Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wanna Go to Space with Virgin Galactic?

Gold, Platinum, 1K...Galactic? Virgin America just announced a new top tier to their elevate loyalty program, and it comes with one of the most out-of-this-world perks probably of any airline elite status ever. The person who earns to most elevate points by flying Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and Virgin America by Aug 7, 2013 gets to go to outer space on Virgin Galactic. I'm surely not the only one who heard about this promotion and started thinking about the mileage run potential, right? Let me assure you if I had an unlimited supply of cash and a little extra time on my hands I would probably try and do it! I'll be curious to see who actually wins this, if they are a fellow mileage runner, and how many hundreds of thousands of miles it ends up taking to win this. Not sure you have what it takes to be Virgin's top flyer either? They also offer more-realistic Silver (20,000 points) and Gold (50,000 points) levels within their elevate program as well. To find out more about the contest, Virgin Galactic, to sign up for elevate, or learn more about the program visit:

Over Houston, taken from a United flight from Denver to Cancun. Kinda looks like outer space right?  (c)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Join e-Rewards for a Chance to Win 250,000 United Mileage Plus miles!

If you're not already an e-Rewards member, there is a current promotion going on, that if you sign up using your United Mileage Plus number, you will be entered to win 250,000 miles! No matter what you also get 250 miles just for joining and completing your first survey. If you're not familiar with them, e-Rewards is an invitation-only survey site, and a great way to earn valuable airlines miles and hotel points for completing various surveys. The best part is it is FREE to join, and I can vouch that it's totally legit. Since I found out about e-Rewards about a year and a half ago I've earned several thousand airline miles and hotel points, and even got the chance to participate in an in-home product trial and got a bunch of FREE diapers for my little guy. Most of the surveys take anywhere from 10-30 minutes, and some you can even do on your smartphone while you sit and watch TV. The programs sponsors include several airlines like United, American, Hawaiian, Delta, Alaska, Virgin and JetBlue. Hotel sponsors include Priority Club, and Hilton HHonors among others. There are also several reward options via retail partners like American Eagle Outfitters, Express, and GameStop if for whatever reason you aren't interested in miles and points. You can also redeem for magazine subscriptions. I got a 2 year subscription for Travel + Leisure in addition to miles and hotel points last year through the program. To learn more about their sponsors and awards go to Please be aware that awards do vary by account based on who you signed up with. For example if you invited to join from United, you might not be able to redeem your e-rewards dollars for miles with competitors American and Delta.

Choose your favorite sponsor below to sign up today, or maybe even try them all ;)
You may also be able to join through which is another great FREE way to earn miles and points from your favorite programs. Need to sign up for an extra email address or two while you're at it to help manage all your hotel and airline accounts? (Read between the lines here) I like free ones like yahoo, hotmail, and gmail.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Picked a Great Day to Stay Home

I normally would never say I was happy to stay home when I had the chance to go traveling, but today is one of those days. I had originally planned a mileage run for yesterday/today to MCO (Orlando), but I never booked it and didn't end up going. It turns out that is good thing. Not only was there Hurricane Isaac to disrupt travel across the Southeast, but United's computer system "SHARES" also went down today, causing delays across the country while United employees have to do everything by hand from writing boarding passes, to manually checking in flights. In related news the weather today in Sacramento is sunny with a very good chance of you not finding me waiting in a line like this one at Chicago O'hare:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Free Trip to New York

I just booked a FREE trip to New York. It was so free, that when I called United to make the reservation, they didn't even take a credit card! As anyone who has tried to redeem a "free" mileage ticket would know, free is rare. Even when you use miles to pay for a trip you still get charged for applicable taxes and fees. Typically a domestic mileage ticket will still cost you $5-10, and for international, that can cost hundreds.

It is no big secret that United has experienced their share of problems recently since the merger with Continental. United leads the industry is delays and customer complaints. As a result, I happen to have collected a few e-certificates for various amounts ($100, $150 and a few $200's) from Customer Relations over the last year. Many of those vouchers were unsolicited. For example last month, when my flight from LAX to Maui was delayed about 5 hours for mechanical reasons (which BTW wasn't fun with a 5-month old in tow), I arrived on the ground in OGG to find that there were 3 e-certs, one for each member of my family, waiting in my email inbox without even having to contact United. I guess that in itself is an indication of how great things are going at the new United. You don't even have to bother complaining anymore; it's like they already know.

