United’s cheapest award booking

My wife and I are going to Detroit in June to attend a wedding and so I’ve been trying to find the cheapest flights available that matched our criteria. New York to Detroit is a well-traveled route (although not by international standards) with plenty of options for flights. Since Detroit is Delta’s second-largest hub I thought I would try them but came up with flights at inopportune times for over $300 each roundtrip.

Instead, I opted to check out my award travel options on United, knowing that they fly a lot to Detroit and I have their MileagePlus Explorer Card, guaranteeing me more options of award tickets. I wound up finding a sweet spot on their award chart:Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 7.38.41 PM

That asterisk next to the 10 in the Saver award was very useful. For flights below 700 miles United allows Saver awards for 10,000 miles one-way.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 6.45.06 PMI capitalized on this and immediately booked our flights. For a meager $22.40, we are going to Detroit for the wedding and getting free bags to boot due to award ticket rules!

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NYC has longest commute times to work

I hope we are not surprised to find out that New York City has the longest average weekly commute amongst major citiesScreen Shot 2015-03-18 at 6.19.58 PM across the United States. Even Los Angeles -famed for gridlock on major expressways – is much farther down on the list. As you can see from the table here, the average New York worker spends 6 hours and 18 minutes on some form of transit to and from work. This adds a significant burden to those who work in this city. It might be surmised that with longer commute times come fewer work hours but there seems to be a positive correlation between the two – the more you work, the longer your commute.

A student just left the school I work at, citing economic hardship as one of the reasons. Apparently, it was not possible for him and his family to make enough money to live in the way they want to in New York City. I wonder if commute time had anything to do with it.

I count myself lucky: I bike to work and it takes me 12 minutes one-way. When it rains, I take the subway and it’s about 25 minutes. I can’t imagine what it is like to have some of the commute times of my friends: sometimes an hour or more each way. One could make the argument that they like reading during that time, but it is never as comfortable as one would like.

I wonder if it’s possible to have more sensible commute times in a city that never sleeps…

How I used British Airways Avios to book a cheap trip to Toronto

In September my fiancée and I will be going to Toronto for my cousin and his fiancée’s wedding. Yes, I admit that was a confusing sentence. Suffice it to say that we needed two roundtrip plane tickets from New York to Toronto. Since we are paying for much of our own wedding at the moment we are trying to reduce costs as much as possible. I did some research and found the cheapest plane tickets at a fairly undesirable time:

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Instead of spending $215 x 2 = $430 for the plane tickets (and then $25 for checked luggage according to their website) I decided to look into spending British Airways Avios on a plane ticket for the flight. This is a well-known use in the Miles and Points community because Avios are spent on a distance-flown basis. For flights below 650 miles (like NYC->Toronto) it costs only 4500 Avios each way for an Economy ticket. BA partners with American Airlines and recently TAM for this route so I did some research and found the following flights that we are taking:

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And the greatest part of it all, it costs so little:

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In reality the price is actually $122 because I had to book over the phone (there was an error on the website). But that’s okay – we each get a free checked bag according to the rules of TAM and we will be flying a Boeing 767. This is a turbo-fan, wide-body plane as opposed to the propellor plane we would have had with Delta.

Overall a good bargain, eh? (Full disclosure, British Airways is changing their award chart on April 28, 2015).

How to win at Thanksgiving travel

I have always been a firm believer that advanced planning and research make your life easier. Still, sometimes mother nature gets in the way and makes your life difficult.

This year, my fiancee and I had planned to travel from New York to Providence to spend Thanksgiving with her family, and instead of renting a car in Brooklyn and driving through NYC traffic for hours, we decided to get a train to New Haven and then get a car from there using Zipcar. I did multitudes of research on this and discovered that not only would it increase our speed immensely due to avoiding the expressways in “heat” but it would also be cheaper to get a car in New Haven than from New York.

The plan worked perfectly with the exception that instead of leaving on Wednesday afternoon like we had planned, we left early on Thursday morning. Due to extreme weather conditions we postponed things. In the end, I’m not sure if it mattered so much but we were not rushing in the morning and we got seats on the train (even if we were separated).

Thanksgiving can be a major headache of travel if you do not plan yet also have some flexibility. I am happy we were only traveling by land – flight were cancelled at various airports around New York City and I can only imagine what they looked like in terms of angry passengers. Make sure your plans are not fully set in stone and that you have a good attitude when breaking them in these situations.