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A Reality Check for New Readers

This post is meant for our new readers. If you are a grizzled miles and points vet, hopefully, you’ll pick up some useful info here as well. With new year upon us, I thought it would be good to put together a short primer for new recruits. Here we go.

1) Even at  its most complex, this hobby is NOT rocket science

It’s true. Some want you to believe that regular people aren’t sophisticated enough to figure it out (cough, less competition for awards, cough). Wrong! I’m very much a regular SAHM, yet I’m capable of doing basic math. Shocker! And no, I won’t be sticking to my baking and crocheting. I want to give my family the gift of travel that we otherwise can’t afford. I also happen to like numbers and enjoy figuring out patterns. OK, so maybe I’m not a totally regular person.

Can (should) everyone do it? Of course not. But if you are reasonably intelligent and decent with finances, there is no reason why you can’t give it a shot. At its core, this hobby is similar to buying stocks. So, you want to buy low and sell high, always.  But whatever you do, make it a point not to hang on to your “stocks” indefinitely.

Something seems super confusing?  You can always email me at milesforfamily@gmail.com

2) This hobby can be whatever  you want it to be

Some like to  switch credit cards and collect miles and points in that manner. Others  may decide to focus primarily on everyday spending. You can also buy points at a discount or participate in promos.  It can be complicated or it can be fairly simple, the choice is yours. Either way, keep your eyes on the prize: deeply discounted travel. Speaking of…

3) Travel is not free

Never was, never will be. It can be almost free, but chances are, you’ll want more. As my reader Cheapblackdad said once: “mo miles, mo problems.” There is some truth to that. As you’ll see your balances grow, you’ll be tempted to travel to more exotic (read “more expensive”) places. Maybe you were satisfied with road trips once, but no mo!

Make sure to keep an eye on your wallet and don’t let your out-of-pocket expenses get out of hand. Aside from getting into debt, this is probably the biggest danger of participating in miles and points hobby. So protect your savings account and don’t let “free” travel destroy your future. It’s about finding the right  balance, something I’m constantly struggling with.

4) Resist “Go Hyatt or go home” mentality

First, this is just an expression because I have nothing against Hyatt. In fact, I rather enjoy it. But something you’ll notice is that miles and points community as a whole has boxed itself into a certain style of travel. Whether it’s a specific hotel chain, airline seat or a set of destinations, there is a commonality, a pattern of sorts.

Obviously, people tend to go where their friends go, it’s normal. When you see beautiful photos of exotic islands and someone tells you how they got a few credit cards and boom… here they are, chilling on the beach with a margarita in their hand, you’ll want to do the same. But try to do your own research before you drop several grand on that free (not) vacation.

5) You can have your “waffle wedding cake” and eat it too

What the heck am I talking about? Well,  over the weekend we attended a wedding of a girl we’ve known for years. I guess I should now call her a woman, except I remember her having a tea party with my daughter not that long ago.  Or was it seven years? Wow, time flies. Anyway, she chose to have a wedding cake made from waffles. Her mom offered to pay for any cake she wanted, but this is what she got:

A unique wedding cake!

This girl, who we love very much, has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and her wedding was no different. And who says you can’t have a waffle cake at your reception? Is there a law that prevents it? It’s what she wanted and she didn’t care if it looked strange to the guests.

So, I encourage you to treat your travel plans the same way. Spending a wedding anniversary in a cheap Holiday Inn Express? I’ve done it and enjoyed it. By the same token, I have a reader who once redeemed three Hyatt certificates on one night at Hyatt Vendome in order to accommodate her family of six. She has no regrets and considers it a highlight of her trip to Europe. Both examples are very much a “wedding waffle cake” of the miles and points world.

6) Elite status is highly overrated (when you paid cash to get it)

Nothing annoys me more than reading about someone who dropped many hundreds of dollars on hotel mattress runs only to later brag about their “free” upgrades and breakfast. In what universe? If you don’t know what mattress runs are, chances are, you don’t need to.

Speaking of, there are many folks who are gunning for new Hyatt status in the next few months. They need someone to do their mattress runs for them and they WILL PAY for your hotel stays. It’s like house sitting, except you do it in a hotel. I recommend you follow Hyatt Flyertalk threads, though  in all likelihood, if you don’t personally know anyone, chances of you scoring a free Hyatt stay are slim.

But if you have a cheap Hyatt property near you, speak up. The way it works is the other person pre-pays the reservation and adds you as an additional guest. They get the credit towards status and you get a free hotel stay. I’m most definitely not passing judgement on (from scratch) status chasers, but this is an activity reserved strictly for those who have money coming out of their ears. That ain’t me.

But getting status for free or nearly free? Sign me up!

7) “Carpe Diem,” but don’t go crazy

Some deals only last  few hours and you have to decide on the spot whether to take advantage of them or not. A rule of thumb: if an offer doesn’t require any financial commitment and blogger is raving  about it despite the fact that it doesn’t pay him/her commission, chances are, you should jump on it.

An example: match to Hyatt Diamond status in 2015. The deal only lasted about 18 hours, so there was no time to waste. I told readers to go for it even if they had no planned Hyatt stays. If it’s free and takes few minutes of your time, just do it. You never know when it will come in handy.

Obviously, things are way more tricky when it comes to  credit cards. This is definitely the case of YMMV  I try my best to cover offers as impartially as possible, considering the fact that I’m an affiliate blogger. That said, I have my preferences which may not match yours, so keep that in mind.

