Because I’ll be serving in the Peace Corps, this was the last Christmas I could spend with my family for three years. When I realized that this would be the case, I decided that a trip to the Lower 48 for Christmas was a non-negotiable.
The cost? Winter flights to Minnesota from Galena run at about $2,100.
I am normally a penny pincher, but being stuck in a village for 10 months gives me cabin fever. No stores, no restaurants, no new faces. Add to that the 21 hours of darkness and -50 degree temperatures. A trip out of Alaska is almost psychologically necessary.
Fortunately I happened to have saved up over 100,000 Delta miles and 29,000 Alaska Airlines miles, largely thanks to their respective credit cards. These are the flights I was able to buy with my miles:
- Galena to Anchorage (roundtrip) for 32,500 miles (normally $740-$920)
- Anchorage to Minneapolis (roundtrip) for 40,000 miles (the cheapest flight was $1,350)
Because of my Alaska residence and Delta card, I also received two free checked bags on all of my flights. In Anchorage my flight to Minneapolis was overbooked, so I volunteered to be bumped to a later flight in exchange for a $400 flight voucher, plus a free hotel stay. Sadly, they ended up having room for me on the flight, but as a token of gratitude they gave me coupons for several free drinks on any Delta flight.
I must say, I felt like a pretty savvy traveler.