We are always on the look-out for cheap flights for a weekend getaway. In July 2015 FlyerTalk alerted us of a $186 round trip rate from SFO-MCO (Orlando) for February 2016. $186 for a cross country flight is an amazing deal so we jumped on it immediately. FAA regulations require airlines to give either 24 hour cancellation or 24 hour hold (AA has holds) so we immediately put two tickets on hold for a weekend that worked.
Back to our flight, the routing was SFO-DFW-MCO / MCO-CLT-SFO and would earn us 5,245 elite qualifying miles and 10,490 redeemable miles. At a price of $186 this equaled out to a 4 CPM. Anything below a 5 CPM is entering into mileage running territory so this flight was a no brainer. We were set to depart SFO @ 5am on Saturday, arriving in MCO @ 3:30pm. Our flight out the next Sunday morning was at 5:30am, giving us just enough time for an evening in Orlando.
A week or so after booking the flight we realized that it was Super Bowl weekend. We knew the 2016 Super Bowl would be held in San Francisco so it was very convenient that our flight landed at noon, just a couple hours before kickoff. This jogged our memory that we also went on a semi-mileage run during Super Bowl weekend in 2015. After monitoring other airfares that weekend closer to the date it’s safe to make the assertion that Super Bowl weekend is a very cheap weekend to travel…anywhere except the Super Bowl that is. Domestic routes all seemed below average in price so if you aren’t a football fan mark your calendar for February 5, 2017 and start planning a weekend getaway to anywhere but Houston.
While typically we would factor a hotel room into our mileage run costs, Sarah’s parents are Disney Vacation Club members so we were able to stay at a nice Disney hotel at no additional cost. While most people go to the parks at Walt Disney World or Universal Studios while in Orlando, the short duration and time of year made that less appealing. Instead, we decided to make a reservation at the highly-touted Victoria & Albert’s located at Disney’s Grand Floridian. While Michelin doesn’t rate any restaurants in Florida, V&A has been a nominee for James Beard’s “Best in the South” award 8 of the last 9 years. Known as the hardest Disney dining reservation to get, we tasked our handy Amex Platinum Concierge to call them repeatedly right when they opened 180 days in advance to secure the reservation.
With a flight landing at 3:30pm and a high end dinner less than three hours afterwards we seemed a bit crunched for time. It was clear we needed to take advantage of one of our favorite AA perks for Executive Platinum members – free same day confirmed change. Luckily AA’s earliest SFO-DFW route departs at 12:30am so we were able to push our 5am flight to 12:30am, along with an earlier connecting DFW-MCO flight. Had this redeye actually been on Friday night, say departing at 11:59 pm, we would have been out of luck. Also, thanks to status, we were first on the upgrade priority list on all four segments and were upgraded both directions. (Generally non-transcon domestic upgrades aren’t that exciting but AA was repositioning one of their international A330s so we were fully lie flat on the short 1-hour hop from CLT to MCO!)
Now arriving in Orlando at 10:30am on Saturday morning, our 14 hours in Orlando became 19 hours. We landed at MCO, traveled to our hotel, took a mid-day nap and then the monorail over to our amazing V&A’s dinner. (Unofficially, we give this place two Michelin stars.)
When most people go to Orlando they’re focused on visiting the Disney theme parks or Universal Studios/Harry Potter and, as a result, oftentimes overlook or can’t squeeze in something like Victoria & Albert’s which is outside the parks. This was a great case where the short time on the ground was actually additive to our enjoyment of a trip since we were able to leisurely enjoy our dinner then go back to our hotel to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from our room, rather than scrambling around in the park and waiting in long lines. (Note for the future: request a higher level room to avoid the parking lot.)
Tune in for our next post where we’ll cover our 3-day weekend trip to Tokyo in Japan Airlines First Class!