Using the Southwest Companion Pass Card to Its Fullest

6137177888_7593112732_zA couple months ago, you may remember that I posted about the Travel Credit Cards You Need to Pay Attention To Right Now, and extolled the virtues of getting two Southwest Airlines Visa cards in order to get yourself 95% of the way to earning a Companion Pass.

Always a fan of taking my own advice, that’s what we did, and a couple weeks ago we got the long-anticipated email telling us that we’d earned CP status through December 2016.  Woohoo!

So now what?  Now that I’ve earned this legendary status in the travel hacking world, what do we plan to do with it?

Well, the answer to that question goes back quite a ways – you see, we began planning our 2015/2016 travel roughly a year ago so that we would know what credit card offers to go after. Here’s what we knew when we started thinking about it around 18 months ago:

  • We visit the hubby’s family in Kansas once a year (either for Thanksgiving or the 4th of July) regardless of other travel plans.  Every odd-numbered year, we also spend Christmas there.
  • We wanted to see Alaska, and soon, since climate change is killing it.
  • We had two friends who were engaged and would be getting married in California in 2015.
  • We want to try to take two of our nieces, who will both be graduating high school in 2017, to somewhere in Europe.

With that framework, two things quickly became obvious: one was that we would need a hefty stockpile of points to get four people to Europe by 2017, and second, that we were looking at at least four domestic trips in 2015 already.  Knowing that we’d be doing a fair bit of domestic travel, it made sense to go after the Southwest Companion Pass again. And the two year period while we were enjoying cheap/free domestic travel with Southwest would also provide a good timeframe for stockpiling other points that could get us to Europe.

Another interesting development popped up though, just as we were within grasp of the card – Southwest announced vague but menacing sounding “changes” coming soon to the Rapid Rewards program, set to take effect on April 17, 2015.  Not knowing what these will be, it also became imperative that we book as much travel as possible using the 110,000 points we’d racked up to earn the CP before that date.

So here’s what we’ve booked so far: (Click “Continue Reading” to see our plans)

May –

  • AUS to LAX Roundtrip- Wedding #1 (17,582 RR Points)
  • AUS to LAX Roundtrip- Wedding #2 (12,502 RR Points)

July –

  • AUS to MCI Roundtrip- 4th of July Trip to Visit Family in Kansas (29,108 RR Points)

August –

  • AUS to PWM; PWM to PHL; PHL to AUS – We’ve never been to Portland, Maine or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Knowing that it will be nothing but 100+ days in Austin then, we decided a little getaway was in order.  The middle segment (which will actually be BOS to PHL) is on Jetblue, not Southwest. (17,582 RR Points)

October –

  • AUS to BNA Roundtrip – Weekend getaway to Nashville (19,131 RR Points)

December – 

  • AUS to MCI Roundtrip – Odd-Year Christmas trip to Kansas to visit family (Not yet booked – estimated at 30,000 RR Points)

Total RR Point Spend: 125,905

Total Cost of Equivalent Wanna Get Away Tickets for 2 People: $4,677

That will wipe out just about all of our existing Southwest points (we had about 16k points in the account before we went for the Companion Pass). But seeing as how we’re getting about 3.7 cents per point, it’s a great deal.  We also have plenty of transferrable Chase Ultimate Rewards points sitting in reserve that we can tap into for next year. On the agenda for 2016?

February – ski trip with friends in Colorado, via Denver

May – Positioning flights to Seattle for Alaska cruise vacation

September – Cancun or Aruba…we haven’t decided yet

November – Thanksgiving trip to Kansas to see family

So, that’ll probably take an additional 100-125k points (but we’ll see what this upcoming devaluations does.) And where will that leave us?  We’ll have gotten to see two of our dear friends get married, we’ll have made three trips home to visit family, and we’ll have taken five additional vacations to new & exciting destinations.

And it will all be free.  Ya got to admit, that’s pretty fantastic.

Header image photo credit: Flickr user visualistimages under a Creative Commons license.

Whitney