It’s not about free travel! “Value” is the name of the game!

EU2016tripoptions

The wife and I recently traveled to Paris and Prague for our 2nd wedding anniversary.  It was a great trip and Paris has quickly become our favorite city; we might even try and move there in a few years 🙂

What I want to write about though, is a decision-making process that I think every miles and points junkie has gone through at one point or another: do you go the long way in a premium cabin, or take the most direct and significantly shorter routing in coach so you can maximize time at your destination?

We started planning this trip about 3 months before we wanted to travel. There was ample availability in Business Class on Turkish Airlines out of SFO for our dates. Unfortunately, there was no J availability out of LAX on Turkish or LH. We also explored flying Austrian out of ORD. Given the dismal availability from Southern California to ORD for our dates so we could connect to Austrian, the best option was to take Turkish out of SFO. R and I have flown Turkish in J before and loved the comfort, the food, the entertainment, as well as the lounge in IST. All in all, this was good for us: SNA-SFO-IST-CDG.

The problem was that the total journey (incl. very reasonable layovers in SFO and IST of 2 hours each) would take ~24 hours and got us into CDG at 10pm. This was mainly because transiting IST to get to Western Europe results in significant backtracking. I convinced myself that for premium cabin comfort, this was fine. But as we got closer to departure, the time required for this journey started to gnaw at me – we usually get to India from the US West Coast in less than 24 hours and it seemed unnecessarily excessive for a hop to Europe.

A week before the trip, I started exploring direct routings from LAX to CDG. Ideally, I wanted either J or Premium Economy on Air France. The best I could get was Economy LAX-CDG. The flight time was 10h45m! That’s less than half the time our Turkish itinerary in J would take! Not to mention that it would get us to Paris at 11am instead of 10pm, meaning we got an extra day in Paris – who can say no to that! I bit the bullet and booked one ticket with some orphan Delta SkyMiles (30k) and 32.5k Alaska Air miles. The flight was comfortable and we were enjoying L’as du Fallafel at 1pm in Paris! We took a short nap and in the evening, walked around the Notre Dame, stopped for some hot chocolate, and headed to dinner at a delightful wine bar – none of which would’ve been possible had we landed at 10pm.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you value more – getting to your destination in comfort and well-rested; or getting an extra day  at your destination? Of course, it also depends on which destination it is, how much time you have planned at your destination, and what works for you! For example, I’m okay with a direct routing in Economy over Business to Europe (even from West Coast USA); my valuation and choice would be very different if the destination was a remote island in South-East Asia.

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