Today’s guest post is from a fellow Boarding Area blogger, Mommy Points. She writes about the quickest, easiest ways to maximize points—leading to fantastic vacations for her family without spending a dime. Thanks so much for the post!!
With Road Warriorette temporarily somewhat home-bound with her infant, I happily agreed to do a guest post so she could spend some extra time with her brand new family member. I very clearly remember how busy those days with a newborn can be! I do a fair amount of traveling myself, but my time away from home pales in comparison to my husband, who is a true Road Warrior. Recently, he has been away from home at least part of the week every single week for months. We have a two-year-old child, and I can tell you from first-hand experience how hard it is having a family separated frequently due to work obligations.
While clearly the main purpose of his business trips is because his work requires it, and having gainful employment is a necessity, what makes the trips much more tolerable for us are the miles and points he earns on the road. Call it a consolation prize to sleeping alone, doing the bedtime routine alone, packing lunches alone, doing dishes alone, teaching a two year old how to effectively communicate with Daddy on the iPhone, etc. When it became clear that his work travels weren’t slowing down anytime soon, we sat down and strategized how to maximize his time away so that we can reap some free vacation benefits of our own down the road by using the elite status and points he earned while away.
Here are some steps we went through when deciding how to maximize his mandatory travel for our own vacations:
- Look at the number of nights you are likely to have in hotels in a given year, and then go after hotel elite status accordingly. For example, my husband will have well over 50 nights in a hotel for work in 2012, so we decided it made sense for him to obtain top tier status in both Hyatt and Starwood. It is usually easier to qualify on stays vs nights, so he did 25 one-night stays at Hyatt hotels to re-qualify for Hyatt Diamond status by late April. He is now almost done qualifying for Starwood Platinum status via a “Platinum Challenge”. By doing this we will have our choice elite status with two hotel chains when we travel as a family. Suite upgrades, free breakfasts, food and beverage amenities, free internet, etc. are now all ours free on family vacations as a direct result of his mandatory business travel. The same principles hold true for airline status, as having elite status with an airline can result in first class upgrades and a more seamless travel experience when you vacation with your family.
- Pay attention to hotel promotions. Virtually all of the major hotel chains run points promotions off and on throughout the year. Assuming you have some flexibility in selecting your hotel chain while traveling, give some thought to who has the best points promotion going on at any given time. Again to use my husband as an example, we knew he was going to have a cluster of Starwood Preferred Guest stays at some point in the year. When SPG announced their “Better by the Night” promotion that allowed you to earn triple SPG points by having 15 nights or more in a three-month period, it made perfect sense to time his SPG stays within that three month period. By doing so he is earning triple the number of SPG points than he would have by ignoring the available promotions. Earlier this year when Club Carlson was offering up to 50,000 points for staying just one night at one of their hotels, we were sure to switch his business stays to Club Carlson hotels until he maxed out that promotion. Those points were then used to stay at a hotel in London during the Olympics we would never have been able to afford otherwise. We earn tens of thousands (or perhaps hundreds of thousands) of additional hotel points per year just by being strategic about promotions. Along those same lines, register for every hotel promotion that may possibly be relevant for you, as you never know where your business travels may take you.
- Register your business cards for dining rewards programs. Of course, don’t register your corporate cards for anything your boss would disapprove of, but there are many hotels and airlines that participate with the iDine Rewards program. There is no charge for this program, and you can earn miles for meals on the road that you were going to eat anyway. Like most road warriors, my husband eats out virtually every meal while away from home. Some of the meals happen to be at restaurants where he earns miles for every dollar he spends. He now has “VIP” status with the MileagePlus Dining program, so he earns 5 United Miles per dollar on those meals. Since some of his meals involve paying for clients and coworkers, the number of points he can earn from this really add up quickly! Once you register, it requires no additional work, so it is an easy way to earn some extra miles.
There are many more ways to squeeze the maximum points value from business trips, but those are a few of the strategies that have worked well for us. Enjoying quality family time together in comfortable hotel suites, or on flights paid for with miles, really does take a bit of the sting out of having a husband who is gone so much during the week for work. It isn’t as good as actually having him home to read stories at bedtime to my daughter, but it certainly helps!