Way back last summer my family starting planning a trip. We wanted to gather in Orlando this spring, to partake in EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival....festivities. We (and by "we" I mean "I") researched vacation houses, airfare, admission tickets, restaurants, and shows. We developed a budget, chose the dates, and decided which house we wanted to rent.
A trip like this, for us, requires diligent planning because it is so, so easy to let the costs spiral out of control. You get sucked into that, "Who cares, we're on vacation!" mentality, and the budget goes out the window in favor of plastic mouse ears and $10 ice cream sundaes. So I watch for ways to cut costs. One of the things I looked at was the airfare. We all have frequent flier accounts, though most of my family members don't pay attention to them. I had to reset passwords and verify security questions to get into those accounts to see where everyone was. It was worth it, though, when I discovered that my mom and my brother were very close to free tickets. I had a free ticket coming, too, so that would just leave Walker to have to purchase a ticket. All we had to do was earn a couple hundred airline miles for my mom and Bro and we'd be ready to book our tickets. Since we all have credit cards that earn airline miles, and Christmas was coming, we'd have the miles we needed in no time.
I forgot who I was dealing with.
I think that if the military wants to get information out of war prisoners, they should tell them that they are free to leave, just as soon as they book airline tickets for a family of four using frequent flier miles. Hell, let 'em pay cash! It won't matter. A couple hours of mucking around on the airline websites and they'll beg to be able to stop. They'll do anything. Trust me.
In the couple of weeks it took us to use our miles reward credit cards to earn a couple hundred miles, the airlines raise the requirement from 30,000 miles to 40,000 miles. My sister volunteered to transfer some of her miles to us, but then the rate went up from 40,000 to 50,000. Seriously? Last year we got free tickets for 25,000 miles each. In just a year it doubled? Why, yes. Yes, it did. Even if we took every one of my sister's miles - which the airlines charges you to transfer - we don't have enough.
So now, as the unofficial trip planner, I have to decide: do we wait to see if the fares come down? We could end up with really bad flights if we wait too long. Or we could just suck it up and pay cash for the tickets. They have a cash & miles combo deal, too, but that seems like a bad idea. You give up all your miles for a couple hundred dollars off the cash price, which is fine if you only travel once every couple years, but if you travel every year like Walker and I do it makes more sense to hold onto the miles and hope for a better redemption rate later on. We could combine accounts and give one person a free ticket. Sigh. I'm tired of making all the decisions. When I reach out to my team, they just tell me to do whatever I feel comfortable with. Thanks, guys!
It will be a long, long, long time before I agree to do this again.