Why I Paid a Fortune (Via Points) to Change My MIL’s Flights to Japan

As many of you know, I’ve been planning a trip to Japan for three years now. For obvious reasons, it kept getting canceled. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have a pretty good shot at finally taking my family there six months from now. When I booked our flights in July, my MIL and SIL decided to join us. So, we got everything arranged and taken care of.

Little did we know was that my SIL would meet the man of her dreams just a few months later. And last Friday they got officially engaged. To my shock and disbelief, she even asked me to be her maid of honor. And here I thought she hated me!

Obviously, we are all excited, and my MIL is downright ecstatic. In her words, she has been waiting 46 years for this moment and intends to buy a whole page in the local newspaper to make the engagement announcement (I’m not kidding). There will be lots of major changes in the next few months, including my SIL moving to Michigan after the wedding. A minor change is the fact that she now won’t be able to go to Japan with us.

I asked my MIL if she still wants to join us and she said yes. This is the trip that my late FIL was really looking forward to, and that’s part of the reason she decided to go.

My reasoning behind rebooking her return flight from Japan

I used AAdvantage miles for one-way trip from Orlando to Osaka (with an overnight layover in LAX) and my in-laws were booked on the same flights. You can see all the details in this post The only difference is that I put them in economy, but planned to switch my son’s and MIL’s seats. That way she would sit in business class, and my SIL would keep him in economy class. But since my SIL won’t be coming, my MIL will be there by herself.

I’ve looked and all the award seats for this flight are gone. So, I’m going to leave things as they are. Perhaps I will switch with her half-way through the flight. She is a tough bird and told me she will be fine in economy, but I still feel bad about leaving her there. But at least we will be on the same flights.

The return leg is where we ran into a problem. Originally, my SIL used her United miles for them to fly separately from us. The tickets included a short layover in Newark, and they would be landing in Orlando close to midnight. This seemed like a nightmare routing, but that was their decision to make. But now, my MIL would be by herself and at 79 years of age, she is no spring chicken. Plus, she wanted to drive the van home and kept insisting we keep her reservation as is.

I’ve shared my concerns with my husband and he said no way we would send her by herself. She just had a shoulder surgery and even if we took her luggage with us, she would still have to lift her carry-on. Don’t get me wrong, she is a very energetic person, but sometimes she overestimates her physical abilities. Not to mention, she shouldn’t be driving at night after such a long flight.

Anyway, we convinced her to let us rebook her flight, so she would come with us. She did pitch a fit, but my husband basically gave her an ultimatum. Fortunately,  Virgin Atlantic program still had award availability for our date. I just had to transfer some Membership Rewards  points to my account (I already had 4k dormant Virgin Atlantic miles there). Sadly, my timing didn’t allow for taking advantage of a transfer bonus, but this one was out of my hands. Either way, I was happy to pay 27.5k miles (no fuel surcharges) for her flight from Tokyo to Seattle.


Unfortunately, I was in for a shock when it came time to book her next-day flight from Seattle to Orlando. Back in June I paid 17k miles apiece, which certainly wasn’t cheap. The same exact flight was now running at 30k miles per person. Yes, more than the flight from Japan to Seattle.But I didn’t have much choice. It was important to have her on the same flight as the rest of the family.

I do have a $99 companion certificate on Alaska Airlines, and looked into maybe flying separately with my MIL. However, the fare is running at $400, so it would be $500 for the two of us. Plus, the Alaska flight leaves 1.5 hours after the one operated by Delta, which means my husband would have to hang out at MCO airport with kids, waiting for our flight. And that’s if there is no delay.

Obviously, I hate paying 30k miles for a one-way domestic flight, but it is what it is. I’ll keep an eye on it with the hope of the mileage price eventually  going down. Fortunately, Delta allows free cancellations for flights originating in US. The total cash rate for the same revenue flights is $1k, so using miles is still advantageous in this particular case. Plus, I can cancel her Virgin Atlantic flight for only $50 if Japan decided to close borders at the last minute.

Final thoughts

Life is unpredictable. One day you live in Florida and planning a trip to Japan, and the next thing you know, you are getting ready to sell your business and move to Michigan. But this is a good kind of change, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see my SIL smiling ear to ear.I just wish my FIL was still alive to see it…

Looks like there will be some flights to Detroit in our future. I’m glad I’ve speculatively collected those Delta miles, since it’s one of their main hubs. And of course, thank goodness for versatile Membership Rewards points, which have just become more valuable for my family due to Delta transfer partnership. I’m excited since I’ve never been to Michigan.

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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