My first time using miles to book a trip, need input

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by disambiguous1, Jun 21, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    After reading all the stuff here on Milepoint until my eyes bled and then jumping in and getting United Mileage Plus cards and etc, for the first time I'm ready (maybe) to use some points for a trip.

    Here's the situation. A while back my brother-in-law discovered that my family's ancestral home is on the island of Guernsey. I have enough time for a short getaway to Europe this September, so would like to go & check out the island then. My wife thinks she can get about ten days off as well. I'd like to land in London & see some sights there, spend a few days in Guernsey and then go by train to Italy, maybe taking in some Alps along the way.

    Anyhow, here are the particulars:
    *I have about 73,000 points and she has about 43,000 points on United Mileage Plus.

    *Since she stays at Marriott hotels about four days each week for work, I got her a Marriott Rewards card and she has achieved Platinum status with Marriott, which gives her gold status with United.

    *She wants to take our youngest daughter to Ireland a year from now, and if possible we would like to use points for that. That would be in June, at the height of the European travel season.

    *We put as much as we can on the Mileage Plus cards, probably averaging $3,500/month on mine and maybe $3,000/month on hers. Those are probably lowball estimates, a couple thousand additional each month isn't unusual. I'll certainly hit the spend trigger for the extra 10,000 points this year.

    *We are not afraid to travel in the cheap seats, though we would probably spend $100 extra per flight for the extra foot and elbow room seats. When I last checked, the cheapest flights to Europe with United reward miles was 30,000 points. I have NOT checked reservations yet-- I want to get you guy's input first!

    Here are my concerns:
    1. Am I a fool for thinking that I might be able to snag rewards seats for a flight in September?

    2. I will be able to spend more time wandering around Europe after she has to go home, so while our departure time will be the same our return dates and times will probably not be. Will that be a problem using rewards miles?

    3. What about open-jaw? She would probably be flying back from Italy, and I might wander up to Denmark or something. Would that cause the rewards miles reservation system to hiccup?

    4. We will need to build back up some miles for the Ireland trip next year. My biggest concern about that will be nailing down their flight reservations as soon as possible. If I am not mistaken, I will need to have sufficient points for the trip at the time I make the reservation, and I won't be able to use points accumulated between the time of the reservation and the time of the flight (obviously).

    5. Theoretically I think I could reserve their Ireland flights now. I don't know if I want to do that (since it would eat up all our points for this trip), but how long before their trip times would be safe to wait? Six months? Nine months?

    6. Should I just spend cash on this flight, and then use the additional accumulated points for the Ireland trip to go in a higher class? IOW, I think that 60,000 points gets a more flexible type of ticket than 30,000, which is really bare-bones.

    7. Is there anything I'm not thinking of regarding the Gold status that might be of benefit to me?

    Many thanks for all the help from the wonderful people here on Milepoint. -DA1
     
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  2. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Correction-- it seems that United grants Silver status to Marriott Platinum members, not Gold status. I was mistaken when I wrote that. -DA1
     
  3. TUMD

    TUMD Silver Member

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    In terms of questions 1-3: You should be able to find some awards in Sept but you might have to be flexible on the dates you can leave and/or return. Also, you should book you flights as separate one-ways, that way there is no need to worry about open-jaws. You would book 2 one-way tickets to London and then a one-way back for you and one-way back for you wife. There should be no difference in points when booking RT vs. 2 one-ways.

    In terms of the future trip to Ireland, I would begin working on new CC bonuses to earn those points. If you want to travel United you could apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred and/or Ink cards and transfer the points to United. If you and your wife each got a Chase Sapphire Preferred then the total bonus would be 80K, putting you well on your way to 2 round trip tickets to Ireland.
     
  4. Mrlasssen

    Mrlasssen Silver Member

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    I would do about the same as TUWM recommends except also get some Amex or Avios points to do one ways around England or Europe.
     
  5. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    Great to see you going about your first trip using miles and points! 1. No. As others said, you should be able to find flights as long as you have a bit of flexibility in booking. You may need to consider United partner flights which may cost more miles. 2. No 3. As mentioned above, just book one-way tickets. 4. Correct. Get the September trip squared away and then start planning Ireland immediately. CC sign-up bonuses are your friend. As mentioned above, focus on the Chase cards so you can move points to UA. 5. See #4. :) 6. I wouldn't. But, might be worth searching for award availability to Ireland for your dates (if the window is open for those dates) just so you know what to expect. 7. I think it's Silver you get, and that will help with baggage allowance and access to E+, though only at check-in. Still might be worth it to buy E+ ahead of time.

    ETA: You're on the right track. Keep asking questions as you go and you'll have your first award trip under your belt before you know it.
     
  6. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    TUMD, MrIasssen, and Pizzaman, many thanks.

    In terms of the Chase Sapphire cards, how would the points transfer in terms of value? I'm not sure that there is a one-to-one correlation between Sapphire and United points.

    Also, I need to clarify that the United Mileage Plus cards I was referring to in the first post are the Visa cards.

    MrIasssen, are you saying that I should get another card to gather points on for travel within Europe? Since it's only a few months away, and I'll have to make the reservations soon, not sure I'll have enough time to accumulate much. -DA1
     
  7. TUMD

    TUMD Silver Member

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    Ultimate Rewards points which are accumulated with the CSP card can be trasferred to United 1 to 1 as well as many other partners.

    As far as what MrIasssen was saying. Once you are in Europe it could behoove you to have a distance based currency like Avios to get from place to place. However, with your trip coming up soon and you planning on taking the train, I would not worry about accumulating them for your Sept trip, but they could be very useful in the future.

    Also, I'm not sure where you usually fly out of but it is always good to diversify your points/miles so that you have more options when looking at travel in the future. The three currenies that are easily transferable to many airlines are Ultimate Rewards (Chase), SPG (Amex) and Membership Rewards (Amex).
     
  8. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    If you're comparing UA's "Saver" awards to "Standard" awards, keep in mind that those are for the same class of service. You'll still ride in the same economy-class seat, and you'll still pay the same change and redeposit fees if you change your mind. The only difference is that "Standard" awards have fewer capacity controls - it does not act like a fully refundable ticket. You won't even get to confirm economy plus seats (no extra elbow room in those - just legroom) further in advance, either. Far better to spend those extra points to ride in a business class cabin (or, since you're happy in the back, just do that, and have points left for another trip).

    The thing I would consider for Ireland is transferring chase ultimate rewards points (from the sapphire preferred card) to BA Avios and flying Aer Lingus. The bargain option there is to fly from Boston to Ireland: 12.5K one-way in economy, 25K one-way in business. You can use other gateways for somewhat more Avios. Downside: can't leverage UA status for extra baggage allowance, etc. (it may not matter much - Aer Lingus, like most airlines, allows one free checked bag on each transatlantic economy ticket.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  9. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Correct. You cannot ticket speculatively; you need the miles in hand.

    "Safe" is a relative thing. There's an award seat BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus open today. The next is July 2nd. The next return availability is July 8/9. For late July and early August 2014 - about 1-1.5 months out - there are several options; see the image below. In May/June 2015 nearly every day is open. Go do a search and see for yourself. BA won't let you search Aer Lingus award availability online. Qantas will, though you'll need to sign up for an account. Summary: so long as you have some date flexibility, I would not fret about availability on Aer Lingus. UA might be a different story. Again, go do some searches and see what you find.

    Blue indicates available economy space; grey indicates business:
    bos-dub3.png
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2014
  10. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Thanks to all. I'm still nailing down our itinerary, but I would like to have it booked by the end of the week.

    We fly out of Washington, DC area, so can use BWI or Dulles. Reagan has no international flights. I'm one of those people who would rather spend a couple hundred extra on a non-stop than do a layover, perhaps a $300 difference before the inconvenience would start equalling out.

    The Sapphire card looks to be an interesting possibility. However, we already have the United Mileage Plus Visa's through Chase, as well as the Marriott Visa. I'm wondering if Chase would look askance at us getting new cards issued through them. Then again, we always pay off in full each month-- sometimes every two weeks, so maybe that would count for something.

    Now my main decision is where to leave in and where to leave out. For reasons of family history, we have to go to Guernsey. My wife only has about 12 days. I'd like to get in Italy, but it might be better to just stick toGuernsey and London and Paris and maybe the Atlantic coast of France. So many choices, so little time... -DA1
     
  11. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    I live near IAD. Something else to consider if you can't find the award inventory you're looking for is to consider a departure out of EWR and taking the train or buying a cheap one-way or throw away ticket to get up there.
     
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  12. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    Chase nor other Creditors like customers who pay off their cards right away since they don't get to make money off you. ;)
     
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  13. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Chase seems to love my wife and me and we always pay off our credit cards when due.
     
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  14. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    I have four personal Chase cards and one small business Chase card. Having only two cards from them seems dull and boring.
     
  15. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    Chase isn't concerned so much about the actual number of cards you have with them, but with your overall credit line. Once the combined limit on your cards reaches a certain level, they are reluctant to issue a new card to you - but you can often get around this by calling their reconsideration line and negotiating to have the credit limit on one of your current cards lowered, so that the new card can be issued without upping your total credit line.

    Another card you should consider is the Chase Freedom VISA, as right now the signup bonus is double what it usually is (20,00 points instead of the usual 10,000). Ultimate Rewards Points earned with Chase Freedom can't be directly transferred to United or Southwest - but they CAN be transferred to you Chase Sapphire Preferred account, and then from there to the corresponding airline. Chase Freedom has rotating 5x bonus categories, which change quarterly. The combination of Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, and (if you qualify for a business card) one of the Chase Ink cards is a powerful way to earn points that can be used very flexibly (as they transfer not just to United and southwest, but to Hyatt and Marriott hotels as well).
     
  16. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    And Amtrak, BA Avios, and (new) Singapore.

    (And others, but these may be especially useful.)
     
  17. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    I have a friend of 30+ years who lives on Guernsey.... make sure your plans with some contingencies because of the limited of flights and sometime quirky English Channel weather you may find that you cannot get in to land.
    Alternately there are ferries running to St Malo, France.
     
  18. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Newbluesea-- On some Tripadvisor blogs people will say that a short plane ride is far better than spending seven hours on a ferry, but then someone will point out the frequent weather groundings. I'm wondering if the ferries will also be grounded by weather, or if they have enough radar and navigation equipment to sail in fog or clear.

    We're going to go to Normandy and Paris after Guernsey, so will be taking the ferry to France after our stay on the island. Do you know if the ferries ever get socked-in? Many thanks for all info, -DA1
     
  19. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    They way my friend explains it is that very often the aircraft from LHR (which I believe is where he normally flies from) can get stuck in either London or Guernsey and then the entire schedule gets shot.
    Personally I would try to fly into Guernsey and take the ferry out to St Malo ( I believe there is also one which operates in the summer to Normandy but I am not sure)
    The ferries are less susceptible to weather but they will not sail in thick fog so once the fog start to lift then off they go... the trip from to St Malo is about two hours. The seven hour journey you are thinking about sounds like it includes the time getting to Poole (or Plymouth/Falmouth) which is where the ferries depart from England.
     
  20. WilliamQ

    WilliamQ Gold Member

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    I think if your transactions are a lot, then the resultant merchant fees for those transactions mitigates the lost in interest fees. Additionally, while admin and finance fees are great for the creditor, it similarly comes with a risk of default which is of course factored in and managed.
     
  21. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Also, St. Malo is quite nice.

    Takeaway point is that the Jersey Islands are considerably closer to France than England.
     
  22. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Getting to all the big French attractions from Guernsey is proving to be a bit of a strategic challenge. Newbluesea, can your friend say how often the planes might be grounded? Is it ten percent of the time, or more like twenty? More? I'm trying to figure an itinerary that will get in both London and Paris as well as Guernsey. I'd like to get in Mont Saint-Michel, but my wife only has twelve days and that's a bit of a squeeze. I'd rather spend an extra day getting to know an area than go through the stress of cramming in everything.

    Either way, the timing of the transportation to Guernsey will be important, since we'll only have a couple of days on the island. And also getting to Paris from St. Malo is something I'll have to look into. Is there any other way to get from Guernsey to Paris? From what I can tell, the ferries don't go to Cherbourg, though they do go to Carteret and Dielette, which are just down the peninsula from there. I'll have to look into the train schedule.

    Many thanks for all info. -DA1
     
  23. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Tony is travelling in SE Asia so I wont able to get a hold of him for a while. However I suspect the cancellation percentage would depend on time of year and other unpredictable weather factors.

    We have met up on vacations in China, South Africa, The Caribbean, etc etc ( we will do so in Sicily this October ) and I always remember him saying he always tries to plan for an overnight in London when outbound on a long trip, to provide a time cushion.

    As far as I know only one airline flies directly to Guernsey, all others stop in Jersey and going that route takes much, much longer

    Since you seem to have limited time I would consider flying into London spend the time you want there and either taking the Eurostar or flying into Paris and then taking the TGV to Rennes (2 hours) and either the local to St Malo or pickup a rental car. That way you can do Paris, take the ferry to Guernsey for a few days, do Normandy by car and then fly home out of Paris. The train has the advantage of mitigating to some extent any weather delays and IMHO a nicer, probably quicker but definitely more relaxing way to travel.
     
  24. disambiguous1

    disambiguous1 Silver Member

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    Newbluesea-- I had thought of taking the Chunnel and then doing Paris-Guernsey-Normandy-Paris, but the more I tried to work out the logistics the more problematic it became. Guernsey is more-or-less the main reason for the trip, and getting to and from there to somewhere in France with a major transportation hub is a challenge. It would take an extra day to get there and then back to Paris.

    If there was a way to securely reserve a driver from St-Malo to St-Michel, and then St-Michel to Rennes the next day (after spending the night near the island, I understand The Mercure is an OK hotel), that would be worth it because of our time constrictions. Not sure what it would cost, but 50 euros each trip would be acceptable, maybe 70 if necessary. Each trip is only about 40 miles. From what I can gather there is bus transport between St-Malo and St-Michel, but it only runs early in the day and then late afternoon, which would require an extremely early departure from Guernsey to make a useful day. I'm not even sure what the ferry schedule is.

    So, current proposed itinerary is to land in London and see the sights, take the chance on flying to Guernsey, stay a couple of days, take the ferry to St-Malo, hired car/taxi to St-Michele for an overnight, hired car/taxi to Rennes, and TGV to Paris for a couple of days. Does that sound plausible?

    After that my wife flies home and I drive to Guedelon Castle, then do a kayak tour off the coast of Italy. -DA1
     
  25. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Your current plan seems fine:
    1) I am sure you will be able to find a driver in St Malo but I suspect if may be expensive . Why the apparent reluctance in renting a car? Driving in France is pretty easy :)
    2) You could pick-up the car in St Malo, arriving from Guernsey.... do your Normandy jaunts, drop the car off and take the train to Paris via Rennes from St Malo?
    3) Do a Google search the ferry schedules are very easy to find.
     

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