One of my goals this year was to travel solo more often, so to get off on a good start for the year, I spent this past weekend in Asheville, NC. As a side effect of both traveling solo and spending 11+ hours in a car in a single weekend, I had some time to think. While I’ll admit that most of my thoughts were more on a personal level, at some point, my mind did wander toward blogging. I feel pretty lucky to have built up a group of readers, so now it’s time for me to make a few personal travel confessions.
1. I define aspirational rewards differently.
There is a huge group of people in travel blogging and forums who redeem for aspirational travel: first class flights with champagne and showers, luxury suites in expensive cities, and overwater bungalows in tropical locales. If that’s what you want from your miles and points, I wholeheartedly support your decisions, but I have a different set of desires. I want to see natural wonders, travel to a variety of places throughout the world, and interact with locals and other travelers…and I’d rather give up the pampering in order to travel more frequently. After officially trying business class and staying in a few expensive hotels, I am more confident in my decision to stick with coach seating, simple properties, and economy car rentals while splurging on great food, activities, and entertainment.
2. I am not an #avgeek.
I think it’s cool that other bloggers get excited about trying the Dreamliner or trying to get on an inaugural flight (even if it’s only “new” for that particular airline or route). As for me, I don’t care. I can’t identify a Boeing vs. an Airbus just by looking at a plane (the same way I can’t point out a Hyundai vs. a Ford) and I don’t know the specifications of a 747-300 compared to a 747-400 (or even if those models exist…or if ‘model’ is the correct terminology). Sure, if all else were equal, the aircraft might be a deciding factor when making a flight choice, but I’m usually preoccupied with choosing the perfect destination, most convenient schedule, or avoiding certain connecting cities. Give me a seat in the sky and a relatively efficient schedule, and I’m happy. Bonus points for a window seat.
3. I think cash savings are undervalued in this community.
Maybe it’s because I won’t pay the upcharge in miles for premium seating or luxury hotels. Maybe it’s because I don’t care if I am on the latest or greatest aircraft. Maybe it’s because I have a habit of traveling to places that don’t have chain hotels to redeem at even if I have a million points. Whatever it is, I still think cash is king. There are no expiration dates, capacity controls, or brand restrictions when it comes to spending cash, so you can go anywhere anytime. Balancing cash savings with earning miles/points is a key part of my strategy. Obviously, there are times when earning and redeeming miles can lead to an incredibly high return, and that’s exactly why I play the game. However, anytime when I’m underwhelmed with promotional earnings or redemption rates, I turn to cashback instead.
4. Miles and points are a means to my goal.
I guess it’s cool when you hit one million miles, when you can tweet a picture of the dozen Vanilla Reload cards you’ve collected, or when you’ve discovered a new way to earn miles. However, earning and counting miles doesn’t excite me. Instead, I’m excited about the possibility of visiting a new or favorite destination — and miles and points help make that possible in my circumstance.
I play the game because I want the prize at the end, and I’m willing to put in a certain amount of effort to optimize my earnings. However, when significant time becomes a factor, I lose all interest. I won’t devote a day of my weekend to mileage running and I won’t spend hours searching out gift cards or merchandise to re-sell in order to profit in the form of miles and points. I’ll do it if it’s easy, quick, or a fun process…and I’m the one who gets to define “easy”, “quick”, and “fun”. Does that mean I’ve left miles on the table? Yup – tens of thousands of them – and in the process, I’ve gained hours of my life back to spend on things that do bring me enjoyment, which brings me to #5…
5. I have way too many trips planned.
I, quite literally, have research gathered and organized for the next 150+ destinations I will visit. I don’t just mean that I have some nice articles stored on Pinterest for future use: I mean I have enough information written out that I could pack up tonight for any one of those places and have a fairly good idea of how to spend my time. Given that I am still early on in a career in corporate America with limited availble vacation time, that’s enough research to cover nearly a lifetime of travel, and that’s assuming I never discover somewhere new to add to the list or return to anywhere I loved. Is it rational or efficient to plan out all these trips? Nope, but I love doing it., even though half the time I don’t follow my plans once I get to my destination. Now I just need about a decade-long sabbatical to get a headstart on my travels before retirement!
What are your travel confessions? I promise I won’t be offended if they are the exact opposite of mine 🙂