Some offers, however, are no-brainers, like 100K points bonus on CSR. That offer no longer pays me commission, but I still think it’s the best deal out there, despite $450 annual fee. So, commission or no commission, my opinion is the same. I’ve said before that I don’t play games with readers.

Of course, you can’t get in on every single hot deal. Give yourself permission to disconnect from this hobby and make peace with the fact that you’ll miss out now and again.

8) You will make mistakes and that’s OK

I’ve made so many mistakes, it’s not even funny. I make sure to record them too because I want to paint a realistic picture of what’s in store. It ain’t always rainbows and unicorns. Which is why…

9) This hobby will make you want to puke at some point

Once the honeymoon phase is over, signing up for new credit cards will get old and tedious. If you have a spouse who hates anything miles and points related, you WILL have to pick your battles. That means skipping hot deals on occasion, especially if they involve  your significant other picking up the phone.

You have to be determined not to let this hobby spill over into your real life. Deeply discounted trip isn’t worth it if you and your spouse hate each other as a result of hobby shenanigans. At some point you may decide that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze and even walk away (from the hobby, hopefully). That’s OK too.

10) Be determined to have fun 

It’s human nature to focus on fails and take victories for granted. Don’t do that! Savor each fantastic redemption and remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to do what you do. Travel is a privilege even if you end up flying in economy and sleeping in EconoLodge.

Honorable mention:

Bloggers are human beings

I debated on whether I should include this admittedly self-serving point, but I feel like it needs to be said. Very often bloggers are viewed as nothing more than content-producing machines. I assure you, we are not.

We are real  human beings who live in the same world as you do, and we deal with the same set of problems. Our kids get sick and our spouses want attention. Most of us don’t have seven-figure savings accounts, so blogs become  a labor of love/ small business. And why not? We pour our time, energy and money into out sites. We often forego other opportunities in the hopes that our words matter.

Of course, since we are  real human beings, we make mistakes. I’m sure I’ve disappointed my readers on more than one occasion. My hope is that you can overlook inevitable blunders and focus on the big picture.

Miles and points bloggers are blamed for everything, it seems: killing deals, not covering deals before they die, posting too much, not posting enough, looking out for banks’ interests, not looking out for banks’ interests,  and of course, global warming. Some of the criticism gets downright vicious.

Not surprising, unfortunately. We live in a society where being a jerk and a bully is often excused and even rewarded. Still, I hope you’ll remember that behind every blog, there is probably a real person with a family.

A family like this one:

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and 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.

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11 thoughts on “A Reality Check for New Readers

  1. Great advice here. And I love the waffle cake!

    I’ve made some mistakes for sure (accidentally missing a payment due date), and it’s hard not to fall into the “Go Hyatt or go home” mentality. Oh, and also planning so many “free” trips that my expenses for food and attractions get out of hand. It’s hard to exercise restraint when I have miles and points burning a hole in my pocket!

    • @Nancy Yeah, this was a country-themed wedding and they actually had biscuits and gravy for dinner. My husband loves those. It was very simple and elegant, and so much fun! It makes me so happy when young people don’t incur horrendous debt from their wedding. We’ve been to some seriously over-the-top weddings with Hummer limo etc. Why? Spend money on your honeymoon instead!
      What you say about miles and points couldn’t be more true. They burn a hole in my pocket as well. That’s why I’m trying to primarily focus on cash whenever possible. I’ve skipped many hotel and mileage cards in favor of cash and travel credits. I’m on my third Arrival Plus! And hey, we still end up traveling more than most middle-class families.

    • @Joe I guess it’s my attempt at being clever which perhaps, missed the mark! 🙂 It’s a play on expression “go big or go home.” Basically, in this hobby, certain brands and destinations get a disproportionate amount of coverage. Hyatt is one of them. Many plan their vacations based on whether there is a Hyatt there. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but I want to encourage readers to look beyond cliches if at all possible (Hyatt Vendome, Maldives, Singapore suites). Those are not bad in of itself, but there are so many other possibilities waiting to be explored.

    • @Natasha Thank you so much! Definitely nothing earth-shattering in this post, but hopefully, it provided good reminders for seasoned veterans and a primer for new readers.

  2. Great blog post. I completely agree with #4, which is why I love your blog because of its laid back vibe. You aren’t pushing elite status or unnecessary flight and hotel upgrades. It’s nice, so continue what you’re doing.

    • @Lisa M Thanks! I’m actually not a laid back person, more like neurotic! 🙂 But I’m glad you can relate to my travel philosophy. I definitely don’t have an issue with status chasers. How people spend their money is their own business. And I’m certain that for some the math makes sense. But I can’t picture any regular middle-class person who will do a bunch of mattress runs and still come out ahead financially.

  3. Great Post. That Hyatt tip was great – not only did I end up staying at a Hyatt after all, and was upgraded to a suite with a whirlpool tub, but also got 2 United Lounge passes. Thank you again!

    • @Uri No worries! I just passed along the information from another blog. That Hyatt Diamond status has been sweet! I will certainly miss it. The whole thing has been a nice splurge and made it easier to justify parting with my precious UR points. I’m hoping to make use of club lounge cert in 2017 at least once at a resort. After that, I’m stretching my points on category 1 Hyatts. I’m cheap.

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