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Using Airline Miles for Winter Travel

using airline miles for winter travel
Written by Dustin

After some planning we were able to use our airline miles for our winter vacation. Where will we be heading?

Last week, there were some awesome sub-$400 fares to Europe and I was lucky enough to take advantage of it! I definitely hit some snags along the way, but in the end I was able to use airline miles for winter travel and get our tickets for around $200. So where are we going and how did I book it?

Using Airline Miles for Winter Travel

Where are we going?

Before the big sale even hit, I had my eyes on a few places in Europe. My destinations were between Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, or the non-European destination of Maui. These destinations were on our list before we decided to stay domestic back in October.

We typically travel where the deals are, or where our rewards get us. When the deals for Barcelona and Madrid came along, that made out decision a little easier.

After doing some research and thinking about our next destination, we decided on Barcelona! This has been towards the top of our list of places to visit and from reading, it doesn’t sound like I’ll be disappointed!

Initial Flight Plans:

I always seem to have a curve ball thrown when trying to book airfare, but I enjoy the challenge :-).

As for searching for flights, I typically use Google Flights. It is a great way to search airfare and I think many of you would agree.

Flying from Bangor can be quite expensive. My initial plan was to book from BGR to LGA, then fly out of JFK to Barcelona. Our return flights would have been Barcelona to JFK, then hopping over to LGA and finally ending back up home in BGR. That was the plan, but when I received Kristin’s vacation approval, I was at work and could not book flights at that time.

I told myself I would book it when I got home, but around 4 pm I received an email from Google flights showing my flight from JFK to BCN has increased about $110 per person. With that in mind, I had to find a new way. There’s always another way :-).

Finding New Plans:

After playing around with award flight cost and different origins to Barcelona, I was able to come up with an itinerary that was still very easy on the wallet!

After doing some quick looking, I was able to find flights from Bangor to Boston for 7,500 miles one way. I transferred over 15,ooo MR points to my Delta account to book this flight. This flight cost us a grand total of 15,000 skymiles and $11.20 . I typically seem to find this for 15,ooo miles one way per person. I am not sure if this was an unadvertised sale, but I will gladly take it!

Using Airline Miles for Winter Travel

A great use of miles

It was a no brainer to burn 15,000 miles to save almost $800!

Next up booking our flights to Barcelona! This took a little time as I had issues finding award seats back to Bangor from Boston. Thankfully, I was able to book an open-jaw ticket and land back into JFK!

In the end I was able to book 2 tickets for a cost of $852 (well I didn’t actually pay that), but I’ll explain soon enough.

Using Airline Miles for Winter Travel

Not a bad deal, IMO

What is interesting is our flight from Boston actually connects in JFK, then heads over to Barcelona. But, it actually saves me money to leave from Boston and connect in JFK, than to actually leave from JFK . Oh well, part of the game I guess 🙂

When looking at flights back into Bangor, Boston was not a feasible option as we would not have been back in time to catch the latest flight back to Bangor!

I was able to find award tickets from LGA to BGR. This works out well for us since we will be back into New York around 3:30 pm. We will have plenty of time to make our way over to LGA to catch our flight home.

Using Airline Miles for Winter Travel

I can always count on a late flight to BGR from LGA

Instead of spending $246 on 2 one ways, I was able to book these tickets for 15,000 miles and $11.20.

Again, not a bad use for miles as using 30,000 miles had saved me close to $1,150 just to position us for our flights.

I did transfer 30,000 Membership Reward points to my Delta account to book these flights. That cost ~$18.

Paying for flight to Barcelona

Now I am sure some of you (many of you?), would not have done what I had done, but my goal is always to travel for less. Something I always tell Kristin, is I can always earn more points and miles.

Before I started booking these flights, I had a little more than 100,000 MR points between mine and Kristin’s account. Now from my current strategy, I am using cash back options to take advantage of some of these great deals. Why do I mention my MR account balance?

I currently have the Delta Gold credit card. One of the options when you are a Delta credit card holder is to “pay with miles.” Maybe some of you just cringed when hearing this. But, I think makes sense every now and then.

Delta’s Pay with Miles lets you redeem your miles at 1 cent per mile in 5,000 point increments off the cost of the ticket. For some, this is too low of an amount to redeem miles for, but it depends on your goals. I am going to sleep just fine knowing I used my miles as cash back via Pay with Miles to see another part of this world.

Like I mentioned earlier, I can always earn more points.

But…If you were to book an award flight for the ticket I just booked it would look like this:

Using Airline Miles for Winter Travel

That’s a lot of miles

Now I spent 30,000 miles to get us to Boston and back home from New York. That left me with about 70,000 MR points in my account. I decided that I was going to use my MR points as cash back via Pay with Miles through Delta.

So I transferred 70,000 Membership Reward points to my Delta account, which cost about $40.

Now if you remember, my ticket cost was going to be $852. Using my 70,000 miles as cash back currency, this knocked my cost down to $152.

I even had a $100 Delta gift card I received when I signed up for the Delta Gold credit card, but I apparently missed the print where you can’t use gift cards on Pay with Miles option. So my hopes of dropping my price another $100 will have to wait for another trip. Oops!

I think using my Membership Rewards as cash currency for this trip is well worth it. I get to cross another place off my list and that is worth more than the points I cashed in for this trip.

Where will we stay?

We will be using Airbnb for this stay. We really enjoy Airbnb and having a whole house/apartment for the same cost or slightly less than a hotel is something we prefer.

I am actually waiting to book this part of our trip, because I have my eyes on opening a new credit card to pay for it. Unfortunately, I have to wait until we close on our house this week to open some new cards. I’m thinking that 50,000 point Barclay Arrival Plus will do just fine for this :-).

On top of this, I will earn Delta miles for booking my Airbnb. I won’t earn an amount to brag about, but I will take earning extra miles or points any day of the week!

Conclusion:

I am actually pretty excited to head back over to Europe. Kristin and I had an amazing time in Budapest, and Prague was great to see as well. I look forward to seeing what Barcelona has to offer, as it looks gorgeous. On top of it, it seems people who have been to Barcelona seem to LOVE it.

As far as using airline miles, they are there to be used. I read too often where someone is sitting on hundreds of thousands of points and prefer to pay for a ticket because they feel their points are worth more than X amount. At the end of the day, I saved about $1850 using my Delta miles as cash and on award tickets.

Devaluations happen, its inevitable. Have a plan for your points and use them! Your half a million SPG points aren’t going to pay your bills, but they will help you see the world for less.

And remember, you can always earn more points!

Would you have used your points the way I did? Were you able to snag any of those sub-$400 fares?

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About the author

Dustin

After completing 6 years of pharmacy school, I finally had the time to travel. I started investigating ways to travel for less and when I redeemed my first award flight for my honeymoon, I knew I was hooked! Fast forward a couple of years and places I had never dreamed of visiting like Budapest, Honolulu, Bermuda and many other places where all within my reach, and for little to no money out of my pocket. Now, I have collected well over a million points and miles, and try to help people travel for less on their wallet.

4 Comments

  • Great itinerary, but I would have just driven to Boston! Why spend 5 hours (plus security) and risk a misconnect or long delays in LGA when the drive is under 4 hours? Plus you’d save 15k points each way (though you would have to pay for a one-way car rental and gas, or parking if you drove both way).

    • Hey Matt,

      To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even think about renting a car and driving one way. But I also HATE driving in Boston. :-). That is something I’ll definitely need to keep in mind for next time. Thanks for the idea

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