Posted by: pizzainmotion | February 1, 2013

What Am I Missing?

I remember when I started writing this blog a few years ago.  I had a big pile of miles and points and I enjoyed helping other people plan their travel.  So, I figured I would write about it once in a while.  I figured I would write about a bunch of other things as well.  After all, who would mind?  I only had a few followers, mostly family and friends.  So, while there was travel, there were lots of other topics as well.

Earlier this year, I decided to focus more exclusively on travel.  The motivation at that point wasn’t any one thing.  I certainly wasn’t planning to quit my day job and blog full-time, though I applaud those that are able to make a living doing so.  I still felt I wanted to write about the “stuff” that was important to me, and wasn’t 100% certain how many people that would interest.

Part of my motivation was to help promote Milepoint, an online frequent travel community that I helped launch along with 3 other close friends.  I spend a reasonable amount of my free time on Milepoint, both learning about miles and points and helping others with the knowledge I already have.  I’m biased, but I believe it’s a very good resource for frequent travelers and an even better community of people who care enough to help others.

It’s on Milepoint that I came across this thread yesterday.  The opening question was by a member that wanted to know how many points or miles a blogger was redeeming for all the aspirational travel they report on.  I definitely don’t consider all of my travel aspirational, but the point was well taken from this thread along with a few other suggestions on things people might want to hear about.

And that lead me to wonder if there were other things my readers might want to know when I’m discussing travel.  But, before I ask that question, I figured now was a good time to summarize my travel patterns for the record so you know what to expect.

My job takes me on the road a fair amount each year.  Virtually all of my business travel is via airplane, and generally over 100,000 miles a year.  To date all my work travel has been domestically in the United States, with a few common refrains (Denver, Las Vegas, Miami) and a host of other cities on a less frequent basis (New York, Boston, Seattle, San Antonio, Chicago to name a few).

Frequent readers of my blog will know I favor American Airlines (at least until Doug Parker is in charge, and maybe longer).  I took a change of path to United Airlines a couple of years ago which hasn’t yielded much in the way of happiness.  I suspect that I will still  have flights on United this year and in the future.  However, based on their higher prices and lower quality of service, that number will most likely remain smaller than American.

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to hotels.  When I was younger I used to change hotels every night during a business trip so I could earn more points for various promos.  I was also exclusively a Starwood Preferred Guest guy.  I have over 350 nights in their hotels over the past 5 years. My stays for business lately tend to be for more than one night, though I like to get home as soon as possible to be with the family which means a lot more late-night flights than I used to take.

I discovered Hyatt Gold Passport about two years ago and fell deeply in love with their program almost instantly.  Their consistent delivery of benefits was a welcome change to what I experienced at SPG.  I also realized they had some pretty awe-inspiring properties of their own (the original reason I chose SPG was for their top-tier properties).  I’ve been lucky to stay at such gems as the Park Hyatt Tokyo and the Park Hyatt Zurich, both of which I enjoyed immensely.  I now find myself making most of my paid stays with Hyatt and my award stays with Starwood though there are exceptions in each category.

I acquire my points and miles a couple different ways.  First, I obviously accrue quite a bit from my business travel.  I book all my own travel (though with the help of concierges with both Hyatt and Starwood which makes a huge difference) and thus can take advantage of promotions that pop up throughout the year.

I also generate a decent amount of spending both for my business life and personal life (personal spending helped out immensely by my lovely wife).  For credit card spend, I prefer the Chase Sapphire, Ink Bold and Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards.  I don’t earn referral credits for any of those links, these just happen to be my favorite cards.  Certain spending stays on certain cards (for example, the 5X on Ink Bold for cell phone bills and office supplies is pretty darn awesome). For the most part, the rest of my everyday spending is divided up between these cards so I always have a decent pile of both Ultimate Rewards and SPG points.

When I travel for leisure it’s almost always with my wife and two kids.  Our kids are 6 and 2 and we love showing them the world.  So, my leisure trip reports will most likely have a family friendly slant to them, since that’s mostly what I’m looking for.  That doesn’t mean I look for a comfortable room at the Holiday Inn.  For an upcoming stay in San Francisco we’ll be staying in a suite at the St. Regis.  I tend to like to fly First Class (who doesn’t?) which is definitely harder when trying to find 4 tickets on mileage.

So, back to that question.  I’ll be sure to take a few suggestions from that thread on Milepoint,including how many points I’m earning and burning for my travel.

But, I’m curious.  Is there anything else you, my faithful reader (hat-tip to Stephen King) want me to explore?

 


Responses

  1. Do you want to block about the woes of Duke basketball? Oh, sorry, the air is kind of thin up here on the top of the polls.

    How about all the sports trophies you won as a ki… er, uh, never mind.

    Maybe you wanted to share with the readership all about your OCD office cleaning habit?

    Kidding aside, how about calling out by name when a stewardess or a pilot or a hotel employee goes above-and-beyond? A quick blurb about what happened and a mention by name? Might be interesting to read about the good (since so many travel writers focus on the bad), and might help the employee 🙂

    • David, After 400 years your team is finally good again and you decide to take pot shots. Just remember that for the future….

      I like your idea about recognizing the positive experiences, especially since they’re much harder to find nowadays. 🙂

  2. While it’s nice to know how to get to Tahiti Nui and to take a shower in the air on the way to Dubai, I would like to see more articles with realistic destinations where most of the readers would possibly go. I have NO interest in Tahiti and can think of no reason to go to the Middle East, but would be interested in how to use miles for the best travel experience to places I would go to, like Europe and Hawaii. I am sure more blog readers would find that useful vice pie-in-the-sky trips that none of us will ever take, or ever WANT to take, for that matter!

