It’s been a month since I wrote a weekly update, though I did squeeze in a few blog posts in that time. I’ve been almost nonstop on the road and working on our family plans for summer travel. Since early March I’ve been to Vegas (twice), New York and New Orleans (twice).
Probably the most notable travel in the past month was a last-minute trip to the Final Four. I’m a lifelong Duke fan and they made a surprise run to New Orleans. I decided to go with them. While I wrote a more detailed post about getting to the Final Four using points and miles, I’ll give a quick recap here.
I was pretty surprised that I was able to throw this trip together last-minute. Airline tickets were well over $1,000 to get to New Orleans when I looked the week before the Final Four. While I ended up using a lot of miles to snag tickets I ended up finding good flights into and out of New Orleans. I booked almost a dozen tickets, canceling as I found better ones along the way. At one point I was holding 5 different flights.
This was all made possible by a silver lining from the pandemic, the elimination of change and cancellation fees. With inventory incredibly tight, better options kept popping up randomly. At no cost, I was able to keep changing my reservations. There’s no doubt that the conventional strategy shared by many travel bloggers of “earn and burn” as quickly as possible is a sound one. But, I tend to be a bit of a hoarder. Because I keep a balance of miles I was able to lock in American, Delta and United flights at various times until I found the best itinerary.
What was probably most surprising was the ability to snag a 4-night hotel reservation at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans using Hyatt points. That hotel is right next door to the Superdome where the games were played. And, for 9,000 points a night I was able to save the $500+ per night it would have otherwise cost me. Hyatt was the only hotel chain where I found award redemptions that close to arrival for a major event like that.
Rewinding to my first trip to New Orleans this month for a Freddie Awards site visit, I was talking with my buddy Richard Kerr while I was in NOLA. He asked me what flight I was taking from New Orleans to Las Vegas (my next stop). I had booked a connecting flight on Delta through Minneapolis since I prefer their service to United and a first class seat on Delta was less than a coach flight with a long layover in Denver. Richard pointed out, to my surprise, that Spirit flies nonstop from New Orleans to Las Vegas.
Against my better judgment I changed my flight to arrive 2 hours earlier on Spirit. As much as I don’t love flying Spirit (unless I’m spoiled in a Big Front Seat) I do love sleep. Getting in at 9pm instead of 11 was the deciding factor.
The Spirit experience was fine, pretty similar to previous experiences. On the positive side of the ledger I was able to score an exit row aisle seat. On the negative side of the ledger, the tray table makes it almost impossible to work on a laptop. And, the lack of a seat back pocket is frustrating. Lastly, the Wi-Fi was pretty spotty, making it pretty tough to get work accomplished. All in all, 4 hours on a Spirit flight is about 2 hours past my max tolerance.
My trip to New York scored me two firsts. I finally got to ride on United CRJ-550, which is a really nifty design for business travelers. There’s a lot to like about this regional jet configuration. My flight was bound for Laguardia Airport, which also meant I got my first look at the newly renovated Laguardia. Holy cow! Talk about a totally different airport. I thoroughly enjoyed my entire experience. Now, if they could just figure out how to run a train out to the airport…..
Apparently us “travel experts” aren’t allowed to ask questions anymore, as I got largely roasted for asking whether Bilt Rewards points were the most valuable currency. I still think “value” is such a subjective question and can change for individuals over time.
There’s a pretty solid Simply Miles offer for Uber right now that can help you earn elite status on American Airlines and double dip with Marriott points as well.
Speaking of Marriott, their award charts are fully dynamic now. Here’s a look at how good/bad that is. And, a look at some properties that actually got cheaper after the change.
Hyatt added the first handful of what will be 100 new all-inclusive properties and also released a new award chart just for those hotels. The value is actually pretty solid, and some of the properties look quite nice (not your mom and dad’s all-inclusive). We dug into in on a recent podcast episode that’s due to launch later this week.
The Capital One Venture X card continues to occupy one of the top spots in my business wallet. The ability to earn flexible points that can also burn down travel charges is such a win for the way I travel. That’s coming from someone who doesn’t earn a penny in affiliate income off the card. I just think it works great for me. And, 10X points for travel through the Capital One Travel portal should work great for a lot of folks.
The Final Two Pennies
Next up on my travel radar is a third trip to New Orleans to co-host the Freddie Awards. I’ve also got spring break on the horizon with a trip down to the Florida panhandle with the family. And, I’ll be in Vegas again. Speaking of which, if Vegas is your thing check out my interview with Michael Trager where we cover our favorites.
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And, I hope you’ll check out my podcast, Miles To Go. We cover the latest travel news, tips and tricks every week so you can save money while you travel better. From Disney to Dubai, San Francisco to Sydney, American Airlines to WestJet, we’ve got you covered!