Vena’s Last 3 Lessons

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Emily’s grandmother, Vena, passed away last week.  She was 89 years old and had a very long and happy life.  Because Vena was a retired teacher, it is appropriate to remember her with three mile-and-points lessons.

Vena's Last Lessons

Vena’s Last Lessons

1)   Use Your Miles How YOU Want

I can’t stress this enough.

Some people always say how you should use your miles and point only for First or Business Class travel.  Or how you’re not really using your miles and points well if you use them to travel within the US instead of visiting some far-away exotic land.  Nonsense!

Some people hoard miles and points and don’t redeem them.  The best use of miles and points are to make happy memories which will stay with you for a long time.  For some that is flying across the world to collect a rubber duck in a lounge in Germany.  For many others, happy memories are from visiting friends and families & visiting new destinations.

There’s nothing wrong with using your miles to visit family or friends within the US.

Emily visited Vena in February for her 89th birthday and Vena was talking about visiting the Tampa Theatre and the Empress Tea Room for weeks afterwards.

Tampa Trip Report

3 Generations Together For the Last Time

Emily will always remember this trip as the last time she was with Vena.  In contrast, our trip to Hawaii in March was just one of many vacation trips.

2)   REHEARSE Emergency Trips

Life is short and we could suddenly get a call asking us to travel across the country or the world at very short notice.  Last minute airfare is usually very expensive, so using miles and points can save you lots of money.

But you’re usually not functioning at 100% when you suddenly get the call in the middle of the night.  So start thinking of your emergency travel plans from now.  And mentally rehearse the steps you’ll take to suddenly get to where you need to be.

  • Which airlines serve the airports you will have to visit?
  •  Are last minute fares typically very expensive?
  • Do airlines typically have good award availability to your destination cities?
  • Which airlines and routes are more easily available as awards?
  • Can you avoid the last-minute fees for booking award travel (usually if you have elite status on the airline or if you have certain credit cards).

Are there any tricks to save you miles or money?  Such as using British Airways Avios points for short distance flights with the US on American Airlines.

Or do you have the Southwest Companion Pass and can reduce the pain of buying a ticket since your companion can travel virtually free?

3)  Have Miles in Different Programs

You get more choices if you have miles and points in different accounts.  Emily and I flew on Southwest to Tampa because we had the Southwest Companion Pass.

But we could have also used American Airlines and United miles to-and-from Tampa as well.  There were no round-trip awards on either American Airlines or United, but we could have flown 1-way on each airline.


Life is short and unpredictable.  So use your points and miles to create as many happy memories as you can!

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50 responses to “Vena’s Last 3 Lessons

  1. “The best use of miles and points are to make happy memories which will stay with you for a long time. For some that is flying across the world to collect a rubber duck in a lounge in Germany. For many others, happy memories are from visiting friends and families & visiting new destinations.”
    -I couldn’t agree more. Condolences to your family’s loss

  2. My condolences for your loss. Losing a loved grandparent isn’t easy – even if you’re an adult. I’m sure things are still hard for you, but some time in the future it’ll be easier to enjoy all those memories. Good reminder to focus on what’s most important in life.

  3. Condolences on the death in the family. 89 years with friends and family who love you as is evident in the photos really is a blessing.

    I often find that using points for last minute emergency flights really is a useful way to use them due to the cost of a close in booking. I even hold a portion of my points on reserve just for emergency use. When my grandmother died a few years back, I was able to book a flight home on a saver award that would of cost north of a grand had I paid for it. Being able to be there for my family was worth it.

  4. Had to travel last year, short notice, funeral, etc. BA avios saved the day with flights on AA 4500/each way plus $2.50 instead of $300/each way. Condolences to your family.

  5. ” For some that is flying across the world to collect a rubber duck in a lounge in Germany. ”

    Shots fired! Shots fired!

