It’s been a crazy past couple of days. Quick backstory: We had been wanting to go somewhere for Thanksgiving, but all the flights around the US on Southwest were pretty expensive especially if you wanted to fly back on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I didn’t really want to have to take a day off to fly back to Seattle on a Monday, if we were just going somewhere in the continental United States. We looked into flights to Hawaii, but there was no award availability.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning, I woke up and was going through recent blog posts on my Feedly. I stumbled across this post from SecretFlying: SUMMER: US CITIES TO SPAIN OR FINLAND FROM ONLY $448 ROUNDTRIP. SecretFlying is always posting great airfare deals. Some are due to sales, others are due to pricing errors. I figured might as well do a couple searches and see if anything would work for us. I was surprised to find that they were also on sale over Thanksgiving week.
I quickly brought it up to my wife and we decided that visiting Barcelona, Spain or Madrid, Spain would be a great way to spend our Thanksgiving vacation. So then I had to figure out the following:
- Which US city to fly out of?
- Where we wanted to go? Madrid or Barcelona?
- What day we wanted to leave and return?
- Which routes were more direct?
- What platform I was going to use to book the flight?
Which US city to fly out of?
Unfortunately Seattle wasn’t an option so I was stuck with Philadelphia, Dallas, St. Louis or Miami. They were all pricing out at roughly the same cost give or take $20-30. This meant that we should probably fly out of whatever city is cheapest to get to using Southwest since we have the Companion Pass. After several searches, I found that flying into Dallas on Saturday before Thanksgiving and out on Monday after Thanksgiving was the cheapest. The airfare came out to roughly ~20k miles or roughly $320 and that’s the cost for both of us since we have the companion pass.
Where we wanted to go? Madrid or Barcelona?
This was a difficult decision, but we ended up deciding to visit Madrid due to the hotels that we found in our initial search. We also felt that there would be more to do in Madrid (museums, day trips, etc). We plan on visiting Barcelona at some point in the future.
What platform to book it on?
There were several online travel agencies that I could book these flights with. However, I prefer to book it directly with the airline to avoid any problems. I was able to search on Air Canada and find the same flights I was finding on Momondo. They were $10-12 more expensive, but for the piece of mind it was worth it. Air Canada also would allow me to cancel the ticket within 24 hours of booking (which I didn’t), but its nice to know that the option is available when you’re booking.
What day we wanted to leave and return?
This was primarily dictated by when we could find a cheap Southwest flight as well as what was available on Air Canada. We also wanted to use as little vacation time as possible. Since we’re utilizing the Thanksgiving holiday, we will only have to use 4 days of PTO for 7 days in Madrid, Spain.
Which routes were more direct?
I looked at several options that were 1 stop in each direction. The flight that kept coming up was a DFW (Dallas Fort-Worth) to YYR (Toronto) to MAD (Madrid). This flight to Madrid has a 5 hour layover in YYR. I was pretty much set on this flight due to the timing since it leaves Sunday and arrives in Madrid on Monday morning. The flight back was consisted of two stops. I looked at other options, but they all priced out higher by a couple hundred dollars. In the end, I booked a flight with two stops, one in FRA (Frankfurt) and the other in YYR before returning to DFW. These stops are much shorter than our 5 hour layover on our flight to Madrid.
I went ahead and booked out flights for a $466 RT/person or $932 total. I put it on my Citi TYP Premier card, which earns 3 points/$1 spent on travel expenses. I’ve learned that jumping on these airfare deals is important because they often go away within 24 hours. After I got home from work, my wife and I talked it over and decided that this was a trip that we did in fact want to go on. The following morning I looked at the prices on these exact same flights and they had increased to $1,200 RT/person. So we essentially got these flights for 1/3 of the price. The next step was booking the various hotels as well as the positioning flights (on Southwest). I’ll highlight my process and experience with these reservations in a blog post tomorrow.