Drugs!? I Went for the Miles!

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So most people just think I’m crazy when they hear I’ve crossed the country for a day or the globe for a weekend, but unfortunately, some people think even worse. I guess it’s something that should occur to me, and yet I’m both surprised and offended whenever people question if I’m couriering illicit substances.

The first inkling of this I really had was when I went to Taipei for a day. The US customs officer looks at my passport stamps and customs form and said, you went for one day? What was your business there? Are you transporting anything for someone?

Now I, unlike some of my traveling companions, have never been one to give terse answers even if it’s none of their business. I, I gush.

“Oh my goodness!! We got a mistake fare — $98 to Taiwan in BUSINESS CLASS!! Unfortunately when I was booking it I forgot about the dateline, so rather than the overnight we thought we were getting, we were only there for 8 hours. But it was great! We ate dumplings, we saw the coolest geo-park. Why didn’t we go for longer? Well I couldn’t take that much time off work and I figured if I liked it, I’d find a way to back. Have you been?? You should go!!”

At which point the dazed officer handed me back my passport and told me to have a nice day.

When United Twares came up for <$700 for Australia, I went twice to make United 1K status. One time for one night, the next for two. I took an all-day wine tour and when the guide heard we were basically only there for that one day, he point blank asked if we smuggled drugs. I laughed and was like “No, it’s a mileage run!” He had never heard of such a thing before, but by the time we got to the first winery he had heard more than enough and just thought we were crazy rather than lawbreakers.

Some immigration people do know about mileage runs, as Jeanne discovered in her 1 hr in the Bahamas ( I’ve noticed the closer to the end of the year it gets the more recognition in their eyes when you say mileage run) and others don’t care — like the customs guy who made the mistake of asking why we only had one suitcase between us on our trip to Jamaica. Jeanne almost had to pull me away from telling him the whole story.

It really hit home this weekend though, when I was pulled over by an Alaskan state trooper (yes, I went again. Details to follow shortly.) I’d was unaware that the speed limit had changed from 65 to 55 and I’d been going over 65. I didn’t know that the speed limit had changed until he informed me at my window. So while he was running my license I was fighting the tears that were forming over the thought that I would have a huge ticket to pay, I’d ruined my mini vacation, and I’d been “driving recklessly.”

He came back to the window and asked me how long I was staying. Eyes brimming I replied “one day.” He looked startled and asked why? I was like “I got a really cheap fare and I really wanted to do <hiccup> the flight over Denali and see Alaska in the late summer.” He thought that was crazy and then asked if I happened to be dropping anything off or picking anything up in Talkeetna? Tears welling I replied confusedly in the negative.

He then said that he wasn’t accusing me or anything, but since I was just in Alaska for one day and I was coming from a town that was holding a “Bluegrass Festival” at the moment, he would be inclined to wonder if I had anything to do with drugs. I stared at him for a minute and then the tears just poured down “It’s really embarrassing, but I just really want to be a Platinum on US Airways, and I need to fly a bunch of miles <sob> so I thought I’d come back to Alaska to do the flight tour <sniff>…and last time I didn’t have enough time to fit it in…”

“I’ve never heard of anything like that. Flying here is going to get you status on US Airways?”

At this point, I was totally embarrassed that I couldn’t stop crying and at the same time was feeling the need to explain the US Airways preferred status trial. “Yes, <sob> if fly 22,500 miles in 90 days, then I’ll be a plat and get free upgrades, etc. <sniff sniff> I’m going to make plat on the way home. And I just fell in love with Alaska last fall and really wanted to come back <choke>”

He, nice soul that he was, just continued shaking his head and saying that was crazy. Then he pulls something out of his breast pocket and hands me his business card and said “Next time you come, let me know and I’ll make sure you go home with some fish.” I warbled out a thank you and attempted unsuccessfully to pull myself together. One more reason to love Alaska so much though.

And it did make me realize that most people aren’t familiar with mileage runs, or as willing to write it off as harmless craziness like my friends and family, so I need to make sure I maintain posession of my bags at all times!

Do you have a good mileage run story?


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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.


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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel


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