Miles And The Gift Of Spontaneity

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Airlines hate the spontaneous.  Need to fly last minute to an engagement party, for a business meeting, or even for a funeral (G-d forbid) and they’ll charge you up the wazoo.

A last minute trip nonstop between Cleveland and NYC, say from 01/09-01/10, is $1,172.  I used 9,000 BA Avios (7,000 AMEX, or 13 cents value per point) last month instead.

Sure, it’s not quite the same value as using 57,000 miles for a $10,000 suite on an airplane (17.5 cents value per mile) but both are great uses of miles.  And they both are prime examples of why I love miles and hate proprietary points programs like those from Capital One or Citibank.  Capital One would’ve wanted 111,000 points to get to NYC and a whopping 1 million points for my suite.

In short, real airline miles give me the ability to take trips I could otherwise never afford.

Last Friday at 12:30pm I told my wife about an airfare sale between Cleveland and Kansas City.  She asked if it was available for travel that day and I chuckled saying it was for February.

But she piqued my interest, so I pulled up and lo and behold there was a 1:55pm flight nonstop to Kansas City.  I asked if she could pack in 10 minutes and we were at the airport by 1:09pm, just seconds before the United’s 45 minute checked luggage cutoff time at their hub airports.  The fact that the flight was so perfectly timed (10 minutes earlier or 20 minutes later and it wouldn’t have worked) seemed to be a sign from above 😀

This was Rafi’s 40th flight, so we’ve got the security thing with an infant down to a science and we were at the gate with time to spare for a diaper change before boarding.  The only shame is that in just 6 months we’ll have to start buying him his own seat, but for now he sat free in any empty seat in his awesome lightweight Cosco Scenara convertible carseat.

And just like that, by 2:40pm central we were in Kansas City, more than 2 hours before shabbos.  It felt very strange flying so late on a Friday, but if things were delayed in Cleveland we could have easily just gone home before shabbos. Plus the weather was good in both cities.  Still, it’s not something I’d try on a Friday afternoon flying to the delay prone NYC corridor airports.

A paid ticket would have been over $800.  But the round-trip flight was just 20,000 United miles.  And we were able to catch the final 3 days of Sheva Brochos with Mimi’s newly married brother and sister-in-law and give quite the surprise to my delighted in-laws.

For a city without a kosher restaurant Kansas City has always impressed me.  I wrote about the best ribs I’ve had in my life as well as insane internet speeds back in August.  This time I got to try Pizza from Johnny Brusco, a non-kosher Pizza shop that has occasional kosher days, a chinese buffet that was so well attended I can’t believe they don’t do it more often (and how many chinese buffets have you been to that come with free Glenfidich Single Malt? 🙂 ), and mouth-watering fried chicken tenders and sushi at Hen House.

Anyway I just got home yesterday.  In the past month I’ve been in Miami, New York (twice), Paris, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City.  I’m actually looking forward to spending some time at home in good ole’ Cleveland for a little while now 😀

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57 Comments On "Miles And The Gift Of Spontaneity"

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When he turns two you can still fly without buying a seat by not showing his ID….


“Anyway I just got home yesterday. In the past month I’ve been in Miami, New York (twice), Paris, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. I’m actually looking forward to spending some time at home in gold ole’ Cleveland for a little while now ”
Dan, i dont believe you for a second! Can’t wait to hear about your next last minute escapade next week! LOL!

Melvin the Gohst

Ooo, I am sooo J!

You get free miles from your Multi-BM’s and hotels as well!

Plus you have a day job which I am sure brings in money, I am sooo Jealous.

One day I will be like you and fly the world for free.



and he can buy alcohol under 21 by showing a fake ID!


Dan, wasn’t there taxes & fees? Anytime I try flying United on miles from EWR they try hitting me with a ridiculous $80 booking & taxes fees. Last time it was to Cinci.


AA and United charge fees for booking within 3 weeks, though there are workarounds for that. See DDF.
Personally I don’t pay them on either airline either way due to my elite status.


those hen house chicken fingers are a life-changing experience


@Dan: care to link?



I also don’t believe you’ll sit still for to long!!!

BTW. Thanks to you I got the United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card. Now what do I SM for? To match from 30k to 55k + $50 Statement credit?

Thanx for all that you do.


I can tell you’re a Glenlivet guy, you missed a d in Glenfiddich 😛


Can you show the link to the DDF on work around the within 3 weeks charge for mileage tickets


Dan – can you guide us to a list of cutoff times for different airports/airlines? I always myself rushing to get to the airport 1 hr before at the risk of the airport having a 60 min hard cutoff, even though I know that many airports/airlines do not have one. Thanks a lot.


What is DDF.


So how and what do I do when I get my 100k from amex should I transfer them.
Should I open more cards under my wifes name she was denied for a lot of cards shenever had a cc bit we want to travel 🙂


“I’m actually looking forward to spending some time at home in good ole’ Cleveland for a little while now :D”

IIRC you said that last time 😛

Rosh Hagoleh

While it is nice that you made it to your destination on time before Shabbos Kodesh, and you also had a backup plan of returning to your place of home if you got delayed but according to the Code of Jewish Law this is frowned upon, and as they say on the tubes “don’t try this at home”.

