I spent several boring hours over labor day weekend on the couch (with a cold) and came up with a gem: four tickets to Italy over spring break for 40,000 miles each! Europe tickets are usually 60,000 and black-out/brown-out dates are scattered throughout the spring vacation period making them unavailable anyway. The dates aren’t perfect and we’ll miss a day of school. But still, this is probably a lucky break. I have five days to decide.
Why Italy? For some it’s a dumb question. Italy is one of the top travel destinations in the world. We generally shy away from Europe, since it offers less challenging travel. But, I’ve never been to Italy. Crazy, right? Actually, I never did the backpack-across-Europe thing properly. I’ve missed large chunks of the continent. I spent a lot of time in England, and gobs of time in the Soviet Union. But my only Europe stops were France and Benelux countries. Trish, on the other hand, did the full-on 80’s-backpack-chick routine with her sister and has already been to all the typical cities.
We have always been big users of frequent flyer programs. It used to be easier. In the 90’s Trish and I could hop on a flight to the Carribean for 30k miles with little hassle. We focused on American Airlines because we liked to go scuba diving in the Carribean and they had the most seats. But it’s not as easy any longer as they have reduced the number of seats and we need 4 tickets instead of two! (Damn kids.)
The upside is we accumulate more miles with flyer-mile credit cards. They carry high interest rates so you have to pay them off every month. (One mistake canwipe out the value you get from the miles so I am careful about on-time payment.) We painstakingly put everything on the card that we can, and in a good year we can rack up 50,000 miles. More recently, I’ve built up a lot of miles on United because I fly to the West Coast so often. United isn’t quite as good for FF travel. The award costs are higher and there are fewer seats.
We can get tickets for about $750 each making each mile worth about 19 cents. Conventionally, frequent-flyers aim for 20 cents, but I think that number is harder to achieve nowadays. We are hoping to go to Asia this summer. That would return a higher rate, but it’s a gamble that I could even get those tickets since we are not yet committed to dates.