Why I just paid cash for flights instead of using miles and points

I have a lot of travel coming up in 2023, and I’m still trying to get my ducks in a row. One missing piece is securing flights from Dallas to Orlando over spring break for our cruise on the Disney Wish.

Thankfully, a few months ago I found some AA Web Special Awards for our flights home. We have to stopover in Austin, but I was just happy to find some decent award space on the exact day we needed to fly home.

Unfortunately, flights TO Orlando for the beginning of our trip were not looking good with cash or miles. Part of the problem is that we’re not very flexible with our schedule. We have one week for spring break, and the rest of the DFW metroplex has the same week off. I already booked an adorable airbnb right on the beach for two nights prior to our sail date. So, unless I really wanted to pull my kids out of school early (I don’t, two are in high school), we only had one or two days that worked for us to fly to Orlando.

Check out these outrageous flight prices on American Airlines. This is for a one-way flight for one person!

Most of the seats on these flights are already taken! I can only assume that there are a few high school marching bands or orchestras going to Disney World over spring break (which is entirely possible, because my son’s orchestra went in 2020).

Flights using AA miles were not ideal either–~50k for nonstop flights or 30k for stopover flights. Prices on other airlines (most of them with stopovers) were better, but still not great.

Frontier Airlines to the Rescue

Recently, Frontier Airlines dropped its price on our desired travel date to $189. I know a lot of people aren’t fans of Frontier (including my own kids!). But, for a 2 1/2 hour flight, I don’t care if there isn’t a charging outlet or tray table at my seat. And yes, I know you have to pay extra for assigned seats and luggage. But still, this option was much cheaper than anything else I was seeing, and I have no faith that prices would drop for spring break.

I don’t have any Frontier miles. But, I could book these flights through the Chase travel portal for around 12,600 points each using my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve points at 1.5 cents per point. For my family of 5, we would need 63,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of paying a total of $945 for these flights. (The Chase Sapphire Reserve currently has a higher 80k bonus–see this post).

Cash vs. Points

I decided to save my 63,000 points and pay cash for the flights. Since there are 5 of us going, I actually saved a total of $50 by buying the Discount Den membership and getting the cheaper price of $159 per person.

Why didn’t I use the points if I have them? Why spend cash when I don’t need to? It’s because I’m thinking of the bigger picture and my future travel goals.

My family is itching to return to Costa Rica. We had such a wonderful time at the Andaz Costa Rica hotel (see my post here). And, Leana’s recent trip to Costa Rica inspired me to visit the Tabacan Thermal Resort (see her post here). We can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt to book both of these resorts and get more value from our points than we can by booking flights through the Chase travel portal.

Andaz Costa Rica

In the Chase travel portal, the points are worth 1.5 cents each. But the points can be worth a lot more when they are converted to Hyatt points, depending on when you travel and the cash price for the resort.

In the summer months, both of those Hyatt resorts in Costa Rica cost 17,000 points per night (low season). However, the cash price for that same night in July at Andaz Costa Rica is much higher:

The math works out to ~5 cents per point in this scenario.

I don’t always calculate cents per point when comparing redemptions. But in this case, since I know I want to book a Hyatt resort or two in the future, it makes sense to save my points for that redemption.

Final Thoughts

There is no wrong or right way to use your miles and points. I don’t always get the best bang for my buck when I use my miles and points. But, in this case, I decided to fork over the cash for the flights and save my points for a future trip.

How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.

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