I mentioned a couple of months ago that I had my name drawn in this year’s St. George (UT) Marathon. This was my second year applying and I was looking forward to it. As soon as I had signed-up for the race (you can sign-up for the lottery up to 1 month before the actual drawing occurs), I booked an award ticket on Delta. As a Platinum Medallion with Delta, I am able to redeposit award tickets (up to 72 hours before departure) at no fee or penalty ($150 for anyone not Platinum or Diamond), so it cost me nothing and it at least let me get a seat. The bad part was that it was 40,000 Skymiles (which I did not plan on spending).
I had somewhat particular requirements – I wanted to spend as much time in the area as I could the day before and needed to be back by Sunday morning. So, that ruled out flying into St. George as the only options would not let me be home in time. So, I had to fly to Las Vegas and drive (2 hours). That was still 40,000 miles – again, not happy with that. I decided to at least hold the ticket for now because I was not willing to pay the $450+ fare to Las Vegas to get there. That is not why I travel to marathon destinations – I need to get there for free or cheap!
I looked at flying to Las Vegas on a paid fare and returning with miles from Las Vegas that would put me home early Sunday morning. The problem was that the Las Vegas flight was still in excess of $300. Here is where you need to be a little creative. When a fare special came around for Delta to Los Angeles and San Francisco for $250, I began to play around with destinations. I built an itinerary that had me fly from Rochester – JFK – LAX – LAS – and do it all for $130 (which was covered by a $100 certificate I had with Delta so my out-of-pocket total was $30). If I tried to do ROC-JFK-LAS, it came up at $300. By adding Los Angeles into the mix, it gave me a cheaper flight and more miles!
With my departure out of the way, I began to look for my return. While there was an early afternoon flight that would get me home by Saturday night, it was going to be quite a stretch to get to the airport in-time from St. George. I would have to run my planned time and not hit traffic to make it. While it is possible to change your flight on United within 24 hours of departure for $75, I thought it would be better to book a later flight and switch it to the earlier one (if I made it) than take the risk of doing to the reverse. That left me with booking a flight out at 10PM and arriving back in Rochester before 9am Sunday. Perfect! The only problem was there were no coach seats available (12,500 miles), only first class (25,000 miles). That actually worked well for me since now I could book the first class ticket without feeling guilty about the extra miles 🙂 plus I would be able to get a good night’s sleep.
That left me with my hotel and car. Again, I booked both before I even found out I got into the marathon because most hotels and car rentals have no cancellation fees (for hotels, typically before 48 hours of check-in it can be cancelled for free). I got the best deal for both.
There is my next marathon! Being creative saved me 40,000 miles and $180. For your next marathon/trip, don’t be afraid to exercise a little creativity and try nearby airports or airline hubs as manual flight itineraries. If you want to book with miles, try to find a friend who you can transfer points to so that they can book the ticket for you and have any ticketing or cancellation fees waived. If you want some help like that with Delta, I am willing to do that for you. 🙂 I do that for others and wouldn’t mind helping you get a secured flight for your next trip.
So, I leave on Thursday for St. George for a great marathon! It should be great! My training has been going very well except for some hamstring problems, but I should be past them by now.