Seattle has a bad reputation as the rainiest place in the U.S. (It’s actually Hilo, Hawaii.) But for those of us that know it’s one of the best places in the country to spend the summer, that bad rap keeps the secret safe. July and August days in Seattle hover around the universally perfect temperature: 75 degrees.
Not too hot to be uncomfortable, even when you’re engaging in the best part of Seattle summers: hiking and water sports. Every time I visit Seattle, I can’t get over how much verdant green and deep blue surrounds you. You practically can’t go anywhere without seeing a lake or a mountain.
Since where I live in New York is as cloudy and rainy throughout the entire suffocating humid summer as Seattle’s reputation, I’m always looking for a chance to escape. Mostly to Seattle. With a sister-in-law there to stay with, if I snag a rewards flight out, I can spend the week working from home in an infinitely nicer climate . . . for free.
Getting There – The Perennial Points Challenge
I’m always looking out for Virgin America flights, one of the few direct options between the east and west coasts that also happens to have enough leg room that tall people like me don’t spend the whole flight telling themselves they’ll never fly again. I find it to be one of the most comfortable airlines in the country, which seems to be a popular thought since the airline has recently won Travel + Leisure’s Best Domestic Airline for the sixth year in a row.
When a rather expensive, late-booked Virgin American round-trip flight between California and New York for work was going to rack me up a number of points, I couldn’t help but look for a way to open jaw it and spend some time in Seattle.
Unfortunately, booking with points on Virgin America (and JetBlue and other newer airlines) is not as a simple proposition as the usual 25,000 points per round-trip saver booking. The points required are tied to the current price of the ticket.
Rewards Flights with Virgin America
To book an award flight on Virgin America and similar airlines, you do the opposite of the usual points booking logic. Instead of maximizing your points purchasing the most expensive flight available, you take advantage of airline sales and price drops.
Since summer is always an expensive time to fly—many routes, particularly cross-country fares, cost three times as much in summer as the lowest base fare—with Virgin points, I had to hit the sweet spot between airlines trying to fill last-minute empty seats and the day-of price hike for truly stuck travelers.
I didn’t quite have enough points for how much the tickets cost before I left, so I had to take a little gamble. On my flight to California, around 10 p.m. four days before I hoped to fly to Seattle, I logged onto the Virgin America site from the plane and saw that the points from my flight in progress had already hit my account.
For $2.50 per flight—just the booking free, no government or airport taxes strangely—I booked each leg of a San Francisco to Seattle flight for 4,605 points. When I looked for flights this July, the week after the 4th of July holiday, there were even flights for $4,093.
At a grand total of $5 and one of the lowest point redemptions possible, I got to spend a week boating on Lake Washington with the very reasonably priced canoes at the University of Washington boathouse, drinking Seattle’s best coffee (not Starbucks; Espresso Vivace, where latte art was invented), and wandering the flower-filled Pike Place market, where the fishmongers toss enormous fish over the heads of the crowd.