How changing airports saved us 88,000 miles — reader success story

Sep 13, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader John, who chose an alternative departure city for his family’s trip to Hawaii:

For a few years, my family of four had our eyes set on a trip to Hawaii using my AAdvantage miles. As I built my balance over those years, the program made changes that seemed to devalue any balance increases I achieved. Finally, the time had come for me to book our flights to Kauai, our island of choice for our first trip to Hawaii.

I waited until the booking window opened 331 days prior to departure and tried to snag MileSAAver tickets, but even though I checked daily for over three weeks, I had no luck finding what I felt like was a reasonable rate for our economy-class trip. The first round-trip itinerary I found totaled 256,000 miles, and while I waited for a better price, that amount grew to 262,000 miles. Our home airport is DFW, and I realized that for all the benefits this affords me (like lots of nonstop flights), booking awards can be a challenge due to the number of AAdvantage members in the area.

I decided to check three other airports within a four-hour drive (AUS, OKC and IAH). When I saw a similar itinerary from IAH for only 174,000 miles total, I snagged it with the TPG-inspired logic that saving over 80,000 miles is worth at least $1,000, which more than pays for our time to make the drive. I also plan to sign up for a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® to get access to Admirals Club lounges during our trip, which will help justify the card’s $450 annual fee along with the bonus miles it offers. Thanks for inspiring a creative approach to booking our trip, and I hope other readers can benefit from it!

Whether you’re paying cash or booking an award, broadening your flight search to include more airports naturally provides more opportunities to find a good deal. But like John did, you should weigh any potential savings against the costs involved with choosing an airport far from home. That includes transportation costs like rental cars, hotels or extra meals you need to cover in transit, though you should also account for costs that aren’t measured in dollars or points. Paying less for your flights isn’t as enticing if flying out of a different city eats up a day of vacation time or forces you into an undesirable itinerary.

John says he saved up for his family’s trip to Hawaii over the course of several years. The downside of stockpiling rewards over such a long period is that devaluations are nearly inevitable; you’re better off redeeming points and miles more quickly so their value is somewhat predictable and you don’t have to worry about them expiring. TPG recommends keeping enough on hand to fund your travels for roughly the next year, though you can extend that horizon for transferable points since they have a more stable redemption value. There are plenty of ways to accumulate rewards if you want to move up your timeline for booking, so you don’t have to take the long view like John did.

Related: 8 ways to earn more points and miles by double dipping

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending John a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories 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. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

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

Featured photo of Hanalei Bay, Kauai by M.M. Sweet/Getty Images

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