I knew I wanted to spend four nights in Paris and was comparing revenue tickets and using my evips with mile awards. Round trip to Paris was about $880 with good upgrade prospects, but AA could not guarantee me an upgrade to business so I wavered. My new strategy as Exec Plat on AA is to always book an award ticket as a backup. This way I can be guaranteed a decent seat in business/first that I can always cancel with no penalty. And that is what I did: LAX-LHR (BA First)-LHR-CDG (BA Biz), CDG-HEL (Fin Biz) HEL-ORD (Fin BIZ) ORD-LAX (AA First) for 112K miles and $387. At this point, I started looking for other routing alternatives and, particularly, wanted to get rid of my skypesos for a variety of reasons (I had 114K and a) I was worried about another devaluation; b) I could not seem to redeem them at lowest award availability for almost any flight; and c) see a and b. I heard about an award booker who was trying to start out his business -- was charging only $75 for his services in order to gain clients -- and I hired him -- get me to Paris in business using skypesos first, usair miles second and AA miles third (maybe he could find a better alternative than my above AA award). A few weeks out, he came through for me with the above thread title routing, all in business (except for the MSP-LAX portion) for 100K skypesos. I had wanted to go to Amsterdam for some time and I like spending my last day of a trip in a different city so this sounded ideal. Once he booked it, I called Delta and confirmed the routing and the nice Delta agent said to me, "Hey, you are in economy on your last leg, let me see if I can get you into first." Yes, you read that right. And he did! About to board my flight from CDG-AMS in business on AF so I'll continue this post later, along with my review of flights and a stay at the Hyatt Place Vendome as a diamond.