2012 is when it all really began for us. Sure, we’d traveled a bunch. Laura found a way to hang out in the Olympic Village in 2008. Patrick found a way to score tickets to President Obama’s Inauguration that same year. But 2012 is when we decided to go from casual travelers, to people who took advantage of the loopholes at our disposal.

We booked a OneWorld Explorer. July 2012 we found ourselves seated in Business Class seats like this-

Business Class in Cathay Pacific

When your seat turns into a bed, 12+ hour flights become nothing

wining and dining in nice airport lounges (when not taking advantage of the free massages), and traveling from Los Angeles to the beaches of Honolulu, to the great ramen hunt in Tokyo, to the dim sum fest in Hong Kong, to the serenity of Bali, and then on to the beautiful chaos of Bangkok, ending with a leisurely train ride throughout Thailand and Malaysia that ended in Singapore before bringing us back to LA. All this for some airline miles and $400.

Just this month, we decided it was time for round two. We again took advantage of this distance based award called the OneWorld Explorer, and recently booked the following: A return to Hong Kong, one of our favorite cities in the entire world. This time, we’re using hotel points earned from a few tricks to stay at the Intercontinental, a hotel I must say with some spectacular views.

View from the pool at our next hotel stay at the Intercontinental in Hong Kong

Then, we’re flying on to South Africa, where we’ll enjoy a Christmas safari with Laura’s family after we relax in the beautiful city of Cape Town with some good family friends. Finally, after a quick stop in Doha (routing takes you to some crazy places) we’ll end up in Chicago to ring in the New Year with my family. Total cost: 150,000 miles each and $399. With hotel point redemptions, we’re also looking at no lodging fees in Hong Kong and Doha and the majority of our time in South Africa.

So it was with disappointment that we learned this week of American Airlines termination, literally overnight, of my favorite little known travel award- The OneWorld Explorer. Gone just like that are the days where 150,000 miles and $399 could buy you a plane ticket worth several thousand dollars.

The lesson is simple: Don’t sit on your miles and points. Airlines and hotel points redemption, much like college tuition, never somehow get better for the end-user. Tuition will always go up, as will the cost of using your miles and points. At the same time, you won’t get any younger. Travel is a gift. A hard one to open up at times for certain, but a gift nonetheless. Don’t waste it. Spend your miles, spend your points, because tomorrow, it may become that much more difficult and expensive to do so.

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