I’ve now been into travel rewards for more than a decade. While I don’t have a tally of how many miles and points I’ve redeemed in that time, it’s certainly in the millions. From first dipping my toe into award travel back in 2012 with a cross-country train trip, this quickly progressed to covering weeks of lodging in Europe a few years later, to even planning my first international first class experience in 2017. The latter was a visit to Australia that cost less than $500 out of pocket. For everything. It’s been onward an upward since then. Award travel has become old hat in ways.

One thing that never gets old, though, it helping others put a trip together with points and miles. My parents and one sibling have followed me into the award travel world, but by no means as thoroughly (insanely?). I’ve enjoyed helping them put together both vacations and trips to visit family out of state.

Nearly Throwing in the Towel

I have two sisters, the younger of whom moved out to the Midwest with her family two years ago. We’ve made a visit each year, and hope to again this year. Each has been in summer, which is least desirable for me. A visit in spring or fall would be preferred, but there is school and sports to contend with. Plus, summer travel in the U.S. is nothing but pain when you like snagging on award travel deals. Prices are sky high. I hate paying them. Not to mention summer in the Midwest is rather oppressive.

A few days ago my other sister and I began discussing her desire to make the trek to the Midwest as well. Its tough for their family. They have multiple kids – flights add up fast, award or otherwise. You need a lot more miles. She’d basically written off taking a trip this year, as prices have been all too high.

I don’t know what made me pull out my phone and search, but I did. We may have been talking about flight options for my own hopeful trip, or about our parents wanting to make a visit to my sister out of state. But I was excited by what I saw.

a dock with a bench and a bench on the water

Photo from our 2022 summer visit

Everything Falls Into Place

The American Airlines search results I pulled up showed flights for a mere 6,000 AAdvantage miles per person. I was floored. This was one-way, but it is an incredibly good price nonetheless. Rather than simply being a cursory search, planning a visit quickly became a real idea. We looked for return flights, and she made some phone calls. We were off and running.

Long story short: we booked the tickets. She had just enough points to top off her AAdvantage account for five tickets in one direction. Serendipitously, we were able to use the final weeks where Bilt points can still transfer to American AAdvantage. It made me glad she picked up the card at my suggestion. We worked out a solution for the other direction.

For both outbound and return, they’d even be able to fly out of the convenient regional airport 20 minutes from their house.

All said and done, we got 5 people plus a lap infant round-trip to the Midwest and back for a mere 65,000 American Airlines miles. Thank you American Airlines web specials.

What would this have cost in cash? Over $2,400 at current prices. This is fantastic value for domestic economy award flights.

This is Why I Love This Hobby

Moments like these are a huge joy for me. It feels like I’ve helped make the impossible happen. This is one of those times where a trip simply wouldn’t be possible if paying cash out of pocket. But then miles and points come through.

There’s also a lesson in here. Just as I keep encouraging her to do, building up balances needs to happen ahead of time. Pick up a few cards per year is key to ensure you have a stash of miles. Without AAdvantage miles on hand, this wouldn’t have been possible. It’s always nice to have a few currencies to work with as well, rather than all your eggs in one basket.

I’m excited that I was able to help make this happen for them. I enjoy making an excellent redemption. But I enjoy helping others do so just as much.