- 140K MR (hers) 60K MR (his)
- 38K UR (hers) 26k (his)
- 52K AA (hers) 90K (his)
- Delta 9K
- Hyatt 2.5K
- SPG 52K
- BA 90K
- (some other stuff)
- Business Class seats for 3, RT that fits around an epic cruise.
This latest award booking was a nightmare to book, but I think we got it.. here’s how, in case the process helps, there’s a few nuggets in it all I hope.
Step 1 find a cruise (NCL Casinos at Sea)
Terms: unknown. We were offered something intangible, so I had to call around and find what our special ‘comp’ rate would be for the cruise. We went big first, 24 days in Asia, 42 to South America… (don’t tell me to aim high and then expect less!). The next CSR told us we out of our league at those levels, and they would only offer us 20% off the rack rate.
After much faffing, we got it narrowed down to South America, 14 nights, it seemed to qualify. It starts on January 16th, and ends on January 30th.
This cruise either goes East or West, between Santiago and Buenos Aires via the Cape Horn and Falkland islands. If you are into history, and the ocean, it is a pretty amazing journey, here’s an excerpt from wikipedia:
The Drake Passage (Spanish: Pasaje de Drake) or Mar de Hoces—Sea of Hoces—is the body of water between South America‘s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean (Scotia Sea) with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean. The passage receives its English-language name from the 16th-century English privateer Sir Francis Drake. Drake’s only remaining ship, after having passed through the Strait of Magellan, was blown far south in September 1578. This incident implied an open connection between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
OK, at this point we’re pretty excited, but didn’t know what the price would be. It came in a little high, but it would never be cheaper, so we went for it. The moment I pulled the trigger on this cruise, we set into motion the components of booking the trip around that. As you may have noticed at the start of the post, our points balances are lean. This trip was somewhat unplanned, and I’ve already been in burn mode.
Step 2 EZE-JFK
I started with this leg because after a cursory glance (hunting for hours, signing up for loyalty programs in Spanish with fake names and addresses) I found that there were only 3 business class tickets from Buenos Aires (EZE) the return of the cruise. Luckily they happened to be on 2/1. This gives us 2 nights in Buenos Aires at the end of the cruise. When I say I found 3 tickets, I mean tickets that were priced properly, at 62.5K each, can you spot which day works?
Tip: Sometimes on calendar view you don’t see the low cost ticket, it showed me only 147.5K for each day, but believe it or not.. hiding in Monday Feb 01 were 3 tickets at 62.5K a piece. The only thing I can think of that might explain it was that the ticket I booked was mixed cabin, EZE-GRU is in coach, but the long leg GRU-JFK is on DeltaOne, which apparently is fancy enough for Dylan. Full disclosure, I have no idea where GRU is in relation to EZE or JFK but I feel good about it. Note that I also felt good about getting from Mozambique to Tanzania on our honeymoon by using my thumb on the screen of google maps….
Once I saw we had 3 seats available I messaged Allison to transfer 140K of her MR into my DL account. This can happen if you are an authorized user (I am on her Ameriprise Platinum) In tandem I transferred 40K, new balance of 189K (instantly) and called Delta to book.
Delta couldn’t see any space, so I asked if I could book online with an erroneous DOB for Dylan and then call in to change it, they agreed. The reason I asked to mess up his DOB is that in other programs it is very hard to book an adult seat for an infant under 2. I was happy that they were onboard with trying it out. However, before causing more work for myself, I decided to try to book with his legit DOB, and it worked! Then I hit another issue.. a page popped up asking for 1 of 3 IDs that i’ve never seen before. I googled around and found a thread on Flyertalk (an insignificant forum that is trying to compete with Saverocity The Forum) that mentioned the same issue (they think I’m an Argie because of the one way originating in EZE).
I used the code 30697282714 in the CUIT field for all 3 of us. Success! (even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes FT) total price 187.5K miles and about $300, I paid with the Ritz Carlton card and will give them a quick call to wish them a happy new year next week.
- Cruise booked.
- Return Flight booked.
At this point, I knew that there were 7 seats in Business Class from JFK-SCL nonstop on LAN on the 12th. You can’t see this space on AA.com, but as Kenny notes in this fantastic post, BA is your friend here. My miles are short by 10K to book these though, so I transferred from SPG and put a hold on the flight with AA.
The hold lasts until 1/2 and the SPG transfer could be through anytime between now and Thanksgiving. A little awkward. My strategy here is that if the points haven’t transferred by 1/1 (of course it’s a fricking holiday..) then I’d make a decision to do one of the following:
- Pay 75K Avios for one seat (in my name)
- Pay 50K AA for one seat (Dylan’s name, my AA)
- Pay 50K AA for one seat (Allison’s name/AA)
Then try to link the PNRs between Allison and Dylan so that they allow the infant to travel. It’s going to be a bit of a frankenstein award, but it might work.
Or I may decide if I’d rather pay the 75K Avios vs buying AA miles for about $260 to top up the AA account, the AA would come with a $75 close in fee which could be avoided also.
I ‘put a hold’ on the BA ticket also.. it comes with a $5.60 service fee. If my AA points hit the account, I’ll cancel that first and then call AA, as sometimes the computer errors out when there are two people of the same name on the same plane.
At this point, I’m playing a waiting game with SPG, but I’m still active. In the interim, I’m going to have Mrs Saverocity swap out her Amex Plat $200 bennie to AA. We used DL last year. The theory is that I’m about to get hit with a bunch of fees from AA, and we can eradicate $200 of them neatly with this.
Next up, I needed hotels for the 13th-16th in Santiago, and 30th-1st in Buenos Aires. As a loyal Hyatt Diamond I booked at the Grand Hyatt Santiago and Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau. Since I recently gained the Diamond status with 4 DSUs I wanted to try those out, and upgraded both rooms to suites with them. I thought it was a bit crappy that the new DSUs, acquired recently, seem to expire in February, but I got to use two of them regardless.
Pro tip – you can use the DSUs for cash+points awards (space permitting), so my pricing was a choice of:
- 8000 pts for a standard room
- 4000 pts+$55 for a suite (using DSU)
Here’s what I should get the exotically named ‘GRAND STE KING’
- 20000 pts for a standard room
- 10000 pts+$125 for a suite (using DSU)
Here’s what I should be getting there, a much more enticing: Park King Suite
If I had the points in Hyatt already, I may have been more tempted to use the full point rate and skip the suite, but since these are basically pure Ultimate Rewards coming in. I figured the price was worth it.
I actually managed to book the EZE room with only 2500 points, then transferred them, which I thought was neat… and then had Allison transfer me 12000 more to book SCL. There are rumors this isn’t allowed, but it seemed pretty easy to do. There’s some weird disturbance in the force for the EZE suite, as my points are still in my account, but I’m sure as a valued Diamond it will work out fine.
Tip– they Hyatt website crapped out booking 2 Adults+1 Child, but worked fine on the phone. Sometimes if you see no space with them it is worth calling in. I’ve had that happen in the past with other things at Hyatt, such as Carmel Highlands forcing a 3 night minimum on internet booking, but allowing 2 nights over the phone.
Phew! It was a busy day.. we’re in limbo, as I have 1 ticket to Santiago, and 3 on hold. But we have a plan.