Have a travel goal! That is one of the first things you need to think about before you start collecting points and miles.
If you are reading this blog, you are interested in learning how to travel better for less money. The best way to accomplish that is by using points and miles. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they get started is not focusing their earning towards a goal. Where do you want to travel? How would you like to get there?
Focusing your travel goals will make it easier for you to reach them. Do you want to take your whole family to Hawaii in economy class? Then you’ll need to collect miles that will get you there. The same goes if you want to take that bucket list trip to southeast Asia in business class. Having a boatload of Southwest miles won’t get you there because that is not a place where Southwest flies. Do you see a trend?
Sharon and I tend to have our travel goals set for the next 1-3 years. By October of any year, I have to know where we are planning to go the following year because that’s when I have to block my vacation time with my job. On top of that we usually have an idea of where we want to go the year after that. These plans can change due to circumstances, like when Sharon got us tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London. I had to make that trip work and fortunately I had the right miles in the bank to get us there.
You need to decide if your travel goals are domestic or international. Do you want to fly in economy or splurge for the fancy business class seats? Would you want to stay in a basic hotel for a long time or would you rather go all out for the fanciest place available for just a night or two? It is also important to know that if you are collecting points or miles, you can’t look too far out. The airlines and hotels can reset the value of points without notice. Would you want to be 5 days away from booking your dream trip using American Airlines miles and see this?
You need to be able to earn enough points to take a trip within a reasonable amount of time. You also need to earn miles that are reasonably possible to redeem. Say an airline offers the trip you want for 50,000 miles. However, they never release any of the seats at that price except for 2 days of the year. Unless your schedule is extremely flexible, those miles are useless.
Personally, I have miles stashed away for all of the major US Airlines (Delta, American and United). I am also working through my pile of Southwest miles for our trips around the US. There are advantages of having some miles on both but I tend to hoard one over the other.
Keep reading this blog to find out what miles are best for your travel plans. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any specific question you would like me to answer in a future post.