Leveraging Status and Credits for a Long Day Trip

Delta jets at DCA

If you’ve ever dropped off or picked up your child from an out of state college, you know this generally includes either a very long drive in a loaded vehicle or a flight with a logistical puzzle. This week I not only had to go fly up to get our youngest from college in the Northeast, but also had to drop her things off in two different places and fly both of us home from a different airport.

She goes to college in central New Jersey and is interning this summer at the Capitol in DC while staying in a dorm nearby. We needed to take her winter things (and anything else not needed for the summer dorm) to relatives in south Jersey who luckily have garage space for us to use. Then we would drive to suburban Maryland and leave her summer things at my brother-in-law’s house for her to grab in about 10 days when she starts her internship.

My actual plan was to arrive at PHL and grab a rental car, drive to central Jersey, pick up my daughter, drive to south Jersey to store some of her things, drive to suburban DC to store her summer things, drop off the rental car and fly us both home from DCA.

My day started at 5:15am when my alarm went off. I drove to Atlanta airport with nothing but my phone, wallet, AirPods and a phone charger. No bags needed for this same-day turnaround.

For my outbound flight to Philadelphia, I had the choice between Delta, American and Spirit so really between Delta and American. 😂 I was planning to just book my usual Delta flight so I could leverage my Platinum medallion benefits like Comfort+ seats and SkyClub access. Then I remembered that I had a credit expiring on American Airlines at the end of May 2022. I checked the prices and it was only $99 one way on American or $253 in First Class. I’m not usually one to buy a first class seat for a short domestic flight, but my credit was around $200. It was either waste half the credit or pay $53 and fly up front in comfort. I was also trying to be efficient with my time, so getting off the plane first would help. The American E175 regional jet has a 1-2 configuration with those single seats providing aisle and window access. I decided to go ahead and book the ATL-PHL one-way in first class.

Aisle or window? How about both?

I went to The Club in ATL before my flight for some eggs and a coffee, but the coffee machine was broken, so I had some eggs and decided to walk back to Concourse D to kill some time and get some exercise. My flight was on time and I had coffee in a real mug!

No paper cups in AA First Class

For the return flight to ATL from DCA, I booked us tickets using SkyMiles on the latest possible flight around 8pm. I used miles so that in case we missed the flight due to traffic or some other issue, I could just cancel and rebook the next morning. As she was flying with me on the same reservation, my daughter also received my Platinum medallion benefits of free checked bags and an upgrade to Comfort+ at booking. The flights were surprisingly reasonable at 13500 SkyMiles (vs. $169) per person.

For my rental car, I actually had two different reservations. I booked my usual National Executive Elite reservation but because they couldn’t guarantee a car type until I arrived, I had a backup reservation at Avis (significantly more expensive) for a large SUV. Luckily, National had a large Dodge Durango that fit the bill and I canceled the Avis reservation before I even drove out of the National lot at PHL.

I drove about an hour to the dorm and luckily, my daughter was all packed up and everything was labeled for summer storage or for the DC internship dorm. We loaded up quickly and then picked up a dorm fridge she had bought from a senior at a good discount. Everything just about fit.

Tight squeeze

We drove the 45 minutes or so to our relative in South Jersey. We unloaded the winter stuff and had lunch with them. Then we headed to Maryland and unloaded everything else except a couple of suitcases of clothes she was bringing home. We relaxed for an hour and headed to DCA to drop off the car. In the end, we had time to enjoy the SkyClub there (much less crowded than all the clubs at ATL!) Our flight home was actually early, but we waited 30 minutes for her checked bags. Hey, at least we got 2500 SkyMiles each back in our account for the baggage delay.

I finally got us home at about 11pm. It was a long, but ultimately successful day of planes and automobiles. We have to do the reverse trip in August to get her set up for junior year, but that will be longer than a day trip, so less stressful.

If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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