So in order to make my goal of Premier 1K this year, I needed to do a mileage run (or two, or three, or four...). When I found a good fare between Sacramento and New York for about $300, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to use some of those certs to pick up some valuable EQM's (Elite qualifying miles, or as United now calls them post-merger, Premier Qualifying Miles). It also was a trip that didn't require me to be away from home overnight, which, with a small child at home, I also something I like. At first I contemplated using a $200 cert which would make the trip around $100, but not wanting to spend that much cash just to fly somewhere and turn around and come home, I figured I'd book my trip as a series or one-way tickets and use a $150 e-cert in each direction. The fare I found was $163 each way between SMF and JFK for mid-September. When I called to actually ticket (because the certs are almost impossible to redeem online), the agent told me the fare had actually dropped, therefore the base fares (before taxes and fees) was less than the $150 e-certs. She then said because of that, for whatever reason, they couldn't charge me taxes on a fare that basically had no value, so there you go, that is how I ended up with a free trip.

You may have heard there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that very well may be true, as I am booked in coach at the moment, but I'm on the upgrade list! It turns out that the flights I selected between JFK and the west coast are United p.s. (premium service) flights, meaning fancy menus, mostly business class seating, personal digital entertainment players, a few other perks to include "a complimentary United Hemispheres magazine", and an overall better travel experience than their typical domestic product. Because of this, United doesn't allow unlimited domestic upgrades (the free upgrades they normally give out to their Premier members, or Complimentary Premier Upgrades -CPU's as they're known post-merger). Luckily, my dad is a Million Mile flier and the recipient of 2 Regional Premier Upgrades each year, which he seldom to never uses, so with his blessings (and his RPU's) and my good luck, I might get to enjoy a free lunch after all in business class between LAX and JFK, and who knows, maybe even free dinner on the return JFK to SFO. I'll be sure to let you know.

My husband and I flew p.s. to New York back in 2007, and it was quite an experience. Under similar circumstances, we had traded in some certs I had from the night I spent in the Hong Kong airport (I'll save that story for another time) and scored a pair of $65 round trip tickets to New York. Back in the day before UDU's, we also redeemed some of our 500-mile certificates that United used to give out in order to upgrade to business class. It was a good deal. The service was great, I remember the food was fabulous (by airplane standards at least), and I'm almost certain we drank more than our tickets' worth of alcohol. Those days seem like ancient history, B.C. (before critter), but I'm pretty sure we finished all their Jack before we started on the Disaronno.

SMF-LAX-JFK-SFO-SMF (same day turn)
Ticket price: $0
Mileage earned:  6061 EQM's (9091 RDM's or redeemable miles based on my current Premier Gold status)
The opportunity to take home a truly FREE "complimentary" copy of the United Hemispheres magazine where Jeff Smisek apologizes: PRICELESS

New York 2007
update: LAX-JFK upgrade just cleared!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Welcome, E Komo Mai

Welcome to my new blog! Once upon a time, in a former life I used to blog about my travels, but then I got busy, had a kid, went on vacation, etc, etc. Sadly, my former blog didn't survive. I did however manage to keep (and somewhat regularly update) a photoblog and sometime between last night and this morning my website had its 36,000th visitor! That inspired me to write again.

I'm a frequent flier (currently Premier Gold and about .8 Million Miler with United), private pilot, aviation enthusiast, and new mom. I made 4 trips to Hawaii before I was a year old and due to a small business and a lot of family over in the islands, the trend has continued ever since. Now that I have a little one of my own, I hope to share my love of travel and the islands with him as well. I thought having a kid would slow me down, and that my traveling adventures would be over, which is why I kind of stopped blogging about them, but it's had quite the opposite effect. The first time I boarded an aircraft with an infant I have to admit I was scared of what the outcome would be, but it turns out my son loves to fly, just like mom. That renewed my commitment to earning miles and points so that my family can afford to travel the world in style, hopefully for free, or as close to it as possible.

Instead of flying my usually 50,000 miles per year with United, for the first time this year, I've made it a goal to be a 1K. That puts me just a few years away from finally making Million Miler and securing lifetime Gold status. After that? Maybe I'll retire to some beach somewhere and sip Mai Tai's while watching the sunset, but I doubt it. Maybe then I'll pick a new airline. For now, I'm happy just being a mom, sneaking out of the house to go do a mileage run when I can, and continuing to rack up those precious miles and points for my family.

When I'm not busy taking care of baby or stuck on a plane flying somewhere, I go by hulagrrl210 on both FlyerTalk and milepoint. Curious where I've been? Check out my FlightMemory.

That's me enjoying the sunset and paddling near my favorite beach on Maui!