A Guest Post by John @laptoptravel
In November of this past year, I wrote an article entitled “Why You Should Consider a Mileage Run Booked by a Professional.” In that article I put forth the various reasons why you should let a professional do the work for you; perhaps the greatest reason is that we (since I am a professional booker) keep working while you do not.
We have the tools, the experience, and the financial incentive to persevere when you simply are overwhelmed or otherwise unable to work diligently on finding that perfect Mileage Run (or award booking for other clients.)
But let us suppose you have committed to doing it yourself; you want to save the few dollars you might pay a professional travel booker and you feel confident you know what you are doing. Then let me continue, as Paul Harvey might say, with ‘the rest of the story.’
There are two huge obstacles to every Mileage Run. In my article I spoke of the first – Procrastination!
“Let’s just admit the fact; people are natural procrastinators. It is not that anyone plans to NOT get things done on time…it’s just that life gets in the way. Every person has work, family and personal demands on their lives. Then sometimes unforeseen events simply take the best laid plans and throw everything into a kilter.”
Procrastination kills great Mileage Run deals by the fact that often a Mileage Run fare, an error fare, a mistake fare and even great award ticket space availability disappears shortly after discovered. Time simply runs against your interests and when these are posted everyone races to the well and takes from it until it is dry!
If I had procrastinated this past year I would have missed out on my amazing $169 roundtrip Houston to Amsterdam (via Mexico City) SkyTeam fare and I would have watched my $379 Seattle to Brussels (via JFK) trip disappear in a fleeting moment. [By the way, I am using Brussels as a springboard for deeper European vacationing.]
What other great fares have you seen pass through your email, Twitter and fare alerts only later to say “I wish I had…” René could not have gotten his Million Miler flight on the Boeing 747 for the same timing and price if he had procrastinated from the just over $400 Delta fare from Chicago to Tokyo.
I am here to tell you, yes you should have. Do not procrastinate! If you are buying airline tickets in the United States you have until midnight the day following your purchase to cancel your paid ticket in most circumstances; check the cancellation rules where you purchase your ticket. However this is a pretty safe rule in most instances. If you find that perfect award space, some airlines will allow their elite members to cancel and redeposit their miles used on a cancelled award booking free of charge! For example, Delta provides this benefit to Platinum and Diamond Medallion members (but any cancellation must be done prior to 72 hours of scheduled departure.) This also applies to upgrades obtained by using miles. You can read the full terms here.
Taking advantage of the cancellation rules you should book an unbelievable deal when you find it; then once you have secured it start to look at the logistics of taking the trip. Look at re-positioning flights to the destination airport, if needed. I next begin looking at the destination if I am planning to stay any length of time. Look for lodging; maybe think outside of the box. Perhaps Airbnb is an option. I used them on my recent Mileage Run trip to Aruba and had a two bedroom house with security entrance right off a main access road close to beaches, restaurants and the airport for $55/night.
Also, if you cannot make the deal work then cancel it; no harm done. It at least is good exercise and practice when that perfect deal does comes along.
The second greatest obstacle to Mileage Runs (and great Award Space) is distraction. This sort of plays off procrastination in that you fail to purchase a fare (or book your award tickets) for the simple (and very common) perception that something even better will come along.
How do I deal with that? Take some practical advice from my own example I will share. When I first discovered the $169 roundtrip Houston to Amsterdam fare deal it was not $169; nope it started at $279. Here was my strategy:
First, I thought $279 was a great deal for earning 12,984 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM’s), but could I do better? Perhaps. So I bought the $279 and then (instead of taking my own earlier posted advice to work out the logistics) I began to tweak the dates. I was able to find a $249 fare for similar dates. I booked it and cancelled the first. Next, I began to fiddle more with the flights and dates again and got the fare down to $229 and so what did I do? Of course I booked that one and cancelled the previous. I continued to work these dates out and eventually found the $169 great deal. Of course I booked that fare and cancelled the prior one.
A total of four booked tickets which eventually became the one Houston to Mexico City to Amsterdam (on Aeromexico’s B787 Dreamliner) and back for $169.
Distraction might make you think you can do better, or wait until that perfect deal comes along, but what I am recommending (and what I showed in my own personal example above) is to buy first; then look at the distractions. Maybe you found a great deal to Madrid, but you really wanted Barcelona. Madrid probably gets you 95% of the way to Barcelona; figure it out from there. Perhaps you wanted a beach resort in Bali but you found a fantastic deal to London; maybe you can re-adjust your bucket list. Often I travel to destinations I have not planned; I simply follow the deals. It is sort of making lemonade out of lemons, but in reality I am getting a great trip and earning elite miles in the process.
In our daily lives we have so many things competing for our attention; distractions in travel deals bombard us from all sides. Perhaps you see a $140 roundtrip fare to Phnom Penh but in reality you have no interest in going to Cambodia; simply delete the email, tailor your alerts and feeds or simply ignore those deals which you really do not want to do. Focus on the destinations which excite you!
After my advice, which is basically, avoid procrastination and distractions when searching for deals perhaps you want someone to do the heavy lifting for you. That is why you should follow a handful of fare alert sites or blogs if you still want to do it yourself. Deals are posted by Elite Mileage Runs and my own blog, laptoptravel; both are great places to follow. For quicker service, follow @RenesPoints and @laptoptravel on Twitter for immediate alerts! If you follow through our links and posts we typically provide an overview of the deal and some brief details to help you decide if it is right for you. Almost always we will provide direct booking links so purchasing of the deal is simply a few clicks.
Maybe some of you enjoy doing everything yourself and that is fine for a few. In comparison, though, I would say those who want to try and book their own Mileage Runs and award bookings (without help) are akin to folks who like representing themselves in court or performing their own root canals with a few crude tools. Sure it can be done; but I guarantee the time, pain and perhaps the cost, will overall be less with a professional performing the work.
If you decide to use a professional for helping you find that great (and elusive) award space for your aspirational trip or to help you nail down a 20-25K elite earnings mileage run then you can always turn to our good friend ADAM from Juicy Miles. Yes, I am on their team and with my 50+ years of experience traveling plus my own set of unique computer skills I find some amazing and creative Mileage Runs but there are more than thirty experts in all areas of travel and nuances of partnerships, alliances, tricks and techniques now on the Juicy Miles roster.
We work all hours of the day; often while you are sleeping. We are searching for amazing deals to reward you with cheap elite qualification miles to meet your targets. We do it for every airline; every program. In fact, I have just begun to share my own tips and techniques in travel seminars (like the Chicago Seminars and upcoming this week at Frequent Traveler University sessions.)
Whatever you decide; if you want to perform your own work with just yourself have at it; follow the simple guidelines I have suggested and if you get overwhelmed or simply see it as a more productive use of your time and resources feel free to contact a professional booking service.
Regardless, the time is now to do something! We are seeing unbelievably cheap fares internationally and award space fills up quickly! A lot of seasoned travelers know to start early taking Mileage Runs and searching for award space.
Ask yourself; Does searching for Mileage Runs and Award Space wear you down mentally? Mahalo and Safe Travels…. John from laptoptravel