04 February 2014

Points & Miles, or How I Get Vitamin D Every Winter

While I'd like to be able to say I finagle my world adventures with the clever use of miles, points, deals, etc, the truth is that in the past it's mostly been absurdly stupid use of credit cards, and the unicornly rare work-related event.

That being said, I have developed a miles strategy that works for me, and is slightly different from what you read about elsewhere -- how to leverage flights and other accrual methods to get international tickets, especially in the upgraded classes.

Instead, I travel internationally to rack up points to use domestically.

As my annoying English Literature professor used to say, Let's unpack this.

First, I am not in a position to build up 100's of thousands of miles in a year. I do not travel for work, I am a government employee and so do not have a business credit card or business purchases, and due to aforementioned absurd stupidness, I cannot put a ton of spending on my personal credit cards, or juggle new accounts for sign-up bonuses.

Perhaps one day. And I do very much enjoy reading those blogs -- my favorite is The Points Guy.  Even if particulars don't necessarily apply, I learn strategies and other details, like which plane models have the best seats, which hotels have lusty suites.

Second, due to family obligations I will travel internationally once every year -- sucks to be me, I know.  But it's not really enough to earn an international flight very often.

I might earn a total of 10-12,000 miles on one international flight -- assuming I buy a Premium Economy ticket on a partner airline with a credit card that earns miles in the same airline family.  But it can take as much as 100,000 miles to get an Economy international ticket. It could take 10 years to earn a ticket!

Let's not be sad and feel defeated. Look at it from another angle.

I'm earning 12,000 miles a year! PLUS more from other sources:
  • some personal spending on my miles card (Alaska)
  • dining rewards program
  • doing online surveys with E-Rewards and E-Miles
  • the occasional strategic online purchase (leveraging a bonus miles promotion with the extra points of a miles shopping portal)
  • using a partner hotel when needed and transferring the miles (Hilton to Alaska)
  • car rental partners (I don't own a car, so we rent a few times a year)
In an average year, I earn the miles I need for a ticket from my home town of Portland to.... Palm Springs, San Diego, and several other warm West Coast and Southwest destinations, where I can soak up the Vitamin D I don't get in Portland.  Or, I might use those miles for first class upgrades on a trip to New York, New Orleans, etc.

Sure, I could buy a ticket to Palm Springs and hoard the miles towards international travel, but again, it just doesn't add up fast enough.

For my situation, I like to earn and then enjoy a reward, rinse, repeat, instead of feeling like I'm climbing a mountain I'll never see the top of.  Life is short, go to Palm Springs when you're cold. And go for free!

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