As I discuss in the Beginner’s Guide, I think it’s very important to regularly take stock of your travel goals and align your earning strategy in such a way that you achieve those travel goals as fast as possible. That means always thinking 1-2 steps ahead of your next trip, and planning anywhere from a few months to a couple years out.
So rather than lecture you, I figured I’d show you a few examples of my planning… maybe some of you have even been some of these places or experienced some of these and can offer some advice?
Goal #1: Amanpulo
Why: Do I really need to explain why after that picture? Amanpulo is a private island resort in the Philippines which certainly rivals places like the Maldives or Tahiti for postcard-ness, and, of course, offers the renowned Aman service.
My Plan: This is a tough one because Amans don’t have any loyalty program that I’m aware of, so you can’t use hotel points on the stay. And it’s expensive. This is one instance in which it might be advantageous to use a fixed value currency which can be redeemed for any travel related expense–including non-chains.
The best such program is from the Barclaycard Arrival credit card, which earns 2 points on all spending and also earns a 10% rebate on all redemptions. So for every 100,000 points you redeem, they give you 10,000 points back… not a bad deal! Given that the flights will likely be [nearly] free, I could live with splurging on a few nights lodging costs.
So really my plan is simply to try and build up a small stash of Barclay Arrival points until I feel comfortable with the amount I’ll be able to offset.
Goal #2: Fly Singapore Suites
Why: Honestly… mostly because it’s hard to do. It’s a bit of a holy grail in the points world and even though I’ve booked clients in Singapore Suites, I haven’t experienced it for myself. Plus… what better way to travel as a couple than to relax in the only double bed in the sky?
My Plan: I’ll need a stash of Amex Membership Rewards points for this one since they transfer 1:1 to Singapore’s KrisFlyer program. I’m putting all my air travel expenses on a Premier Rewards Gold Card and all my DC Area DJ Company‘s advertising expenses on my Business Gold Rewards Card.
It shouldn’t be too hard, as we’ll probably only try to fly Suites one direction, so building up the points won’t actually take very long with Amex’s generous earning structure. Searching for space is easy on Singapore’s website, and luckily both of our jobs provide us with the flexibility we’re likely to need!
Goal #3: St. Regis Mallorca
Why: It’s not terribly far away (certainly closer than The Philippines and anywhere I’d be flying in Singapore Suites), and according to this Flyertalk thread, they’re known for excellent recognition of SPG Platinum members. Also, thanks to the last room availability of the SPG program, I can confidently book flights and earn the SPG points I need in later months.
My Plan: This one is on the slate for next August right now, though the better value may be to go in June. As July/August is “high season,” the point rate is 5,000 points/nt higher than in June–35k vs 30k. July 3rd, 2014 is actually the switchover date for next year from 30k to 35k. It’s too bad June is right smack dab in the middle of wedding season…
Really, the only plan here is to get on the SPG grind. I’m doing all I can to maximize point earning during the fall promo and trying to complete my Platinum “mattress runs” in a way that also juices up my point earning. I’m also putting almost all my non-bonus spend on my SPG Amex.
Throwing another wrench into matters, though, is goal #4 (perfect segue…)
Goal #4: SWISS First Class
Why: Because starting Jan 1, 2014, only Miles & More SENs and HONs (high elite flyers) can redeem miles for SWISS first class… so really just because the clock is ticking, and it’s often reviewed as an excellent product, though it doesn’t look really much different than Lufthansa. They also happen to fly from their ZRH/GVA hubs to Mallorca, so I’m possibly thinking 2 birds/1 stone…
My Plan: Now is where I’m really running into problems. The only way to redeem for SWISS first class is to redeem Miles & More miles… and the only [good value] way to earn those miles are:
-Fly a lot of revenue (paid) tickets on Lufthansa/SWISS/Star Alliance (I don’t do this)
-Put a lot of spending on the Lufthansa Mastercard (I’m trying my best)
-Transfer SPG Points to Miles & More
So you see the problem I’m running into here. Not only do I need 140,000 SPG points for just a 5 night stay at The St Regis, but I also may need to transfer some SPG points to top off my Miles & More account…
Given that this trip is probably coming up the soonest (among trips not already paid for), this makes earning SPG points my priority at the moment, which is really never a bad strategy given how many transfer partners they have…
Goal #5: Fly Qantas First Class to Australia on A380 (+ Australian Open)
Why: It’s by far the best product on USA-Australia routes, and again, it’s a tough redemption–particularly in high season.
My Plan: This is a bit farther out there, most likely. I’m hoping to do Amanpulo in Winter 2015, so this is 2016 at the earliest, and I’m not actively planning for this one quite yet, other than to diversify my points & miles whenever possible. I wouldn’t be able to book this til February 2015, and who knows what will be the best way to book Qantas then… maybe I’ll be able to combine AA and US Airways miles by then and redeem on Qantas? Maybe alliances will be much weaker then? Maybe they’ll start codesharing with Southwest and I can use Rapid Reward points? OK the last one is a pretty big longshot…
So really the plan here is to not worry about it too much, but maintain my AA and US Airways balances all else being equal and just keep an ear to the ground about redeeming for Qantas. Luckily since I book lots of awards, I shouldn’t have to do too much work on that…