  6. My condolences to your family.

  7. Emily,

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. My Mom passed away last year at 90. The comfort that you and Mom had in having her for 89 years is something that you’ll both cherish for as long as you live. The pain will be there. The tunnel is long. Light will eventually crack through, just not right away. I know my friend Darius will be there to support you both. May Vena’s memory be a blessing.

    Vena had the right attitude about travel!


  8. I am sorry for your loss. I completely agree with the posting, this hobby is pursued by people for different reasons which is OK, but we should all give some thought to be in a position of having the ability to use it for emergency purposes if needed.

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss, but glad your miles allowed you to spend Vena’s birthday with her. She will live on in your hearts. I do agree with the 3 lessons too.

  10. Hi everyone, Thank you so much for the kind words. I will always cherish the weekend getaway to the Tampa Theatre and the Tea House. I’m so glad I took the time out to visit her in February. Those memories, along with the others made with her, will live in my heart forever.

  11. I’m sorry to hear about this. I’m sure Emily will hold dear the last trip to visit Vena. This is certainly one of the best ways to use points and miles!

  12. My condolences for your collective loss. Sage advice, as usual.

  13. I’m sorry for your family’s loss. My condolences to you all.

  14. Emily, very sorry to hear about your grandmother. Couldn’t agree more with the lessons in the post, and so glad you had a great weekend with her in February. Hugs to your family!

  15. My condolence. Glad you could enjoy your grandma, that’s what matters after all.

  16. You only need to do one thing to get through this: live each day to its fullest with words and actions that honor her and all of your loved ones.

  17. Emily, I’m sorry for your loss. You had a wonderful time together. Thanks for this post, reminding us to enjoy our family (and our miles) now. I lost my husband recently, so I can relate.

  18. Cannot agree more on your first point. My condolence for your loss and wish her rest in peace.
    Really appreciate your sharing.

  19. Emily- Spoke with your briefly at the conference in Tysons, VA. I am sorry for your family’s loss and wish you the best.

  20. Totally agree! We have only traveled in the States since starting our points game and I’m happy with that.
    Wear your favorite clothes-
    use the good dishes-
    choose people over things.
    Jana @ 333 Days of Hand Lettering

  21. You only need to do one thing to get through this: live each day to its fullest with words and actions that honor her and all of your loved ones.

  22. Emily and Daraius, I’m so sorry for your loss. May peace with with both of you and your family.

  23. That’s why I travel in coach. I rather create twice the memories with the same amount of miles. To me it’s much more about the destination and reason for traveling, rather than the seat and mediocre food on an airplane. But that feel of luxury seems to support a lot of affiliate sponsored activity.

  24. Emily, I’m so sorry for your loss, and completely agree with you and Darius on using miles the way that you want.

  25. My condolence for your loss .

  26. I’m sorry for your loss. I got thrown into a similar situation a few years ago when a family member passed away and I had to book a last minute flight to Florida. American Airlines offered me a compassion fare, which took over $100 off the cost of the flight (I believe tickets were going for $550 at the time). If something like this happens, you want to get there as soon as possible and it would be terrible if you couldn’t because of the high cost of tickets.

  27. I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. Please take care.

  28. Thanks again everyone for the kind words. Vena also taught me to value people over things and to be a positive force in this world, encouraging and serving others. For her, serving others was a great source of happiness. I hope to live up to her legacy, as she was a wonderful person who lived her life as an example for all to follow.

  29. My condolences to Emily and family.

  30. Nice. Way to Vena-rate her!

  31. Oh no, I am so sorry for your loss. 🙁 This must make Emily’s recent trip to Tampa to see Vena along with Connie although more special. What a blessing these three gals were able to spend time together and make some lasting memories. What about that darling picture of them at the Empress Tea Room? Hugs to you, Emily and Daraius.

  32. My grandmother in Florida is 93 and I have this in the back of my mind pretty often. I expect I may have to use my SW award to get down there on short notice in the near future. I’m sorry for your loss.

  33. I have lots and lots of miles and can afford first or biz class for us but I CHOOSE TO get economy only because I can keep taking more trips. US planes are not as good as those in asia like the Thai airline

  34. I am sorry for your loss.

    Great lessons!

