So you know how when you register for a frequent flier number and you think to yourself, “I’m never going to be able to do anything with this other than fly one way to the next major city”?
Back in 2005 when I decided to make the move to Haiti my mom was working as a travel agent. She did all my flight bookings for me and suggested that since I would be doing two round trip tickets every year it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get an AA Advantage number. Until the last few years American Airlines was the main airline flying in and it was always cheaper to do a full, round trip ticket to and from Haiti than to take one airline to the US, and change over etc. Once you factor in luggage costs and taxes it can jump up, especially when you have to get all the way over to the west coast.
Chris and I each have a number and we’ve just let them pile up over the years. It wasn’t until last year that I even checked out the reward chart to see if there was anywhere to go with my balance. It never seemed pressing though because we were traveling every 6 months. If you show no activity on your account after 18 months, you lose your balance, which happened to Chris when we were in the midst of our adoption because he hadn’t left Haiti in about 19 months.
Last fall we had a shipping issue with some tools that we would typically bring in suitcases. We just didn’t have anyone coming in, so we sent them with the shipping company, only to get an invoice with Haiti’s new 30% of the value tax slapped on top of things. What we had estimated at a couple hundred in shipping was almost $900. As we looked at options we realized that I had almost 78,000 Advantage miles saved up. To translate that into cold, hard cash, it was enough to pay for all of my flights, two nights hotel and a two day car rental to go and physically pick them up and bring them back – on a first class ticket (hello 3 free 70lb checked bags! wink, wink)! When I finally got to speak to the owner of the shipping company, who is sweet and very helpful, we found out that our reputation as great customers who pay their bills very quickly has earned us faster shipping – as in they put our stuff on the boat before they even send our invoice. The tools were already halfway to Haiti. She was able to get several hundred dollars knocked off by the broker, but it was still a bit painful.
So, no trip to Miami.
And 78,000 Advantage miles that would expire on July 4th if we didn’t fly with American before then.
You’re probably thinking, “Um, don’t you guys fly home in the summer?” Yes, yes we do. But, in the past couple of years United, Delta and now Jet Blue have all started flying into Haiti. And the prices are competitive. Last summer we saved about $200/person flying a different airline, so we knew that it would be very likely that we would be flying a different airline come summer. It would completely suck to lose all those AA miles. What to do, what to do???
tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock…
Well, hello! It’s 78,000 points/miles! Of course they need to be used!
Chris and I started tossing around ideas about how I could use them. A trip home to see my family? Not a terrible idea, but my parents were already planning on coming for Christmas and we’ll see them in the summer again. Go to England to spend some time with Chris’ aunt and uncle? Again, not a terrible idea, but something I would rather do with Chris just because it would be more fun.
Chris, very much aware that our vocation and finances probably won’t allow for much “fun” travel in our lives, really wanted me to do something that I would never otherwise get to do. It was a golden opportunity and he wanted me to use it wisely.
I kept thinking, and then got an idea. I checked the reward chart. I was good. I fired off an email. I was told that when it was read there *may* have been squealing and yelling. I confirmed it was a go with Chris. I called the AA rep and booked it. I rented a car, and a hotel room. And I’m SO excited!
In less than three weeks I’m getting on the plane to go visit one of my best friends from college (who was also one of my bridesmaids) – who lives in PERU!
Carmen came to visit us back in the fall of 2009 for two weeks and we had such a great time. Her dad is Peruvian and her mom is American, and they served as missionaries in Peru with Scripture Union while Carmen was growing up. They moved to the US when she was halfway through school (I think!) and she finished high school in the US, then went on to Bible college in Canada where we met. With a missions background, and growing up in Peru, her visit with us was so different than most. It was like we got to skip over all the normal conversations about poverty and living in the third world, and just moved on to real life stuff. It was wonderful. I didn’t have to worry about the same things I usually do when we have visitors, because she was already aware of certain things, and used to dealing with others. The year after she came to visit, Carmen moved back to Peru where she now works with Bridges International.
Edit: Carmen just informed me that she actually works for Health Bridges International. Gotta give credit where credit is due!
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would get to go see her in her world. I’m so excited, and she is too. Because of our life here my visit to her will be like hers was to us – just different. Last night she sent me an email telling me that she was thinking about eating out and realized that because we live here and I’m used to things like having to wash my lettuce, that maybe I would be okay with actually eating street food! I confirmed that I was in fact okay with it, and that I have a secret – I often plan my grocery shopping trips to St. Marc around lunch time so I have an excuse to buy a pate (pa-tay) from the street vendors in front of the store, who probably have no idea what safe food handling is. I can’t resist the fried pockets of dough with cabbage, salt fish, a chunk of hard boiled egg, and a chunk of hot dog in a little plastic bag with a big spoon of piklis (spicy slaw) on top, especially when they cost about sixty cents.
On top of getting to visit a new continent, seeing a new country and getting a new stamp in my passport, I’m going to get to be with someone who knows me. We were roommates in college, so she literally saw me day in and day out. I’m excited to learn more about her culture and what makes her who she is, what she does every day, and to meet some of her family. I’m excited to see her country and for her to show me the things she thinks I need to see. I’m so blessed and grateful to have a husband that knows me and wants good things for me, who wants me to go and have a good time, not just because I have the opportunity, but because he knows I’m a better wife and mother when I get a chance to get away every once in a while.
On the way back I’m spending two nights in Miaim so I can do things like stock up on anything that we might need. :)