    • Frank, I completely agree with you. While a shower in the air is on my bucket list, I’m looking forward to a potential ski trip to Canada on spring break and a return to Italy next year. Thanks for your suggestions!

  3. 1. How to be safe. OK, Barcelona is the pickpocket capital of the world, and if I go to the Bangkok red-light district I’ll see things 1,000 showers won’t wash away. I’m not so worried about losing a little – how do I make certain I don’t lose it all?

    2. How do I avoid being an Ugly American (probably most easily demonstrated by pointing out behaviors of Ugly Americans).

    3. Every blogger and his brother talks about how to travel cheap. How do I travel easily? Rick Steves talks about traveling light; the thought of a single, European-size carry on for a three-week trip still scares me, but I’m working on that. What else will help ease my travels?

    4. What are the top three things you know about travel now that you wish you knew before your first adult trip (business or pleasure)?

    • Scott,

      All great questions. I’m going to answer question #4 first and come back to the others later. 3 things….

      1. Never check a bag. There’s so many things you can buy when you get there if you end up needing them. Most people who hate checking bags have lost a bag somewhere along the way. But, my reason is because it ties you down to a schedule. Changing flights on the fly is a pain in the butt when you check a bag.

      2. Some of the best trips I’ve planned aren’t a week-long trip. It’s perfectly fine to explore a place for 2 or 3 days even if you don’t see everything. That’s what another trip is for!

      3. Always, always, get the miles. Early on, there were so many opportunities I squandered to acquire miles and points. How foolish I was…..

  4. Thanks for linking to MilePoint. I may have stopped by there once or twice but did not look at it seriously until now, mainly because I had checked out FT and found it pretty tough for a newcomer to navigate. MP seems much more user friendly to newbies who do not know the lingo and codes that well. I plan to take a more serious look at it.

    As for ideas of what to write, I am curious about how many of the folks who follow travel/points blogs are on the road a lot for business, or are the a-few-trips-a-year types like me. I can’t take advantage of all the hotel offers since I have few hotel stays in a year, but I jumped on the SPG offer to new members to stay a night to get a free night in any of their properties. A weekend getaway by car to Seattle that we had considered became a real plan, and our stay at a simple Four Points Sheraton will now get us a lovely night on our next big trip. If there are a significant number of readers like me, info on offers we can actually use would be great.

    Along the same lines, do most readers want a first class free ticket, or are they happy with a free coach trip thanks to points? There is so much talk on all the points and miles sites about upgrades and platinum status – are most readers in that league? Are these the folks you aim to reach? Which bloggers cater to readers who may not qualify for the top perks but still want to make their travel experiences cheaper and better.

    Also, what airline programs work best for those of us who do not live in a hub city? Obviously this varies by geography, but what is the best way to figure this out? Wikipedia, to see what airlines serve your city and then where their hubs are?

    Thanks.

    • Elaine,

      Thanks for the awesome reply. For starters, I’m glad to hear you’re giving Milepoint a second look. If you need any help getting acquainted with the community, please let me know.

      I think you ask some great questions. For me, I have a full-time day job. However, most of the travel bloggers I know are either semi-employed or fully employed as travel bloggers.

      I agree it’s critical to focus on offers every type of traveler can take part in. I’ll continue to research offers that allow people to enjoy travel or accrue points in smaller chunks.

      I’m not sure how many of my readers are looking for an upgrade/First class seat versus seats in coach. But, you’ve given me a great idea for a future poll question. Now, I just have to come up with a prize!

      One of the bloggers I follow who does a good job stretching out every last point or mile he collects is Wandering Aramean (http://boardingarea.com/blogs/thewanderingaramean/). He does fly up front from time-to-time, but he has plenty of stories about long coach trips to awesome locales and budget hotels when you get there.

      If you don’t live in a hub city, one of the best ways to figure out which program to go with is to figure out where you want to travel to. For example, United/Star Alliance is stronger in Europe and Asia where American is stronger in Latin America. United and US Airways also have a much stronger presence on the East coast than American, with Delta somewhere in the middle.

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

      • Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate your efforts to really answer! Enjoy the super bowl, if you plan to be watching! Elaine

        • No problem! Feel free to ping me offline if you’re trying to figure out which airline to align with!

          Regards, Edward Pizzarello

  5. Ski trip to Canada? By chance are you stopping by lovely my YYC?

    • Canada, yes (well, maybe). But, different letters. 🙂

      My daughter has been talking about snow, snow, snow for months. All of a sudden she did a 180 and wants to go somewhere warm. I’m now scrambling to find a warm weather destination to replace those 3 letters starting with Y (YUL).

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

      • May I suggest MCO for the KidsDo? :p

        • I guess that conversation did end up dying midway. At least for my family. 🙂

          Regards, Edward Pizzarello

          Sent from my iPhone

  6. Since I tend to stay at a lot of SPGs too. I would like to see you cover what kind of Platinum gifts/amenities they offer you during your travels? One of the best platinum amenities I have ever gotten was a Disney Character breakfast at the Garden Grove restaurant at Swan/Dolphin in Orlando.

    • Perry Platypus, happy to oblige. Oddly, the last two SPG stays I’ve had, I felt like I got less of a Plat gift than I should have gotten. I got offer points only at a recent Aloft and the same at a Sheraton. I meant to check with SPG to be sure that was what I was supposed to receive but haven’t done so yet. I’ll report back. I like that Disney breakfast..

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello


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