This spring, my wife and I are redoing the downstairs of our townhome – replacing the floors and completely redoing the kitchen. For the most part, it’ll be a DIY effort on my part with the aid of some true friends. One of those friends expressed an interest in going to Europe with me this winter, so I proposed a trade: his labor for a round trip ticket.
Thus, I set about to find the best deal. My buddy doesn’t have status with any airline, so I wasn’t constrained to an alliance and could pick and choose as I needed for his flight. After at least an hour of comparison shopping (I’m definitely one of those people that enjoys planning a vacation just as much as experiencing it), it came down to three choices:
Option 1 – KLM, nonstop from Washington, DC to Amsterdam for $497. This was a great deal as part of a KLM flash sale. Unfortunately, DC is a four hour drive from Raleigh – with perfect traffic conditions. He’s young and accustomed to driving a lot for work, so that’s not so bad on the outbound leg, but the return with a +6 hour time differential would be brutal.
Option 2 – United, one stop from Raleigh to Amsterdam for $1400. The cheapest flight from Raleigh (or even closer airports such as GSO or CLT) was United from RDU to AMS with a stop in either Newark or Dulles. Convenient, but very expensive.
Option 3 – United, one stop from Raleigh to Amsterdam for 60,000 points and $54. Same itenerary as option 2, but using MileagePlus points both earned from flying and Chase transfer. Cheap, but depleting a stash of miles I’m hoarding for another ride in Lufthansa First Class next summer.
In the end, I went with points – knowing that I can recoup those points by signing up for a MileagePlus Explorer Card in the next few months. Since Lufthansa only releases F space two weeks prior to departure, I have time.
If you do the math ($1400.63 subtract $54.53 and then divide by 60,000), you’ll see that I was able to realize 2.2 cents per mile – significantly above the “consensus” values around 1.4 cents for each MileagePlus mile. It’s not a sexy redemption by any means (unlike my redemption that gets me to Amsterdam), but it saves me nearly $1350 that I can use once we get to Europe.