  35. Emily…so sorry for your loss…the post is correct-with four children and two adults, we are so grateful to fly with points in any class within the U.S. Coming up with 150k points to fly round-trip for six people is duable, since I have learned so much with mms these past 2 1/2 years! Thanks so much!

  36. It’s so wonderful to look back and not have regrets, and that is what you can do, Emily. You have made time with your family a priority and you’ll never regret that! I loved your post back in the Spring after you took your Grandma and mom to the Theatre. My daughter ( who lives in the Tampa area) and I plan on duplicating your trip when my 81 yr old Mom comes down from Michigan next winter. I hope your sweet Vena is enjoying true Paradise! Blessings to you and your mom.

  37. I just got my brother into miles and points, and when my grandma died a couple months ago he used US Airways to get himself from Montana to Florida for almost no cost using miles. Saving 1000$. And really being a critical support.

  38. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

  39. How lucky you are.

    I always try to remind people in grief that, just because the gift of another person’s presence has come to an end, we should try not to concentrate on that.

    Look at all that you got from this loving relationship and what a wonderful impact was made to your lives.

    Your post, highlighting lasting contributions Vena made – in just one small area – to all of us, is imo the best way to counteract such loss.

    Under the clickable of my name above, you’ll find a free (brief) e-book regarding losing my father at the age of ten. Everyone is welcome to read it, pass on the link, comment or whatever… it will always be a freebie and, I hope, interesting and insightful.

    Feel free to judge, I won’t mind one bit.

    To the future, and to all our experiences that transform it into a better place.

    Thanks Vena.

  40. Robert Barron

    All of the comments on here remind me of when I lost my grandmother back in Feb. of 2002. That’s over eleven years ago..and I still miss her. They don’t make them like that anymore. It’s what people do for and with us while they are a part of our lives that makes such an impression and an impact on us- and it helps us remember them when they have passed on.

    And speaking of using miles and points….I racked up a LOT of AirTran A+ Reward credits with their offer for triple credits when you rent from Hertz. I racked up SO MANY of them….to when it came to my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday….I sent her and my brother from Baltimore, MD, to Montego Bay, Jamaica. That’s a birthday gift she’ll never forget.

  41. I am very sorry for yours and emilys loss. You could feel the love and respect emily had for her grandmother.

  42. Sorry for your loss!

  43. DaveRamseyIsDangerous

    “I have lots and lots of miles and can afford first or biz class for us but I CHOOSE TO get economy only because I can keep taking more trips. US planes are not as good as those in asia like the Thai airline”

    Agreed. Occasionally, though, there are no 12.5k mile coach seats available on United or American one way, but one airline offers 25k for either First Class or Economy. Then, it’s a no brainer IMO if using miles. You take the First Class ticket.

  44. DaveRamseyIsDangerous

    I am sorry for your family’s loss.

  45. nsx at FlyerTalk

    Southwest’s capacity controlled awards are very helpful when you have a family emergency and you need to travel domestically (or to San Juan now) on very short notice.

    Call Southwest and ask them to check availability of standard award seats. You can then actually buy a standard award as follows: Purchase enough Southwest points to reach a total of 19200. That will cost you no more than $500. Set up an AirTran A+ Rewards account and transfer the points to AirTran. You’ll get 16 AirTran credits. Transfer those 16 credits right back to Southwest. You now have a round trip standard award on Southwest. Use it to book your flight, or even to book two one-way seats.

    When you decide whether to buy points for a standard award or pay cash for a ticket, remember that the cash ticket earns points. Under the current promotion it earns double points, worth an effective 20% rebate for non-elite travelers.

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  48. I’m sorry for your loss. There’s no doubt she would have been proud of both her granddaughter and her husband.

    Life is too short, no matter what age one lives until. I’m very grateful of the info that you’ve shared on your blog… I’ve travelled more often and more comfortably, and for less money… which in turn means more money to have fun other ways. Thank you!

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