Our family does not splurge on a lot of things. Instead, we often rather invest in time together and traveling, which ultimately we all gain exponentially from the experience. However, this past week I found myself in a predicament I would not have anticipated.
I personally manage a lot of things for our family. The finances, all of our reward programs, and a bunch of different websites. I also like watching for different sales and seeing where our bankroll, miles, and points can take our family of five. So with Thanksgiving coming up, our options were wide open for trying to use up some miles.
However, I recently made the 18 month mistake. Upon looking into possibly redeeming some United miles both my wife and I were sitting on, I realized that the miles in my account went without any activity for the past 18 months. Like they just expired July 1 of this year. I panicked. 58,000+ miles gone in an instance. Where did I go wrong?
In all honesty, we have not had much need to fly anywhere in quite some time (summer 2012 to be exact), so I have not paid that close attention to any of the accounts other than to periodically check in and make some activity. However, I totally overlooked my United account.
After quickly searching around, my options were to pay $150 to United to reinstate my miles. Upon contacting them, they also gave me the following options.
Register and fly – Register for $200 and then complete qualifying roundtrip travel on United, United Express, Copa, including flights operated by Copa Airlines Colombia. You must register within 18 months of your mileage expiration date, and complete travel within 90 days of registration. The registration fee is non-refundable.
Register and use a MileagePlus® Visa® – Register for $200 and then use a new or existing MileagePlus Visa card to make a purchase. You must register within 18 months of your mileage expiration date, and use your card within 90 days of registration. The registration fee is non-refundable. To apply for a MileagePlus Visa, visit our United Airlines Credit Card page.
Seeing as both the above options cost more than just reinstating them, I elected to pay the fee to get my miles back. It was far to many miles to just go unused.
So with $150 out of my pocket for my failure to plan, I was determined to make use of these miles.
Our family just returned from a trip to Disney World to celebrate my father-in-laws 60th birthday. It was a great time by everyone, but one things both my wife and I agreed on. We really like Disneyland better.
We would get on rides on Disney World, and be expecting certain things, and then realize, oh that was at Disneyland. We like the nostalgic, original feel of the land. We like the close proximity of everything.
However, the deciding factor, and our bucket list item, is to see Disneyland decorated for Christmas and see the Haunted Mansion with the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay.
Realistically, our family only had enough miles to get 4 of us anywhere domestically at 25,000 miles each, with an additional lap child. Trying to get additional miles in such a short time frame before Thanksgiving was not feasible with trying to get reservations now while availability was there.
As luck would have it, some direct flights opened up the week of Thanksgiving at the supersaver level. Meaning 25,000 miles to get our family from CLE to LAX during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.
So I sat and contemplated. My wife was all for the adventure and excited to book the trip, but I had some reservations. Despite just shelling out $150 dollars to get my miles back, I had qualms about spending 100,000 miles to fly us somewhere domestically. I look at the bigger picture and realize for a little more miles we could return to Hawaii or go to Europe.
The real kicker was we love the free one-way rewards on United. Using miles on United, one has the option on international flights or to Hawaii to tack on a free one-way to somewhere else. So if we had booked a short trip to Europe over Thanksgiving, we could have added on a free one-way to Hawaii later in the summer. However, the short time frame to acquire additional miles became prohibitive. Plus I did not want to lose out on availability of direct flights over Thanksgiving.
So I looked at it this way. The general rule I like to follow is 25,000 miles is a domestic ticket in the United States. The furthest we could travel is someplace to the west coast. Let alone, Thanksgiving, prices are escalated and availability is typically low. Therefore, from the standpoint of that, my $150 (+$50 in taxes and fees on the reward redemption) to get our family of four to California made perfect sense.
Another deciding factor was the hotel while visiting Disneyland. We have always stayed at the Howard Johnson hotel located across the street from the park. It was clean, affordable, had great pool areas, and was in walking distance to the front gates. However, with points spread across various hotel brands, I began to check out our other options.
Fortunately, just around the corner and still within walking distance is a IHG Hotel Indigo property. An upscale, contemporary hotel that fit our budget, or more importantly, our point allowance.
“Free” flights + free hotel = making a return trip to Disneyland a feasible option for this family. Now all we need to worry about is transportation to the hotel, tickets, and food. Even with my mistake on letting my miles expire, with flights topping $500 per person, and the hotel approaching $150 per night, we saved nearly $2,500 by using miles and points, and we are making a trip happen that we did not foresee happening for sometime.
We may have just returned from Disney, but our kids are the perfect age, and really, really love it there. The magic of miles and points can be bountiful, even at Thanksgiving.
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