Grandpa’s Visiting for the Holidays Thanks to AMEX and Cheap Delta Awards!

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The kids and I don’t get to see my dad very often, because he lives all the way across the continent in Victoria, Canada.  And while we’ve been lucky to squeeze in a couple of quick visits recently thanks to miles and points earned from travel credit cards, he hasn’t been to our neck of the woods in Upstate New York for ~7 years.

A few special events have come up that encouraged us to book him a trip out East this December.  But I was worried that because it’s relatively late to book holiday travel, award flights would be hard to come by and/or very expensive.

So I was happily surprised to find lots of available award seats on Delta, and at a price cheaper than what other major airlines wanted!  Delta’s been having tons of award sales lately, and not all of them are advertised.

Whoa!  Grandpa’s Coming for a Visit!  Here’s My Son With My Dad a Couple of Years Ago in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada

I’ll share how I booked his trip and why it’s worth taking a second look at Delta award flights nowadays.

Spending Time With Grandpa Is Extra Special

My dad moved to the West Coast ~13 years ago, so he’s never gotten to spend a lot of time with his grandkids.  At most, we’ve seen him once every year or two, mostly thanks to miles and points earned from the best travel credit cards.  I’m grateful for this hobby and how it’s allowed us to visit him as much as we do.

Otherwise, we keep in touch by phone and video chat, but it’s not like getting to spend time in person.  He hasn’t been able to travel much lately due to a wonky hip, but he had it replaced in the past year and is a lot more mobile now.  A perfect reason to look at getting on a plane again!

We Last Saw My Dad on a 12-Hour Layover in Vancouver Enroute Home From Asia Early This Year

All of my kids are avid performers, and this year (as in recent years) all 3 will be acting in local Christmas shows, including a professional theater production my girls auditioned for.  Dad’s never gotten to see the kids perform in anything, and while he’s seen videos and photos on Facebook of their shows, it’s just not the same.

When we recently found out their auditions were successful, they asked Grandpa if he wanted to come out to see them.  Dad’s a senior on a fixed income and can’t just take a trip at the drop of a hat, so I set about trying to find award flights using my points.  “No guarantees,” I said, “because it’s kind of late in the game to book award flights in December!”

I spoke too soon.  It was actually pretty easy!

How I Booked Award Flights for My Dad

I love how having transferable points allows you to plan trips, even last minute, to make memories with family and friends.  I’ve got a decent stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott points, so I knew I could move points to just about any airline if I found an available award seat.

My first instinct was to check Air Canada Aeroplan (an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner) and United Airlines (Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner) for award flights on Air Canada or United Airlines.  They each wanted 25,000 miles round-trip in coach plus taxes and fees for a low-level award flight, but the routing I was hoping for (Victoria – Toronto – Rochester on Air Canada and Air Canada Express) wasn’t available at all over the travel dates we wanted.

I’ve Booked Award Seats on the Air Canada Express Flight (on a Wee Beech 1900) Between Rochester and Toronto Before, but No Luck This Time

Next I checked American Airlines, because I’ve got a fair number of American Airlines miles kicking around that I’ve earned from cards like the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®.  They charge 30,000 American Airlines miles round-trip for long coach flights between Canada and the US.  While there were a few dates available, most included overnight red-eye flights which I didn’t want to subject Dad to.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I hadn’t really considered Delta because I’d forgotten they fly to Victoria.  But when I searched, I saw lots of award seats in December, some for as low as 19,000 Delta miles round-trip plus taxes.  It was a nice surprise to see discounted Delta award flights on this route.

Here’s why you have to snag good deals when you see them – when I checked back the next day (after consulting with Dad) to book the flights, the price had jumped to 21,000 Delta miles.  That’s still a good deal compared to other airlines, so I pulled the trigger.  Because it’s an international flight, taxes came to ~$50 round-trip, but that’s still better than paying cash for a ticket!

Dad Will Spend 10 Days With Us, and While the Travel Days Are Long, the Price Was Very Good

I was really surprised to see such affordable award seats available during a busy travel time.  While he won’t be here right on Christmas Day, I’ll do up an early Christmas dinner complete with turkey and presents and all that good stuff – and the kids are positively thrilled that they’ll get to hang out with Grandpa at such a special time.

But Wait … I Didn’t Have Delta Miles (No Problem!)

I haven’t been earning Delta miles directly because I don’t have a Delta credit card anymore, like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American ExpressPlatinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, or Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express.  I’ve had a couple of these in the past but didn’t keep them because I don’t fly Delta often enough to make the most of the perks.

Flexible points came to the rescue!  You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio instantly, so I headed over to my AMEX account and easily moved 21,000 points to Delta to book the flights.

Transfers From AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Delta Are Instant – Perfect for Booking a Trip on the Fly!

You’ll see a ~$13 charge on the screenshot above.  That’s because AMEX adds a 0.06 cent per point excise fee when you transfer to US airlines, up to a maximum of $99.  It’s a little annoying, but small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to easily transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to airlines.  The process is super simple.

I’ve actually got my eye on the new American Express® Gold Card next, because my kids like to eat – a LOT.  It earns 4X AMEX Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 in spending per year, then 1X) and at US restaurants, which is incredible for those categories.  If I’m going to spend obscene amounts on feeding 3 hungry kids anyway, might as well earn the most rewards for it!  You can check out team member Harlan’s review of the AMEX Gold Card here.

Bottom Line

The kids are over the moon about Grandpa coming to visit for 10 days in December.  He’ll get to see them perform (for the first time ever!) in a couple of holiday productions they’re in, and we’ll enjoy an early Christmas dinner before he heads back to Victoria, Canada.

This trip wouldn’t have been possible without transferable points earned from the best travel credit cards.  And it was a pleasant surprise to find cheap Delta award flights even during the busy holiday travel season.

I didn’t have Delta miles in my account but was able to quickly transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to book my dad’s flights.  The ability to book relatively last-minute trips at a moment’s notice is why we recommend everyone in this hobby, particularly if you’re not sure of your travel plans, should collect transferable points.

What about you?  Have you used miles and points to book a last-minute trip with your loved ones?  Please share your experiences in the comments!

Jasmin Baron was an editor at Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel. Her work has appeared in The Points Guy and Business Insider.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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