Is It Just Me? Why Do I Always Do This On Airplanes?

Is It Just Me? Why Do I Always Do This On Airplanes?

I am that lady in Seat 12B.

Maybe even stuck in that middle seat of 27D.

I’m that lady you’re trying to discreetly poke your travel partner. “Check out the woman over there,” you whisper. “She’s crying her eyes out.”

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Dear Reader, what is it about airplanes?

The altitude?

The recycled air?

The isolation 36,000 feet above the ground?

Whatever it is, I’m a goner.

Just say, “Boo,” and I’ll start crying.

Watching a movie, that on the ground would bring a tiny tear to my eye, inspires a flood of water works.

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Recalling a simple, pleasant memory leaves me a mess.

Working on some of my more heartfelt columns— well, forget about it.

My friend, Tricia, who is good at making me not me feel not entirely crazy, confessed one day that she is equally tear-challenged on airplanes, as well.

Now, when either one of us takes a trip, we text, “Safe travels!” along with that particular emoticon face with tears streaming down the cheeks, because we know what’s coming.

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I find myself thinking about this particular condition as I fly back from a trip with my baby sister.

A few months ago she called me and said, “Come join me for a Sisters’ Trip in the French Alps after I wrap up a business meeting!”

There were only two things to say, “Mais oui!” and “Husband, could you please cash in some miles?”

Sister and I had a grand time. We hiked, we laughed, we shopped. We ate. We took care of no one but ourselves.

It was simply bliss.

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As I fly home, I’m thinking about the lifetime gift that is my sister.

I remember our parents telling my brother and me they were going to have another baby.

I remember my brother hauling me in the backyard and threatening me to beat me up if I told any kid on the block that our mom was pregnant. He was 8, I was 7. The difference of that one crucial year meant he understood what our parents had done to create this situation and sure wasn’t going to spread news like that around the neighborhood.

I remember her being born, winning the bet with my brother that the baby would be a girl, as this was back in the day when you had to wait to find that out.

I remember creating slumber parties for her friends, driving her carpool, being her protector, so many of the things a tired older mother is happy to pass onto an older child.

And here we are a zillion years later, married, living in different countries, still able to giggle like we are kids.

Her world knows her as a big time entertainment executive.

I know her as my little sister.

I’m so proud.

So, thankful,

So…

Wait, I better head to the plane’s bathroom for some Kleenex. Either that, or ask to borrow the sleeve of the stranger sitting next to me.

Surely, it must be the air up here.

Find more stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Husband Creates Travel Masterpiece: Around The World In First Class For $383.45!

Husband Creates Travel Masterpiece: Around The World In First Class For $383.45!

Husband stops by my apartment in the sky on Etihad Airways A380 First Class Suites
Husband stops by my apartment in the sky on Etihad Airways A380 First Class Suites

I imagine most husbands’ idea of some time away means a few days at the beach? Couple days at a cabin?

I’m not really sure, as I’m very late to the marriage game and Miles Chasing Mad Scientist Husband is my entire husband sample.

Beyond family, MCMSH’s passion is collecting frequent flyer miles without flying  and cashing them in to travel the world First Class on the fanciest planes, fanciest airlines, which he likes to point out upfront are not going to be US-based carriers.

So, buckle your seat belts.

Here’s the 12-day, around-the-world trip we just took.

Flight map of our 12-day, First Class journey.
Flight map of our 12-day, First Class journey.

Just the facts:

12 flights, 5 airlines, 2 boat rides.

31,754 miles flown.

6 countries.

Would’ve cost $87,532 for two if MCMSH was the type to pay cash or had that kind of disposable income. Neither of which will probably ever be true.

Instead he paid a whopping total of $383.45 per person!

Yep, flew around the world first class for less than it would’ve cost us to fly to California in Coach.

MCMSCH preferred currency is miles. For this trip, he burned 624,000 American Advantage Miles, 90,000 Chase Ultimate Reward miles, and the minimal cash for taxes and fees.

Wanna see more?

