This weekend I jumped on the bandwagon and watched the Netflix documentary about the Fyre Festival. In case you’re not familiar with it, the Fyre Festival was a huge concert in the Bahamas that turned out to be a total disaster. It was promoted with an unbelievable video of models frolicking on the beach and promises of luxury accommodations. The festival was poorly organized, and the music concert never happened. Lawsuits followed, and the festival’s founder is now in prison on multiple accounts of fraud.
As I watched the disaster unfold on the documentary, it was evident that social media influencers played a huge role in the publicity of this festival. It got me thinking about how niche influencers impact other industries, including the miles and points travel world.
Travel bloggers may not be like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, but bloggers are nonetheless influencers. And, I believe that some of the realities of bloggers’ trips are intentionally left out in order to promote a certain image of “free” luxury travel.
Consumers need to be aware that bloggers make money from affiliate links (like credit card applications) and advertising clicks. Yes, even this blog (see How This Blog Makes Money). Bloggers know that posts about aspirational trips to the Maldives and Bora Bora sell more credit cards and get more clicks than posts about staying at an airport hotel on points. Most people sign up for a travel credit card with the hopes and dreams of an aspirational trip. I get it.
But, I think blog readers need to question and challenge the realities of the miles and points trips they read about on blogs and see on Instagram and determine for themselves if it’s realistic to achieve the same. Ask questions like:
What credit cards did you sign up for to get all those miles and points?
How much cash did you pay out-of-pocket in combination with miles and points?
What is the total amount you pay each year in credit card annual fees?
How do you afford to go on first-class flights twice a month? Does your blog business cover your travel expenses, or are you really using miles and points every time?
How many miles and points trips per year are realistic for an average family?
Who watches your kids on all of your kid-free trips? How many days of school do your kids miss due to travel?
How did you get Hyatt Globalist status? Did you earn it, or was it gifted to you as a travel influencer?
How did you score that room upgrade? Did you get it because you are a travel blogger?
Keeping It Real
My introduction to miles and points blogs came from reading Million Mile Secrets. Back then, it was just Daraius and Emily writing. My favorite posts were their long, multi-part trip reports. I especially loved how they always included a section that listed their true out-of-pocket costs of each trip, including taxes paid on award tickets and credit card annual fees. See examples here and here. Many travel blogs don’t include this information.
As a travel writer, I hope to not only inspire people to take trips they thought were impossible, but also to keep it real for people who travel as a family. I don’t want to paint the picture that my upcoming trip to New Zealand is free. I want to be honest that I only had Hyatt Diamond status due to a status match request on Twitter. Last year, I admitted that I didn’t travel for the last six months of 2018 because my family didn’t have the miles, points or cash to spare for a trip during that time.
My point of this post isn’t to be a Debbie Downer and tell you that miles and points travel isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m not telling you to stop following the big travel bloggers. I still read a lot of travel blogs, and I love getting inspiration for future trips.
But, I do think readers should set realistic travel expectations. Signing up for new credit cards isn’t going to get you a fancy suite every time you stay in a hotel. You won’t score first-class flights for every trip, or have enough miles and points to travel every week, especially if you travel with a family of four or more people.
But, you can take a trip like that every now and then if you save up your miles and points and cash, and take many other lower-cost trips much more often. Just understand that travel bloggers are influencers that sometimes receive extra perks and advantages that regular families can’t replicate for every trip.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.