Are You (We) Traveling Too Much?

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My family has a trip coming up in the very near future and I am excited about the whole thing. The trip itself is not glamorous or exotic by any stretch of the imagination. It is on a regional jet. It involves staying most of the time at my in-laws’ house. It involves time with my husband’s friends from high school who I have never met. Basically, it is a “have to” trip and not a “woohoo best idea ever” trip. (Though please don’t take any of that the wrong way!) However, given all the things that are potentially stacked against it, I am still more excited going into this trip that I was for many “woohoo best idea ever” trips over the summer.

I think the reason is that I had some periods over the last few months when I was traveling too much. Some of the trips were necessary, and some were just for fun, but while I enjoyed them all, it was just too much in a short period of time. Travel was starting to feel like a burden instead of a treat. I felt like I was living my life from one packing and unpacking session to the next. In fact, I actually stopped really unpacking our bags because it wasn’t worth it. I’m not writing this at all as a “woe is me” tale, but instead I am writing it because many of us who have the luxury of traveling on miles and points likely can fall into this trap from time to time. There’s a good deal, then a great redemption, and another can’t miss opportunity, and before we know it we are gone at least as much as we are home. It’s an amazing blessing to have the ability to do that, but for those of us with families, it can also be an unintended curse.

Minus my husband’s seemingly never ending work trips, my family has basically been home for a full month. That may not seem like very long, but it is a vast improvement over the previous trend where we were packing to go somewhere almost every week. The month at home gave us time to re-center, re-charge, relax, and finally unpack. Breaking away from routine to go on a traveling adventure is absolutely amazing, but it isn’t quite as amazing when you don’t even have enough time at home to have an established routine to break from. We were missing birthday parties, pre-school events, nights out with friends, time on the lake during the summer, etc. We are always going to miss some of those things as my brain doesn’t work well if we are in one place for too long, but it is important to know when enough is enough.

The question for frequent travelers, especially those with families at home, is when is enough really enough? When do the sheer number of trips start to take away from some of the “specialness” of all of the trips? I know this can’t just be me, because I recently was trying to plan a joint trip with several families (all of whom are heavy in the world of miles and points) and even looking as far out as mid-2013, we couldn’t really come up with a time we were all available to go somewhere at the same time since we all have already loaded up our schedules as far out as the booking engines will allow.

Just because we have the miles (or $) to go somewhere, does that mean we should? Clearly I think the answer is no. Even if we technically could find the time to squeeze it in, there are some deals that we just have to pass on because the schedule is too full. My kid loves to travel, but it wouldn’t be fair to her to constantly live life on the road, even if that is what I wanted to do. Like many young kids, she does well with a schedule and routine, and so it is important to be home way more than we are away. I think our “happy balance” is about one trip per month. That doesn’t mean that the whole family necessarily goes on every trip, but if we keep our average at around one trip per month we seem to do pretty well. Some of those trips are just short road trips, so they don’t all involve hopping on an airplane. I know that probably still sounds a bit high for some (and low for others), but it is what works for us.

I think we had about three trips per month for every month all summer long, and it was way too chaotic. Again, they were all great trips (some visual evidence below), but sometimes you just have to say “not right now”. I’m definitely the “weak” one in that category, but identifying the problem is a big step forward…right?!  Of course, if you ask me which trip I would have cut out of this summer there is no way I would have been able to pick one, so perhaps I am back where we started.

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Again, I know this is an amazingly fortunate “problem” to have, but with lots of points comes the potential for lots of trips.  Sometimes the scales can tip too far in any one direction.  Since I clearly can only identify the “problem” in this scenario, and not really the solution, I turn to you. How does your family decide which trips to take and which trips to pass on? What type of balance have you found to be successful for your family?  Or is your motto just do them all while you can, and rest later when we’re all dead?  😉

 

Comments

  1. Thank you for writing about this! I am traveling too much. Grown-ups need routines too, and over the summer my routine just fell apart. I have more miles and points than I know what to do with, and I’ve been able to go on some great trips thanks to them, but I’m planning on slowing down this coming year.

  2. I agree, I also have more points and miles than I can ever use. The travel starts to become less fun.Heck, I’m starting to feel like we live Hawaii and just return home to get the mail.With plane tickets,hotels and some GC that are all free it’s hard to turn down.However it is a great problem to have.