Keep in mind, flying direct is not on top of the list priorities for MCMSH. And he insists this can actually be done even more cheaply if you want to fly on what he calls “crappy” planes.

We flew Atlanta-Charlotte-DC.

From Dulles, we boarded Etihad Airways’ Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

We each had our own fully enclosed suite.

Plenty of room to relax. That divider in between seats can go up if you don't know your travel partner.
Plenty of room to relax. That divider in between seats can go up if you don’t know your travel partner.
All meals cooked to order by on board chef.
All meals cooked to order by on board chef
Head cabin manager flight attendant fluffing my pillow and turning my seat into a lie-flat bed.
Head cabin manager flight attendant fluffing my pillow and turning my seat into a lie-flat bed.

Husband complained when we landed in Abu Dhabi 13 1/2 hours later. “Flight wasn’t long enough,” he bummed, to enjoy all the fun stuff on board!”

Plenty of fun ahead.  Spent the night in Abu Dhabi, flew out next day to Male, the capital city of of The Maldives, a nation of 1,192 islands spread over 35,000 in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I think  MCMSH picked one of the most remote. From Male, we had another hour flight in a tiny plane and across the dark, choppy ocean in this tiny boat.

Making our way in the back of this tiny speed boat on a dark, choppy ocean was my least favorite moment of the trip.
Making our way in the back of this tiny speed boat on a dark, choppy ocean was my least favorite moment of the trip.

But it led to this:

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That crystal clear water is the ocean!

The Park Hyatt Maldives.

This resort was the original inspiration of the trip. MCMSH earned us four free nights by signing us up for the Chase Hyatt Visa. (See ** below for MCMSH’s rec on best way to sign up for this card.)

He wanted to spend those nights at one of the most expensive properties in the world.

Expensive with reason.

Check out our over-the-water villa:

over water vila

Resort takes up the entire tiny island. No need to go anywhere, just step down off the ladder of your deck for the best snorkeling ever.

World class snorkeling with incredible coral reefs all t yourself.
World class snorkeling with incredible coral reefs all t yourself.

After 4 days in the Maldives it was time to get back on that darn boat.

We soon would not be smiling, as the little boat broke down in the middle of the ocean and we had to wait for another one to come to our rescue.
We soon would not be smiling, as the little boat broke down in the middle of the ocean and we had to wait for another one to come to our rescue.

Male-Doha-Abu Dhabi, where Husband revealed the trip’s big surprise. He’d planned the whole thing, but waited until the middle of the night, just outside the Etihad First Class Lounge to tell me where in the world we were headed next.

I now know one of the big reasons, MCMSH picked our next destination–Etihad had just started flying their A380 First Apartments on the Abu Dhabi-Sydney Route.

Husband in his apartment which includes a recliner chair and separate bed.
Husband in his apartment which includes a recliner chair and separate bed.
Flight attendant kindly made up my bed before we took off so that I could go to sleep right after take off. Fluffy mattress pad, fancy jammies and slippers they provide made for an amazing night's sleep!
Flight attendant kindly made up my bed before we took off so that I could go to sleep right after take off. Fluffy mattress pad, fancy jammies and slippers they provide made for an amazing night’s sleep!

Once I woke up, I could order anything I wanted off the four page menu.

Apartment sets up so that you can invite a friend over to share a meal.

You know I love you because I'm willing to post this
You know I love you because I’m willing to post this “Aaack, I just woke up!” pic to show you how cool it is to dine at 36,000 feet. Should’ve closed that one window so we weren’t backlit.
Freshening up using personal apt.'s personal vanity.
Freshening up using personal apt.’s personal vanity.
Saying,
Saying, “Hello!” to old friend and CNN anchor, Natalie Allen, who popped up on my flat screen TV.

Did I mention, there’s a shower on board!

Etihad First Class ticket includes getting picked up at the airport in Sydney by Mercedes limo with driver.

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And taken to our hotel, which was the incredible Park Hyatt Sydney right on the Harbor! Again, MCMSH cashed in points for a free stay.

So glad Husband picked Sydney!

