turned serious at travel hacking in 2014. Don’t take my words for it, I have my $450 annual fee Citi American Airlines Executive World Elite MasterCard that I obtained that year to prove, the most expensive card in my possession ever. It was an extraordinary offer when it was rolled out: an unprecedented 100,000 AA Advantage Miles for a whopping $10,000 in spending! I will not go into details how the spending requirement was satisfied but one of my teeth answered the call with a crack that resulted in dental implementation. Anyone who had been through or teetered on that procedure would know the rest.

Besides generous points offering, the card also came with $200 statement credit on travel (read: annual fee reduced to $250) and American Airlines Admirals Club membership, with lounge admission privilege extended to card holder’s family. Taking American Airlines flights between Chicago and Washington Reagan airports, both with Admirals Club presence, fed into the travel plan.

American Airlines Admirals Club entrance between Concourses H and K

Elevator the AC

Snack and drink (sorry, real food not included)

Shower facility at Chicago AC

A couple of hours later, we visited another Admirals Club at Washing Reagan airport.

Compared to Chicago, Reagan airport lounge was noticeably smaller with less patronage.

The card has faded in many travel hackers’ radar after it removed perhaps the best benefit associated with its ownership: last night free for any award booking of two or more days at Club Carlson hotels, which include Radisson Blu, Radisson RED, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inns & Suites. Our weekender involved only two nights, yielding the best award redemption value.

Card holders also receive Carlson Gold Elite status, eligible for room upgrade. At Country Inn & Suites at BWI Airport, we were lucky to have actually received King Suite upgrade. Total cost: 28,000 Gold Points for two nights. The signup bonus of this card alone, 85,000 Gold Points, was nearly enough to pay for this stay three times.

With free flights and free hotel stays, we enjoyed our meetup with friends who we hadn’t seen for over 10 years at L.P. Steamers, Baltimore’s premier place for steamed blue crabs. Blue crab season run from April through November. Crabs were meaty, I can assure you, during our visit in late August.

Beer and crab on the deck at L.P. Steamers.

We liked the crabs so much that we feasted in our upgraded room for a second time the next day.

2014: Chicago/South Carolina Round Trip

2014: Chicago/South Carolina Round Trip

Trip Synopsis

Economy Class round trip for two Chicago to South Carolina on Southwest for 13K Southwest RapidRewards Miles

MMB Analysis

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards points are priced at fixed value of 1.5 cents/point. The greatest benefits of redeeming RR points is at its flexibility. If you cancel a revenue ticket, Southwest refunds in the form of voucher that expires in one year from ticket date. If the ticket is paid for by points, you will receive all the points back without any penalty. This makes Southwest RR points the best venue for speculative booking when you are not sure about the trip, all the way through 10 minutes before the flight! Meanwhile if you find lower price, simply cancel/rebook or modify existing reservation. You can’t beat that with any other airlines!
  • With this flight, I also took advantage of Southwest’s Companion pass earned through Chase Rapid Reward visa cards. With Companion pass, you pay for one ticket, with points if you wish, and receive second ticket for free.

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Greensville 562
Charleston Chicago 745
Total 1307
2013: CHICAGO/Toronto Round Trip

2013: CHICAGO/Toronto Round Trip

Trip Synopsis

Round Trip Economy Class Chicago to Toronto on American Airlines for 9000 British Airways Avios

map

MMB analysis

  • British Airways charges 4500 Avios for under 650 miles redemption
  • There is no round trip figure in BA award chart. A round trip is calculated as two one-ways.

How will it work out today

  • British Airways eliminated 650-mile award bracket in North America. The same flight would cost 7500 Avios each way, like other under 1150 miles redemption.
  • American Airlines have become very stingy in releasing domestic award seats. Flights like this are considered rare find, let alone between Christmas and New Year.

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Toronto 437
Toronto Chicago 437
Total 874
2013: Chicago to Rome to Singapore to Chicago

2013: Chicago to Rome to Singapore to Chicago

Trip Synopsis

Economy Class around the world via Europe and Asia on Lufthansa, Singapore, and ANA for 65K United Miles

The trip has a special place in my heart as it was my first dip into award booking inspired by miles and points aficionados. I was so excited afterwards that I even wrote my first trip report ever.

Encouraged by the success, I set my eyes on the next level of award travel: long haul international in business class.

MMB Analysis

  • United saw this as a round trip to Singapore (South Asia) at 32,500 miles each way with a stopover (ie, a stop over 24 hours) in Rome (Seven day Mediterranean cruise not included :-))
  • First time flying with Star Alliance partners Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines

Afterthoughts

  • I should have taken advantage of open draw at destination (arrive at/depart from different places in the same region). Since we visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia while at Singapore – bus outbound and AirAsia in bound, the KUL/SIN segment could have been avoided. It was nice to experience Asia’s most successful discount airliner AirAsia, but that alone not justified a long layover at Singapore. I could have booked Kuala Lumpur to Chicago as the return trip, going through one of Star Alliance’s hubs at Beijing (Air China), Taipei (EVA), Seoul (Asiana), or Tokyo (ANA).

How will it work out today

  • United mileage chart was devalued in 2014 and again in 2016. Singapore round trip would cost 70,000 in 2014 and 80000 miles now.
  • United eliminated stopover allowance in 2016. We could not have taken a seven-day stopover in Rome.

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Frankfurt 4344
Frankfurt Rome 595
Rome Frankfurt 595
Frankfurt Singapore 6389
Singapore Tokyo 3324
Tokyo Chicago 6274
Total 21521

Flying 21K on 65K miles. The ratio is stunning, particularly considering it’s my first booking!