As points become harder to acquire and quick to expire, the price in points for a ticket continues to rise, blackout dates block key travel windows and fees and tax charges for "free" tickets become more common. You have to work harder and be smarter to cash in on past travel for future adventures.
Over the past year I've done my fair share of flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles. In the process, I have figured out how to make the treks as seamless and cost-effective as possible through trial and error.
Racking up miles may feel like clipping coupons, but knocking down the cost of airfare is one less barrier to discovering the world. You'll be glad you held up the check-out line with your thousands of pudding cups like a senior citizen when boarding that flight the fuck out of here.
As the airlines continually find new ways to tinker with programs, holding out for the trip of a lifetime you may never take could end up costing you more than taking a free trip or two to somewhere more modest.