The holidays are upon us. The snow is falling, the lights are flashing and the cookies are baking.
So what do some frequent flyers of Alaska Airlines think about?
“Can I get 75K MVP status before the end of the year?” “
Conservative travelers have followed their accounts all year round, taking advantage of great rates to earn extra miles. But it’s been another wild COVID-19 year for flyers. Some of us are a little rusty to play the travel game after having our wings chopped off by the pandemic.
On a few quick trips to the south, it was clear that the landscape of the trip was still a bit rugged. There are traps that trip you up if you’re not careful – and I’m not even talking about the new omicron COVID-19 variant.
The most obvious road hazard for travelers right now is the continuing shortage of rental cars. On a recent trip to California, rental cars ranged from $ 70 to $ 100 per day. That’s a lot less than the sky-high rates this summer. But it was the fuel that prompted me to check with Turo, a paid carsharing service like Airbnb for vehicles. We ended up renting a 2015 Prius (with 175,000 miles) from someone named Andrew. He met us in the parking lot outside the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa. He has eight cars that he rents through Turo, and renting from Andrew has saved us about $ 100 on the cheapest car rental at the airport.
On a recent trip to Honolulu, we didn’t bother to hire a car. If you stay in Waikiki, it doesn’t matter how much the rental car costs. Rather, overnight parking will get you. Our hotel charges between $ 42 and $ 50 per night, which is typical of resort hotels. We used Uber for trips to and from the airport.
When it comes to hotels, check the fine print when you book. For much of this year and last year, many hotels have suspended dreaded “resort fees” as most amenities like the swimming pool were closed during the pandemic. But the costs are coming back.
In Waikiki, we stayed at the Hyatt Centric Hotel, where the resort tax is over $ 37 a night. In the old days, things like a phone, TV, pool, and towels were included in the room rate, which is over $ 200 per night. But now there is a charge for it.
We avoided the service charge by using Hyatt Hotel points to pay for the room. Resort points are how I redeem most of the mileage points on my credit card. I carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, but there are others that allow you to transfer your points between hotel and airline programs, including American Express and Citibank.
While I have a few Chase cards to earn these “flex spend” points for Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, and IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) points, I also have a few Alaska Airlines cards. And while I haven’t flown that much in the past two years, the miles continue to add up after every trip to Costco.
During the latter part of each year, frequent flyers scramble to accumulate additional elite qualifying miles to achieve their MVP status for the following year.
But it’s also important to burn the miles. That’s because nothing depreciates faster than unused air miles. Next year around this time it will cost you more miles to fly where you want to go. So use them now.
For example, during our trip to California, the first choice was to fly to Oakland. When Alaska Airlines ran a two-for-one special last month, I got a good deal – about $ 300 round trip for two tickets. But our flights arrived late and we would have skipped dinner with our friends. So the next day I returned those tickets and burned 70,000 miles from Alaska Airlines for two of us to fly straight to Santa Rosa. The spot price would have been around $ 1,100.
When you redeem Alaska miles, you are automatically in the main cabin. so that we can pre-book our places. We can check in our bags as we are a member of their Club 49 program for residents of Alaska. We flew on the smaller regional jet E-175 between Seattle and Santa Rosa. I like these jets better than the 737s. That’s because they’re two-by-two with no central seat.
If you still need a few miles to reach your elite goal, be prepared for a sticker shock. You can travel between Anchorage and Seattle from December 23 to 25 for around $ 350 round trip. You will earn almost 2,900 miles. And right now, Alaska Airlines is offering a 50% bonus towards elite status. That’s 4,344 elite qualifying miles. You cannot use bonus miles for free tickets – they are only used to achieve Elite status.
If you need more miles, you can fly from Anchorage to San Jose, Costa Rica. I found tickets for $ 1000 round trip that left just around Christmas day. A round-trip flight will get you 10,228 miles, plus a bonus of 5,114 miles.
The 50% bonus is only available until December 31st.
However, Alaska Airlines really wants to keep you on the elite traveler treadmill. If you miss your goal and fail to re-qualify as an MVP, Gold, or 75K member, Alaska will extend your status until April 30. If you want to maintain this status until the end of 2022, you must travel a few miles between January and April. 2022:
• MVP: 5,000 miles
• Gold MVP: 10,000 miles
• 75K Gold MVP: 20,000 miles
Usually, when you hit the Gold 75K threshold, Alaska grants you a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles. But if you’re on that fast lane and hike the extra 20,000 miles, you won’t get the bonus. You still have to go the 75,000 miles.
Delta is also offering a 50% bonus towards Elite status until the end of the month. And the airline is also extending the SkyMiles status of travelers for a full year, until January 31, 2023. Additionally, all “Medallion Qualifying Miles” for 2021 will be rolled over to 2022 for an early start on 2023 status.
Two other big changes for Delta: SkyMiles members who live in Alaska can check-in two free bags in Lower 48 until April 30. Plus, you won’t earn SkyMiles if you purchase a Basic Economy Ticket.
Whether you’re flying on a plane this month or crossing your fingers for a trip into the New Year, I wish you good luck. One of my travel gurus, Randy Petersen, always shares this holiday blessing with me: “May all your upgrades be free and your miles never expire.