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Miles and Points

Using miles and points flexibility to plan travel for 2019

After taking a break from heavy travel for the last year due to family and life circumstances, we’re ready to hit the road again starting in 2018. We took a couple trips here and there, but I’m itching to spend some more time on the road. I’ve put three trips on the books for next year and my wife and I still need to choose a place to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. (I’ve been getting some great suggestions from guests on the Observation Deck podcast, should be deciding soon!)

One common theme running through my bookings for next year: flexibility. Since we need to book four tickets and prefer booking premium cabins to Asia, I prioritized getting our trips on the books as early as possible. I also prioritized having as much flexibility as possible since things change quickly for a family of five. I’m always willing to cancel if need be regardless of the fee, but I try to minimize that whenever I can.

As always, this post will outline my thinking and hopefully help others as they frame their plans as well. I also advise people to check out Milenomics’ oldie but a goodie about demand schedules. Let’s get to the fun stuff!

Using Jetblue Mosaic for flexibility to California

Our first trip on the books I booked with Jetblue points on a direct flight from Boston to California. Since this trip is the one with the highest likelihood of cancellation, I needed maximum flexibility. Thanks to spending my way to Mosaic status on the Jetblue card, I can cancel these flights for free, change times and dates for free, and basically make the reservation work as I see fit. 

I didn’t love the price either, it was around 90K points for four seats (taking the baby as a lap infant). Cash prices were a little over $300 round trip, which I can live with. Mosaic also would let me rebook at a cheaper price if it comes up. Since most of our travel is domestic and we fly Jetblue so much, Mosaic status was worth the spend to me. I’ll probably garden this reservation up until the trip. 

I’m also tempted to book Mint, I had a taste of it on a last minute trip to California a few weeks ago and I’m hooked!

Jetblue Mint Amenity kit
I gave my wife my Jetblue Mint amenity kit – would love to get another of my own

Using cheap Delta award fares for the Women’s World Cup in France

People keep talking about Delta award sales, which definitely are a thing. Most miles and points snobs geeks (trust me, I’m mostly the same way) don’t pay attention to award bookings unless it’s in business class or better. But if you’re willing to fly in economy, Delta’s been having a lot of great award sales with cheap flights to Australia, Europe, and elsewhere.

One thing many people don’t know is that Delta has variable pricing even when they aren’t announcing award sales. I wrote a few months ago about how Delta was offering flights to Europe from the East Coast for as cheap as 36,000 miles roundtrip. This presents great value for economy fliers, and I just checked, there still are some pretty cheap award fares from the east coast. Most involve a connection now, but I still saw flights for as low as 42,000 miles roundtrip. For reference, most carriers charge 30,000 miles one way in economy.

Delta Dynamic award pricing - you can find super low and super valuable awards if you look closely
Delta award prices still remain pretty good in economy from the East Coast

I booked two tickets for myself and my daughter to London and returning from Paris for 46,000 miles roundtrip each. We plan to go see a Women’s World Cup game in Paris amongst other things.

Again, flexibility is key. We are so far out that I’d put the odds of a schedule change at at least 50% – so if that happened I could cancel for free if I needed to. If that happened, I could also move dates around if necessary. I’m really looking forward to this trip and it should be a great time bonding with my daughter and watching some high quality women’s soccer. Maybe we’ll even snag a USWNT game!

Asia using American Airlines miles on Cathay Pacific

Our final trip on the books probably will hurt our wallets the most if we need to change or cancel. I’m not as up to date on award space availability as I used to be, but what I still do know is Cathay Pacific reliably releases 4 J seats on at least some of their flights as soon as the schedule opens. (You don’t have to take my word for it, if you signed up for Spencer’s award alerts he pointed out some space the other day.

So, I kept an eye on CX availability using the British Airways website. British Airways can book Cathay flights 12 months out but American doesn’t allow bookings until 330 days out. Still, as soon as American’s schedule opened, I put 4 business class seats on hold and then eventually booked the flights.

Cathay Pacific Business Class
It’ll be nice to get back into CX J, if we don’t chicken out!

So, I’m 560,000 AA miles poorer (plus a couple hundred dollars in taxes and fees) but we’re going to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and hopefully Japan next July. Yes, it will be ridiculously hot, but I think we’re done taking ten day trips to Asiajet lag just hits too hard

We haven’t booked our intra-Asia legs yet, so I’ve got a lot of flexibility there. I may mess around with some United excursionist perk stuff or just pay cash, we’ll see. It’s pretty far out!

Final Thoughts

It’s pretty exciting to be ready to travel again next year. While I’m a little nervous about doing so much travel with the kids, I’m also super pumped. My kids love traveling and I love traveling and making memories with them. I’m sure it will be difficult but I’m glad we have saved the miles and have the flexibility to plan these trips.

Jess and I still need to plan a ten year anniversary trip, so taking suggestions. Check out the podcast to hear what people have recommended and I’d love to hear people’s thoughts! 8 hours of flight time or less, only 4-5 nights away total are the parameters. No connections preferably.

What travel does everyone have on the books in 2019? I’d love to hear about that as well!

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Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

7 thoughts on “Using miles and points flexibility to plan travel for 2019

      1. Ha, I was coming down to vote for Hyatt Ziva Cancun. If you were looking for more nights away I would suggest something more exotic, but honestly that was one of the most relaxing four days I’ve had considering the low logistical barriers (e.g. no jet lag).

  1. We’ve got Phoenix and the Grand Canyon coming up in February, and Grand Teton/Yellowstone for September 2019. Looking at some road trip or cheaper trip possibilities to sprinkle in there. We traveled the most we ever have this year: 5 nights in Orlando, 6 road trip to Pittsburgh, 2 nights at a state park (I was at the inn with my daughters; boys camped lol), 8 nights to Las Vegas/Death Valley/Anaheim. It has been a great year! Travel with kids gets easier and easier. We didn’t even need a stroller at Disneyland! Woooo

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