We Got Our Free Australia Trip! (Well, 9/10 of it)

Just under the wire before American makes award flights more expensive on Tuesday, I managed to get enough miles into Erik’s and my American accounts to book nine out of the 10 one-way flight segments we need to get our family of five to Sydney, Australia, and back. What’s more, my mom got enough miles in her account to book her out roundtrip, on the same flight as ours.

I need to come up with some sort of miles dance to do all over the house at moments like this. Because the fist pump I did didn’t quite express the excitement.

We’re now waiting for the 50,000 bonus miles from my CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® card to hit my account, so we can book the return trip for our youngest kid. Either that or he gets to immigrate to Australia! That solution was proposed by his sisters.

Our plan pretty much worked as I originally laid out, except for a little last-minute confused juggling that I’ll explain below. At the end of last week, my mom’s 50,000 bonus miles from the AAdvantage Platinum card I’d had her sign up for hit her account, so, combining them with the 30,000 miles she’d already had in her account (which actually had just expired, but getting all those bonus miles in the nick of time reinstated them), I booked her round trip. On the same day, I had put on hold five tickets on the same inbound and outbound flights, to make sure that there were enough frequent flyer tickets in economy for all of us. There were. So after booking mom’s RT, I booked all of our outbound flights, using 187,500 miles from my account.

My plan, after that, had been to book two of our inbound flights from Erik’s account, which had 105,000 miles in it, and then, as soon as enough miles landed in my account, book the third inbound flight. The fourth and fifth, I knew, would have to wait until after American’s miles devaluation, so we’d have to pay an extra 2,500 miles per ticket on those.

Purchasing those five outbound flights had left me with only a few miles in my account. However, both Erik and I had some points in our Starwood (Sheraton rewards) accounts. I had been planning to take advantage of this really nice feature that Starwood offers — letting you transfer points to other household members for free — to move a few thousand points from Erik’s account to my own, then move them all to my AA account. Once combined, I’d have more than 20,000 points in my Starwood account, which is wonderful, because every time you transfer 20,000 from Starwood to American Airlines, they give you a 5,000 mile bonus. But that would still leave me about 7,000 short of buying that third return ticket from my account. I was considering paying to transfer that many miles from Erik’s AA account to mine, which would cost me $95. But then I looked at Erik’s AA account again and realized that if he only had a few more miles there, we could buy three tickets from that one instead of just two.

There was a quick way to get a few more miles into Erik’s AA account: He could transfer his Starwood points over, which would take just a few days and probably be done before the AA awards chart change. Unfortunately, I had already initiated a transfer of Erik’s Starwood points to my Starwood account the day before. When I logged onto his account, I could see that the points were still there, but the transfer was in the works.

So on Friday, I called up Starwood cusotmer service and asked if I could stop the transfer I’d already requested, so I could transfer Erik’s miles to his own AA account instead. The woman told me this was an unusual request, but after putting me on hold for awhile she figured out how to do it. Then I immediately set up a transfer to Erik’s AA account instead. Yesterday, those miles had already arrived in his AA account, giving him more than the 112,500 miles I needed to  book return tickets for Erik, Nutmeg and Pebbles. So I booked ’em!!

Meanwhile, another great thing happened: I noticed that American gave my mom, Erik and me all 3,750 miles for each 37,500-mile ticket we’d booked. I’d forgotten this, but American gives Citi AADvantage cardholders a 10% redemption bonus on award flights, up to 10,000 miles per year. Erik and I both maxed out that bonus and received 10,000 miles each.

So after that bonus, I had 12,000 miles in my account. But then, the 30,000 miles came through from my Starwood account, giving me enough to book my own return ticket.

We still have to wait about a week to book Toth’s return ticket, but we’ll keep a seat on hold until that time to make sure that the rest of the award seats on that flight don’t get snapped up.

I can’t believe we are almost completely done with my goal of getting five rountrip tickets to Australia for free! Well, almost free: So far we had to pay $474 in taxes for the seats (about $105 per rountrip ticket). But compared to the $1,405 Qantas is charging for each roundtrip ticket on this flight right now ($7,000 for our whole family), it’s pretty close to free!