Instead, I booked through AmEx. This results in a higher "gross fare," [both airline 3rd-party booking fees and AmEx's fee] but I could then immediately redeem--regardless of minimums or quotas--the nearly 20,000 Membership Rewards points we'd accumulated against the grand total, bringing the total family fare under $300.
We'll all earn United miles for the trip...but somehow I doubt we'll actually end up being able to ever redeem them.
I'm very thankful for end-of-year bonuses that mean Pam and I can attend both Arisia and the PA Horse Expo without feeling excessively guilty about the expense. In my ninth year with HPTi, and still loving it.
[Which thought brings me to a "plug:" Are you an IT professional holding or eligible to apply for at least a US Secret clearance? If so, <face emulation="kitten">"I can haz ur rezoomay?"</face> You can search http://www.hpti.com/careers to take a look at known immediate openings. If you're not eligible or looking for such a position, do you know someone that would be willing to be referred? Non-employees are eligible for our external referral program. A succesful hire from your recommendation is worth $500 to you even though you don't work for us!]