spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Confession: I just bought 4 tickets…with cash

on April 17, 2018

I KNOW!  It’s so rare for me to pay for anything but taxes when using miles/points, or pay for 1 or 2 fares and use miles/points/companion fare for the rest.  But this time it made a lot of sense.  I still have some tickets to buy for the European trip, but I’ll discuss some nice updates from Chase Ultimate Rewards that may just help me out with those.

So, who convinced me to actually pay out-of-pocket for 4 tickets to the mainland?  Alaska Airlines did!


Ok, let me rewind a bit.  You know of my obsession with the Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Fare.  From the beginning stages of planning for this trip, I planned to use them for the Home-to-Mainland and Mainland-to-Home travel.  We have 2 companion fare to codes to use each year (since my husband and I both hold the credit card), so each of us would book a “multi-city” itinerary of HNL-RDU for the outbound, and EWR-HNL for the return.  Pay for 2 fares, pay just the taxes +$99 for the other 2, and voila- another successful mainland trip savings.

But as I mentioned recently, the flights I wanted for this particular trip were pretty darn expensive, especially the outbound- my preferred routes/days/times were $913 one-way!  As my entire Mainland flights budget was just $2500 total round-trip, that certainly wasn’t going to work.  Here’s a reminder of my Transportation budget and progress:

Spain and France in 2018 or So Help Me
Estimated Actual
Main Transit Costs
Flights to/from US Mainland $ 2,500.00
Flights to Europe $ 30.00  $22.40
Eurostar to France $ 630.00
Flights to Spain $ 500.00
Flights within Spain $ 420.00
Flights to US Mainland $ 200.00  $255.24

I decided to look around at other Home-to-Mainland options for a few reasons: 1) I like to plan way ahead and buy tickets as soon as possible (duh) and I was closing in on 6 months until the travel date, 2) ahhh- the price hadn’t budged even one dollar for nearly 3 months, and 3) I know that Companion Fares can be used one-way, meaning I could still take advantage of it for the lower-priced Mainland-to-Home travel.

So I called up flights.google.com and kayak.comSide note: I did briefly consider converting some our of remaining SPG points to airline miles and attempting to book that way, but a preliminary search yielded terrible redemption options, so I quickly moved on from that. Anyway, I set some price alerts for the HNL-RDU route and let it simmer for a while.  One day, I got an alert that made me sit up and pay attention…a sub-$400 fare for Home-to-Mainland on American Airlines.  I checked the details to see if they fit my criteria:

  • departing after work/school hours √
  • only 1 stop/layover √
  • less than 4-hour layover between flights √
  • layover in a warm-ish location to avoid weather delays if possible √

Everything checked out, so I bought the tickets for just $392 each!   We will earn miles from these flights (though at a reduced rate since American switched to revenue-based mileage earning vs distance-based a while back), and we will have priority boarding from using my Barclay AAdvantage Aviator card.  The flight schedule gives us 4 full days in Raleigh with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and parents before we jet off to London.

candace heart eyes

So that still leaves the Mainland-to-Home tickets, and about $1000 left in the Estimated budget for the 4 of us.  Yikes- but remember we will use the Companion Fare for those, so another price alert is set, and I hope to see sub-$500 fares I can jump on soon!  Updated table:

Spain and France in 2018 or So Help Me
Estimated Actual
Main Transit Costs
Flights to/from US Mainland $ 2,500.00  $1567.00
Flights to Europe $ 30.00 $22.40
Eurostar to France $ 630.00
Flights to Spain $ 500.00
Flights within Spain $ 420.00
Flights to US Mainland $ 200.00 $255.24

Now, to address to Flights to Spain and Flights within Spain again.  You may recall I was planning to transfer some of our SPG points to British Airways/IberiaPlus to possibly book flights on Vueling.  Recently, I got an email announcing that Ultimate Rewards points were now transferable to both Aer Lingus and Iberia!  This gives me a greater pool of points with which to work with.  I did some time-consuming research into when exactly Vueling flights are available to book with IberiaPlus Avios on their site, as it didn’t seem to fit the normal schedule of 11 months, 6 months, etc.  I figured out that 202 days was the sweet spot.  I set myself up some reminders to be checking the site daily as it gets close to the 202-days until my desired travel date.  In this case, I’m really only considering nonstop flights.  I do have price alerts still set, in case of a non-RyanAir fare sale.  RyanAir is a European ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) that I am unlikely to consider flying in general, but definitely not on this family trip.

Anyway, my next step is to wait.  Wait until I can book the Mainland-to-Home flights at a low price, for the Eurostar bookings to open, for the Vueling/Iberia bookings to open.  I did decide that we couldn’t leave the NY area without taking the kids back to the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History, so those stops made it onto my spreadsheet under “Touring- NY/NJ.” The itinerary is really coming together.  More to share on that in an upcoming post.  Also, there have been some changes announced to both the IHG and SPG hotel programs, so I’ll touch on that as well 🙂


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