*Yes this is a review of how I used miles for a domestic weekend trip. I want to show that not everyone has to redeem miles for first class flights and 5 star hotels just to get the “best value per mile.” The experience of visiting a good friend and having a great time exploring a new city with them is worth more than any metric valuing miles.
Last weekend my wife and I visited a good friend of ours who moved out to Seattle and we successfully used points & miles to make our total travel & lodging costs $11.20 for the weekend. As much I love redeeming miles for premium cabin international tickets since that generally returns the greatest value on a cent per mile basis, I won’t hesitate to redeem miles for domestic trips even if I only get a penny or less in value. I’m sure some will argue that the below is a poor use of miles but for a trip like this, the value received can’t be calculated on a per mile basis since the value is the fun and memories of a good time with friends. Without points & miles, we were looking at shelling out over $1,700 for travel for this weekend and that wasn’t an option. Here is how we traveled to & stayed in Seattle for $11.20. Part 2 of this award trip breakdown will share some fun activities I recommend others do when visiting Seattle especially if you are an #avgeek.
Since we were going from Thursday to Sunday and I could only use one vacation day at work, it was imperative we left Thursday after work and returned in time for work Monday morning. This meant ideally finding non-stop flights Thursday after 6pm as I had no desire to land around 1am on a connecting flight as it would be 4am on my body at that point. For the return, a Sunday night red-eye was our goal to maximize our time in Seattle but our flights would be limited to a choice of JetBlue or Delta as we did not want to fly into Newark since we live on Long Island.
On the outbound to Seattle, we found flights on Delta leaving at 6:40pm and arriving in Seattle at 10:02pm for $162 each one way. We had $400 in Delta gift cards from using the airline credit on various Platinum cards so the outbound flights were no cost out of pocket. We even upgraded to Delta Comfort + for $99 each for free using part of my $300 annual travel credit on my Ritz Carlton credit card. Delta Comfort + provided free drinks, free entertainment and additional leg room – for our 5.5 hour flight it was worth it.
For the return flight, our options were limited since we wanted a non-stop red-eye and Delta proved to be the best option from a mileage perspective. The Delta flight was ~$275 one way while the JetBlue flight was closer to $350! I chose to redeem 20,000 Delta Skymiles + $5.60 each for this one way flight – yes, I felt dirty not redeeming miles at the lowest level but it was still better using 40,000 miles for the two of us instead of paying $550.
The hotel was quite easy for us to figure out – my wife signed up for the Citi Hilton Reserve back in May 2014 and hit the spending requirement in June 2014 to get two free weekend nights which meant we had a year to use those free nights. Our goal was to use them in Italy at some point but for various reasons that trip fell through and I needed to use them before they expired in June 2015. I chose the Hilton Seattle which was centrally located downtown and retailing for $249/night + tax for the weekend. These free nights covered Friday and Saturday but I still needed to figure out Thursday night. While I could have stayed elsewhere and used fewer points, I decided that it wasn’t worth it to us to switch hotels on such a short stay. I made our hotel costs completely free by using 50,000 Hilton HHonors points for Thursday night. Upon checkout, our bill was $0.00 – absolutely no taxes or fees.
In total, our airfare + hotel costs came to $11.20 which was the taxes on the return flight to New York. Was this my best redemption from a mileage perspective or the most exciting? Of course not but I want to illustrate that you should not be afraid to use your miles for a domestic trip that would otherwise be impossible without points & miles. This trip would have cost us over $1,700 in travel costs alone which is sort of crazy for a long weekend in the States.
In Part 2 of this post, I’ll review some of the exciting things we did and what I think is a perfect itinerary for a long weekend in Seattle.