I’ve had August 2014 on the brain this week. I know, I know, it’s hard for some of you to conceptualize, but if you’re really going to start using more miles and points in your family travel strategy, you need to start about a year out.
There are bunch of posts on my mind…but I’m focusing on one item at the moment: my transportation. I haven’t decided exactly where I am going on vacation, but have at least narrowed it down to the European Continent. Using miles, I was able to combine 2 trips and save $856 . I’ll show you how below.
When I attend the seminars the nitty-gritty is useful, but I find it’s more the frame of mind of the speaker I come back to again and again. Ben at One Mile at a Time is the master of the “this is how I think” type of presentation: if you have a chance to see him at work, GO. So while I’m talking about the booking, I’ll also try to talk about my thought process.
This year it was easy to nail the dates down thanks to two wildly disparate events: the Seattle Sessions from First2Board (follow hashtag #f2bsea on Twitter for more info) the first weekend in August, and the Iowa State Fair August 7-17. 2014 is my solo year, so Deal Dad and the kids were easy…I just had to take care of my ticket from DC to Seattle on August 1 before 5PM, then leave Seattle after the 3rd after Noon, then back to DC before they come home August 16th at 7PM.
Read that again and you see my 1st thought, which I realized that not everyone may have assumed: combine trips when you can as there is no longer any discount buying round trip vs. buying one way cash tickets.
My 2nd thought was to compare the cash price to the price using miles so I would know whether using miles is a good value. Remember that I’m in the camp that values miles at the VERY low price of a penny to a 1.25 cents each (their cost to buy via sharing or cost to redeem if you use them for travel) and who flies coach. I’m deducting miles earned from paid tickets. Here’s what I found using ITA Matrix:
IAD-SEA July 31 (to make the time I have to come in early): $278/net $250
YVR-FRA August 3: $613 (Vancouver, $43 bus, no miles Condor airlines) net $656
DUB-IAD August 16: $810/ net $776
Clearly, miles should be cheaper if I can find flights! Luckily, I did and my schedule now looks like this:
United Airlines 282 Depart: 8:45 AM Washington, DC (IAD)
Arrival: 11:30 AM Vancouver, Canada (YVR)
Air Canada 854 Depart: 6:15 PM Vancouver, Canada (YVR)
Arrival: 11:25 AM London, United Kingdom (LHR)
Lufthansa 416 Depart: 10:00 AM Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Arrival: 1:00 PM Washington, DC (IAD)
The total: 60,000 US Airways miles and $225.68, or $856.32 less than the cash price!
Hidden in that list of flights is my 3rd line of thought: leverage destination differences to your advantage. In my case, I’m doing this twice: a)by flying into and out of Vancouver instead of Seattle I found an overnight flight that fit my schedule and I get to take the Cascades train which is supposed to be gorgeous! Also, by flying in and out of different cities, I was more able to find available flights. As I don’t yet know my destination and Europe is easy to navigate by train, it’s no big deal to me.
I purchased the US Airways miles for a penny each just a couple of weeks ago. Remember: hedge! I’ll talk about the how of finding and booking the award flights in a future post.