a small benefit to all this traveling

Alaska AirPlane

Alaska AirPlane

I’ve been everywhere, man, I’ve been everywhere…since about February. So far, in 2009, I have been on business trips to:

– NYC (three times)
– Philadelphia
– Atlanta (well, the suburbs, anyways)
– San Francisco
– Sarasota/Jensen Beach (the “Tour de Florida”)
– Charlotte, NC (technically Statesville)
– Chicagoland (Schaumburg, IL)

I THINK that’s all of them. I could be missing one. I have been on the road so much that I HONESTLY DON’T REMEMBER, which is a little scary.

Then, for personal travel, I’ve gone to:

– Victoria, BC
– Savannah, GA
– Philadelphia/Toronto (Ben’s East Coast Tour)
– Pittsburgh

And for the vast majority of that travel, I flew Alaska’s partner airlines: American, Delta/Northwest and Continental. I flew USAir a couple times (ugh) and Virgin America for the San Francisco trip, as well as from NYC twice (makes the long flight more bearable), but mostly, I’ve been funneling a lot of miles into the Alaska Airlines frequent flyer account I’ve had for thirteen years.

Today, I received an MVP status card from Alaska, because I have logged over 29,000 miles with them, YTD, in qualifying partner miles alone. Somewhere in there are a couple thousand hotel and rental car miles, but still – that’s a lot of flying. And it’s also the first time I’ve ever received priority status on an airline. Unfortunately, free upgrades aren’t very useful to me, since I only travel on Alaska for personal travel, and I have Paul with me in that case, and it may not be possible to upgrade him without a hefty ticket charge. But it DOES get me closer to Gold status, which I will get to after three more round trips this year. At THAT point, both of us get free upgrades to first class, AND free access to the Board Room executive lounges.

Let me also explain why this even matters. It isn’t just that I like having preferred status in travel, to make the journey easier. The big reason this is a real benefit to me is because I travel with a baby when I’m on personal time. Ben can be an infant in arms for another year, but the space afforded to two coach seats just isn’t enough for me, Paul and Ben to all be comfortable for more than two hours. Therefore, we were planning to start buying him his own seat…unless we have the added room of First Class. Additionally, Board Room access gives us a quiet, clean place to hang out during layovers. Priority boarding means getting on a plane, with all our baby gear, before everyone else does. This isn’t just about me having a better travel experience, but about having a better travel experience for me, Paul and Ben. If I have to travel for work, then I may as well get a benefit from it that I can apply to traveling with my tiny family.

Also, I’ve realized, travel points programs are my coupon clipping/green stamps. We just saved almost a thousand dollars by using Starwood points to pay for a hotel suite in Savannah for three nights in August for my cousin’s wedding. We saved another couple hundred dollars by using a companion fare ticket that came with our Alaska Airlines credit card for part of the plane fare to Victoria this summer. If I can get free upgrades for both Paul and I to the roomier First Class, we won’t have to buy Ben his own seat to have more space in coach. Some of this stuff, when you keep at it, does start to pay off…and when you’re far away from all of your extended family, it definitely helps to get a little break on the costs of going to see them.

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