Finding the Best Redemptions…

I’ve always been obsessed with “maximizing” my miles and points. For a typical award redemption, I want to fly as many segments and try as many products as possible, even though it hasn’t meant the best itineraries. In December, I racked up 40,000 BIS (butt-in-seat) miles over a span of two weeks. Most people (and I’d assume readers here) who love flying in premium classes would consider the trip was tremendously fun, but it’s likely they’d find a trip like this also exhausting as well. It’s a similar situation with hotel points and elite status. In my previous trips, I’ve always pushed for the best upgrade and benefits and dug for the best room rate whether with BRG’s, glitches, or sale rates.

Recently, I’ve been taking more trips closer to home. Two weeks ago, I spent 80,000 points for business class to Hawaii on Air Canada Premium Rouge and United Business Class. For the sake of comparison, the cheapest business/first class tickets for my dates were going at $1700, while economy tickets were going at around $700-800. Aeroplan’s egregious carrier/fuel surcharges taxes were around $200, and I would have earned roughly 6,000 redeemable miles on those tickets, since I don’t have airline elite status. I’d place business class to be around $1100, since it isn’t that difficult to find some United RPU’s (Regional Premier Upgrades) from a friend to apply on a paid ticket on United.

While valuing the redemption is for another post, my miles were valued at around 1.1 cents for this redemption, which is far lower than the two cent value (if not more) Aeroplan miles get for international premium class redemptions. In this case, it’s moot, because if I didn’t have miles, I wouldn’t be able to go to Hawaii in any case, since I don’t have $800 lying around ready to throw on a weekend trip to Hawaii.

Last weekend, I took another weekend trip to Sacramento and San Francisco to visit friends. I flew there with 9,000 Avios, on Alaska Economy Class, and back on United on a CRJ as part of the itinerary on one of my Aeroplan reduced fare tickets. Again, it wasn’t a “glamorous” trip with Park Hyatt Suites, and international first class, but I enjoyed my vacation just as much as most of my other trips. I started with the miles and points game roughly three years ago, when I was 16 at the time. For the past few years, chasing the deal has always been my passion. The thrill of being able to pay less than others for travel products is undeniable.

This weekend I’m supposed to be flying Asiana and ANA First Class from one of my US Dividend miles tickets, booked 11 months ago when US Airways was still part of Star Alliance. Normally, I think I’d be excited for this trip, but I’m not. I’ve already flown both of those carriers within the last 15 months, and have 2x Asiana First Class segments booked in the next 6 months. I also had 2x ANA First Class segments booked, but decided to cancel that. Is this typical in the lifecycle of a mileage junkie?

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  1. I think it’s quite normal as one gets older, travels more (in style), has a family, etc..
    The priorities change, period

    My 1st Mini-RTW in J was in 2011, I was super excited
    My last Mini-RTW (in Y) YYZ-IST-ICN-TPE-LAX-YYZ, wasn’t so fun anymore, even in J

    Now I have a family, I’d go for shorter flights/layover, nonstop, better timing (for kids to sleep) vs. # of carriers, airplanes, different business classes I fly

    That’s what confuses me about Lucky (Ben) in general, how does he not get sick of LH? or First class in general? I wish he does more Business class/Trip reports instead

    Keep up the good work, Jeff, do the best you can (at different stage of life), enjoy the “important” things in life (relative to each one)

  2. Work is higher pressure now and I feel stressed when I travel. It’s sad because I have millions of points and miles to burn.

    Don’t cancel those segments — come visit Shanghai and I’ll show you around!

  3. I agree that’s just part of the life cycle of travel and personal growth.

    I didn’t get started collecting miles as young as you did, but rather I think I was probably in my mid-20s when I got serious about it. I remember my first J flight wasn’t even all that far (just a few hours in duration down to the US), and it was in one of the AC 767s before they were XM’d with the pods (which today are starting to look rather tired). I was super excited at the time, thinking it was just fantastic, but looking back on it, it doesn’t seem so great anymore, because each year that went by saw even greater experiences, just a little bit at a time.

    Now, here I am, getting close to 40 years old, and the game has changed. Sure, I still collect miles diligently, but at a rate faster than I seem to be able to use them. It used to be I’d do everything I could to get the remaining miles needed for that redemption I wanted. I also remember being excited when CIBC came out with the 5,000 mile sign-up bonus on the Aerogold card! Hey, it was a lot at the time.

    It seems that earning miles is easier today, but redemptions are way more difficult and frustrating. I remember getting 2 free J seats in high season, perhaps only 5 years ago, on NZ from LAX to AKL and almost no fees. I’ve had lots of great redemptions I probably couldn’t replicate today. Those days are long gone.

    My air travels today are just a means to get to where I need to go. The most direct routing possible on a comfortable carrier is preferable. The journey isn’t as exciting as it used to be, even though the product is probably as good or better than it was. Perception is tainted by experience. Of course, being spoiled by all of those nice “free” trips over the years, I now can’t travel any other way than in J or F. Perhaps opening my eyes to the better experience was not so good after all. Maybe the airlines have won the long game by converting me. Today, I find myself just buying international J or F tickets without giving it another thought, which would have been inconceivable to me a decade ago. And, I’m buying those tickets for two people instead of one (unless I get lucky and get one cheap with miles, but availability seems to have gotten worse over the years). OK, I still look for sales and great deals, and I’m buying Z/P and not full J, but I find myself splurging a lot.

    The same goes for hotel accommodations. I used to think of $300 as an expensive hotel room! Now I find paying $1,000 per night is a common occurrence.

    As you get older, time becomes the most precious resource you have, and you find ways to make the most of it. I certainly don’t think of myself as old, not even close, but I view time differently today than I used to.

    Some might call that a mid-life crisis, but I’m hopefully I’m not mid-way yet–there’s still too much travelling to do! Besides, it’s been a slow and incremental change, not a sudden onset.

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