Jaguars In London: Step by Step
When I first began developing a plan to travel to travel to the NFL International Series Game in London to see the Jaguars and 49ers play, it was immediately clear that by far the single most expensive component of the trip would be airfare. When I was planning only for myself, I was perfectly willing to deal with basic accommodations to save money, having previously enjoyed staying at hostels throughout the south of England. With flights, however, the floor for cash fares only goes so low.
The best cash rate I could find from Jacksonville was $1,077 on Delta, including taxes and fees. I did find one cheaper rate, at about $980, but it included a 16 hour layover in Reykjavík of all places. That extra hassle wasn’t justified by saving less than a hundred bucks.
Prior to all this, I’d already taken my first baby steps into the world of points and miles. A few months prior, I’d signed up for the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express, and was able to successfully use the miles earned from the sign-up bonus and a bit of additional spending to book a roundtrip flight from Jacksonville to Portland, Oregon for World Domination Summit for just $10! This ticket would’ve set me back about $450 had I paid for it outright, so I already sensed an opportunity might exist to repeat this success in even greater fashion for the flight to London.
I checked Delta’s award chart first, since I had a few thousand points left over in my account after booking the Portland flight. I was sad to discover that a coach ticket on Delta costs, at minimum 60,000 miles for a transatlantic flight. There was simply no way I’d be able to amass the necessary SkyMiles.
I began rifling through the other airlines’ award charts one by one, and when I found my way to American’s, I could hardly believe my eyes. American’s drab award chart held an exciting surprise: off-peak travel from the US to Europe could cost as few as 20,000 miles each way, or just 40,000 miles roundtrip.
Of course, the pesky asterisk had me worried. Surely, this was a teaser rate, only good for a couple weeks in the dead of Winter, right? Wrong! American’s “Off-Peak” travel calendar for Europe is amazingly generous, lasting from October 15 until May 15! Side-note: the same is true for travel from the US to Japan and Korea, requiring just 25,000 miles instead of 32,500 miles for a MileSAAver fare from October 1 until April 30. Spring break in Japan, anyone?
The Jaguars game was perfectly timed, taking place on October 27th, just 12 days after the off-peak travel season begins. I searched flights from Jacksonville to London using American’s award booking tool, and sure enough, award bookings for 40,000 AAdvantage Miles came back traveling through Miami and New York for the weekend of the game. We were in business! Now, just the small matter of acquiring those 40,000 miles stood between me and football.
Finding the Miles
A few Google searches later and I came across an amazing article at Million Mile Secrets that made my jaw drop. According to Daraius’s piece, Citi offered AAdvantage credit cards with bonuses ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 miles each. This by itself was revelatory information, since my goal was 40,000 miles. With the right card, the sign-up bonus alone would be enough to cover my flight! (This link goes to a current 40k mile offer.)
What made it even more incredible was that, according to the article, it was possible to get this bonus not just once but as many as three times over, for a total easily above 100,000 AAdvantage Miles.
At the time, it was possible to apply for two different personal Citi AAdvantage cards –a MasterCard and an American Express, for example – simultaneously by using two different web browsers. (Unfortunately, this loophole was eventually closed, but not before I was able to take advantage [AAdvantage?] of it.)
I honed in on two different offer links, both of which were good for 40,000 AAdvantage miles after only $1,000 of spending (current offer requires $3,000 but this fluctuates over time). This seemed achievable without breaking a sweat, especially given about $1,000 in auto expenses I knew were coming up between a major service appointment and my auto insurance payment. That would knock the first card out almost immediately. Suddenly, my trip had gone from being a bold dream to seeming comically easy to achieve.
Taking care to select itineraries that only used American Airlines planes and not British Airways for the transatlantic hop in order to avoid punitive fuel surcharges, I’d found a way to lower the cost of my flight from $1,077 to just $197.20!
I filed this information away for the time being and set to exploring this world of points and miles further, hopping from link to link and blog to blog. I fell willingly into the rabbit hole, absorbing as much information as I could as quickly as possible, ever more excited by what I found. I had the makings of a plan for airfare in place after just a few hours’ research. With a few hours’ more, what could be possible with hotels?
Check back tomorrow for Part 2!