What Are You Saving Airline Miles and Hotel Points For?

I met up with my friend and fellow blogger Kendra a few months ago and at one point she asked me about my travel plans for the summer. I told her I was likely not going anywhere and her plans were the same. Two years ago, she took a pretty big trip to Japan and France with her husband and two kids. She explained that the trip left her pretty beat and that nowadays, she’s happy with fairly local trips and no-stress vacations like her recent stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. This made me realize I’m pretty much in the same boat.

View from the airplane flying over Chicago

Maybe it’s an embarrassment of riches, but these epic luxury trips just don’t appeal to me. It takes a lot of time, planning, and miles. Sure, it’s worth it to explore a new place and get as far away from home as possible sometimes, but it’s also nice to take a domestic trip to a city you haven’t been to before, even if it’s just for 36 hours. A weekend stay at a nearby hotel like the Grand Hyatt San Francisco is also a good use of points until that next big trip comes together. 

As of right now, I plan on going back to Calais either this year or next, for an extended period of time. I’m going to New York in early September and the Chicago Seminars in October. I am planning one big family trip for next Spring. After the terrific stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, I’d love to check out the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. My older sister has been wanting to visit Dubai for years, so I want to surprise her with a trip to several Gulf states next year. I’ve also been ignoring South America, so I do want to make it out there at some point.

All of this, of course, will require me to get off my current cash back kick and focus on collecting hotel points and frequent flyer miles again. My younger sister recently expressed a willingness to help out with gift card liquidation, so despite the trouble I’ve been having with gift card liquidation lately, I’ll probably take her up on that to expedite things a little bit.

I used to be pretty stringent when it came to redeeming points and miles. I always redeem miles for family members if they need to, say, fly someplace for a weeding or to visit relatives. However, other than that I was pretty set on saving for a big trip. Nowadays, I realize that if you’re not spending miles regularly, earning them can feel kind of tedious and pointless. It’s kind of like that with money too – if you’re just stashing your earnings away and not occasionally treating yourself to something nice, you’ll resent the hard work you put into your job because you’re not reaping any of the benefits. At least not until you buy a house or whatever it is you’re saving for long-term.

So don’t forget to treat yourself every once in a while. Redeem miles for a staycation, consider a road trip, or even an alternate mode of transportation (cruises, trains – there’s more than one way to travel). These relatively smaller trips can be just as satisfying as a luxury trip to Asia and they’ll tide you over until your next big award redemption. At least, that’s my opinion.

I’d love your feedback: What are you saving and using your points and miles for these days? 

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  1. hollyatclubthrifty

    We have a few trips planned for the rest of the year – San Diego next month for FinCON, St. Thomas in October for fall break, Greece in November, and Puerto Rico for my kid’s winter break. We only went a few places at the beginning of the year, but really packed it in here in the end.

    I actually love getting away. I think it’s because I work at home and need a change of scenery. I also like to take my kids on fun family trips during all of their breaks.

    • I can totally relate to that sentiment – as much as I’m a hermit and love being at home, you sometimes need a change of scenery. Those kids are damn lucky to be going on such amazing trips!

  2. I try to take a 3 week vacation every month paying for everything with points and taking advantage of all rewards,discounts, last minute deals etc. I try to keep a balance of 500,000 points and try to replace them as I need them. I do about 20 cruises a year since I live on the beach in Hollywood, FL. Plus I’m close to 2 major airports so its not very difficult to fly anywhere in the world. I stay at 4&5 star hotels, but I only fly in coach to be able to use points to pay for the cruises. I’m sorry to say but with all of the new rules in place I’m having a very difficult time replacing the points that I’m using on my 3 week vacation to Italy, Greece and Spain. Last year I received $38,000 in free travel.
    Its been a great time but it looks like I may have to start paying for some of my future vacations. I’m leaving on my 100th cruise on Sunday.

  3. “fly someplace for a weeding,”
    Haha. I saw an ad for such a thing in Colorado….

  4. I like your POV, Ariana. It’s always good to take smaller (weekend to 3-4 days) trips and just go somewhere new, even if it’s not that far away… If you do a bunch of small trips, you feel happier… and those small trips make the big trips even more exciting… Also, thanks for writing about Yazing… My experience has been great so far!

  5. Hello from Yerevan, Armenia! I just got in from Istanbul. After here, I am off to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
    I have a big trip planned in October/November. Before Alaska when crazy with increases, I booked 90k miles to Singapore with stopover in Dubai in a FC a suite. Then it is on to Maylasia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Hong Kong.

    • Wow, what a fun itinerary! I’d love to see St. Petersburg – I’ve had it on my mind ever since I finished reading City of Thieves by David Benioff. That Asia trip doesn’t sound too shabby either. 🙂

  6. We try to save up miles we earn towards our annual family trip to Turks and Caicos. The more can earn the more likely we’ll be able to fly in first. We travel so rarely it is fun to splurge on upgraded seats when we can.

  7. My wife and I take about 2 international trips a year and the rest are domestic. Big, international trips involve a lot of planning, but the domestic ones are usually short and fun. We do these with the SW Companion Pass. Many trips are as simple as leaving after work on Friday and returning by Sunday so that we don’t even have to take a day off work. We love these short trips as we pack very light and we’re not away from our cats for too long. Though there were a couple of trips where I was so excited about how little I’d have to pack that I forgot to pack clothes! Our friends think we’re crazy when we do weekend trips to places like Arkansas and Kansas(we live in Miami), but they were both a blast and we couldn’t have done it without points. Sometimes we’ll go away just to visit an interesting museum or to see a concert. It’s fun to find a band on tour that may be playing somewhere interesting on a Saturday and fly on over(last year we saw U2 in Phoenix and Steve Winwood in Chicago). We’ve also made goals of trying to get to every baseball stadium, every national park and every state. We average about 18 trips a year, all made possible by points.

    • I love flying Southwest and would gladly choose them for any transcon. At some point I should probably aim for a Companion Pass myself, as it’s a great way to justify lots of small trips like the ones you’re taking.

  8. I want to go back to Israel and Hawaii next year with my parents. Went there this year and fell in love with those two places.

  9. I dabble in MS, and have used points for domestic travel economy and first
    But this is the first international flight on AA in business class!!!!
    May have to get serious with MS!

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