As I mentioned the other day, the St. George Marathon is now accepting entries for their fall marathon (though entries are subject to a lottery due to the vast number of entrants). I have had many people remark how much they want to do that race whenever I mention that I ran it last year. It really is a fun, fast, and unique race. The fact that it takes place in the fall only furthers the appeal (the fall colors are beautiful!).
St. George Marathon
In this post, I wanted to concentrate on airlines that could be used to reach St. George and what might be the best options. Because you will not find out until next month if you have gained entry, it is best to begin making plans now so that you are properly prepared should you get in. St. George is not a big city and airplane seats fill up fast (read this post for information on why prices change so radically). It is best to have secured seats before the rest of the running population that has registered find out that they are going. I know for a fact that immediately after finding out, runners bolt to the travel websites and start booking flights and hotel rooms. Well, what if you could already have your flights before they hold the drawing? You ask, “What if I don’t get in?” Here are some ways to get to St. George and then ways to be properly prepared with your chosen flights.
First of all, there are two airline options to fly into St. George Airport (Airport code SGU) – Delta and United. Hands down, Delta is going to be the better option due to pricing and availability, but United is an option for those who prefer it (or have United miles, etc). That Delta is the best option is actually a very good thing! People commonly complain about how hard it is to use their Delta miles. Well, here is an opportunity to use them on what can potentially be a >$600 ticket!
Delta flies into St. George from their hub in Salt Lake City. I like flying through Salt Lake City on Delta because there is normally great award availability for flying East to West (as opposed to flying into Los Angeles). Salt Lake City is a short 1 hour flight and there are 4 flights from SLC into St. George the day before the marathon. If you are flying from the East Coast to St. George, you will more than likely transit through JFK, Detroit, or Atlanta to SLC before continuing onto St. George. That can make for a long day, so I highly suggest not leaving that travel to Friday, the day before the race!
For low award availability on Delta, it will cost 25,000 miles for coach and 45,000 mile for first class. Delta has a very nice Economy Comfort product now on their longer-haul aircraft, so that purchased upgrade (price varies depending on the length of the trip) might be enough to help you stretch out for a long flight. If you are flying to SGU from the West Coast, it is a piece of cake!
Here is a glance at a sample award selection for travel to SGU from JFK. Unfortunately, at this time, Thursday and Friday are at the High award zone – 60,000 miles for coach! Because of how beautiful this part of the country is, if you can afford the time, you might as well plan to come out on Wednesday. This gives you Thursday and Friday to acclimate yourself slightly to the elevation (I come from 200 feet elevation, so going up to a mile was a little bit of a difference!) as well as time to enjoy the area.
This award availability might vary for you based on your departure airport and departure date. Remember to exercise some flexibility as you can fly through either JFK, Detroit, or Atlanta to get to SLC and ultimately, St. George.
In some cases, the award mileage requirement might be so high that you would not want to waste that many miles for a domestic ticket (say it was that 60,000 miles). In cases such as this, you get to actually decide how many miles you would like to use for the ticket! Thanks to Delta’s Pay with Miles feature, you can drop $100 off of the ticket for every 10,000 miles you apply toward the cost of the ticket (this is only for Delta American Express cardholders and the ticket purchased with any part of Pay with Miles will not accrue miles). So, in the above case, if the ticket costs over $500 and you could not find award availability for under 45,000 miles and you only have 40,000 miles, you can apply those 40,000 miles as $400 off of the $500 ticket and you would only have to pay $100!
Getting Delta Miles
First things first – if you do not have a Delta Skymiles account, sign up for one today! Next, you can get 30,000 Delta Skymiles (and be eligible for Pay with Miles) if you get this American Express card and spend $500 in the first 3 months (no fee for the first year, $95 for each additional year). Please note: I do receive a commission for this card should you use this link and become approved – thank you!! This will give you enough miles for a low-availability award, or you as $300 towards your ticket when used as Pay with Miles.
