Trip Report to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Intro
We wanted a taste of Mexico in the Spring time that was accessible and touristy. Gasp! Did I say touristy? For years we had mocked traditional tourists with their planned excursions and all-inclusive packages. Taking a cue from the Devil’s Advocate (a contrarian column), I wanted to experience what
the hype is we’ve been missing out on. So we targeted the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. There were direct, relatively short flights from SFO, great weather, and an abundance of recommendations from friends.
The first question was: What airlines fly there and what are the prices and perks?
My investigation returned Southwest, Alaska, American, Virgin, and United.
- Southwest (WN) travel time is six hours (with 1 stop in LAX) and costs approx $600 or ~39k points. Since we have the Companion Pass, WN is basically buy one get one free.
- Alaska (AS) travels nonstop SFO-PVR. The fares are around $500 and I had recently been status matched to MVP Gold, which gives us better upgrade options. From the AS credit card, I also had a one-time-use companion pass.
- American Airlines (AA) and Virgin America (VX) has one stop or nonstop respectively. I can transfer my Citi Thank You points to VX. Total travel time between 3.5 – 5 hours. Approx $600, but I don’t have status or perks with either airline.
- Although United (UA) had a direct flight, I ignored them for this trip because I’m not a fan of their short-haul soft or hard products. I also recently let my elite status expire, so Econ+ seating cost extra.
Upon reviewing the options, AS came out to be the top choice.
In a market where the cash fares are about the same, I prioritize convenience (non stop) and hard product (WN and AS have good seats).
The elite status with Alaska also influenced my decision, given that complimentary upgrades for my flight times were ideal (mid-week) and AS prioritizes upgrades mostly according to seniority (time of purchase). The calculations turn out to be true as I will share in my next post – getting bumped further increased the value of the flight.
What about using points?
I could have used points for any of those flights, but the CPM wasn’t high for WN (sometimes it can be very good) and I already earmarked AA, AS, and VX points for another trip. With the AS companion pass, the total price for two came out to be less than $700, non stop, during peak spring break times. Not too shabby, and later on I further reduced my expense by using Yapta price monitoring.
In my next post, I will share our experience at the Air France/SkyTeam Lounge in SFO and on the flight to PVR. I will share our hotel planning experience after that, so grab a piña colada and come back for the next post!