I recently returned from Frequent Traveler University in Seattle. I love going to these events because you get a sense of the pulse of the miles and points universe. I really enjoy talking to people who are as passionate as I am about points and miles. It’s great to see the people behind the websites in person and they’ll often share tips they don’t write about on their blogs.
During the closing session Q&A, someone asked the panel how they deal when a spouse/significant other doesn’t share your obsession with miles and points. Three of the panelists chimed in that there is always going to be someone who’s in charge of the miles, points, credit card applications and trip planning and then there will be the one who just wants to stop hearing about it all. This, by the way, was from some of the biggest travel bloggers out there. Tiffany from One Mile At A Time shared how her husband will not call a bank for a credit card and Stephan from Rapid Travel Chai told how he has to schedule a time when he’s allowed to discuss travel plans with his wife. While they were telling their stories, I felt their pain.
Sharon and I have been traveling with miles and points for almost fifteen years. Over the years, Sharon has had to learn that I’ll randomly bring up some plans for a trip or credit card (Note from Sharon: #rolleyes). Meanwhile, I’ve had to learn that she really doesn’t care about the details but, given limited guidelines, will do her part to help us earn extra points and miles.
I’ve learned through experience that traveling as a couple brings a certain number of challenges to booking award tickets. Playing this game as a couple also has several advantages. I wouldn’t trade anything for the experiences we’ve had on our travels but I feel it’s necessary for anyone who’s going to try to take on this responsibility to understand the thankless number of hours you’re going to spend making trips work for the two of you.
I often read articles about people booking an award seat on Lufthansa or Singapore in first class last minute. It’s easy to find that space, if you’re looking for just one person. When you need to find two tickets, good luck. I’ve put many of those “dream” tickets out of my mind and focus on things that are possible.
It’s always possible to find those once in a lifetime tickets for two, it’s happened to me…. TWICE, but I’m not holding my breath. I was told that finding two first class tickets to Japan on ANA would happen when H*LL froze over but here are pictures of us in our first true lie flat seats back in 2009.
So it pays to shoot for the moon – even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars and able to get way more than you would have otherwise.
However many thousands of miles that flight cost in 2009 (I want to say 120,000 miles plus $582 in taxes?), cost double that for the two of us. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Well I forgot a little because I had them open a bottle of Shōchū and they insisted on refilling my glass for the whole flight.
If you need to spend twice as many miles for trips, you’re also able to rack up miles twice as fast from credit card sign up bonuses. Since we both have our own businesses, we’re able to double dip on all the good personal and business card offers. Nick from The Frequent Miler refers to this as “playing the game in Two Player mode” – I love that analogy.
Keeping track of all of those credit card accounts takes time. I’ve been known to miss a payment or two (only by a day or two but it still triggers a late fee). Since Sharon will only call a bank if she has to, I need to make sure it’s worth it to plead about waiving the fee. It has to be worth what we’re going to get out of the call and I also need to decide if it’s worth it for our marriage.
Your traveling partner occasionally appreciates it when you’re able to pull off that travel unicorn. She might have been able to get us tickets to see Harry Potter but I was able to get award night rooms for the trip. While it costs twice as much to book flights, hotels are the same price if you’re booking for one or two people, you’re also able to leverage hotel points from both people to stay in some amazing places.
When your travel partner manages to get tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in New York over Thanksgiving, she expects that you’ll be able to find flights and hotels using points. If you were wondering, I did using a combination of British Airways Avios, Delta Skymiles and Marriott Rewards points 🙂
By having two people playing, we’re able to leverage a combination of cards and programs. The web connecting our accounts looks like the web in Hiro’s apartment from Heroes (yet another obscure geek reference).
It’s not that bad. I have the Amex Platinum so I get the benefits like SPG, Marriott and Hilton Gold status. I also have the IHG card that gives us platinum status and a free night at any IHG hotel every year. Sharon has the Citi Prestige that gets us the fourth night free benefit on paid hotel stays. She also has the Marriott Business card which gives her a free night each year and SPG Business card that gives us lounge access when staying at Sheraton hotels. I have the Sapphire Reserve from Chase to earn 3x points on travel and dining and to get the 1.5 cents per point value on redemptions through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Mall. I’m also a authorized user on her Sapphire Preferred card that allows us an easy way to transfer points between Ultimate Rewards Accounts. I have an Hyatt account and she doesn’t so I need to be able to transfer points from her account to mine and that’s the easiest way to accomplish that.
So, I take it back. It is really that bad. I’ve been doing this for years and our account sign ups and links are layered on top of another. If I was starting over, I’d do it differently but it’s too late to go back now.
That’s just a glimpse of the trials and tribulations of a couple booking miles and points. From the one doing most of the planning, it’s totally been worth it. From the first international award we booked to visit Japan:
to the most recent trip to New York to sing in Carnegie Hall:
I wouldn’t have traded a second of it.
I just hope Sharon remembers that the next time I ask her to call a bank to get a retention offer on a credit card (Note from Sharon: UUUUGGGGHHHH!!!!).
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