It pays to ask
My original ticket, using miles, instantly tilted me. It would have taken 12 hours, by flying from Atlanta to Chicago to Washington-Dulles and then to Las Vegas.
Luckily, Gnome wanted to go to Bloggers a few days early. So I decided to see what could be done. Online, it looked like I'd have to pay $150 for any change to my schedule.
I found a nonstop (!) ticket on Delta for $325.
So, I could:
1). Try to get my free United ticket refunded for $150 and buy the Delta tix. ($325).
2). Eat the free ticky and buy the Delta tix ($325).
This created a dilemma of Freakonomics proportions - is it worth it to pay money for miles you've already accrued?
In the end, I decided to call United to see if I could make a change and pay $150, saving the $325. Of course, my itinerary sucked but it's better than paying extra money.
So I called and was happy to find out that my new itinerary cut out Chicago from the trip, saving me about 9 hours in the process.
And it cost nothing to make the change. So I guess it always pays to ask, even when you think the outcome is certain.