What would happen if Heaven Forbid that plane while in mid-air needed to change course for any reason (medical emergency, terror warning, mechanical issues, weather problems) what would you do then?

There is a chance you may end up flying on Shabbos which has many issues as you can imagine, and you may be forced to stay on the airplane or the terminal for the whole Shabbos.

Usually you would have family tracking your flight expecting your arrival and would make Shabbos arrangements when the flight goes off course, but in this case if you are surprising them, then nobody at all knows to even try helping you out.

So if you must fly on an Erev Shabbos please take along 2 small bottles of Grape Juice (4oz, or spread it over a few small bottles), some Matzahs and if you have extra space you can take along some Chulent and small crockpot.

I can only imagine the Oneg Shabbos sitting in the Elite Airline Club enjoying a fresh Chulent! I have a feeling the club will empty in minutes and you would have it all for yourselves.

That would be a Trip to Report! IYH this should never happen.


In NY twice and you don’t come visit your Aunt???????
I guess I should put away the porta-crib. 🙁


Dan, how do you transport your car seat through the airport?


LOL! I guess the whole buffet was Made in China! That’s why they offered free ‘Glenfidich’!

C.S. - Fantastic!

Thank you so much for your continued updates!

We’re all able to learn and to apply certain aspects to our travel methods thanks to your ongoing tips and special deals. Those who have met you and know your humility, understand that your intent is to educate, help others save time and money and to help make the most of the resources that we are given (kind of like that “Catan” game that you recommended last month).

You do this work around the clock, 24/6 out of deep, true humility and sincerity!

It was great seeing you and the whole family at the wedding –
Keep up your amazing skills, talents and helping people achieve their goals!


@AsherO If you wouldve been drinkin as much as dan you would also be seeing doubles!!:)


@Dan, do you recommend that car seat? It’s only up to 40 lbs. so is that a waste? How long do kids usually stay in this type of car seat?
Currently looking for the next car seat for my 8 month old.. any tips would be helpful!



Care to search 😉

On the business card you can match to 50K+$50, just say a colleague got that.


It’s different at every airport with every airline, just google it to find links like these:



@Rosh Hagoleh:
Who said I had no backup plan in Kansas City? Because we did and in the worst case scenario (a severe unforeseen delay on the runway in Cleveland with the crew refusing to let us off and then continuing onto KC anyway) we would have had stuff delivered. That scenario is exceedingly rare now as after about 2 hours they are willing to let you off lest they risk massive DoT fines.
When flying to/from/through the NYC corridor delays can happen at any time, but on a light traffic route like CLE-MCI that simply doesn’t happen.

As far as a diversion. I’ve been on well over a thousand flights and have never experienced one, they are exceedingly rare. Either way a diversion would likely occur at a flyover airport like Chicago or S. Louis where we have relatives or could call a shliach, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

At any rate, you’re right. I don’t plan trips like that on purpose and neither should anyone else. But in the scenario I was in I didn’t have much choice in the matter and the flight time was just too perfect to think that it wasn’t hashgacha protis that we were meant to be there to partake in the sheva brochos.

Twice, but both just day trips 🙂

Usually with this:
But the Scenara is so light that we just carried it this time.

@C.S. – Fantastic!:
Was a pleasure speaking with you as well 🙂

It’s not our everyday car seat (we have a Britax Hiway for that). We use this one primarily for travel as the Britax is massive and heavy while the Scenara is light as a feather compared to it.

By the time Rafi gets to 40 pounds he won’t need it on planes anyway.


“In the past month I’ve been in Miami, New York (twice), Paris, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City.”

Believe it or not that is the very first time in recorded history the cities of Pittsburgh and Paris were used in the same sentence.


Aren’t you nervous about Radiation to your 1 year old? You know 1 3 hour trip on an airplane gives off the same radiation as a full mouth of dental xrays? Just saying…..


@EZ: you don’t need to provide ID for a child under 2 years old. If the child is 2 and a half they will not know it

too tired

@Dan: tremendous



I may not be the world’s most upstanding citizen, but to lie about a child’s birthday right in front of them at such an impressionable young age doesn’t seem to set the right tone…

@too tired:
Well, Bill Watterson is a lifelong Clevelander after all.




Hey dan, Jos. A Bank has Men’s Sportswear (Sweater, Polo, Poplin Dress Shirt, Sportshirt) for $14.97. Free shipping

halcyon road

do you have a Global Entry card? Is it worth it? The trouble is – there is no interviewing place here in Cleveland; we’re flying through Denver on our way to Maui but on a Sunday when the G.E. office is closed there…any suggestions?

CA dreaming

thanks to DD, i have 100k AE points. what’s the best use for them? most of my miles are AA, some UA


Thank you so much for coming to KC. Your family’s presence down the hall made the weekend so much more manageable.
By the way, Calvin and Hobbes was published in Kansas City.


