How Miles Make Things Possible in Horrible Situations

In February, my family faced a terrible situation.  A close (young) family member only had days to live–at most.  And we needed to get out there as fast as possible.

A quick flight search showed prices in the thousands for a last second flight.  But when we searched using miles, we were able to find award availability and get out there right away.


A couple of years ago, my figure skating coach died.  I don’t know if you know this, but I was a competitive figure skater for a while, and spent a lot of my life competing and practicing to compete.

When I found out she had passed, I wanted to get to my hometown ASAP.  So I just trusted in my miles.

I hopped in a cab and headed for the airport.  While in the cab, I booked an award trip to New York.

Once I got to the airport, I was able to move that flight up to one that got me there even earlier.  And I was able to meet up with her other figure skaters, who were also grieving for her.

Miles were really powerful because I was able to assume I would be able to get there.  I never let my miles run low, so even if it took a lot of miles, I knew it was possible.

Miles have made it possible for me to be agile in emergencies.

So even though this “miles and points” game can seem pretty cold and calculated, it can allow you to make judgement calls that would otherwise be very difficult if you were paying cash.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. I totally agree! When my dad passed a few years ago, we didn’t have to worry about our small student budget because we had plenty of Southwest miles so we were able to make it out to see him a number of times before he died and we were able to make a last minute booking to make it out for his funeral. The last thing you want to worry about when dealing with a tragedy is how to pay to get closer to loved ones.

    On a much happier note, earlier this year my mom was invited to the wedding of a close family friend. She didn’t think she could make it and then realized about a week before the wedding that she actually could. At that point, tickets were crazy expensive so she was just going to drive 16 hours to make it. We were able to book her a last minute award ticket.

  2. it is also good to have cash or a credit card on hand. when i need an urgent flight, i use the power of money to buy a ticket.

    please do not argue that “flights are sold out, but i can get awards”. you know that isnt true. use money, you get the seat, because the awards may be full, not the other way around!

    i always make sure I have enough money in my bank account. otherwsie please have a credit card to pay for your tickets.

    money is king, not miles. please do not forget that.

  3. Family emergencies are the number one use of miles. Yes, you can pay the incredible dollars for a last minute fare, but the anytime mileage will be the better deal. Some people say don’t hoard miles, but I say always keep enough in reserve for several non-saver domestic fares. I will also note that sometimes a relative wouldn’t dream of letting you pay dollars for their emergency fare, but are really happy when you can say “I have a bunch of miles, so its not really costing me money. Let me take care of it.” I have done that a number of times for relatives.

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