It’s not crazy at all! Miles and points play a huge role in determining where we get to vacation each year. But wait! Isn’t it a contradiction to what I previously said in my post Fifty shades of “free” (yes, I know it’s a very lame title):
“…Just like you shouldn’t let your miles and points dictate the way YOU travel.” (Apologies for quoting myself.)
So, what’s up with flip-flopping? Well, there is a big difference between allowing something influence your decisions and letting it totally determine your travel choices. I think if you narrow down your destinations to only places that happen to have a Hyatt (or whatever your chain preference is), you are missing out. Not to say that it’s bad to prefer a Hyatt, or in my case IHG.
Let’s take my last redemption. I’ve mentioned that my husband and I are flying to Aruba for our wedding anniversary. The main reason I picked this destination is due to the fact that we can fly there non-stop from Orlando on Southwest airlines. In fact, it was a determining factor. I have a lot of Rapid Rewards points as well as $850 in Southwest gift cards.
I also liked the fact that we can stay at a beachfront Holiday Inn for only 15,000 IHG points per night, which is dirt cheap. But how can that be? Why select a place based on those factors alone? What about culture, yada yada yada?
Well, the truth is, the main purpose of this trip is to relax. I’m talking lots of mixed drinks by the pool and swimming in the ocean. Yes, we could probably do those things in Florida too, but I like the idea of jetting away to an island.
I admit, Aruba is probably not my first choice among Caribbean destinations. It looks flat, dry and overrun with tourists. Not my idea of a tropical paradise. But the more I started to research it, the more appealing it became. I’m really looking forward to visiting Arikok National park if my husband agrees to it.
It also helps that the island has decent infrastructure and low crime rate compared to the rest of Caribbean. I really want things to go smoothly during our anniversary getaway, so my husband agrees to do stuff like that in the future. Who knows, maybe I can talk him into visiting Saba which requires two flight connections from Orlando. Nah!
Another thing I pay attention to is out-of-pocket costs. We don’t make six figures, so I really have no choice in this respect. There are many places I would love to visit, but our savings account tells us we can only pick a few. After being around this hobby for a number of years, I feel this is an area where many miss the forest for the trees, so to speak.
I hate to go back to Maldives (again), but it’s a perfect example how things are very often not what they appear. If you only focus on fantastic CPM value you are getting by redeeming miles to Maldives and how that Hyatt beachfront villa is a terrific deal at 25,000 points per night, it’s easy to forget how darn expensive that destination really is! You will pay a ton for just an airport transfer (something like $800 per person roundtrip) and the food at the resort, apparently, costs a fortune.
So, going back to my quote at the beginning of the post, what I meant to say was: ” You shouldn’t let your miles and points dictate the way you travel …when there is significant out-of-pocket cost involved.” Are you short on cash and see a random Holiday Inn on PointBreaks list that costs only 5,000 points per night? Book it, especially if there is no airfare involved. If it turns out to be a dud, you haven’t lost much and got to spend time with your family. Winning!
We may end up not liking Aruba after all, but at least I will have an “island” experience with my husband at a deeply discounted redemption price and little out-of-pocket cost. The memories? I hope they will be priceless. The flights are short and the fact that we didn’t have to save for years to afford this trip should take some of the pressure off. I’m sure there will be arguments and things will go wrong. That’s where margarita drinks will hopefully come in.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Maldives, and many people visit it often, but my family would have to save for years just to get there once. Will the juice be worth the squeeze? I honestly don’t know. I never really had any desire to visit Maldives before I discovered miles and points. I still don’t. Going to Tahiti, on the other hand, has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl. I don’t care if I have to pay cash to visit Bora Bora, we’ll get there one of these days.
For now, I’ll be content with laying on Aruba beach and reading an article on Tahiti, while staying at a Holiday Inn on points (acquired dirt cheap). There are worse fates in life. Another margarita, please!
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Readers, to what extent do you allow miles and points influence your travel choices?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.