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For the last few years I have been enjoying the perks of hotel and airline elite status. As I have mentioned with some regularity, having the various elite statuses that I hold results in real savings for my family on waived award/change fees, complimentary breakfasts, increased miles and points earning, etc. It also provides for an improved travel experiences with occasional suites, lounge access, first class upgrades, priority lines, etc. It’s been pretty nice having those perks, and this year I will even be attaining top tier 1K status with United as well as re-qualifying for top-tier Hyatt Diamond status. I will be able to leverage both of those in 2014 for some real travel perks and savings for my family on planned trips (yes, even with the United devaluation).
However, it all comes at a cost. I mentioned some of this in a post a few weeks ago, but while I am glad to have the elite status levels that I have, or will soon attain, I’m pretty sure that my strategy next year will look quite different. In other words, I quit top tier hotel elite status. I think elite status can be extremely valuable and easy to leverage for family travel, but I think it is very important to be realistic about how much it costs to attain. This is more or less irrelevant if you easily and naturally hit elite status thanks to mandatory work travel, or actual vacation travel, however when you are having to stretch on top of that to get where you want to be, it is important to do an honest assessment every now and then to weigh the costs/benefits.
Just as everyone should, I have been doing that analysis for my 2013 travel, and anticipated 2014 travel, and the numbers speak for themselves. Since I didn’t have a regular “day job” that picked up the bill for any travel in 2013, I ended up farther away from Hyatt Diamond than I wanted to be. I am making up the difference with “mattress runs” at relatively low cost because I know I will get the value back out of that with planned 2014 trips, but when looking at 2014 it is pretty clear that I again won’t easily and naturally re-qualify for Hyatt Diamond. And frankly, will likely be too far off for mattress runs to make sense. Many of my planned trips are going to be award stays to some amazing properties that I otherwise couldn’t afford, but that means that those days won’t be counting toward re-qualifying for elite status. It’s just a guess at this point, but my bet is that I won’t have more than 10 paid Hyatt stays next year.
Especially when combining paid and award stays, I will be spending a fair amount of time at Hyatt hotels next year, but coming up 15 stays short of the 25 needed to re-qualify for elite status is just too far to make up the difference. Even if I could justify the money, there is no way I could justify the time and hassle of doing that many extra check-ins (though a new Hyatt Place will be opening much closer to my house next year). It is important for me to identify this reality now before I start doing things in 2014 like paying more than I want just to stay at a Hyatt over another brand just to get the stay credit, or hold off on redeeming points so that I instead pay for the stay and earn an elite stay credit. I’ve certainly done both of those things at times this year, but I want a different strategy in 2014…as much as it stinks to think I will likely lose this elite status that I very much have enjoyed having.
If I get into 2014 and realize I am ending up with more paid Hyatt stays than I anticipated (or award stays start counting) then I would re-evaluate my strategy, but given what I know now, I’m not going to be pushing for Hyatt Diamond re-qualification next year. In fact, I won’t be pushing for elite status earned via stays with any hotel chain next year. I can get some mid-tier hotel elite status pretty easily via credit cards or Milepoint Premium. That isn’t at all the same as what I have gotten out of Hyatt Diamond, but sometimes you just gotta face the facts. My travel patterns right now, even though I do travel pretty frequently, just don’t line up with earning Hyatt Diamond status in an easy or inexpensive way, so I need to be realistic about that and let it go after next year. Hopefully my husband’s work travel will be enough for him to earn it, which will at least help on trips that we all go on together.
I don’t really like the outcome of doing this exercise, but I’m glad I did the numbers and know this before 2014 starts. I share all of this to encourage you to do the same evaluations for your own travel patterns. I know people that are flying 200,000 miles of paid travel annually to keep top tier status in two airlines, when all the paid travel they really need a year is perhaps 50,000 miles. That type of extra time and money may make sense if this is truly your hobby and you enjoy doing it, but I know in my shoes I have to know when to say when, and at least for hotel status, that time seems to be now. My situation with airline status is slightly, though not entirely, different, but that’s a post for another day. I’ll also do a separate post on what I plan to do it get some hotel elite status without having to have tons of actual stays.
Have you done a similar assessment for your 2013/2014 travel? If so, how is it looking?