If there’s one thing you should do before you start gathering points and miles, it’s make 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 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 transferable 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. Due to when my job requires me to put in my vacation requests, I’m forced to think of our trips for the following year by November.
Things are different from normal since I only redeemed a few points in 2020 and the beginning of 2021 is turning out to be the same. I have more than enough points for whatever trips we want to take for the upcoming years.
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 in the past few years to major programs. If you’re lucky, a program will give notice about any changes and let you book at the old prices for a while, but sudden changes are becoming more commonplace. 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 flexible points (Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards). I also have a decent amount of Southwest miles for our trips around the U.S. I also applied for my first true cashback card.
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 a couple of years ago. I had to make that trip work, and fortunately, I had the right miles in the bank to get us there.
When you’re getting started, it’s important to know why you are earning points and miles. Working towards an unknown goal will only put you in a corner when planning your dream trip.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary