Newbie questions - April 2013 redwood forests/united/usair/usair mastercard

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by curtis1120, May 3, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. curtis1120

    curtis1120 Silver Member

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    I'd like to plan a family vacation for 5 (though we could do a lap child if needed). We'll be flying out of Charlotte, NC (CLT) though GSP would work as well (including southwest airlines if needed). We want to see the redwood forests and are looking at April 2013. We'd like to use miles for some or all of the trip. Ideally we'd find 5 "low" usair awards on one flight and be all together for 100,000 usair miles. Since it's not that easy I'm coming here for help.

    Questions:
    1. Are the san fransisco airports the closest to Redwood national forest? It's still 6 hours away?
    2. If USAir is a codeshare with United how will that affect award availability. Will Usair have 2 seats on a flight for awards and United have 2 seats? Are there any tricks to book awards on the same flight using 2 different airlines?
    3. We are planning to get the Usair mastercard. Do you have to have the physical card before you get 5,000 miles off of awards?
    4. Will open jaw help with finding an award (using Oakland for example). Are open jaws bookable online?
    5. If I find 2 seats at ecomy saver and 2 seats in business saver can I later "downgrade" the business seats to economy if saver availablilty shows up so I can get some points back? (sigh, I know the benefits of flying in style, but I'd rather be able to take my family further)
    6. USair has serveral non-stops to SFO so we may do 2 of us on a flight then 2 or 3 on a flight leaving later. If we book our awards this way what would our options be for a) rebooking if award availability shows up on one flight or b) standby that day?
    We have 88,000 miles with USair and will get another 40,000 with the mastercard. This would be 5 seats at economy saver with or without the 5,000 mile bonus.
    We have 60,000 miles with United.

    I feel a little embarrassed with the meager miles - given the millions of miles being thrown around most of these forums, but hopefully you can help me. Please share your comments about any or all of my questions.

    Thanks!
     
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  2. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    Well, Eureka and Crescent City are closer, but you might have less luck booking award flights there. Also, San Francisco is a wonderful (but expensive) city worth visiting.
    Dunno.
    Yes.
    There's really no way to know whether you'll have more luck with open-jaw than with round-trip. But yes, you can use USAirways for open jaw awards. No, you cannot do it online: http://www.usairways.com/en-US/help/booking/owmctravel.html.
    You could, but USAirways (and United) will gladly take some extra money from you for that.
    The answer depends on whether you have (pretty much top) status on the airlines. With top status, you have more flexibility and can avoid fees. It's possible otherwise, but unless you get very friendly gate/desk agents, it'll cost you extra.
    Don't feel embarrassed. Feel excited. This isn't a contest; it's a community working together to get us all where we want to go for less. And many readers out there will nod their heads sagely at your desire to see more and do more rather than be pampered with champagne, snack mix and leather seats.

    Oh, and the main reason I'm replying....

    The redwoods are impressive, but there's also a grove of them, the Mariposa Grove, over in Yosemite National Park, which is a) phenomenal, and b) not too crowded in April. I highly suggest you consider Yosemite when you're considering a trip to see redwoods. Unfortunately, you should also prepare for the possibility of light snow (from the sky or on the ground) in Yosemite in April, whereas it only rains along the coast. Yosemite is a 4-5 hour drive from San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, or Sacramento, and longer on summer Fridays.
     
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  3. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I can't help too much with the mileage questions, except to point out that if two of you are adults, you can each get the US Airways card, for 40K miles each. Also, google US Airways Grand Slam for the possibility of more miles.

    As for the trees themselves:

    There are two kinds of sequoias.

    The best place to see the coastal redwoods are in Redwoods National Park, which is spread among through three units (Del Norte, Jed Smith, and Prairie Creek). These are, indeed, about 5.5 hours drive north of San Francisco. The town of Crescent City is centrally located and has motels. The camping is great in all the units (especially Del Norte) and in April you probably won't have trouble getting space.

    The giant sequoias are found in the Sierra Nevada mountains about 4 hours southwest of San Francisco and northwest of Los Angeles. They are bigger around and more massive than the coastal redwoods but slightly shorter. They are spread between two abutting national parks, Sequoia and King's Canyon. There may be well be snow on the roads in April.

    Between the two areas (coastal and Sierra's) you could take in Yosemite which has a small grove of giants itself. There are also groves of coastal redwoods within an hour's drive of San Francisco (notably but, in my opinion, of least interest at John Muir Woods).

    Don't know how long you plan to be away for, but a trip taking in San Francisco, Sequoia / King's Canyon, Yosemite, and Redwood NP would certainly be memorable.
     
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  4. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    There are other airports that are closer, but they are all served by United - Eureka,CA; Crescent City, CA; Medford, OR. So, you should also look into acquiring more United miles via either the UA credit cards or the Chase Sapphire cards. Since you are looking at a trip in one year, you have time to acquire more miles. I would also advise starting to look at availability on both the US and UA websites, so you have a better sense of what you will need and when you need to fly. For example, looking today at flights CLT-SFO, there was some availability for mid-week flights.
    Think about flexibility. Having flexible dates, being flexible about which airport you can fly into and having miles in more than one program increases your flexibility and increases the chances you will be able to find what you want.
     
