Everyone knows the story of Victor Frankenstein–a demented doctor who creates new life out of spare parts. Few know the art of travel Frankensteining–assembling the trip of a lifetime out of spare points. In our hobby, thinking differently (not ghoulishly) leads to travel success where others fail.
Flights of fancy (or inelegance)
So, you might find yourself at a loss one day. Defeated. In this planning scenario, a round-trip (RT) ticket to Destination X for two adults on airline Y costs 50K miles. And you’ve only got 25K airline Y miles–enough for a single RT flight. Short of acquiring the additional miles for a second RT ticket on airline Y (which your time-frame may not allow), what’s a person to do? Think one-ways all the way.
Back in the Mesozoic Era of frequent flyer miles, one-way award tickets cost the same number of miles as a round-trip. Not so, today. With most airlines, a one-way award ticket now costs half of a round-trip. So you could both get to your destination one-way for 25K miles (12,500 each).
If you’ve been following the advice in this blog, you know the importance of maintaining a highly diversified portfolio of miles and points. Chances are, you may have enough miles for a single RT on another airline: we’ll call it Z. I think you know where we’re going with this. Check return award availability to your home airport on airline Z, and you may find yourself with two sets of “round-trip tickets,” having only used one-way awards on two airlines.
There’s more beauty than beast when combining multiple one-way award tickets to complete your round-trip journey. What if you did have the 50K miles required for two round-trip tickets on airline Y? It may turn out that there’s no award availability either to or from your destination. That’s happened to Mandy and I more than once. And we imagine it’s the cause of many a would-be free traveler to call it quits: declaring “Airline Y sucks!” and thinking it’s all a scam. However, if you’ve got miles from other airlines, just plug in the dates and you may find the missing pair of one-ways that complete your trip.
One real-world example for us has been flying one-way on Delta to Hawaii, using American Airlines (AA) for the return flight. We’d wanted to use all AA miles, having a larger stock of them than Delta SkyMiles, but simply couldn’t round-trip availability. So we frankensteined it, creating our own monster (deal).
A good tool for determining who flies to your destination is AwardHacker. We wrote about it in one of our posts on travel hacking tools.
Hotels of (non) horror
What comes to mind when you think of a lodging for a vacation? A single property, with a single booking, for the duration of your stay, correct? A Check-in One and Done. Sure enough, that’s how most paying travelers structure their stays. And it’s ideal to be sure. When using hotel points and free night certificates, however, you may have to put on both your creativity and flexibility caps to succeed.
Don’t have enough free nights for a trip to Hawaii, for example? Mandy and I have found ourselves in this situation more than once. The solution has been the same: maintain a diversified portfolio of loyalty program currencies; then book whatever nights at multiple hotels with the points you do have. For one four night trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, we:
- Spent two nights at the Hilton Waikoloa Village (using free night certificates)
- Spent two nights at the Marriott Waikoloa Beach using Marriott points
The two hotels were close enough to each other that we could walk to some of the same shopping areas. The last three nights we spent on Maui at the Andaz Wailea, using a combination of Hyatt free night certificates and Hyatt points transferred from our Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Switching islands, of course, we had to change hotels by definition.
On a six night trip to Hawaii, this time to the Garden Isle of Kauai, we frankensteined our stay using:
- 4 free nights on points at Koloa Landing (a Wyndham property then, now a Marriott)
- 2 free nights on points at the Grand Hyatt Kauai
The properties were a short drive from each other. But even if we’d had to stay on another part of Kauai, that would have been part of the adventure. It’s a good problem to have, really.
Two terrific sites for frankensteining hotel stays are AwardMapper and Hotel Hustle. We wrote about both in a post on hotel search tools.
Frankensteining: stitching it all together turns on the power
So, I trust you’ll agree: frankensteining may be a crazy quilt, but it’s quite sane. Clinically sane as a matter of fact. With this method, you’ll be able to take trips you’d never imagined possible using points you may already have. Or could easily earn. Happy Frankensteining!