I have been lurking here and on FT since last summer and after accumulating a few miles/points, my wife needs to redeem some for a trip the week prior to the 4th of July. We had an idea to use US Air, but they have a blackout date on the needed return flight. So now I am back at square one and would appreciate any reward travel pointers available. The big issue is really that her travel plans are not very flexible. She has specific dates on which she is traveling and she is traveling with our 3 1/2 yr old daughter, so direct flights are best. Ultimately she needs to be in Colubmia, SC from Houston. Right now, her options appear to be to fly US Air to CLT where her aunt will meet her from Newark and they will rent a car to Columbia. With the blackout date, she would have to pay for both tickets (total ~$650). The other option is to fly direct IAH - CAE and use CO miles for one of the tickets. It will cost 50,000 miles and then ~$550 for the second ticket. Neither option really feel like a good value to me, but with the lack of flexibility (she needs to arrive within the same time frame as her aunt and travel Tuesday and Friday) we feel stuck. In the end, I think she will ultimately book the CO flight to minimize the hassle of traveling with a young child, car seat, luggage, and the 2 hour drive. My specific questions are: 1. In general, is using reward travel always a balancing act between flexibility and value? 2. Aim I missing another option for redemption? (we have points in CO, United, UA, and AA) Thanks in advance for any guidance or words of wisdom. We are awaiting the opportunity to actually start using some of these points we have accumulated!