Points Miles and Bling (blog) contains referral or affiliate links. The blog receives a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your continued support. Credit Card issuers are not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details, current product information, and Terms and Conditions, click the link included.
In the Points and Miles realm, I usually highlight the aspirational side of travel: the first-class flights, 5-star hotels, fine champagnes, etc., but I rarely talk about the unique experiences that can be made possible with the help of points and miles, which would otherwise be unattainable.
This is a story of how I was able to treat my daughter (Zoe) to the most unique experience of her life, a Taylor Swift concert. It might be the most significant accomplishment after a decade of earning and burning points. It goes a little something like this:
Me: “Let’s listen to something else, Zoe.”
Zoe: “No, Dad, put on Taylor Swift.”
Me: “But it’s been six months now, and it’s all we ever listen to in the car!”
Zoe: “So, what’s wrong with that?”
Me: “I’m tired of it; please listen to something else?”
This has been the ongoing dialogue between Zoe and I for the past year. Yes, that’s right, a year! I’m sick and tired of repeatedly listening to Taylor Swift’s songs in the car. Then, when my wife is also in the car, it’s a double whammy with both of them singing; torture is an understatement.
One day in October 2022, Zoe started playing new songs that I’ve never heard before. It was so refreshing not to listen to the same songs repeatedly. A new album was released? Less than a month later, on November 1, 2022, I caught wind of a concert tour that Taylor Swift was putting on in 2023 across the United States. Note, I do not follow Taylor Swift on Twitter.
Fortunately, my love for Zoe is stronger than my hatred of Taylor Swift, so I thought to myself how special it would be if my wife and I took Zoe to experience her first concert to watch her idol perform, on stage, live, in front of thousands of other “Swifties” just like her. Also, the concert date could nearly coincide with her birthday in June. The idea seemed quite outlandish to spoil her like this. Regardless, I pitched the idea to my wife, who agreed that although this would spoil her, it would be an experience she would never forget. Then she told me, “Find out first if you can get tickets.” I had no idea what the big deal was in buying tickets until later.
Buying Taylor Swift Concert Tickets
I was naïve and did not realize the kind of demand for tickets a Taylor Swift concert could generate. Luckily, my friend Rachel reminded me that Capital One cardholders would have access to presale tickets. I had acquired a Capital One Venture X Visa card about a year prior, so I could leverage this to access the presale tickets; brilliant!
I had about a week before the presale tickets would go on sale, and I had to figure out which city we would travel to for the concert. I use only one criteria to determine this: which cities have direct flights from Ottawa? The answer was New York, Chicago, and Washington. New York would be my first choice, followed by Chicago.
I then spent hours analyzing the stadium charts to try and determine the section I would want to book that would have the best bang for the buck. I took notes so that I would be prepared when the tickets would go on sale.
Stadium Charts from cheaptickets.com
Then, on November 16, I logged onto Ticketmaster, and after some time in queue, I managed to purchase the tickets for the concert in Chicago on June 4, 2023.
Then, two days later, on November 18, news broke of how all concert tickets were sold out at the presale, and none were available for the general public! Ticketmaster cancelled general sale tickets!
It was all over the headlines and the issue even went all the way up to Congress! Below is a timeline summarizing the headlines of events that transpired. If you want to read more about it, here’s the link.
Wow! Did I ever get lucky and have been fortunate to have had a credit card that not only gives me excellent benefits and earns me a minimum of 2X on all spending but also access to presale concert tickets? Had I not spent time and effort into getting US credit cards many years ago, I would have never gotten these tickets at face value.
Booking Flights to the Taylor Swift Concert
Finding flights between Ottawa to Chicago was easy as there is only one carrier that flies direct, which is United. I wanted to avoid Air Canada and others as I didn’t want to deal with connections. In 2023, I have zero faith in North American airlines, especially Air Canada and Westjet, who I’m sure would have caused an Irregular Operation (IRROP) for and lose my bag too.
The direct United flight between Chicago and Ottawa, if booked through Aeroplan, would only cost 10,000 Aeroplan points. This is a great deal, but taxes are slightly high on the Ottawa-Chicago route versus Chicago-Ottawa:
Pricing sourced from aircanada.com
Regardless, this comparison was moot as no award space was available, so I had to purchase the tickets in cash. I opted to book the outbound and return separately and book them as refundable tickets. This is because if award seats become available through Aeroplan, I could then cancel and refund. What I like about United is that refundable fares generally cost very little extra on transborder routes. In the following example, it costs only $56 extra.
I purchased the tickets using my United Travel Bank dollars. I accumulated and continue to accumulate travel bank funds by taking advantage of one of the the airline benefit that many US American Express credit cards offer.
Close to departure, I got an ExpertFlyer alert that award seats had opened on the Chicago-Ottawa flight, so I cancelled and refunded my United ticket and rebooked using Aeroplan. Note that you need to call United to get them to refund to Travel Bank as, by default, the system will issue a flight credit, which is not what you want.
In summary, here is how the flights priced out in the end, per person:
- Ottawa-Chicago: $356
- Chicago-Ottawa 10,000 Aeroplan Points + $75
Lastly, I’ll add that because I have United Silver status, which I acquired as a Marriott Titanium member, I confirmed seats on the cash-paid and Aeroplan tickets by calling United. Then, at T-24 hours, I got free Economy Plus seating for the entire family!
Concert tickets bought. Check. Flights booked. Check. The only thing remaining to secure was accommodation. In hindsight, this should have been the first thing I checked before purchasing the tickets. This is because when I started looking for accommodations in the city, I was stunned to find that every hotel in the core of Chicago either sold out or priced very high; it seems that hotels inflated their prices for that specific concert weekend. Here’s a look at the prices for Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott:
By sheer luck, I discovered that the Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile had availability on points at 32k per night despite the cash rate being $557. Using points was a no-brainer in this case, and in fact, I was able to apply 3 Marriott 35k Free Night Awards for all three nights, which meant the hotel would be fully covered free of cost! The hotel itself was fantastic. It was modern, clean, and situated in the heart of the Magnificent Mile.
I’m glad to have kept multiple Marriott Bonvoy credit cards open to earn these yearly free night awards, as they always seem to provide a greater return than the annual fees paid for them. American Express Canada has a great promotion right now where you can earn elevated 75,000 welcome bonus points and a 35K free night award every year after that.
The Big Surprise & The Taylor Swift Concert
We did not inform Zoe about the tickets until a few hours before the concert. She had no idea why we were in Chicago. She assumed it was just one of our other trips like we always take. When we surprised her, she was utterly speechless and excited like I’d never seen her!
So, how was the concert? Well, it was pretty mesmerizing in opposite ways for me and Zoe. While I was facing the utmost discomfort, surrounded by screaming and singing Swifties, I also got joy at the same time watching Zoe enjoy herself to the fullest! It indeed was a magical evening for her!
I am attaining the unattainable. This is what points and miles have given me. After years of flying first-class and staying in 5-star hotels, only my daughter’s happiness can make me smile. This is exactly what I accomplished by taking Zoe to a surprise Taylor Swift concert. I leveraged the full power and knowledge of points and miles I’ve acquired from others in my circle, including experts from our PMB Team: Anshul, Allan, Mohammed, and Dalia.
For my own sake, I hope I don’t have to endure another Taylor Swift concert, and I can ‘Shake It Off’ all the embarrassing emotions I felt during those gruelling 3 hours. But oh wait, Taylor Swift just announced international concert dates in 2024…..