We both fell in love with this amazing city!
We both fell in love with this amazing city!
Winter for them Down Under, but mild temps meant perfect day to hit world famous Bondi Beach.
Winter for them Down Under, but mild temps meant perfect day to hit world famous Bondi Beach.
We let the heartier folks do laps at the Iceberg Club pool filled with frigid Pacific Ocean water.
We let the heartier folks do laps at the Iceberg Club pool filled with frigid Pacific Ocean water.

My one job before this trip was to give MCMSH a list of names and email of friends I have living around the world. He used the info to set up dinner with Bruce and Teresa who have been living in Sydney since we were next door neighbors in Phoenix 20-years ago.

friends dinner

Time to leave all too soon. That means not going home direct.

And finally ride home, the next day from Seoul to Atlanta.

Korean Air First Class A380 Kosmo Suites. KA will not let you use SkyMiles to go First, only Biz. So MCMSH set up Korean Air accounts for us to grab these seats.
Korean Air First Class A380 Kosmo Suites. KA will not let you use SkyMiles to go First, only Biz. So MCMSH set up Korean Air accounts for us to grab these seats.

Complain about airplane food? Without a doubt Korean Air First Class had the best food of any airline we flew over the trip. Only complaints here–they don’t stop feeding you! 3 meals over 14 hours.  First meal alone, was 7-courses of fine dining.

Carrot-lentil puree soup, served with heated spoon, of course.
Carrot-lentil puree soup, served with heated spoon, of course.
salad bar close up
Custom salad featuring walnuts, marinated pears, 3 kinds of dressing.
For one of my three main courses, I chose traditional Korean Bibimbap. Over the top delicious. Much more traditional offerings on the menu, as well, for the less adventurous.
For one of my three main courses, I chose traditional Korean Bibimbap. Over the top delicious. Much more traditional offerings on the menu, as well, for the less adventurous.
Happy, but so full, I'm going to burst!
Happy, but so full, I’m going to burst!

By the way, does it look like I’m wearing a lot of the same clothes in many of the shots? One of the rules of traveling with MCMSH–everyone goes with carry on luggage only!  Just in case, he gets wind of an even better flight we can catch, he doesn’t want us beholden to already checked luggage. This means squishing 12 days of clothes into one small suitcase and one backpack. That includes making space for my “Big Girl Camera,” laptop, and bag of electric converters to fit in an of the six countries we passed through over the 12 days. So, yeah, fashion takes a hit.

((For the credit card that gets you the free nights at any Hyatt property in the world. MCMSH recs that you got to Hyatt.com. Start process to book a room. Select city, dates, room type. That will take you to the “Complete Your Reservation” Page. At the bottom of that page, you’ll see an ad for the same card I mentioned above. This time, though, it has a “Get a $50 Statement Credit.” Click through there to apply. MCMSH says this is the best offer out there for this card. Once you’ve applied, you can cancel that fake reservation you were making. If you and your partner, spouse, or friend each get a card, you suddenly have 4 nights paid at any Hyatt property in the world, including Park Hyatt which are nicest hotels. Yep, this is the brain I live with.))

I hope this gives you a taste of our different way of traveling. How luxury travel can be fun and affordable. For more tips on how you can get on board check out my regular website, DarynKagan.com.

My Husband Paid $7 Bucks & All I Got Was A $46,000 Plane Ride

My Husband Paid $7 Bucks & All I Got Was A $46,000 Plane Ride

So what does it feel like to fly First Class on one of the fanciest airlines in the world?

To experience a level of service no US-based airline even offers?

How about I take you along for the ride my husband and I just took?

Yes, that husband. The Mad Scientist Miles Chaser, the one who collects millions of frequent flyer points for our family without flying.

Husband like a little boy so excited to see the plane we will fly on. He'd worked on making this trip happen for the last 10 months.
Husband like a little boy so excited to see the Boeing 787 Dreamliner we will fly on. He’d worked on making this trip happen for the last 10 months. He couldn’t take his eyes off the plane.

He tries to wow me once a year with some over-the-top experience.

