Our first ‘big’ trip we did with points was to Vancouver Island. It was when I was 6-7 months pregnant with Ames and my second time outside the USA. We were saving to buy a second car and the many, MANY baby items. It was so relaxing traveling from small airports and so relaxing to the mind that we weren’t spending a ton of money. It was the perfect baby moon trip!
I’ll hand the baton over to Nate for the details:
This may start sounding like an opinion piece but I’d like to use it to highlight one of the best perks of using miles to fly places instead of cash.
One of the most under-appreciated things when it comes to flying has to be the luxury of a small, regional airport. The large airport experience of paying high prices for parking, rushing into the airport, waiting in lines to get a boarding pass, and stressing your way through security only to get to your gate and have no empty seats, is not awesome. Kacee and I both agree that often a 12 hour drive is much more tolerable than a 3 hour flight, starting off like that. But what other option is there if you HAVE to fly? The answer is: regional airports.
Most moderate sized towns have access to commercial flights, whether through Delta (Sky West) or United or American (American Eagle), etc. Both when we lived in Cedar City and now in Pocatello we have had access via Delta. These airports are a million times (to be exact) better of a flying experience than departing from a large international airport. To use Cedar City as an example, we could leave our house 30 min before, park next to the terminal FOR FREE, stroll in, have the ticketing agent waiting there with your ticket in hand and proceed through security without any wait at all. Whenever I flew out of Cedar it was so easy and just calm that I actually enjoyed being there! It felt strange, almost.
Generally the biggest issue facing would-be travelers from taking advantage of such a better option is price. Almost always it’ll be significantly more expensive flying from these airports. So, how can you use points to make this more reasonable?
The first thing to understand is that many, if not most, airlines use a system which categorizes points redemption rates based on zones, whether it be by countries or continents. For example, if you fly from the States to Europe, it’ll cost you X number of points/miles to get there. If you’re spending cash on the flight, however, the cost will vary greatly if you decide to fly to Dublin versus into some backcountry airport in Estonia. By leveraging this very simple redemption system you can easily make your trips something enjoyable from the minute you leave your driveway.
As we will try to do with all of these posts, we want to explain what exactly we did and how you can do it as well. A couple of summers ago we were invited to a good friend’s wedding up in Canada, on Vancouver Island. Not only did we live 2.5 hours from a major airport but Victoria, on Vancouver Island, was a ferry ride away from Vancouver, on the arrival end of things. Our options included a long drive to Vegas, expensive parking, then a ferry ride in addition to our flight OR we could use our points and fly straight from Cedar City into Victoria. No driving or parking or ferrying required! Since Delta charged 30,000 miles to fly from the USA to Canada, no matter the size of the airport or cost of the ticket, we were able to redeem points for a flight that would generally cost $500 at the same rate as one that would cost around $250 and was infinitely (again, to be precise) more relaxing and enjoyable. Unfortunately Delta has changed their redemption structure slightly so it may not always work specifically with Delta anymore but here’s what we did:
Points earned: 50,000 (wait for this offer to come back up; had some more from previous flights to get to 60k)
Spending Requirement: $2000 in 3 months
Transfer: AMEX points transfer straight to Delta at a rate of 1:1
Redeem: Two round-trip tickets on Delta Airlines from Cedar City to Victoria, CAN for 60k miles.
Luckily, these “loopholes” still exist with many other airlines that service regional airports like American or United, both of which have credit cards with solid sign up bonuses. In fact, American often has a card with a 60,000 mile sign up bonus! (https://secure.fly.aa.com/
Also, domestic redemptions (within the States) or flights to Canada from larger airports like Salt Lake City on Delta are only 25k each way which puts flying two people only one credit card away! Often it’s a good idea to get on each airline’s website and search for dates to see how much the flights you’re looking for cost and then go hunt for a card to help get you there.