A Family Evacuation from Hurricane Irma — Reader Success Story

Nov 8, 2017

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how points and miles have helped them get where they want to go. If you’re interested in sharing your own award travel success story, email it to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Chris, whose rewards helped his family get out of Florida before a major storm. Here’s what he had to say:

As Hurricane Irma headed toward Florida, my family of six debated our evacuation options. Hyatt Place is our go-to hotel, as we can typically get a room that sleeps all of us for 5,000 to 8,000 Hyatt points. We found availability for three nights at a property in Atlanta, so we booked it for 15,000 points (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards).

While this seemed like a good option, the normal five-hour drive was taking people up to twelve hours, and we were really not looking forward to a twelve-hour road trip to Atlanta. With one plan secured, we decided to also look at flight options, as both our parents are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

American Airlines award availability has been scarce lately, but to our surprise, there were six MileSAAver awards on a flight leaving Friday night and coming back Tuesday evening. This was perfect, as school had already been canceled for our kids. Rather than sitting out a power outage, we were able to book six round-trip flights for 90,000 British Airways Avios.

We had about 20,000 Avios from the British Airways Visa Signature Card, and needed the other 70,000 quickly. Thanks to a 40% transfer bonus from Amex, we were able to convert 50,000 Membership Rewards points instantly into 70,000 Avios. Most of that transfer was covered by a 40,000-point spending bonus we had just earned on our Amex Platinum Card.

We were amazed at how everything fell together for our last-minute evacuation. We were even able to cancel our Hyatt Place reservation in time and get the points credited back to our account. The kids were happy and we got to spend time with our families. Flying to Dallas helped us avoid what would have been 20-24 hours of driving time to and from Atlanta, and we were lucky enough to come home to only minor damage from the storm.

Traffic rolls at a crawl on the northbound lanes of Florida's Turnpike near the intersection of I-75 in Wildwood on Friday, September 8, 2017. Motorists are evacuating for the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Irma. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Chris’ miles helped his family avoid a long drive to Atlanta. Photo courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images.

Most people get into award travel as a way to explore a bit more of the world or to simply save money getting where they need to go. You might not envision using your miles to escape an oncoming hurricane, but the reality is that travel rewards can be a huge asset when you (or your loved ones) are in a pinch. I generally recommend using your points and not holding onto them for too long, but as Chris’ story illustrates, it’s good to have some on hand for emergencies.

I’m glad to hear Chris and his family were able to stay out of harm’s way, and that they were able to return home without incident. Unfortunately, many people are still being affected by damage from recent storms, and I invite you to join me in aiding the relief efforts both in the US and in Puerto Rico. Whatever you’re able to contribute, your help is much appreciated.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Chris for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.

Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions at the top of this post). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by Handout via Getty Images.

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