If there’s one thing you should do before you start gathering points and miles, it’s making sure you have a goal. That goal will be different for everyone. Some people might want to travel in business or first class for the first time ever. Others could be looking for a way to make their honeymoon or anniversary trip one that they’ll never forget by staying at a fancy resort for a week. Or maybe you just want to take the entire family on vacation to Orlando and need to save some money (because theme park tickets are so expensive).
For each of those trips, it’s necessary to earn different types of reward points. Whether it’s hotel points, a flexible point from a bank that’s transferrable to various programs, or even a card that earns cash back, all of them are useful for different kinds of travel. The points can also be useless if you choose the wrong type for your needs. A cashback card isn’t going to get you a first-class ticket, well not in most cases.
Goal setting isn’t easy. You have to sit down and decide what you want. A simple way to think about your goal is to break it down into three questions.
Questions To Ask When Making A Goal
- Where do you want to travel?
- How would you like to get there?
- Where do you want to stay when you get there?
Do you want to take your whole family to Hawaii in economy class to stay at the Disney Vacation Club timeshare? You’re going to focus on ways to get airfare that usually has plenty of award availability in economy class.
What if you want to take that bucket list trip to southeast Asia in business class. Focusing on earning miles with an airline that partners with other airlines flying in the region, like Star Alliance members, will make your trip a possibility.
If you want to travel to London and stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, you’ll have to collect Marriott Bonvoy points.
Sharon and I try to have at least an idea of our travel goals for the next 1-3 years. I’m forced to think of our trips for the following year by November. That deadline is because I need to block my vacation time with my job.
I have enough points for our trips in 2020, so I’m already looking at 2021. I don’t have specific awards in mind, and there’s a reason for that.
Don’t Plan Too Far Ahead
It’s also important to know, if you are collecting points or miles, you can’t look too far out because the airlines and hotels can devalue points without notice. By devaluation, I mean a program increasing the number of points or miles required to redeem an award. Would you want to be only a few days away from booking your dream trip and see this?
or even this one
Those are just three events that happened in a single year to major programs in the US. There were many more effecting programs worldwide. If you’re lucky, the program will give notice to any changes and let you book at the old prices for a while, but sometimes they don’t and you’re out of luck. When setting a goal, make sure you can earn enough points to take a trip within a reasonable amount of time.
Beware Of The Unattainable Goal
When setting a goal, you need to make sure that the miles you are earning are for a reward that’s going to be possible to redeem. Say that an airline offers the trip you want for 50,000 miles, but they only release seats at that price for 2 days of the year. Unless your schedule is extremely flexible, those miles are useless.
Once You’ve Met You Goal, Then It’s Time To Diversify
As I said, I have enough miles and points for our upcoming trips. Once I did that, I started to stash away points with the major US airlines (Delta, American, and United) and with flexible points (Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards). I also have a decent amount of Southwest miles for our trips around the U.S.
This helps when plans can change due to unforeseen circumstances, like when we got tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in New York on Thanksgiving weekend. I had to make that trip work, and fortunately, I had the right miles in the bank to get us there.
When you are getting started, it is important to know why you are earning points and miles. Working towards an unknown goal will only put you in a corner when it comes time to plan your dream trip.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary