Video recap of our challenge so far, where did the challenge idea come from, and reader analysis on Nick’s “big mistake – Saturday Selection


I’m sure all of you are well-aware by now of our ongoing travel challenge “Flying by the Seat of our Points”. These challenges are an all-hands-on-deck effort which we scheme about for months and months. And like all good things, it’s a community effort! Today’s Saturday Selection is dedicated to the ways our community helps pull these challenges off.

Our 2024 team challenge Flying by the Seat of our Points tested our last minute award booking skills with a series of last minute travel challenges assigned and judged by Stephen and Carrie. Over the span of a week, Greg, Nick, and Tim used their knowledge, points, elite standings, and even upgrade instruments to tackle each challenge with the best combination of frugality and luxury they could, all before the next assignments were given. Final Scores: Tim won this challenge by the seat of his points! Calculations
Check out our contestant journals, recap videos, and more here. And follow us on Instagram, YouTube, and this blog to find out about our future challenges!

Our readers actually helped us come up with this challenge idea..

After 3 Cards, 3 Continents, we asked for ideas about what our next challenge should be. We got so much great feedback that, for the first time in awhile, we had a harder time deciding which challenge to do than we did thinking of a challenge concept. The responses were great and we’ll be using them for years to come, I imagine.

This particular idea started from a comment made by reader Anthony Fantino on that post…though it was just one small piece of what he said that got our gears turning. He said…

You should do a Amazing Race style competition with a certain destination as the goal such as Singapore or Antarctica, especially if you want to focus on points and miles for South America, Antarctica as your final destination would be pretty neat. There has to be certain parameters such as you can’t fly non stop to the destination obviously. Set a certain limit to the distance per flight. For example your first flight can only be a distance of 5,000 miles for a destination like Singapore or far less for Antarctica as the final destination more like 3,000 for the first flight, and shorter distances for the next flights and also limit the amount of miles redemptions per flight and limit of the total number of flights. This might mean some participants might have to resort to other transportation, train, bus, rickshaws! An Amazing race style competition to Antarctica going through South America should be your next challenge! You could even do the same fantasy style draft like your did in the last competition.

The Amazing Race concept really got us brainstorming…and eventually, through lots of ideation and iteration, that became the Flying by the Seat of our Points challenge.

Twin powers unite!

Editing footage is a big piece of my role during these challenges and it’s a lot of work, but luckily I’m a twin and that means I can just double my efforts whenever I want by eliciting the twin super power of being two people. For the last several years, my sister has helped me crank out footage for the annual challenges. For example this year Annie has created wrap-up videos of each Stage.

Stage 1 Wrap Up: Getting to LA

Stage 2 Wrap Up: Getting from LA to Croatia, Switzerland, and Morocco…

And of course, we love reading the fascinating tips and analysis from our readers throughout the challenge.

David Brown ran an analysis of Nick’s decision to speculatively position himself in ORD for instance…

I was bored and was wondering if Nick’s big mistake was rushing to get out of LA and flying to Chicago, so I checked a few things (all great circle miles):

Nick: LAX-RAK nonstop is 6045 miles. He actually flew LAX-ORD-DFW-MAD-RAK at 8172 miles

Greg: LAX-ZAG is 6255 miles nonstop. His actual route of LAX-YVR-AMS-ZAG is 6569 miles

Tim: LAX-ZRH is 5938 miles. His actual route of LAX-SEA-FRA-BSL-ZRH is 6287 miles

Nick added a huge 2000 miles to the trip while Tim and Greg were only about 300 extra miles. A hypothetical LAX-DFW-MAD-RAK route is only 6861 miles, so the ORD stop added over 1300 miles to the trip. I understand why Nick rushed off, but interested to know if he would do this again vs. spending more time searching first.

Be sure to visit our Instagram channel for…nearly live updates from our travelers and thanks for all the ways you all participate!

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Carrie deserves MVP for the excellent recap videos! So entertaining, great job!

David Brown

I just want to add that although I was critical of Nick’s decision to head to Chicago without a clear plan, I know how difficult it can be to put a plan together flying eastbound in a time crunch. I totally understand his decision and might have made the same decision myself.

I used to be an airline employee and would fly non-revenue (standby). Many years ago, my parents and I did not get on a SFO-MSP flight around noon so we caught an early afternoon SFO-DTW flight an hour or two later. This was still in the age of printed paper schedules and about an hour into the flight, we realized that we would not get into Detroit early enough to catch a flight back to MSP that same evening.

Alternatively, a few years ago, I was traveling MSP-MEX. Because of a stupid decision on my part, I ended up stuck in CVG with no space on upcoming flights to ATL that day or the next. I ended up flying CVG-SLC-LAX-GDL-MEX. There were nonstops to MEX the next day from both SLC and LAX, but by working my way west, I was able to catch a LAX-GDL redeye that I knew was wide open. I was a couple hours late to work in Mexico City but much better than missing a day.

Bottom line is that there is so much more flexibility in last minute travel when going west. It is incredibly difficult to figure out last minute flights when moving east.