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The Real Benefits of Mileage Runs

by on April 4, 2011 · 14 comments

in Mileage Runs, Points Guy Pointers, Trip Reports

I just completed my third European weekend long mileage run (taking a trip for the sake of miles) within the last four weeks and instead of being totally exhausted, I’m actually feeling refreshed and looking forward to my last run – Stockholm again this coming weekend. When evaluating the benefits of a mileage run, most experienced frequent flyers will calculate the CPM – cost per mile – by taking the price of the ticket and dividing it by the amount of elite qualifying miles you will earn. Good mileage runs are usually under 4 cents per elite qualifying mile. So yes, my Copenhagen trip was an amazing deal by these standards considering I earned nearly 8,000 elite miles and 17,700+ regular miles for $150 – a solid 1.8 CPM. However, I’ve found that there are many additional benefits to these trips that make them worthwhile for me. While I understand the need for a CPM rate so we can see which deals actually make sense in a noise-filled environment, I firmly believe there are other considerations you should take into account when deciding to travel on a good deal.

One of the main benefits of travel in general is the ability to meet new, interesting people. This past weekend’s trip was particularly good because I had the opportunity to meet a number of blog readers and fellow travel enthusiasts. While it is a potentially awkward situation to actually meet people who know you solely through how you present yourself in HTML, it was great because the love of travel has a unique ability to pull people together. And while travel is a great unifier, there’s something even more special about meeting fellow points and miles enthusiasts. I think it’s the fact that we all “get” what is so complicated to most people and we understand that sharing points knowledge and a passion for travel is the key to our mutual success. The generosity of people in the mileage world, whether through knowledge or other means, continues to blow me away. I remember when I first joined Flyertalk in 2005, US Airways was running a 50 Cent Flights promotion to celebrate the launch of their credit card. The trips were transferable so someone who won a Paris trip and couldn’t go gave me theirs. No money in return or favors asked – they simply gave me their code so I could book it for myself. I get email tips every day from people who only want others to take advantage of good deals and an incredibly generous blog reader recently offered me their free nomination to Royal Ambassador status with Intercontinental Hotels (which I will be writing about more in another post).

In addition to the pure miles and points knowledge gained from building your network of travel junkie friends, I personally love quick trips to new cities to take in the vibe and do some serious people watching. As a foodie, being able to experience new ingredients and cooking styles increasingly fascinates me and is becoming an even greater incentive to travel more (not that I need any more encouragement!)

To wrap up this post before the throes of jet-lag really set in, I’m not trying to brag about what a great deal I got or how many friends I have. The point I want to get across is that you should think about more than just cents per mile the next time you see a good deal on travel, or even a mistake fare. Try to think about the benefit of doing something that breaks up your daily routine and may allow you to meet new lifelong friends. Can you really put a price-tag on becoming a better traveler, building your network and earning a boatload of miles while you do it?

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Kevin

    Great post Brian, the highlighted key points – network building, site seeing, + the benefits of miles, all within a weekend. I’ve found that it is almost worth it to go into the city if time permits instead of laying over in the airport and lounging in the clubs.

    It was a pleasure to have met you and your friends!

    If any of you ever get to meet Brian, buy him a beer, he’s totally worth it (something I didn’t get to do) but will do so soon!

  • Adam

    Right on Brian & Kevin. Its amazing the experience packed into a weekend. Talk about memorable, point gathering, and the huge unexpected benefit of meeting some great people. I love the look of people on the plane when we each say what we paid for the flight!

  • Athan

    Funny Brian – almost in response to my “why are we buying up these flights?” when the CPH/ARN deal was up.

    As for this trip, ditto guys – just shifted up to Gold from this past weekend in Copenhagen for the first time. Anticipate I will be at Platinum by EOY. However, real solid part was meeting you guys (albeit briefly), bragging about fare, and mostly enjoying the city.

  • Itsaboutthejourney

    It’s great to hear you taking advantage of the great airfare to actually stopover and explore the city, actually another country. And a share your experiences with us. It astonishes me how many MR people simply stay in the airport and return the same day.

  • Chris

    @IATJ – great point. I’ve got to the point where I don’t understand those who sit on a plane for day(s) just for the miles. Even on my MR’s I’ve had the opportunity to see some friends in the cities and/or spend some time outside…

  • James

    Nice post. One of the reasons that I prefer you to, say, Lucky is because you actually care about the destination.

  • Brendan

    Brian – Thanks again for posting those fares, after this great weekend I really wish I had booked another trip. Not to mention, without your blog I probably would have never visited Copenhagen!

    @Kevin – It was great exploring Copenhagen with you, too bad you missed on Carlsberg on Sunday it was a nice tour (and good beer).

  • The Points Guy

    @Kevin- great meeting you too. I admire your jetlag invincibility!

    @ Adam- the flight attendant (who I had on my Stockholm run) asked why I was going back for a weekend and I whispered my fare and her eyes popped open and she said “Well thats why these planes are falling apart!”

    @ Athan- glad you are now converted :-).. I have no doubt you’ll be Diamond by years end!

    @IATJ- I can’t believe there are people who fly to Sydney and turn around and come right back. At a certain point, MR’ing fringes on lunacy!

    @ Chris- we missed you in CPH this weekend. Thanks again for the duvet- made coach much more bearable

    @James- thanks- appreciate the comment, but I have to respectfully disagree about Lucky- I really enjoy reading his trip reports.

    @Brendan – no problem- can’t wait to post some more good fares- hopefully soon!

  • Glenn

    unless you also got your lodgings for free, don’t you need to factor that cost into your CPM? Altho I suppose you are collecting hotel points to so that maybe complicates the issue. And then there are airport transfers, eating out, and so forth. Unless you would have spent the same amount at home

    I think people who do a same day turn around are the one who are really just looking for a way to collect miles above all else at the lowest possible cost. If you start staying overnight, buying restaurant meals, etc that adds to your costs.

  • The Points Guy

    @ Glenn, experiencing a city definitely inflates the CPM, but my point is that a higher CPM is okay because the intangible benefits of a mileage run (specifically an international one to a place you’ve never been) can far outweigh the costs.

  • michael

    My thoughts are that you can’t put a value on a MR as the experience of it is hard to quantify.

    For example, as it is hard for me to get away, I prefer 4-5 day runs where I get anywhere from 42-54 hours on the ground in a city I’ve always wanted to visit. Last year it was Barcelona/Zurich/Tokyo/Lyon/Munich/Panana City/San Juan/Toronto and this year so far it has been Bordeaux/London and Milan.

    A typical run is like my upcoming Shanghai trip — LAX-ORD-PVG — 17K eqm/34K redeemables $800ai and upgraded to biz on AA’s 777s using evips. 102 hours total — 53 of which are on the ground. I’ll take advantage of International First Lounge Access and room upgrades and get to see a city I would normally never be able to visit.

    I find that when you only have 42-54 hours on the ground, you really make the most of it, foregoing a lot of touristy traps and just aimlessly venturing out and finding great local hangouts.

    At least that is my strategy.

  • Alan

    I agree. I took two trips with the deal. one to ARN for one day and layover overnight in AMS for 170 as I had never been to AMS. I just completed another trip to HEL for 260 and I spent two nights there. the price is more than 150, but I picked up a new country on the cheap. too bad i cant book more as I have no plan to qualify for Gold/Plat this year because I want to get 24K rollover and then get gold by the end of next Feb. but it was a nice fare!

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  • Jason

    I am a new reader, and appreciate all of the information. This might be a stupid question, but can someone please explain to me how a “mileage run” works??

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