spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Award travel success…completed!

on January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

So far, 2016 is looking great! We are now booked to return from NYC after my daughter’s party.  It took a bit of shuffling around, and separating my party of 4 into 2 reservations ( me + the kids on one reservation, husband on another), but we are all returning to Honolulu on the same day, and arriving within 30 minutes of each other, albeit on separate airlines.  And the kids will only miss 2 days of school 🙂

So my original plan was to use 70K American AAdvantage miles to book 4 MileSAAver tix one-way, at 17.5k miles each.  I knew it would be hairy to try to find 4 SAAver tix on the same day, especially on American, since there are way more flights departing JFK than EWR.  But they codeshare with Alaska, who does have options out of EWR, so I was hoping that some award travel pixie dust would land on me, and started checking the site about 12 hours before the correct date’s availability was supposed to be loaded.


Well, the pixie dust must have landed on someone else, because not only had they loaded the date’s availability early, but all the SAAver awards appeared to already be gone, only Economy AAnytime at 50K each was displaying, or Business/First SAAver at 37.5k miles each 😦  You might recall that I redeemed for AAnytime awards as part of our Ecuador trip, but that was a time when Main Cabin Extra seating, with its increased leg room and Priority Boarding, was really convenient, and they were 30K miles each that time, not 50K!  This time, not only did I not have enough miles, I didn’t really need those amenities.  I thought about the Business/First SAAver, but only had enough miles for 1 person.

I called them, and the AAgent <— (haha) was confused as to why the date was already “live” for any kind of award, since it was about 10 hours too early for it.  She suggested that perhaps no SAAver inventory had been loaded at all, only AAnytime, and to check back again beginning at 12a CST, which is 8pm HST, so I set my alarm for 7:45p to remind me to get myself to a computer or mobile device and start clicking at 8p on the dot.  I did, and checked every 10 minutes for an hour.  Nothing changed, no new availability at all.  I starting thinking about my other options, because I wanted to have something booked as soon as possible-remember, I’m trying to come back home at the end of a Thanksgiving weekend, so award availability across the board is going to be gone quickly, and cash prices will be substantial.

I turned to United miles and Ultimate Rewards (UR) points.  I had about 18K United miles, and 30K Ultimate Rewards of my own, plus DH had 9K United miles and 17K Ultimate Rewards points from using his Chase Freedom card.  When you have a “premium” UR-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, as I do, you have the ability to combine points with a spouse at no cost.  Then, you have the ability to transfer those UR points to United airlines with no fee, at a 1:1 ratio.  The nice thing about these transfers is that they are instant.

Checking the United site, I could see availability for 3 people on my date, on the EWR-HNL nonstop (11 hours, gulp), for 22.5k miles each, total = 67.5k.  With my United miles, and the combined UR points, I now had 65K United miles in my account.  Still need 2.5k miles to book the award! I started thinking about how I could transfer more miles quickly.  SPG points= no, because they don’t transfer at 1:1, but the dismal 2:1.  IHG points= no, because it takes 4-6 WEEKS for the transfer to go through!  Not enough Hilton, or La Quinta, or Wyndham points to move.  I do some surveys on the e-Rewards opinion panel, and earn “money” that can be transferred into miles, so considered that, then remembered that I had already redeemed for miles a few weeks back (for American miles, ironically, when I was trying to surpass the 70K I would need for the 4 SAAver awards, before there was no availability), and you can only redeem for miles 1x per quarter.  My husband suggested that I might be able to transfer some of his United miles to me, and I scoffed, because I just knew that it would charge a ridiculous fee.  I looked at just buying the miles outright, and it didn’t make sense-too expensive for the small amount that I needed- over $200!  For curiosity’s sake, I clicked on the “Transfer your United miles to someone else” link, and to my huge surprise, discovered that transferring miles only cost $7.50 per 500 miles, with a flat $30 transaction fee on top of that.


I set my sheepish feelings aside and quickly checked the Terms and Conditions.  They stated that the transferred miles would be in my account within 48 hours.  Sounds good to me!  I completed the transaction, transferring 3k miles, a little more than I needed, just in case, and paid the $75 fee.  I started looking at alternate route options for DH- remember that I was only booking 3 tix right then, for me and the kids- when I got the email that the transferred miles were available in my United account!  It didn’t even take 48 minutes, let alone 48 hours.  Sure enough, I now had 68K miles available to use.  I hopped on there and quickly booked 3 awards for the EWR-HNL nonstop on my preferred date.


Still in need of a way for DH to get home, I recalled the 37.5K Business/First SAAver award available on American Airlines… I checked the details, and it was actually First Class travel on both legs, with a quick layover in Dallas (DFW).  He’d be leaving a few hours before us, but from Newark as well, and then landing in HNL 30 minutes before we did!  I ran it by DH, who was ALL FOR IT, of course, and boom, he’d be traveling in style after what I imagine will be quite a hectic party trip.  Plus, as a perk of the AAdvantage Aviator credit card, I get 10% of the AA miles I redeemed returned to me.  I used 37,500 to book the award, but got 3,750 miles back into my account, effectively making the award ticket 33,750 miles.

Travel cost breakdown:

  • $11.20 in taxes for 2 Economy award tix on Alaska Airlines for DH and DS.  Me and DD’s Alaska Economy award tix also had the $11.20 tax charge, but I paid them out of MyWallet funds, so no out-of-pocket there.
  • $75 for the transfer of DH’s 3k United miles account to mine, including the $30 processing fee.
  • $16.80 in taxes for 3 Saver award tix on United Airlines.
  • $5.60 in taxes for 1 Business/First SAAver award ticket on American Airlines.
  • GRAND TOTAL: $108.60

My work here is done 🙂




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