  3. Sadly, traveling too much is not a problem that my family has. Because our children are in school, we’re limited to summer travel, plus three short trips during the school year — and always at times when it’s most expensive to travel and difficult to find tickets. And even during those school breaks the girls often have extra-curricular activities or just the need for some “down time” that mean we don’t wind up using all those opportunities.
    .
    Also, I have to say that I think there must be several different levels of “points and miles” travelers. With a family of four even if we “make” a half million points a year, that really only covers one good sized trip. I’m just not sure how other people (at least, other families) manage to be jetting off to Asia and Europe in business class every month or two on points.
    .
    While I enjoy reading the blogs from people who seem to spend much of their time in the air when push comes to shove I don’t really want to be one of them (I don’t actually like flying, for instance). But three trips a year is too little; I’d be happier (I think) with more like six to eight.

  4. @Kay, I agree it isn’t just kids who need a routine!
    @Jim, ha ha! I agree it is a good problem to have. 😉
    @Larry, school schedules do introduce a whole new dilemma. We also don’t have near enough points to jet off to Asia in biz class every month or two, but we do have enough for smaller frequent trips. I also wouldn’t want to be someone who lives their life from one hotel room to the next. I like some good time at home between trips in order to make them feel more “special”. 😉

  5. I’m in Larry’s boat regarding the school schedule and the levels of points gathering. I definitely overdid it this summer…the last week of August in Montreal means we missed school orientation. Am I still glad I did it? At $130 per RT ticket and free hotels, heck yea, but when I counted and realized we took 24 days in hotels this summer it may have been overkill!

    To solve the “crowded” dilemma, I try really hard to go to off-peak destinations. I have written many rants on my blog about the August East Coast beach vacation…the biggest culprit in my circle of friends.

  6. Funny you posted this. I read the last few of your trip reports and wondered if you really had fun travelling so much. I love it, too, but not so much to go more than say once every 4-6 weeks.

    My kids are in school, and more problematic, play sports. That really kills most travel. We still try to to get away every few months, but that means missing stuff at home, and no one likes to do that.

  7. Once a month for families seems to be a good pace. For couples or singles, I think biweekly is the max, as it’s relaxing to have that weekend in between to stay home. People on either coast also have the good fortune of being able to do weekend road trips, which can be less stressful than flying.

  8. On FB I’ve been dubbed Diego for traveling so much. People think I am loaded with money cause I travel so much. When I tell them how I do it they really don’t understand the concept or are to afraid to get in it.

  9. We had similar travels this past year and the kids do get tired of it. They miss their home and friends.

    However, that being said, I personally will not change my travel goals because of it.

    The trip experience and memories greatly outweigh any angst involved with “traveling too much.”

  10. Ditto what Larry said!!!

    Our kids are 13, 11, and 8 so we are limited to school vacations. To make matters worse, my husband can only get Spring Break off every few years and cant get Christmas break, sp thats summer only plus long weekends.

    The kids had just gotten to ages where we felt we could leave them with trusted sitters and travel solo…And then the middle child was diagnosed with a serious chronic disease. We canceled one parents-only trip already, and our next (Moscow in may) is questionable unless we can find a nurse who will nanny.

    My advice for anyone with preschool aged kids is to make the most of it, and err on the side of overdoing it until you find it’s too much.

    I’ve got points and miles to spare, but can’t seem to get anywhere!

    Anita

  11. I know my wife feels like this often when we travel “too much”. For me, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes…

    Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
    Jack Kerouac

  12. Thanks for posting about this topic, and I think it applies to families as well as couples/singles. Trips are fun but what is the purpose of traveling? Yes, seeing the world is a pleasure but spending that time with loved ones is the ultimate goal. And I think spending that precious time at home is many times more fruitful.

    We have a 1.5 year old and I enjoy our routine of taking him to the local coffee shop on Sunday morning while allowing mom to sleep in. Or watching him splash away in swim class on Sat morning. These and other great times are lost during travel weeks. Routine is very important for children and IMO, breaking that often is not a healthy thing. I have yet to meet a kid that doesn’t have some adjustment issues, whether it’s sleep or infections or eating, after a moderate length trip.

    I don’t know if we’re doing it right, but our goal is 2-3 major trips in 2013 with flights over 3 hours and stays longer than 4 nights with about 2-3 minor trips. This way we are traveling every 1.5-2 months to allow for decompression, a regular routine for our child to get used to, and to truly enjoy every trip we get.

    Thanks again for bringing up this topic for the families out there.

  13. I understand completely. At ~90K miles this year, it will be my highest year ever by far and I’ve noticed the changes its brought. Checking into a hotel last year was nearly always, “Hey, they’ve done a nice job here. This should be a fun few days”. By the end of this summer it’s become “Oh look, a bed. *snore*.”

