Last month, I returned from an almost 3-week vacation with my husband. Though this trip was planned and saved for over the course of 2 years, it was by no means frugal. I cannot say that we took advantage of travel hacking, utilized hotel points or airline miles, or that we even used our credit card rewards to get the best value. While we do sometimes do that and I am personally all for it, we decided against it for this trip. We wanted this to be the trip of a lifetime and one we booked solely based on where we wanted to stay and doing what we wanted to do. So, instead, we calculated the amount we would need for this trip and set up a savings account and backed into how much we needed to save. To read more about our savings plan for this trip, check out this post.
Now many of you may be thinking this is absolute stupidity. With all the travel hacking options out there, why would we not take advantage of them? Well, for several reasons.
Regarding airline miles, while my husband has a lot (more than me because he travels for business, as well), we did not have enough to cover the flight to Australia and/or Hawaii. We figured if we didn’t have enough, though, we could book as many of our flights as possible with the same airline in order to help us continue to increase our miles to be used some time in the future.
Of the 9 flights in total we took for this trip, 7 of them were with the same airline or partners of that airline; thus adding approximately 28,930 miles. We had the money to be able to afford the flights now, but who knows what the future holds. This also gives us the ability to potentially cover a spontaneous short trip within the next year if we would like.
As for hotel points, again, we have not accumulated enough hotel points with any one brand of hotels to cover the cost of even a one night somewhere. Also, while probably not foolish to some, we do not tend to have a very strong sense of brand loyalty when it comes to hotels. Different hotels in different places offer various benefits and we do not like the idea of being tied to the same brand for every single vacation we take. We fall in love with boutique hotels sometimes or various brands and while we are signed up for rewards where we can be, we don’t always choose the same brand and that is okay with us.
Additionally, we have a local travel agent we work with for most of our trips and she gets us better deals by booking via a third party. When you book hotels with a third party, you generally only receive hotel points for anything charged to your room during your stay. The cheaper prices, the lack of hassle of booking everything ourselves, and the service we receive from our travel agent, as well as knowing using her to book is mutually beneficial, makes us okay with giving up brand loyalty and the potential for gaining hotel points.
Lastly, and probably one that makes everyone the most curious, is we did not utilize booking through Chase and getting 1.5 times the value that comes with our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Don’t get me wrong, I preach about how great this card is because I truly do think it is. This is an incredible benefit that the card offers and one we do plan to utilize; however, after saving for 2 years, we did not think we needed to.
As previously mentioned, we enjoy working with our local travel agent and if we booked through Chase, we would have to map everything out ourselves. This includes the 9 flights, the 4 different hotel stays, airport transfers to and from the hotels, excursions and dinner reservations.
Aside from the difficulty of planning this trip without help, though, we feel that there will be a time in the future where we will really NEED to use the points to be able to go on vacation in the future. For example, when our family grows in the future, we will be booking our trips for more than just my husband and myself. We will also be saving for college for our future children. Our expenses will be higher when we have children with things like higher grocery bills, diapers, toys, health insurance, etc. It will be much more difficult to allocate money for vacation once we have children, so we feel it would be better to build up our points even more now, so that we will have plenty for future vacations for the entire family without feeling overwhelmingly stressed about the finances of these trips.
Related Post: How to Save (and Make) Money While Traveling
Again, who knows what the future holds. Maybe we won’t need to worry about money in the future. Maybe one or both of us will have a major career change that will lead to a significantly different income. Maybe we’ll hit the lottery (if we ever start playing). But when it comes to thinking of the possibility of a family in the future, we like the idea of the family being able to experience adventures together no matter what our financial circumstances are.