For the past month, I have been providing some how-to’s, reviews and credit card overviews but sometimes we get so deep in the weeds, we sometimes forget why we are playing this crazy game.
Over the weekend, I was determined to find a vacation that my wife and I could take together without our daughter. We have found that throughout our 10 years of marriage, we sometimes need to step back to appreciate each other a little bit more. A vacation away from all our responsibilities is sometimes the key to a successful marriage. So far in the 7 years our daughter has been alive, we have been to 3 places on our own; the Mayan Riviera, Las Vegas and Barbados.
We try take these husband/wife vacations every other year so we were due.
Where Are We Going?
The place we are going is somewhere I had never heard of as a place on earth, much less a vacation destination and I expect you might be in the same boat.
The Loh’s are off to Roatan, Honduras.
Roatan, is an island off the coast of Honduras and is home to the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia the only one bigger. The climate is temperate and we expect the temperature to be between 23°C and 28°C when we are there in January.
Besides the stunning landscape and the perfectly idyllic weather, we chose Roatan because it was easy to get to and it was relatively inexpensive at 40,000 Aeroplan points per ticket. We also wanted to stay away from the crowds at the common wintering destinations around the world and quite frankly didn’t want to deal with people trying to sell us trinkets every 3 minutes (I’m looking at you Mexico).
If we back this up just a little bit further, the way I discovered Roatan was through a Google search for “beach vacation destinations you’ve never heard of”. Low and behold, Roatan came up multiple times as a perfect option.
Once we had decided on Roatan, the next step was to use the Star Alliance Route Map to search for connections. Incredibly, I found that Roatan (RTB) was serviced directly through Houston (IAH) on Saturdays and because Roatan is not a common vacation destination, award seat were actually pretty easy to come by. As well, the YYC-IAH route is a common one for business and depending on the time of year, you can usually find very good award availability.
Due to the early flight times on Saturday, we were forced to overnight in Houston but with friends in Houston and a plethora of cheap hotel options near the airport, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
So our flights turn out to be:
YYC-IAH on United (with an overnight stay in IAH)
IAH-RTB on United
RTB-IAH on United (with an overnight in IAH)
IAH-YYC on Air Canada
The total cost of the flight was $357.02 in taxes.
What I found interesting about this breakdown was that there were no fuel surcharges on Air Canada IAH-YYC leg. I have to assume that this is due to the fact that the majority of the award is on United metal and therefore they are responsible for determining whether or not to charge Fuel Surcharge.
Value of Points
With any award redemption, you should look to see if the redemption of points justifies the use of the points.
I’ll be honest. This wasn’t the best redemption of points but I would rather be open and transparent with you than to gloss over this fact.
Let’s start by looking at the retail cost of the ticket if we booked directly through the airline:
As you can see, the airfare is actually quite affordable at $1,663.42 for two passengers.
If we then take the taxes I paid for the award flight ($357.02) away from the retail price of the flight, we would be left with the value of the points we redeemed.
$1,663.42 – $357.02 = $1,306.40
Now if we take the the value from above and divide it by the number of points redeemed (80,000), we get a value in CPM (Cents Per Mile).
$1,306.40 / 80,000 = 0.01633 or 1.633 CPM
In most circumstances, I would be looking to redeem for at least 2 cents of an economy flight but in this particular instance, I had a ton of points that I would rather use than cash.
On our previous mini-Round-the-World trip, I redeemed my points for about 15 CPM which was an excellent redemption and great value for money. On this particular redemption, I felt that the points were worth less than the money it would have cost for a retail ticket.
One terrible habit that some Travel Hackers get into is hoarding points which leaves you at risk of the points being devalued by the airline or at risk of falling into the “paralysis by analysis” mindset where you overanalyze the situation and refuse to redeem your points until the perfect opportunity comes up.
At the end of the day, you have to make the ultimate decision to determine whether or not the award makes sense to you but for me, I would much rather have the memory than the points.
The tools utilized during this award booking were:
The points we collect give us the opportunity to live the life that many people only dream of but it is incumbent on you to make the most out of your points.
Since I started collecting points and turning those points into trips, I find that my mindset has changed in that those “once in a lifetime” trips can happen almost at a whim. Sure it takes a bit of planning and foresight but being a Travel Hacker gives my family and I the freedom to look at an atlas or an interesting video on YouTube and say “let’s go there” and actually mean it.
I sincerely hope that this blog gets you to a similar point.
As always, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and remember. Earn and Burn.
Also published on Medium.