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  5. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    The redwoods are indeed impressive, but depending on how long youur vacation will be, do you plan to do other things in the area? Will you be camping, hiking, doing other outdoor activities? Will the possibly lap child be able to keep up with the group and deal with camping, etc. Have you through about how you will take equipment on the plane? Note also that if you plan to rent a car--and I think you must for this trip--the drop off fees can be prohibitively expensive, which basically could mean that you cannot do an open jaw.
     
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  6. curtis1120

    curtis1120 Silver Member

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    All of our kids are young, so this won't be a hard core hiking/camping trip. More of a "run around in some cool woods" trip. We've taken all of them on a ski trip so we are feel we've conquered the peak of schlepping stuff for kids. We'll stay in hotels or cabins. We enjoy going for walks in the blue ridge mountains so they like out doors activities. We will absolutely rent a minivan for trip - can't imagine doing otherwise. Thanks for the reminder about drop off fees.

    As for other activities, perhaps a few sites in San Fransico - trolley car ride, Alcatraz etc.
     
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  7. curtis1120

    curtis1120 Silver Member

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    Flexibility is one thing we have less of these days, unfortunately. We can't flex our dates too much if we want to keep in the kids school spring break. We already have sapphire and united cards (already burned the miles for a different trip). Where we do have flexibility is that we want to travel and show our kids amazing things, so we'll spend some money. When we can get some seats by smart planning we'll do that and then we'll just pay for the rest.
     
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  8. curtis1120

    curtis1120 Silver Member

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    We are planning for a week. Looking at the map maybe we should eliminate redwoods and do San Francisco, Sequoia / King's Canyon, Yosemite. It might make a nice circular trip and not have as much time in the car.
     
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  9. curtis1120

    curtis1120 Silver Member

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  10. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    That would be a great trip and yes, it would cut out two very long drives. The only thing is to watch out for weather and driving conditions at that time of the year as there may still be snow in the mountains affecting both Yosemite and Sequoia / King's Canyon.

    Sequoia / King's Canyon has good opportunity to visit trees on short walks (as well as some longer distance hiking which probably won't interest you with such young children). There is a cabin-built-into-a-fallen-tree here which is great. If you visit Yosemite and go to Tuolomne Grove, there's a very cool downed tree there you can crawl all the way through; the kids will love it..

    If you do a loop ex SFO, you could also touch on the coast road. You could visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, stop to see the seals in Santa Cruz, and visit a couple of good coastal redwood groves between Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley.

    Finally, if you are focusing on Sequoia / King's Canyon rather than the north coastal redwoods, you could conceivably do this trip ex LA which might open up more flight opportunities (plus, beaches).
     
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  11. Photonerd71

    Photonerd71 Silver Member

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    If you spend time in San Francisco you won't need the car. SF has excellent public transportation. The Bart has a station at SFO and from there you can go downtown and xfer to the muni. So after coming back from the forest, drop off the car and explore SF by foot, trolley,cable car, Bart etc.
     
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  12. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Or the elephant seals of Año Nuevo

    http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523

    I just checked the dates on my photos from last year, and we were there in early April.
     
  13. Up&Away

    Up&Away Silver Member

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    Good questions with some great advice. May have to add this to our list of places to go soon!

    Sent from my iPhone using milepoint
     
  14. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    My memories of the drive up the coast of Northern California is that it is a magnificent drive, especially Cal. Hwy. 1 through Mendocino. The caveats are this would be a longer drive in time, so you would want to stop on your way North. Well worth it, in my opinion. The other caveat is the weather. April is the transition time between the rainy season and the dry season in Northern California, so it's hard to know what you will get.
    Another way to save money is via hotel points. I would research which hotel chains have accommodations in the area that would fit your family's needs and get hotel card(s) that would help you get those rooms for free.
     
  15. curtis1120

    curtis1120 Silver Member

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    Already looking at the first week of april which has opened up on usair. Boy, the award avaiability is slim. Tuesday and Wednesday are the only days with anything other than "high" availability to SFO, OAK or SMF. I only put 1 passenger in teh search function - can't imagine 4 or 5. I'll be keeping an eye open to see if award availability opens up, but it doesn't look promising, even 11 months out. Thanks for all of your encouragement and advice.
     
  16. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    Airlines rarely, if ever, make all the award seats available 11 months before. So, more seats will become available. But snagging 4 will be difficult. As you originally surmised, you may have to buy a couple seats and get an award for the others.
     
  17. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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    If you are going to spend all of your time in Central California, you may want to expand your search to Fresno (FAT,) Visalia (VIS,) Bakersfield, and Modesto. UA and US (often via code-share) fly into those cities. You may want to become familiar with all of your city pair options as some of these may not show up in award searches.
     
  18. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    If you go south of SF, the aquarium at Monterey is impressive. In fact, it's historic downtown area and pier are fun. Another spot is Big Sur nearby.

    I've always been fond of Half Moon Bay. Sausilito is toruistic but fun, including either the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and the views of it or the boat trip there and back, again with bridge views.
     
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  19. jralexander14

    jralexander14 Silver Member

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    You've just described my favorite trip to CA! It's been too long since I've been there-gonna have to get on planning another trip there. :)
     
  20. curtis1120

    curtis1120 Silver Member

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    Wow, thanks for all the ideas. I may have to spend a month, rather than a week!
     

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