One FlyerTalker says it worked for him, spending around $5,593 to commute to the University of California, Berkeley from his home in Southern California to complete a Master’s program.
Collecting Points and Miles Results in Major Savings by Flying over Renting
In March 2022, FlyerTalker 985X was accepted to the Mechanical Engineering program in Transportation Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. With this, he faced a choice: Either temporarily move to Berkeley to go through the eight-month program or try to find a way to commute back-and-forth from his home in the Los Angeles area.
At the time, 985X told the FlyerTalk Forums student housing around Berkeley cost around $1,600 for single before utilities. According to Zillow, the median rent in the city is now $2,975 across all bedroom counts and property types. Even at his lower estimate, a year of rent near the college would cost $19,200.
Instead of paying the rent and temporarily upheaving his life, he came up with a better idea: Use his cache of over 850,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles to make regular flights to school. Over the length of his program, the frequent flyer-student says he spent a total of $5,592 out-of-pocket on his travels. In turn, he used 407,500 Alaska Mileage Plan miles, 113,213 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards miles, 5,500 United Airlines MileagePlus miles, and 6,500 Avianca LifeMiles. Holding elite status with both Alaska and Southwest, he was able to use their policies to make same-day changes or cancel flights to accommodate his schedule.
Even though he spent a combined total of 52 days commuting, 985X writes on the FlyerTalk Forums all of the travel was worth it. Even with commuting, he was able to keep his home in Los Angeles, and complete a Master’s program in an area of study he loves.
“My friends told me the biggest difference between them and me is they will think about some crazy stuff and that’s about it, but I will actually do it,” he writes. “It takes a lot of research, planning, self-discipline, dedication, and my passion in transportation & aviation to make this commute possible, without missing any classes. This is probably one of the craziest things I’ve done, and I’m glad I planned it out, executed it, and never gave up.”
His perseverance is paying off in multiple ways. In addition to completing higher education, Alaska gifted him a one-year Flight Pass Pro Subscription, allowing him to travel across the West Coast at least six times over the next year.
As for his future, the flyer said on Reddit he plans to return to his former employer in Los Angeles with his new degree in hand. However, he also told Alaska Airlines he would not be opposed to working in the aviation industry in the future.
Read about the whole adventure on the FlyerTalk Forums!
Source: frugal travel guy