Are You a Travel Award Spender or Saver?

A neighbor of mine used to be a corporate travel manager, flying frequently for business. She saved her air miles and hotel points … and saved . . . and saved. They paid for their vacation travel with money, not points, saving all their award points for when they retired. Then she got the news of advanced cancer. Their travels were curtailed and their dreams of a travel-filled retirement went dim.

I was talking about this with a seatmate on a recent flight. He uses his points as soon as there is an accumulation in his account – and not by him but by his son.  “Dad, do you have enough points for … yet?”

Somewhat in between these folks, I do not relentlessly accumulate and save for some future time that I may never see, nor spend the miles and points like they’re burning a hole in my pocket. I have a couple primary airline and hotel accounts where points are saved until there is a decent enough buildup for a family trip. In our case, it’s a family of six (my husband, me, three kids and my mom who evens out the group). And we like to fly business class for international flights if at all possible and stay in nice hotels. My smaller accounts, however, are burned as they are earned.

It’s nice to have a mix of both to reap the rewards now and then, and yet have a treasure to use for an all-important family trip. So I guess you could call me a lavish accumulator, leaning more towards the saver for the big adventures but spending and sharing generously on the smaller journeys.

How about you? On which side of the spectrum do you fall?

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  1. I like to have, as a minimum, enough miles for an emergency trip to my furthest close family member (in my case on the other side of the Atlantic). Otherwise, I save only for a specific purpose or trip. But, that trip will be in Business or First as redemptions for economy strike me as wasteful. You have to look at the value per mile….

  2. This might be an unrelated question, but with a family of six, when using points for hotels, do you have to reserve three separate rooms? I primarily use, spg, hyatt and Hilton and they usually allow max of two per room when booked using points. I have a family of four and would love to avoid booking two separate rooms.

  3. Seabird,

    Not familiar with the sub-brsnds within in SPG and Hyatt, but you may want to aim for a hotel that caters to families. Like an Embassy Suite or DoubleTree, many of which offer either two bedrooms or one-bedroom and a living area with a rollout. My hotels of (work) choice are Marriott and Holiday Inn and each has a vacation club with rooms that are have multiple bedrooms. Look for those and it might be possible that everyone gets their own room.

    One other note. It has been my experience when booking for my family, the hotels are really attempting to limit the number of adults in the room. It would be unlikely for them to raise a fuss with two adults and two children.

  4. Value per mile is a fallacy.

    Travelling in Business or first is good, but don’t travel
    since its better value.

    Consider a blender for $75 and another for $100 with a $10 coupon. Value guys would buy the $100 one using a coupon and get it for $90.
    But wait, did you want to originally spend $90?

    Don’t spend more based on value since value is very subjective.

  5. In my case I save my miles and points since I don’t have time to plan vacation in advance so I can make a good use of the points/miles. We are a family of 4 and finding 4 award tickets on the same flight is not that easy. Also, I prefer to save the points to very expensive hotels in amazing locations which is not the case when you travel with a 6 and a 3 years old. Disney is not that expensive 🙂 I get many miles and points on business travels so I don’t need to use my miles/points for those. In sum, I hope to use my miles/points when I have a chance to travel only with my wife to a very nice location.

  6. Hi Seabird — Jeff’s ideas are great — use points at a vacation club property where the rooms can be really stunning and can include a full kitchen to eat some meals in, and also Embassy or Doubletree. I have had issues trying to even book two rooms on points. Recently at a Starwood property, I was only allowed to have one room on points. We gave this room to my mom and then my husband and I stayed in a second room (paid) so we could get more points. Same thing with Marriott when we needed 3 rooms for our family — only one was on points. The second reservation may get around this. If you want your kids in the same room, go with Jeff’s ideas. Carol

  7. Smart idea to bank some of the miles for an emergency … kinda like having a cushion of six months of salary in the bank. Hope you never need it but it’s comfort that it’s there if you do.

  8. Santastico — I hope you son have an amazing award-provided trip with your wife! It’s definitely worth saving up for a memorable trip. We were able to find 6 biz class tickets to Hawaii on the same flight … I was amazed. It’s not often that that happens.

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