Stacking the Deck in My Favor When Traveling & Still Losing

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wrong travel decision
Photo by Steven Depolo.

Knowing Too Much

Part of the reason we play this game is to travel nicer, better and faster. We pursue elite status the old fashioned way, match or fast track when we can and get credit cards to give us lounge access so we can do it all as comfortably as possible.

This week I had to make a very last minute trip to Northern California to take care of some personal business that is now resolved. Trying to book last minute travel is tough any time of the year, but it gets much worse around Christmas. Luckily I was able to find a decent flight up to California on Boutique Air. (Review coming soon.)

When I started to look at my options for coming back to Vegas from Sacramento, I had a couple of choices. Southwest is the only airline that flies from SMF-LAS directly and they were charging $295 or 26,128 points for the one-way flight. Ouch! The next best option was American at ~$185 or 11,500 ThankYou points since I have a Citi Prestige. (It also earns about 2,200 redeemable miles.)

The American flight wasn’t ideal though since it connects in PHX (on old US Airways metal) and doesn’t arrive into Vegas until late. I had wanted a much earlier flight. Southwest of course was quick, direct and arrived on time. But I have Executive Platinum status with American, so I ultimately chose them. I believe I chose wrong.

wrong travel decision

Stacking the Deck

Before I booked the American Airlines flight, I checked the earlier possible itineraries on the airline from SMF-LAS. This included an earlier PHX route and two earlier LAX possibilities. All of them had space for me to do a same day standby. This doesn’t cost me anything as an Executive Platinum member.

Unfortunately, when I awoke this morning I realized things were not going my way. Delays in the morning caused all of the flights for today to overbook quickly. Despite getting on standby for the earlier Phoenix flight, I was left out in the cold at the gate. They were so full in fact, that they had to request volunteers to bump themselves.

Shifting Focus

I am now confirmed on my original flight and my first class upgrade has cleared from SMF-PHX. It isn’t the worst way in the world to travel, but my mind continues to work. With all of the flights being full, I am assuming the same “volunteer bump” scenario might happen on my later flight. Since I am not getting home early anyway, I figure a $500 voucher might be a good way to make this all seem worth it.

Lesson Learned

My brother isn’t a frequent traveler and when faced with the same choices as me, he decided to choose Southwest. He’ll be getting home about 6 hours before me and will be able to go about his day. Despite all of the stacking of the deck, all of my knowledge of awards programs, lounge memberships and travel in general, he won I think.


Sometimes life teaches us lessons at unexpected times. The truth is I can use this time at the airport to do a little work and I am flying in first class which is more comfortable, but despite my best efforts, I really failed to accomplish my goals. I was too smart and too cheap for my own good. Yes I saved a ton of points/money, but why do I work so hard to accumulate points if I’m not going to spend them?

It is critical in life to evaluate our decisions, goals and ultimate direction. The same is true in this hobby. Sometimes knowing too much and having the deck stacked too far in your favor isn’t a good thing. As they say, live and learn.


  1. So, if there was no early delay that mucked up the rest of AA’s schedule that day (emphasis), what would the title of this post be?

  2. Good story bro. The topic of “Knowing Too Much” is actually really critical on this post and should force people to be more self aware of their own actions.

    When you are too smart for your own good, I have found that you tend to make a series of decisions which may end up being highly YMMV when it wasnt supposed to be. This is true for all facets of life.

    Quick example: Wanted to get something something on sale for $200 when MSRP was $250, but still didnt want to pay the advertised price. So tried to stack hella crap like coupons, gift cards, CC points, various bonuses, portals, etc etc to make the price $100. What a deal right? Well… not when by the time you got around to executing all your “smart ideas”, the item was sold out.

    Luckily, I can wait for next time, but what if I needed it ASAP for a special someone??

    I would feel so stupid.


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