Another way to get more Delta Skymiles is through the Starwood Preferred Guest program and their ability to transfer points into miles. For every 20,000 points you transfer (in a single block), you will receive a 5,000 mile bonus in the recipient account. You can get an American Express SPG personal card (that gives 10,000 points after 1st use and an additional 15,000 points after spending $5,000 in 6 months making for a total of 30,000 points when taking the spending into consideration) and an American Express SPG Business card (same points and terms as the personal card). If you get just one, you could have another 35,000 Delta Skymiles (though I would suggest holding back some of the upcoming hotel section!). There are a few other ways as well, but they also entail getting American Express cards and you shouldn’t apply for too many cards from one bank in a very short amount of time.
United flies into SGU via Denver. There is a single flight per day that leaves at 11:15AM and arrives in SGU 1 hour and 45 minutes later. This is very small in contrast to Delta’s number of flights, but it does give you another option to use miles. Just like Delta, a low-availability award is 25,000 miles. United normally has excellent award availability.
There is great availability from the NYC area to SGU so that makes United a viable option as you look for flights. Unlike Delta, you cannot use the miles to pay down the cost, so it would be the flat 25,000 miles (which is a great deal for the cost of a revenue ticket).
Getting United Miles
There a couple of ways that you can get the United miles you would need. First off, you can get the United card that offers 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Alternatively, you could login into your United account first to see if you have a targeted offer (the targeted offer may appear if you have a few miles in the account). If you do not have a United account, you can sign up for one here.
The second method to accrue United miles would be with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus – all of which give bonuses of Ultimate Reward points that can be transferred to United at a 1:1 ratio. I do not receive a commission for these cards.
For most people in the US, it will be costing more than $300 to fly to SGU. If that is the case, you absolutely want to use miles. If you are in the small group where it is less than $300 to fly there, you may be better off with a travel card that uses points to pay for the ticket outright, at a 1:1 ratio. One of the new best cards to do that is the card I discussed the other day – the Barlcaybank Arrival Mastercard. This card gives a bonus of 40,000 miles that can be used as a travel rebate to refund you up to $400 on applicable travel! I do receive a commission for this card should you use this link and be approved.
Another option is to fly into Las Vegas (which is what I had done). Las Vegas is typically cheap for a revenue ticket and award availability is always very good. I even used my trip out there last year to grab a few miles for my elite status and actually decreased the overall ticket cost by flying to Los Angeles first and then to Las Vegas. It is about a two hour drive to St. George from Las Vegas (and remember they are in a different time zone!), which still may work in your favor as rental cards are typically inexpensive as opposed to the smaller rental car markets (like St. George).
Important – how to secure your ticket before you know if you are in!
Now, here is the very important part. We spent the last several paragraphs instructing you on the best options to get to St. George, but now that you know that, what do you do? If you have higher tier elite status (like Delta Platinum or Diamond or United Platinum or 1K), you can book an award ticket and then have it redeposited if you do not get in – for free! If you do not have status, it will cost you $150 to redeposit those miles into your account. That is a big ouch for taking a chance that you get accepted! However, as soon as the list comes out, people start buying tickets and award availability will disappear rapidly. So, here is the solution to get an award ticket before they do the drawing in case you get accepted yet still be able to cancel after for free if you do not get accepted:
- Delta – Delta has a Risk-Free Cancellation policy that allows you to cancel a ticket (revenue or award) anytime before midnight (EST) on the following day. Example – lottery results will be posted Monday, May 14th at 9AM (1 week after registration closes). So, you redeem for your Delta ticket sometime on Sunday, May 13th. You will have until 11:59PM on May 14th to cancel it in case you do not get in. If you do get in, you will have a jump on everyone else looking for a deal!
- United – United has a 24-hour Flex Cancellation policy, so you have 24 hours to cancel your ticket (award or revenue). So. to be safe, book your ticket sometime after 1PM on Sunday afternoon (EST) to ensure that you have enough time to cancel. There you go! Now, if you plan on purchasing a revenue ticket with United, they offer something called Fare-Lock which holds your price for either 3 or 7 days for a nominal price (under $10). If you do this, this will allow you to take advantage of the lower prices available on Tuesdays – Thursdays (instead of having to book a paid ticket on a Sunday, which can be one of the most expensive days to purchase an airplane ticket).
Hope this info helps! Next time, we will examine hotels! Register for the race already!