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I thought it would be interesting to showcase a real life example of how to book an award flight. There are lots of example posts of people booking aspirational rewards, but again, this is supposed to be a blog about more “common” travel.
I talked the other day about the Family Travel For Real Life Conference (#FT4RL). I’m excited to talk with other like-minded family bloggers. But now the question is how do I get there?
The conference is only one day – Saturday, August 22nd from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Hyatt House Dulles Airport in Washington DC. Now, you may already know this, but I do not actually live in Washington DC 🙂
But what good is being a “world-famous” (LOL) travel blogger if I can’t figure out a way to get there for free!
Option 1: United Airlines
I don’t have a ton of United miles, but they are a transfer partner of Chase, and I do have a good chunk of Ultimate Rewards. United normally charges 25,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket within North America, but a little-known rule is that if your flight is less than 700 miles, then it only costs 20,000 miles. It was unclear to me if that was 700 miles one-way or 700 miles round-trip. The terms seem to indicate the latter, but CVG-IAD is 387 miles (774 roundtrip) and still gets the lower rate, so it must be the former.
Of course, it’s probably a little-known rule because it’s still not that great of a redemption :-).
So I went out to United.com and checked things out
Ugh. Green is your friend on the United award calendar and there is not much showing there. That is the downside of not having much date flexibility (the conference is on a particular day, so I can’t go 3 weeks earlier when the availability is great. There’s nothing on Saturday morning, and only a flight connecting through Chicago on Friday night. The return trip on Sunday is also not showing much of anything.
Now, this could still be an option as award space does change a lot – so I’ll keep that in mind
Option 2 – Southwest
I’m a big fan of Southwest. One downside to redeeming my miles on Southwest for this is that since I earned the Companion Pass, I can get a 2nd person flying for free with me any time I redeem my miles. But Mrs. PWaC won’t be heading out to this conference with me (SOMEONE has to actually WATCH the crew while I’m off having fun, after all). So if I spend say, 10,000 Rapid Rewards points to fly myself, in a sense I am wasting 10,000 points, since I could get a free ticket from them.
The other problem is airports. Whereas United flies CVG-IAD, Southwest flies to neither of those locations. We’d be looking at DAY-BWI. And while Dayton is further from my house but not obscenely so, BWI is quite the haul, and I’ve already gotten all those counties 🙂
Option 3 – Delta
Delta flys from CVG but to Washington National (DCA) rather than Dulles. With no discounts though it’s a full 25,000 miles, plus it looks like the times that I’d want to leave / arrive have a connecting flight (usually in ATL).
Couple that with the fact that Delta’s website is nearly unusable and I think I will pass….
Option 4 – Jet Blue
Jet Blue was the next one I tried, but they do not fly out of either CVG or DAY, so no go.
Option 5 – Frontier
I thought I’d check Frontier who just recently started flying out of CVG recently
Alas, it was not meant to be! I’m not sure I’d have flown them anyways since I have no points with them and no easy way to get points. Still, if the price was low enough, I’d consider it, especially since they’ve got the right airports
Option 6 – British Airways
Okay this was not actually the 6th option – it was one of the first ones I considered, but I was just trying to drum up some suspense here! I’ve previously talked about why a foreign carrier (British Airways) is good even for domestic travel, but this is a prime opportunity for why.
They are a distance based rewards airline, and since (as we discussed earlier in the post) Cincinnati to Washington is just under 400 miles, that means it only costs 4,500 Avios to redeem.
The one downside is that BA’s OneWorld partner US Airways does not fly to Dulles, but (like Delta), flies to DCA. So that will mean having to get myself to/from the Hyatt Dulles
So…. which one will I pick? Stay tuned for Part 2! 😀
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