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I am by nature a pretty cheap frugal person.  Generally speaking, I hate paying for something if I know, that with a little bit of effort, I can get it for free (or cheaper).  This actually comes back to me sometimes as I spend way too much time trying to bargain or comparison shop when I should just buy the stupid thing in the first place.

Booking flights at the last minute

Generally speaking, you will find better availability and price, the more time you give yourself.  I call this the Traveler’s Triangle


The more flexible you are with your time and location, the better your price will be.  Sometimes though you just have no options.  Recently due to unexpected events, I was looking at flying my brother across country on extremely short notice.  Oh, did I mention that it was during the week right after Christmas (AKA the time that EVERYONE ELSE IS ALREADY FLYING!?!?!)

Checking award charts

With not a lot of notice, I quickly began checking the award charts for the various programs.  United had saver availability on the outbound flight, but nothing for the return.  I checked American Airlines as well, and found out about their “exciting” “new” 5-tier award chart


50K for a one-way economy ticket?!?  Yowza!

(SEE ALSO: Getting bitten by American’s new 5-tier AAnytime award chart)

Delta?  HAHAHAHA No of course there was not any Saver availability there (though this was still in 2014, so no 2015 Skymiles with its “better” availability).  Southwest and Frontier both had nothing as well.

Getting the ticket booked

Again, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to make the flight happen.  In that case, I at least am glad that some frequent flier programs offer the “Standard” award redemptions – then you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth it to you.

When it came right down to it, it looked like United was going to be the best option.  At the Saver level, the outbound flight was 12,500 miles, and paying the Standard level for the return was 25,000 for a total of 37,500 miles.  On the one hand, that’s 50% MORE THAN WHAT IT “SHOULD” HAVE BEEN!!!!!  On the other hand, we’re only talking 12,500 miles, which is a couple of trips to the grocery store, right?

(SEE ALSO: Time to activate the 1st of the Chase Freedom categories for 2015 – Grocery Stores, Movie Theaters and Starbucks)

One annoying thing was that there was no way around the $75 close-in booking fee.  When I had a similar situation a few months ago, I was able to book a United flight using its alliance partner Air Canada (which doesn’t charge close-in booking fees) to get around the $75 fee.  This time, since United (as well as most airlines) only releases Saver availability to its partners, Air Canada was not showing anything for the return flight.

(SEE ALSO: How to book United or American without the $75 close-in booking fee)

(SEE ALSO: Introduction to Air alliances)

In the end

In the end…. it all didn’t matter.  My brother’s schedule didn’t work out on his end and he wasn’t able to make any of the flights, so I didn’t end up booking anything.

Still, we’ll see if I learned my lesson for next time!

Have you ever had to book a “standard” award?

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