Why I Drained My United Account Today

May 9, 2015

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I have been talking about using miles to go to Australia and/or New Zealand since at least the US Airways Grand Slam in 2011.  However, in the years since, despite countless trips to many other amazing places, I still haven’t managed to make it to Australia or New Zealand.  Tight award availability in premium cabins for multiple seats has certainly been part of the problem, as has bad timing, unforeseen circumstances, and just simply putting it off in favor of closer destinations.

Still, I keep looking.  I keep checking award availability periodically just to see what is out there.  I’m sure many of you do the same for trips you keep on your “someday” list.  Usually there isn’t much premium cabin award availability to Australia or New Zealand, but every now and then I come across some availability that catches my interest.  I usually just let it go and hope someone else finds it that really wants it, but not today.


Today while browsing airline award availability the way many check the weather or news headlines I spotted three United Global First awards to Sydney next March, connecting to an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.  Those awards ring in at a very hefty 80,000 United miles each way, and booking three of them would virtually knock out my United balance, but I didn’t care.  I can always transfer more miles to United from Chase Ultimate Rewards if I need to, but I can’t create award availability out of thin air.  There are no fuel surcharges, and taxes were around just $19/each, so our of pocket costs were low, even though the mileage cost was pretty high.


I had always assumed we would be more than comfortable enough in business class to Australia, but since there was just a 10,000 mile difference between business and first class, I decided to pull the trigger on the three first class tickets.

In truth, I can’t promise we will keep these tickets and take the flight.  We still need to book award flights home, decide if we would bring our then 8 month old, and who knows if the dates will end up working, but still…. For now I was able to book three first class awards to Australia and New Zealand for my family.  For now I can dream about what it would be like to actually board that 777 in Los Angeles and head out over the Pacific the way I have wanted to for so many years.

Research pretty consistently says that the best part of the trip is often the anticipation and planning process, and in this case I have to say I am getting plenty of enjoyment out of simply having the award tickets booked.  In fact, I think that is when you know you have made the right call, and why I am glad we have slimmed down our travel schedule to the point that it is possible to really focus on individual trips instead of being in constant motion planning tons of trips all at once.

Perhaps next March we will head Down Under in style, or perhaps life will get in the way between now and then and it won’t work out.  Either way, for today I’m sitting on the top of the world knowing the tickets are mine.


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