One thing I always loved about the blog Milenomics was Sam’s deep thinking when it comes to matters of miles and points. Thanks to asthejoeflies (and everywhere else) contributor Robert Dwyer, Milenomics is back! I’ve been thinking all week about Sam’s article about his miles and points needs and wants.
He hits the nail on the head when he says “Learning a little about my needs and wants will help you to align with what I say or skip things that just don’t apply to you. I think it is important that writers are clear about their inherent bias, especially when time and money are involved.” If you don’t understand a bloggers inherent bias, how can you objectively analyze her or his advice?
So, as my life has changed quite a bit, I thought it important to take a look at my inherent biases, needs, and wants when it comes to travel. I think this might be something worthwhile to do every year, to see how things have changed. Hopefully this helps you decide whether reading my blog is useful or useless to you (or somewhere in between)!
Overall, if you read or skim this article, you’ll have a good idea of where I’m coming from when I’m posting in 2018. I’m sure some of you are in similar boats, so hopefully this helps.
I started this blog a few months before the birth of our first child. Now our baby turns five soon and we tow around a two year old and a two month old. Thankfully, our biggest fears for #3 didn’t come to fruition, but we still have some medical appointments to work around.
In addition, traveling as a family of five presents its own logistical challenges that I haven’t quite worked out yet.
So I’m keeping my goals for the year simple. Two or three trips as a full family, and I’ll count a road trip if I have to. One or two trips with just myself and the older two kids (hopefully we do better than last time we did this), and maybe – MAYBE one of these trips will be international. I’ll get the baby a passport just in case (here’s my simple guide for that).
If we can swing it, I’d love to go on a trip with just my wife, but we’ll see. Three (plus a dog) is a large number to ask anyone to babysit.
My Needs vs. My Wants
Given my modest goals, I don’t need huge amounts of points necessarily but even in coach the costs add up. So to be quite honest, I am still in the process of reevaluating my miles and points needs and wants in light of what kind of point totals I’ll need. But here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Flexibility and the ability to change/cancel for minimum or no fees.
- Flight times that work for the kids – no super early or super late flights
- A minimum of one stop, or stopovers
- Lodging with at least two beds and a crib
- Business class on flights over five hours
- Seats altogether
- Seat for the baby
- Lodging with two or more rooms
Business class used to be a “need” on international flight, but with the amounts of points it will take and more importantly the availability, I’m not going to pigeon-hole us by making that a “need”.
Everything else is pretty straightforward. At hotels/apartments having space to spread out can be the difference between vacation and insanity, though we can handle a single room for a short amount of time. My wife and I go back and forth whether all of us need to sit together as a family or split the team, but I think we lean towards all staying together. If flying domestically, we’ll grab a seat for the baby if the price is right. And I’m not going to take a 6:00 AM flight with my kids unless…well, I can’t think of a situation where I’d CHOOSE that.
My plan to address my travel needs.
Overall, my biggest “need” is flexibility. I have a lot of that due to Jetblue Mosaic status (from Jetblue card spend). I plan to keep that for the foreseeable future because I get flexibility (free changes/cancellations), can generally ensure the family sits together, and I can leverage the flexibility into flight times I want. An added bonus is the ability to buy up to Even More Space seats with points (generally <1000 pts each).
Here’s a good place to insert that I am Boston based, which is important! I loved what Sam said about travel hacking being local. Jetblue has such a large presence here it makes sense for me to invest a lot in the program, but that might not be the case for you. Find the solution that best addresses your local travel needs. I think it’s worth iterating, things touted as “amazing deals” on national blogs might not be amazing for your particular circumstance.
In terms of lodging, we are moving more towards renting apartments or getting double hotel rooms. Obviously the latter can be done with miles and points, the former will require more cashback earning.
I also need to think about how to deal with traveling with five hundred car seats…but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
How my miles and points wants and needs will influence the blog in 2018
I’ve spent the past few months thinking about what I want to write about here, and I think my 2018 is coming into focus. I’ve long said this blog is mostly a creative outlet, which still rings true, though I’m going to try to be a little more focused. So what kind of blog do I want this to be?
I definitely don’t plan to make asthejoeflies a “news” blog. There are plenty of sites out there that cover all the miles and points news as it breaks. I’ve never been good at that and I’m not about to start posting daily so that’s a nonstarter. If I post twice a week I consider that a good week already! (I’ve been writing this particular post for a week now…)
Let me crystallize my goal for the blog in a single sentence. My goal is to help readers fly their family further for less money and with less stress. What does that look like? I hope you can expect four main types of articles:
1. Practical tips for traveling with children
Since I’m still traveling with young kids, I’d like to help out other families who are looking to travel with young kids. Obviously, my tips are what work for my family, but my goal for posts like this would be to give you food for thought as you plan the logistics of traveling with kids. Example: my kids seem to hate the CARES harness (we returned it) but other parents swear by it, so YMMV.
2. Touring tips for families at various destinations
I love writing trip reports so I can look back on my family’s travel, so I may continue to do those, but I generally find them very time intensive. What I think might be more useful to readers is to give some insight into places to go/things to do/stuff to eat in various locations, especially abroad. If I have time, maybe I’ll even go back and write about places I’ve visited in the past.
And of course, posts about Disney World, one of the biggest family destinations, will fall into this category. So expect some more tips about making those trips more magical. (Full disclosure I’ll be there next week so you may see more Disney posts in the short term).
3. Using miles and points to save money on family travel
Sad but true, but travel hacking posts aren’t my number one priority here anymore. (But I’d like to think I still make a small contribution to the travel hacking community at large through the podcast.) Like I said, it’s just too much for me to keep up with all the news, so I am planning to focus the majority of my travel hacking posts on how families can save money on travel using miles and points. Of course, what I write about would be applicable to larger groups of adults, too!
I plan to write a bit about how miles and points “needs” change (like what I referenced above). If I ever see lots of award space that works well for families, I hope to write about that too. And I may even write about how (gasp*) I think I could handle coach if it gets us to Europe.
The other side of the miles and points equation is miles and points earning, which I mostly try to do from home now. So expect some thoughts on that as well.
4. Random musings on parenthood and family travel
My final type of post features some of my posts I’ve most enjoyed writing. Parenting creates a lot of feels, and sometimes I just need an outlet to write about them. Whether it’s how my wife keeps us from falling apart on the road, why I believe travel with young children is worth the headache (written for TDAD), or just thoughts on what it means to be a parent in general – every once in awhile I’ll just…write.
I guess in the end, this is a bit of a reset/refocus of the blog. And I think that’s a great thing because I still want to write. Hopefully you all keep sticking along for the ride and enjoy what you read.
My travel needs and wants will inform what I write, but I’d love to know what your travel “needs” and “wants” are too! What can you not live without when traveling? What do you consider a luxury? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!