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(EDITORS NOTE – this post was originally written in fall of 2021 but just is getting published now. So although the dates / prices are showing past dates, I thought the concept was still valid)

There’s no denying that at least for our family, travel has been way down over the past year and a half or so. While we have managed to take a few trips, it’s been nothing compared to what we’ve been used to do. Some of it is actual concerns over COVID, though over time that has waned some, at least for our family. It’s also a matter not only of CATCHING COVID, but the hassle of dealing with the uncertainty of travel in the age of COVID. That has kept our traveling within the United States as we have not yet had the desire to deal with the testing and quarantine requirements of traveling internationally.

Still, I love to plan trips and I also like reading about regular people trying to plan trips, so I thought I would drop a quick post going through some of what I’m looking at trying to plan a trip. Specifically this time with American Web Special awards – they can actually be SO good that I try to talk myself into crazy routings.

American Web Special Awards – the struggle is real

We are potentially looking at going out to California to visit my sister and her family. I should preface this with a disclaimer in case anyone in my family actually reads this that this is a VERY PRELIMINARY trip planning exercise. There are no concrete plans happening so don’t get your hopes up too much :-). It’s probably more accurate to say that we are pretty much always looking at visiting them out in California as we have kids that are very similar ages so it’s always a fun time to get our families together.

So in any case, I was looking around at a few different options for next spring. I started out looking at American’s website, and there were some pretty attractive Web Special rates for next March.

a screenshot of a calendar

6,000 AA miles per person (one-way). That is outstanding! We could fly 6 of us roundtrip for 72,000 AA miles. Sure, it might require some mid-week flights but that’s okay – we homeschool so we have a decent amount of flexibility on our dates.

But…. then you get into the details and that’s what came as the inspiration for this post. Here’s an example of one of those dates, sorted by fewest miles needed

a screenshot of a flight schedule

To get those 6,000 mile flights it requires arriving to California after midnight. Keep in mind that’s after midnight CALIFORNIA time, or 3 a.m. where we’d be coming from. Or we can pay an extra 500 miles per person and get the pleasure of overnighting in LAX. Ooooooh that sounds exciting.

What I realized is how this totally is messing with my head. Back in the day, when “sAAver” flights were 12,500 miles on all domestic routes no matter the origin or destination, I would have LOVED to been able to find tickets for my whole family for only 12,500 miles. But now that I know 6K tickets are POSSIBLE, I don’t want to pay the “sucker’s price” of 12,500! That’s like twice as expensive as it could be. And that’s before considering that I have a ton of airline miles and it’s probably worth it to pay a bit extra to get flights that are a bit more reasonable.

Other airline options

Other airlines are similar. I didn’t look at Southwest because I know that they will be super expensive, and even though I still have Frontier elite status, I am not sure I trust them with a connecting flight. United has pretty good availability at the 12,500 mile award level, and Delta is an option as well

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Certainly even at the 10,500 mile mark, those are some pretty attractive flight times / connections.

Then we start booking hotels

So we aren’t quite ready to book flights yet, which means that we aren’t ready to book hotels either, but that didn’t stop me from looking at the different options. Last time we were there, we stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott Sacramento Airport Natomas, which was outstanding. At the time it was a Category 3 Marriott which meant it only needed 15,000 points / night, plus the 5th night free. And we were able to use my usual trick of emailing for an upgrade beforehand to get a sweet 2 BR suite (see what I did there?!). It’s a Category 4 now, which means it needs 25,000 during “normal” days and 30,000 points for peak nights.

This would probably still be our first choice, but there are a few other options in the area which might work. Further giving us options is that we are “only” flying with 6 probably on this trip. While that’s too many to just crash with my sister, it seems likely that some / most of the kids would want to sleep with their cousins, so we could potentially just get one “normal” room rather than having to book 2 rooms or get a big suite.

In any case, it’s fun to be back in the swing of booking travel. I’m curious if anyone else elusively chases the 6K AA Web specials rather than “settling” for the “sucker’s price” of 12,500 miles?

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