Why I Love Points, Miles, and Travel "Hacking"
(As a sidenote, I don't like the phrase "travel hacking," but haven't found anything as good or succinct. Hence the quotes in the headline.)
When I read other blogs, message boards, and social media feeds, it's clear that travel "hackers" take one of two distinct approaches: to have the most opulent, luxurious experiences possible without spending tens of thousands, or to travel absolutely as much as possible, no matter the class or comfort.
I fall in between those two, leaning a bit towards the latter. My overarching goal is to travel as much as possible, as often as possible, to as many places as possible, and usually that means saving money and points/miles for the next trip whenever I can. At the same time, I'd like the occasional experience in the premium cabin, getting a full night's sleep on longhaul flights and generally having fun on board with food, drinks, and big TVs (jeez, it sounds like a clichéd bachelor pad). Until recently, my overall goal in collecting points and miles listed towards the first approach: I wanted to book my fiancée and I in first/business class the whole way for our honeymoon this coming fall.
Now that the honeymoon flights and hotels are set, I’m moving back towards the second approach while reevaluating my goals, looking at upcoming ultra-longhaul trips we may want to fly in business class, shorter trips that I could afford but would love to save money on, and everything in between. That includes frequent trips that otherwise might strain my budget.
I have a few trips planned this summer, including a trip up to Vermont to visit my brother. He's a musician who lives just outside Burlington. It's drivable, but I don't have a car and I'm only going for a weekend. United, Jet Blue, and Delta all offer non-stop service between NYC airports and BTV. When I searched Google Flights before we’d locked down a date, flights were in the low-to-mid $100-range. Once we picked a weekend I searched again, and sigh: everything except the wildly inconvenient (for me) flights had gone way up in price. Considering other travel planning, it was nearing the point of budget strain.
Enter the points and miles game. I had a nice stock of Delta SkyMiles thanks to flights, a credit card signup, and a handful of random bonuses and extra miles. While Delta (infuriatingly) dropped their award chart in favor of “dynamic pricing,” you can usually find the lowest available "saver" rate by doing a few searches and comparing. Some bloggers have even built their own approximated award charts.
A few searches later, and I was booked on a round-trip to BTV for just 15,000 Delta SkyMiles. Factoring in the $5.60 security tax on each segment, that’s a 2 cent-per-point value redemption. Not bad for the most derided mileage currency out there.
The point of this post is that the points and miles game isn’t just about flying in luxury suites and taking showers at 38,000 feet. It’s also about things like this: helping a guy spend a weekend with his brother when his budget might not have been able to afford it otherwise.
Stay tuned for future posts! While I’ve been a little busier than expected working, wedding planning and everything else, I’m still aiming to post more regularly and often. I’ve got about five posts in the works, which should be going up over the rest of spring. The easiest way to see new posts is to sign up for e-mail alerts in the menu or on the home page. Make sure to follow on Twitter and Instagram, too.