Let’s just say sitting on our deck in The Maldives over looking the Indian Ocean as I write this, he done pretty darn good.

Photo on 6-3-15 at 6.02 AM #2

For him, it truly is not the destination, it’s the journey. He wants to fly on the fanciest plane of the fanciest airline, all while paying pennies.

For this trip he booked us on Etihad Airways 787 Dreamliner. First Class Suites. We flew from Atlanta to Washington, DC’s Dulles Airport where we boarded the fantasy airliner.

The tickets to get here for the two of us would’ve cost $46,000.

That’s just one way!

Mad Scientist Miles Husband paid $7.

Yep.

Seven bucks.

This is what $46,000 plane tickets look like:

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Welcome to our private suite for two. Super wide seats with doors on either side that close off to the aisle.
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Why yes, Husband would love a cup of piping hot Arabic coffee as we settle into our seats.

Coffee was just the beginning. Anything you can think of that you would want to drink, they have on board. The man pouring the coffee? He’s the personal chef on-call for the 13 1/2 hour flight who will cook up anything the eight passengers in First Class can think of ordering.

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Husband went for fresh fish, served up, of course on freshly-pressed linens and fine china.

Kinda makes MSMH crazy, but with this flight taking off at 10 pm est, I was more excited to catch some sleep. I skipped dinner and made use of the lie-flat bed.

So much easier to sleep, when the butler flight attendant makes up your bed and fluffs your pillow!
So much easier to sleep, when the butler flight attendant makes up your bed and fluffs your pillow!
All tucked in, wearing designer jammies and fuzzy socks provided by the airline. My own flat screen TV to watch movies or live TV. Honeycomb doors slid shut for privacy.
All tucked in, wearing designer jammies and fuzzy socks provided by the airline. My own flat screen TV to watch movies or live TV. Honeycomb doors slid shut for privacy.

The flight was so awesome that MSMH was bummed when it landed in Abu Dhabi.

“13 1/2 hours is too short to enjoy everything!” he complained.

“Enough, already, Daryn, stop teasing and show us how MSMH pulled this fantasy trip off!”

Here you go:

We use credit cards for everything we spend, making sure to pay off all balances each month and making our money bring in additional value. For this trip, MSMH says he signed up for three credit cards like the AAdvantage Aviator Master Card.

He redeemed 180,000 AAdvantage Miles. Yes, you can use American miles to redeem on other international airlines with better service.

That’s the earn. Anyone who has tried to redeem frequent flyer points lately knows “the burn” is even harder. MSMH figures he spent 12 hours figuring out how to piece together this trip, knowing which airline websites to search for award space and which airline currency to use.

This man is nothing if not determined.

And I do have to say, hanging with this miles-crazed man is not for the faint of heart. Little domestic trips don’t float his boat at all. We stayed overnight in Abu Dhabi, took another 4-hour flight to Male, the capital of the Maldives. 2-hour layover we took a regional jet to an even smaller island, where we boarded a speed boat for a one hour crazy ride across the Indian Ocean to get to the luxury hotel on a small coral reef atoll. We are frankly, a dot in the ocean in the middle of nowhere.

A dot with wifi, thank goodness, so I can share this journey.

The luxury hotel? Paid for with points, as well. I’ll share pics from here and how MSMH pulled this one off, as well, in a later post.

For now, I hear the coral reef right off this deck and rainbow fishes calling my name.

Blue ocean waters here truly clearer than any swimming pool I've ever seen.
Blue ocean waters here truly clearer than any swimming pool I’ve ever seen.

So many folks asking for Mad Scientist Miles Husband’s tips. You’ll find more miles content at DarynKagan.com

Your Take On My Husband’s Surprise–You More Than Helped Me Decide What To Do

Your Take On My Husband’s Surprise–You More Than Helped Me Decide What To Do

Oh, what a trip it has been!

The adventure has started, even weeks before I get on the plane.

For that, I have you to thank, Dear Reader.

It was just a few weeks ago that I asked you for some marital advice.

I shared how my husband has this crazy, geeky hobby where he collects frequent flyer miles without flying.

How he’s whisking me off to a tropical paradise in the Maldives..

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And..

And…

That was where I was stuck.

The next part of the journey was to be a surprise.

Husband thought this was a grand idea.

“Romantic and fun” are the words I think he used.

I thought it was,

Well, not.

And so I turned it over to you.

“Should I let my husband surprise me?” I asked.

Boy, did you ever rally.

Let’s just say this—

You are not shy about saving me from me.

The resounding response,

And trust me, they came flooding in,

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Was to loosen up, let him surprise me and enjoy.

That’s not even the best part.

The best part was you.

You, who took the opportunity to teach me a thing or two.

Especially you husbands.

“This is how a man shows he loves you,” more than a few of you tried to explain to me in the simplest of terms.

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Larry wrote, “DON’T spoil your husband’s surprise. He sounds like me, and if he is, then it’s very hard to come up with an original romantic idea.”

It was as if you were interpreting that exotic foreign language known as “Husband Love,” that clearly too many of us women are far from fluent in.

I read the fellow husband replies aloud to Husband who nodded and smiled as if finally, someone understood.

There were those of you who really gave me a reality check.

“I think you need a real problem,” Sally wrote.

You got me there, Sal.

And those who brought a similar point home with a little more sugar sprinkled on top.

“Oh, what I would give for any more time or adventures with my late husband. He’s been gone three years now,” said Marie.

I get it.

I’m lucky.

You have been heard.

So, stand down troops.

I’m taking your advice—staying in surprise mode.

Won’t know until half way through the trip where Husband is taking me.

A few of you, like Jolene, want to make sure I know what to pack.

For that, Husband has given a clue—it’s going to be in the 60’s during the day, 50’s a night.

This one has thrown me.

Where is that chilly in June?

Southern Hemisphere?

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Northern Europe?

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Those are just guesses.

I’m not trying too hard.

After all, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

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Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Miles Newbies–Target Your Dream Trip!

Miles Newbies–Target Your Dream Trip!

Some wives nag their husbands to take out the trash.

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These days, around our house, it’s me nagging on behalf of you.

“Husband! Your Miles Newbies want the next step!”

Trash still has to go out, but Mad Scientist Miles Husband (MSMH) has produced for you!

Of course, you read my last post and did your dreaming—where do you want to go with these zillions of miles you are going to collect without flying?  That’s really important because it is going to help direct how you’re going to collect.

MSMH has put together this handy guide:

——————————————————————————————————————————————

Continental US: Southwest, British Airways

Hawaii: United, British Airways    

Australia/Asia: Delta, United, Korean, Singapore, Alaska

Europe: United, Delta

Africa: Delta, American     

Middle East: American, Alaska     

South America: American, United

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

* So one disclaimer on Delta SkyMIles (MSMH is coaching over my shoulder) skip Delta if you want to fly First Class to any international destinations. You are not able to use SkyMiles to get First Class tickets.  Wife adds: This will be an ongoing theme you will hear many many times from MSMH–how bad the SkyMiles program is, how Delta has devalued this currency to depressing levels. This will be huge shock to many of our friends who live in Atlanta who think this is the only airline to fly anywhere. Oh, how your world is about to open up!

Let’s Talk Numbers!

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How many of these miles are you going to need?

MSMH encourages you to look this up for yourself with the individual carriers you’re focusing on.  In general he says to plan on

For International trips: 60-100K per person round trip in Coach, 125-160K/Business, 200-240K RT international First Class.

For Domestic trips: MSMH says to look this up for yourself. He’s an international travel snob because he loves world travel and you get the most value for your miles by using them on international trips.

Finally! Your “To Do” List

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This is where you’re going to start feeling like you’re doing something!

1. Sign up for your free frequent flyer account on the website of your targeted airline(s.)

2. Sign up for shopping portals. Make sure you enter your FF#. (MSMH will be explaining how these work in the next post.) Some of the biggies are AAdvantage.com (American,) SkyMilesShopping.com (Delta,) MileagePlus.com (United.)

3. Sign up for Rewards Dining. Going out to eat is about to become even more fun and lucrative. You can find each airline’s dining rewards program here.

4. Check CreditKarma.com to get an approximate idea on your credit score. It’s free.

Coming up next from your favorite Mad Scientist Miles Husband–let’s go shopping and earn a bunch of miles! He’ll show you how to use those shopping portals to get a bunch of miles for stuff you were going to buy anyway!

Still intrigued? Your eyes aren’t crossing? Then, check out more miles content at DarynKagan.com

Great Trick When You Have To Pay Cash For Plane Ticket

Great Trick When You Have To Pay Cash For Plane Ticket

You can bet the Mad Scientist Miles Husband (MSMH) hates to use actual money to buy plane tickets.

When there isn’t a great miles deal, he has been known to use the “Hidden City” technique.

Simply, this means booking a longer flight than your planned destination. You get off the plane during a layover in your chosen city.

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Why would you do that?

Because, believe it or not, that longer flight just might be cheaper than if you were to book a flight directly into your planned destination.

Crazy, right?

It can be kind of complicated to figure this out.  Not to worry, there’s a website for that!

It’s called, “Skiplagged.com.”

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A young man named Aktarer Zaman started it to help out folks whose brains can’t wrap weed through all the gobbly gook.  That would include me, by the way, if I didn’t have MSMH.

How good is this trick?

United Airlines and Orbitz have gone to legal war trying to shut down the site.

It’s perfectly legal, they just don’t like this brainiac kid spoiling their fun.

Here’s more on the lawsuit.

Score Round One for Aktarer, but it’s not over yet.  He’s got a GoFundMe campaign going to help pay his legal fees against the big boys.

So, try it out. Go to Skiplagged.com and see what kind of fares you can come up with compared to using the airline sites and Orbitz.

One thing Wifey, here, has to point out–Hidden City technique, getting off the flight before your final destination, obviously means you have to bring carry on luggage only. But really, how many pairs of shoes do you need to pack anyway?

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Think of it this way–you can reward yourself with a new pair of shoes with the money you save when you get back home!

Newbie Frequent Flyer Mile Collectors–You Wanna Do This First

Newbie Frequent Flyer Mile Collectors–You Wanna Do This First

This is Husband.

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The Mad Miles Scientist.

He wants to set you up for success as you try to do what he does–collect millions of frequent flyer miles without flying.

He’s sitting here telling me, “Folks are so excited. They want to dive into the deep end.

Husband says,
Husband says, “Don’t do this as you gear up your miles mania.”

Sign up for a bunch of credit cards, to burn the miles you already have.  But really, to make the most of this game, you need to get focused.”

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So listen to Husband.

Figure out where y’all going? Who y’all going with?

Answer these questions as you dive in the deep end:

Figure out your dream destination, how many people are traveling and what is your travel time frame?

Are you traveling peak season (national/school holidays or summer vacation?

In general, peak demand travel season require the most advance planning AND

Are your dates flexible, or must you leave/return on exact date(s)?

(Husband hint hint: Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday night travel often provide the most free opportunities.)

How much time between now and desired travel date?

Determine smallest acceptable party to share your flight with?

(Husband Heads Up: You’ll need some time to accumulate miles for larger party sizes. (Wife says, “Uh, yeah.”)

Can you travel to same destination and arrive on different airplanes; on same day or a day apart?

(Husband Radical Idea: If traveling with teenagers, are you comfortable with them traveling on an itinerary without being accompanied by an adult? Or maybe consider splitting up one adult with one or more minors and meet up & at final destination.)

Congratulations! Once you’ve figured out where, when and who is going, the next step is to figure out the different airlines and connecting cities that will get you to your destination.  And Husband will be along with a post that tells you to do that.

Husband also wants me to point out that the game only works if you are someone who pays off all your credit cards every month and you have a good credit score.

Still intrigued? Your eyes aren’t crossing? Then, check out more miles content at DarynKagan.com