    At nearly a year, Ben is also much more work during travel then he was at 6 months. As the typical travel time to see our families is 10-14 hours door-to-door, its a long day for everyone involved. Due to that, we’ve decided to cut out short trips as they aren’t fair to Ben and they aren’t fun for us.

    Our travels next year will naturally decrease as Kate returns to work after a year off. But we’ve also started to question ourselves before we book each trip. If we asked “Is this something we want to do”, the answer would always be yes, but “Is this a good idea”, frequently brings a different answer. Which is why all 3 of us are not attending a Do that involves flying all over the country this Friday. We’d like to, but it’s REALLY not a good idea with a 11 month old.

  14. I’m definitely starting to hit a traveling too much wall… I just truly finished unpacking from a Disney trip a week ago and I’m now packing again to take my daughter to a family wedding. We have another cross country trip in early October, and I’m almost out of juice already!

    (By the way, we must have ESP – I wrote a similar post on my blog last night!)

  15. It is just my husband and I so it is easier to organise travel. However, I have never been part of the camp that believes you should earn and burn miles before they devalue. We only go on a trip if we want to go, not just to earn or burn points. We are sitting on 2+ million points, but see no need to hop on a plane and just go somewhere.

    AS you note, constant travel does disrupt your social life as well as many other aspect. The level of fatigue on return and the amount of time it takes to get back on track means we are trying to limit our travel to once a quarter.

  16. The 3rd mattress run for the Club Carlson summer promos seemed like a chore. Mattress runs with a toddler are just tough in general. However, we now have over 300,000 points…a nice war chest for future trips. Also, visiting family is always draining. It’s hard to cut those trips out, even though they definitely result in more anxiety, lost sleep, and general annoyance than all leisure and mileage/mattress run trips combined.

  17. If you and you’re family are happy traveling that much, then go for it! We have a eighteen month old, and he has never gone a month without getting on a plane. Has it been exhausting? Yes? Sometimes have we thought we won’t be going on a trip for a while? Yes. Have we reduced travel quite a bit from when we didn’t have him? Yes. Traveling is on our blood, though. We are excited, though for when it’s not so much a chore, and he actually enjoys it and learns from it.

  18. I think that I fell into the trap of chasing the promotions a bit to much. We traveled more than ever this year and had some great trips that we would not have had without miles and points. At the same token, chasing those Club Carlson points (4 stays for my husband and myself) was a bit of a chore. I also did a Hyatt Diamond challenge and am Hyatt Diamond through February 2013. We have had amazing stays in Hyatt suites in Chicago, Boston, Washington DC and ( best of all) at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai. But now that I have sipped the Hyatt Diamond Kool-aid, I find myself trying to dream up excuses for getting in7 more nights by the end of the year in order to re-qualify. Do I really want to do mattress runs in my hometown?

  19. I would never do mattress run because that would not worth it, even for the recent Carlson promotion, not to mention for Hyatt diamond! I would, however, do mileage run if necessary to get, say united platinum or 1k.

  20. This post is exactly why I like your blog. While my own kids are are now 18 and 15, we still enjoying our time at home to relax and sleep in (school and sports constraints here, too). Our stash of miles and points continues to grow, but we seem to use them sparingly. My husband and I travel enough for work to pay for 4 tickets to Hawaii every 2 years. The week we spend there really sustains us, and gives us so much to look to forward to when we’re home. Our work travel schedules are hectic enough that we really have to work hard to carve out time for “go somewhere cool with the family” type vacations. But when we do, we REALLY love them!

    When the kids were little, it was hard to justify big trips, because they are a lot of work (and often expense), and the kids just don’t remember that much about them. What they DO remember is the time we spent playing in the parks (it’s a lot of fun to research cool parks in new cities!). To this day, whether we’re traveling as a family, or if I’m taking a few hours to explore an exotic location on a work trip, I always seek out local parks, because I’ve decided that that is what really gives you a feel for new places.

    Finally, I must confess that we actually tend to stay at rented condos or apartments when traveling as a family for more than 2 nights. It’s a whole new level of relaxation when traveling with kids! Dining out several times a day gets old quickly, even without kids!

    So congrats on your revelation!

  21. With two teens, school, sports schedules and pets, heck, I don’t even WANT to travel too much because it’s so hard to cover all the bases just to walk out the door. However, 2 trips a year for my family of 4 is just about right… we always have something on the horizon but it’s not too overwhelming. My son and I both have a bigger yen for travel than my husband and daughter, so he and I add at least one more trip to the yearly schedule. If I focus on point earnings and booking nearly a year ahead of time, everything clips along beautifully. I’m planning our Thanksgiving 2013 trip now, to Scandinavia.

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