Mileage Runs: The Ultimate Savvy Traveler's Quest

How to effectively cram in thousands of air miles in 24 hours flat.

By , Contributor

The luxury experience in flight is easier to achieve with elite status.

There comes a time each year in every frequent flyer’s life when, upon realizing it’s already mid-September, one must make a serious decision. Careful scrutiny and countless calculations are pored over, maps are opened, measurements are made, program rules are read through and segment-vs-mile math problems are worked on until eyes are weary, and it is only after a strict method of considerable planning that the resulting plan of action emerges — the mileage run.

“A series of flights taken in a very short amount of time, solely for the purpose of accumulating frequent flyer miles, with a blatant disregard for the destinations” is WebFlyer’s definition. My definition? A childlike flight of fancy that could lead just about anywhere, the more random the better, where there’s always a pot of gold at the end of the flight path in the form of some sort of airline elite status qualification. And for miles junkies like me, that’s better than winning the lottery.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m slightly obsessed with air miles. Of course I have my preferred program of choice and I’m nearly at the highest peak for the year. However, once that’s achieved it then becomes like a strategic, more adrenaline-fueled game where I go for at least entry level elite status on yet another program, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s stick to the current challenge at hand: 9,201 miles until Executive Platinum, three NYC area airports in my reach, and a world at my fingertips. What to do…

In the past I’ve found myself hightailing it to LA on a morning flight, spending the day window shopping and lunching only to return on a redeye. I’ve jaunted to Seattle for a hefty feast of king crab legs topped off by a steamy cup of hot Ovaltine and a sweet treat at Top Pot Donuts before turning right back around, 4,820 miles richer. I’ve even headed to Atlanta, gulped a coffee in the terminal and boarded the return in 90 minutes flat to collect that last remaining 1,500 needed for my qualification.

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And then there was my domestic pièce de résistance — NY-Chicago-Dallas-San Francisco-Portland and back over a weekend, zipping through some of the best local eateries in town along the way for my 12,000 point capper. All in the name of the almighty mile. This year will most likely take me to a country far far away...more on that to come.

It’s not always easy. When creating a mileage run one must weigh the costs and benefits. It’s a great deal of extra time on a plane, generally in a compact time frame. It’s an extra cost, especially when one wants to be a bit extravagant and add in a few hotel nights. It can also be awkward; sometimes the best flights with the lowest fares don’t exactly fall on convenient times.

And then, it can be pressurized, in the case of those who have their epiphany far too late in the dark days of December, and push their luck over the festive season. Sure, it adds an extra jolt of excitement, but generally winds up hitting your wallet hard as well. However, for the benefits you get in return, not the least of which is the knowledge that there will almost always be an upgraded seat waiting for you no matter where you travel for the whole following year, it’s worth the investment.

I love my mileage runs. They open doors for me to places I likely wouldn’t normally visit if not for a connecting flight en route to somewhere else, and in a strange way they make me feel accomplished. It’s almost like getting to the end of a video game, my silly quest for the Million Mile level. I really want to get there, but once I do, will it be as much fun anymore? Well, if not, there’s always another mileage program to tackle, and a million destinations yet to discover.

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A child of parents both heavily involved in the travel industry, Gabriella Ribeiro Truman was born to do her job. By day she owns and operates Trumarketing, a boutique sales, marketing and PR firm servicing tourism-related clients from around the world. Also a frequent blogger, she produces The Explorateur…

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