Booking Los Angeles Part I : Frequent Flyer Miles
I am officially headed to Los Angeles in June and I could not be more thrilled! I had been anticipating a California trip this year because my boyfriend’s sister is getting married, but now that the wedding is officially on, we are making it into a full blown vacation for eight amazing sunshine-days! (Can you tell how much I LOVE California?) As soon as we received the save-the-date I started plotting our course! Now that we are all booked, I wanted to share with you some of my travel-planning process. Hopefully you find some of these tips useful, or use them as suggestions for your next trip!
Because I am a total nut and obsessed with getting a good price, we already booked everything! Earlier booking = cheaper. My beau and I are both enrolled in a frequent flyer mile programs, so using award miles was a serious consideration for this trip. He has well over 100,000 miles from having traveled for work for many years. Surprisingly, I had over 60,000 that had accrued over a few years of moderate travel, those two Asia trips certainly helped me rack up points.
Using your frequent flyer miles is kind of a funny thing. It’s one of those instances where you keep saving them to use on something good, and you never end up using them. We reasoned that while overseas trips to Europe and Asia are the priciest, you also rack up the most miles the quickest. Therefore, we would want to pay the money for those trips, because we are accruing more miles faster. We figured that we might as well put the miles to use for domestic trips to visit family in scenarios like this, where we have to go no matter what, and we won’t rack up that many miles by paying for it.
When we searched mile usage for the week we were interested in, most of the flights would cost 25,000 miles each way, which is kind of robbery considering you only accrue about 3,000 miles to get to California, but that is the airline industry for you! There is usually a fee tacked on, but our fee was only $5.00. Originally we weren’t going to stay for an entire week, but we found a deal to leave on Saturday and only use 15,000 miles. Miles are precious for future travel, so we figured it was worth spending extra money for more hotel nights than to waste another 10,000 miles! With the way that all worked out, we will be staying in Los Angeles for a whopping 8 nights! Overall, our trip cost us 40,000 frequent flyer miles and $10.00 each.
1.) First, be enrolled in a Frequent Flyer Mile Program (and try to fly that airline consistently)- This I learned from my well-traveled boyfriend. We (almost) exclusively fly United Airlines. Not because United is so great (in fact, it isn’t) but we were both die-hard Continental flyers before the merger, so we keep on with United to keep our miles. I don’t have a United/airline credit card to accrue miles, I just signed up for a United account and started racking up the miles. While other airlines may offer slightly cheaper fares now and then, I like knowing that booking my flight is going to get me some credit later on. Not only will you start to accrue enough miles with the same airline to use for free flights later- you may get other perks! One year I flew 25,000 miles with United in one year, so I got bumped up to a different frequent flyer mile status that allowed me first class upgrades and free checked bags. It can pay off in the long run to fly the same airline!
2.) Make A Plan- Sometimes there are blackout days and exclusions to using your miles, so make sure you know what the deal is, what offers you can reap, and when. My boyfriend has a serious amount of miles, so sometimes we even make a plan to use his miles for one ticket, and then split the cost of the second ticket. Just put some thought into it! Know what you are willing to pay to go where, and also how much additional money it takes. For a while we thought we would use our award miles for upgrades to first class on flights. However, upon further consideration, that is not the best use of our miles. Even though you have already paid to be on the flight, the upgrade to first class can still cost thousands of miles AND additional money.
3.) Be Flexible- This goes hand in hand with making a plan, but obviously the earlier you start looking, the more options you have. I have rarely seen award mile trips at 15,000 miles, the standards seem to be 25,000 or 50,000, and that is only one way! As I mentioned, we were not previously planning on staying in LA that long, but to save 10,000 miles on an award trip, I’ll take it!
4.) Decide- It sounds crazy, but this is the hardest part. The more miles you accrue, the less you want to spend them, as if you are saving them for something big! It can be hard to pull the trigger on an award miles trip when it can take so long to accrue them! I know people with hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles they have never spent. What are you waiting for? You can’t take it with you, that’s what I say! I personally maintain that quick island trips or domestic travel is the best way to spend them, but if you are saving them up for a big trip: have an exact mileage goal in mind of how much you need, and when you get to that point- book that trip! You earned it!
Do you have tips or tricks for booking flights or using frequent flyer miles?! Share them below!
Stay tuned for Part II to see where we are staying in Los Angeles!