It being an odd-numbered year, the husband's family gets us for The Tree-Shaped Holiday, and mine gets us for the cranberry-flavored one. Although it's not too late to get adequate plane tickets (it's never cheap to fly to Denver, "Southwest effect" notwithstanding), it is too late to use non-peak frequent flyer miles.
However, in researching same, I tripped over a fabulous alternative: Amtrak.
Normally, this would be ludicrous. You see, round-trip coach train fare, Seattle to Denver and back for two adults, is $660. Even now, flying's cheaper, and when you contemplate a 50-hour trip, including two nights, in chairs (even the extra roomy train seats), well, blech! If we can't get a sleeper car, then "dream on" is exactly what we wouldn't do!
But with a sleeper car, it's a whole 'nother story. We have the time, and what a fun way to travel. A little room for ourselves, a big picture window, interesting scenery, an electrical outlet (120V normal wall socket!!) for the laptops, room to stroll around, and no airport! How cool is that! Very, I tell you, very!
Alas, even liquid nitrogen isn't cool enough to justify the $1867 fare for travelling that way.
But there's an out! You can redeem Alaska Airlines frequent flyer miles for Amtrak travel. Passage for two in a sleeper car on the Coast Starlight is 30,000 miles. Now, 25k miles gets me a plane ticket for one person, so 30k for two in a sleeper car is a fabulous deal!
But there's a catch. I said "Coast Starlight." Alaska's arrangement with Amtrak only works on travel on the West Coast. To get from Seattle to Denver on the train means taking the Coast Starlight to Sacramento, and the California Zephyr to Denver. Alaska Miles can't get me passage on the Zephyr.
But there's an out! One can use frequent flyer miles from Continental or Midwest for Amtrak travel, including the Zephyr!
But there's a catch. I don't have any miles with either of those two airlines. Or Diner's Club points. I do have American Express Membership Rewards points, but only one tenth the required amount. They're not ideal, anyway. Midwest, Continental, and Diner's Club points must be transferred to an Amtrak account (at a 1:1 ratio) before they can be used to buy tickets. AmEx Points must first become Continental points (at 1:1); they don't transfer directly. There might not be enough time for one transfer, let alone two, at this point.
Many (all?) rewards programs specifically forbid one from selling one's miles or points. Woe! Woe is me! If only I knew somebody who'd just use their Diner's Club points, their Continental OnePass miles, their Midwest Miles, to provide me with that Amtrak ticket!
I'm sure, in a totally unrelated but equally generous fit of giving, I might in turn give some completely random person an airline ticket, or transfer miles, or otherwise express the mood of this holiday season. If that random person might happen to be the same one who'd unexpectedly purchased Amtrak tickets for somebody recently, well, hey, the universe is full of coincidences, no?
In an entirely unrelated vein, let me just mention my new email address: email@example.com