Do airlines truly hate the last minute traveler, if everyone booked when the going is cheap wouldn’t their margins of profit be very slight if at all?


Im afraid the AA ‘less than 21 day” fee “workaround” no longer works; they’ll collect the fee. Unless someone knows another way.




@halcyon road:
It’s nice to skip the lines.
Get an appointment next time you’re in Detroit or Niagara Falls?

@CA dreaming:
Depends on your travel patterns.


Of course, they just love them to death with obscene prices.



kol hakavod dan!


dan is that the car seat you use in ur car? i think i need to switch my son out of the traditional infant seat and into a car seat – thnaks


i do a large amount of spending (around $75,000 monthly) on my credit cards for business purposes, which credit card would you suggest will give me back the best return?
i am thinking of 1 of these, United MileagePlus Club Business Card 1.5%, discover new escape 2%, or Capitol one 2%,
i would still use the Freedom and ink cards for the 5% categories,
any better suggestion?


See comment 23.

I’d go with United club for sure.


When my kids were little we borrowed a car seat(that was designed for travel)that was also a stroller. Picture the way the airplane’s landing gear go up into the plane. The legs and wheels would disappear underneath. It was narrow enough to wheel down the aisle of an airlplane but certified by the FAA for planes. Also (obviously could be used in a car). It wasnt perfect (no storage area, a little heavier) but it was great because you got to travel with one less item. I dont remember the brand name but I am sure you could find it by google.


RE: AA less than 21 day award surcharge “workaround”, Did HUCA 4x, still NG. Any ideas ??


“Airlines hate the spontaneous.”

I think you meant “Airlines LOVE the spontaneous”

They get to make a ton of money off the spontaneous.


Search on DDF for the method.

If they loved them so much they wouldn’t charge so much 😉
If you are spontaneous you will be charged $$$$ for it.
Of course the airlines love that, but that kind of love I could do without!

Rosh Hagoleh


Don’t mean to hijack this thread, but there are many instances where they will not allow you off the plane, for example if they suspect something or someone suspicious on the plane, or if g”f there is something of great danger near the plane..


@Rosh Hagoleh:
Many? Really?
Try 1 in a million at the very most.

And a regional jet with 20 passengers flying from CLE-MCI isn’t exactly the target of such problems.


Hi Dan,

It is so entertaining reading your site and your travel deals, I feel that I am beginning to get a hang of the style of the site as well as the deal lingo; It took me some time to figure out what the reference to BM on this site was, when I saw 2BM 3BM and a 4BM I had no clue what it meant, all I knew about BM is the literal meaning of BM! I finally figured it out after reading your lovely forums and Facebook.

Thank you!



Rosh Hagoleh


I am not trying to imply that you did anything wrong, I just want to point out that unexpected events can come up. Traveling on Erev Shabbos can be very risky, believe me I had a few really close calls myself, I now always leave with plenty of time before Shabbos.

Thanx for all the deals your provide, you do a great service for Klal Yisroel and with that Zchus Hashem will always protect you on all of your travels and all of your endeavours as long as you are doing it Leshaim Shomayim (making money on the deals is still Leshem Shomayim as long as you have in mind that you are doing it for the Kahal).


RE: 21 day AA award fee: couldn’t find any other way on DDF, could you possibly link the appropriate answer thread, I’d greatly appreciate it.


sorry dan my bad – u have a link to the britax one u use everyday? i know i can gioogle it too but u know …. go thru u itll be my pleasure


@Rosh Hagoleh:

Everything in life is one form of risk or another. What right do you have to drive a car, for example? Have you seen the statistics of how many motorists run over pedestrians, G-d forbid?! By your logic, it should be forbidden to drive, EVER, since you’re taking a chance you might murder someone!

The answer is, there is a concept of “calculated risk” – a certain amount of hishtadlus a person is required to make, after which point, he can be certain he is doing nothing wrong. Dan’s point was that a CLE-MCI flight does not violate hishtadlus. You say “for example if they suspect something or someone suspicious on the plane, or if g”f there is something of great danger near the plane.” Well, what if you’re driving downtown and a similar thing happens – you unknowingly wander near a recent bank robbery or attempted terror attack, and cops are running around with their guns drawn, locking everybody down and forcing you to stay in your car until after Shabbos starts? By your logic, you shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car in town on erev Shabbos, or even walk there, lest such a thing happen. But we know that is not true. A person has to take reasonable precautions… but that is all. Period.



esther rudy

dan, plz post more ideas of ways to get the most for your mile, ie tickets that would otherwise cost a lot more but only use a few hundred dollars worth or miles. thanks!

Michael Steinberg

Dan, on the chase ink card. Does it matter
Which office supply store I purchase gift cards
In to get 5x the points?


Dan, I am looking into flights to london for my family any quick deals to make the $4000.00 tickets less?


We are grappling with the question of whether perhaps the “best deal” is cash back credit card. With the cash, we can simply shop for the best airline deal on any airline. Thoughts?