Digging deeper into the travel points game

I have spent a good deal of time lately learning about all the various airline programs out there. It seems simple on the surface: Get points with the airline and use them to fly. The problem becomes when you go to actually book a flight you want. You have to consider:

  • Availability: Each flight has a limited number of "award" seats that you can use points for
  • If you are flying a partner and not the actual airline you have to learn the rules and costs
  • Fees: Fuel surcharges, phone versus internet bookings, taxes, etc.
  • Routing: What flight options and how many stops along the way?
  • One way, round trip, open jaws, and stopovers
The rules for each airline and alliance and vastly different. I am finally getting my head around the Star Alliance and One World rules. I am already familiar with Sky Team since I fly Delta so much. It has been a good experience learning the other systems just so I know what else is out there. I must say Star Alliance has some very attractive benefits that Delta lacks. To the point where I am re-thinking my loyalty long term!

All of the credit card bonuses I am getting are really helping me out. I am going to Asia again (with my girlfriend) in Business/First class using miles. I already booked her on Korean Air for 120,000 Delta miles and I waiting for my bonuses to hit to book my own. I am flying out on Star Alliance and back on One World both in first class. It will be nice to actually sleep on a plane for a change and hopefully not be as badly jet lagged.

My next steps are to start looking into hotel reward programs. I have dabbled very lightly in the Choice Hotels program but exchanged my points for miles with Delta. I need to find a good program with hotels I actually want to stay in at prices that are reasonable. That means a lot more research! It will certainly pay off, though!

Play the travel points game is a great way to get awesome vacations for a lot less than you would otherwise. I am doing relatively little work compared to the value I get for 75,000 AA miles, 100,000 British Airways miles, 65,000 Delta Miles and so on. I am sure I can do the same with hotels once I know enough about it!

This is one of the few hobbies out there that comes with a big payoff! Gaming the system to fly and sleep for nearly free is no joke! It adds up big time over the long haul!