A Shift in Travel Patterns for 2015: Quality Over Quantity

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A trend we have been trying really hard to integrate into our family in recent times is quality over quantity.  In a perfect world, this trend would ripple across all decisions from food choices, to clothing purchases, to entertainment, to presents at the holidays, to toys, to activities, and even to travel.  Now quality may imply more expensive, but it doesn’t have to mean that.  For us it really just means putting the emphasis on a smaller number of things that we really like and can appreciate rather than trying to get and do anything and everything.

It sounds so simple and logical (and it is), but at times it proves to be a challenge to pare life down to a simpler and more enjoyable pace.  Since this is a family travel focused blog, that is where I will put the emphasis for our strides to move to quality over quantity in terms of trips.

Probably like many of you, we usually outline a few family trips we would like to take in the upcoming year, estimate which time of year we would like to take the trips based on schedules and desired activities, and then I start looking for award availability or good deals.  In a perfect world, we find the award availability or solid deals on cash, and ultimately take those selected trips each year.

In the real world, we sometimes do that, but then impulsively jump on a mistake fare or really crazy limited time sale or two, we learn about a new resort or destination that sounds too good to miss and add that, then a friend or two invites us to join them on their adventures that we don’t want to miss, then some work requirements get sprinkled in, throw in a handful of vacation runs or real mileage runs, and all the sudden the schedule is once again over-stuffed.  That sounds like an amazingly great problem to have, and it is to a point, but when you have too much or anything it isn’t as enjoyable as it could otherwise be.  If you read my recent post about “The Last Trip of 2014” you probably could sense the exhaustion and gratitude that the travel for the year was pretty much finished.

To be 100% transparent, I know my family’s travel pattern will never be 100% normal.  I run a travel blog for a living, and that wouldn’t be all that relevant nor exciting to read if I never left my cozy couch.  Not just that, but perhaps more importantly, I am not wired in a way to want to be sedentary for long periods of time.  I need and want to travel and explore, so the 1 – 2 family vacations per year that work for some families will probably never quite work for me.  Our travel sweet spot is likely on the higher end of the spectrum, but there is still a scale to be kept in balance.

As 2015 approaches, we are again trying to not reduce the emphasis of travel in our family’s life, but instead ensure that we are focusing on travel that is of a high quality and level of importance to us instead of just grabbing at any and every feasible opportunity that comes along.  That will often begin to mean longer trips getting preference over multiple shorter trips (that is also a way to maximize miles as exploring more on one trip will often get you a better return than darting to and from multiple times).

In fact, in recent weeks instead of jumping on a few good travel opportunities I have seen, we have been canceling trips we had on the agenda for 2015.  Yes, canceling trips.  Thankfully, nobody is sick, no one has lost employment, no one has lost their minds, but instead we are actively trying to identify some trips that don’t 100% fit what we strongly desire right now, and shelve them for a different time.  Because we had used miles and points for these trips, we have been able to back out of them without any penalties (elite status came into play with some of the free cancellations).

Just like deciding to pare down Christmas presents was a relief, so was each trip cancellation.  With each one we could breathe a bit easier, and amazingly become more excited about the trips we did decide to keep.   For example, instead of wondering how crazy it will be getting back from a beach vacation in January on a Tuesday night only to leave to ski in the mountains on Friday afternoon, we nixed one of the trips.  We would have loved both, but we wouldn’t have loved either as much with them piled one on top of each other.  For those curious why we ever booked them that way in the first place, award chart devaluations and award availability issues are the answer…

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However, I’d rather pay more miles and points for a trip post-devaluation then get less out of the trip because we tried to pack it in where it didn’t really fit.  As a mom and a family traveler, we don’t have the luxury of catching up on sleep when we get home from over-stuffed-trips.  School starts at the same time in the morning, lunch still has to be packed, work still has to be done, mountains of laundry have to be tackled, and the level of exhaustion that can creep in from over-doing it can’t be ignored over the long term.

Airline miles and hotel points are amazingly useful, and they literally open the doors to airplanes and hotel rooms around the world without your wallet having to take a beating.  However, it is still our job to know when to walk through the open doors, and when to decide to take a pass and stay on the couch, in the classroom, at work, in gymnastics class, and in our daily routine a bit longer.

I’m glad that we went on a bit of a “travel binge” of sorts while our daughter was still in pre-school with a super flexible schedule over the last year or two, and while award charts were pretty favorable for the type of trips we wanted.  I’m equally glad we are entering 2015 with a 5 year old on the verge of “real school” and a pared down travel plan.  I know 2015 won’t stay as simple as we have it outlined right now, and that’s okay.  I like surprises along the way.  I also like the active steps we are taking to keep travel in the realm of something fun and exciting to look forward to for all of us.

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I’d love to hear from some of you who have gone through different travel patterns shifts and evolutions over time with your family!

Comments

  1. We had a pretty good balance in 2014 so we’ll probably take a similar number of trips to many of the same places that we like. We are however, trying to get more suites and include the grandparents and other family on more trips, and take more 5 day trips than 3 or 4 days, which didn’t give us enough time once we were there!

    • JL100, totally agree. Those 3-4 day trips certainly have their place, but 5 days certainly gives you extra time to breathe and explore!

  2. We had quite a few trips lined up in 2014 and decided to cancel a few of them. It was a great decision for us because it was almost like work, getting home and than packing again within a week or so for another trip. We are retired but constantly going on trips takes a lot out you. Sometimes its better to be home around family and enjoy the grandkids. We spaced them out next year but who knows what last minute trip we could decide on which makes it more exciting.

  3. We have two kids ( 4 years old and 6 months old) and live in the Boston Area. Pleasure trips for 2014 involved a parents only trip to Curacao in February; a full family trip to Ireland in July with grandparents (and a 3 week old no less); weekend drives to Connecticut to visit family, and we are currently in North Carolina with family for Christmas.

    In generally we target two week long+ family vacations plus two trips to visit family.

    Our 2015 schedule will be similar. In February we are driving to Quebec City with grandparents for a ski trip. July will take us back to Ireland and on to Sweden. I imagine we will have fall trips to visit family.

    As our family expands from one to two children, the trips are getting longer in duration. We are also driving longer distances where we would normally had flown in the past. (Quebec City will be about a 7 hour drive.) with connecting flights and the extra time we need at the airport driving is just making more sense. We have the miles, but we are using them for longer distance trips.

    Hotels have also become less appealing. A 2 bedroom airbnb is a much better value for our family than burning hotel points cramming into one room or even getting two hotel rooms. I have recently changed my poins focus away from hotels and now focus solely on airlines.

  4. Hello
    I always enjoy your post about your family trip! I need an advice from you. I booked four Korean air award trip to Hawaii recently, and I find out that I can’t transfer my chase points to Korean air account. The Korean air credit cards doesn’t offer high bonuses and I don’t have any sources to pay the points I need to keep this reservation. The Korean air rep said that I can pay the points I need before my trip without penalties. If we use other airline award, we need a lot more points to go to Hawaii. Korean air website still has the Chase as their partner. Please advice.

  5. Our points have taken our family of 4 far. In 2014 this included Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Budapest and Amsterdam and Canada. (Based out of NY, USA metro)
    We have always found that the best values have been to places off season.

    Our Asia trip was during February break. These tickets were far easier to get than the Caribbean or Hawaii during the same period using points. Same or warmer temperatures in SGN and SIN, with lower pricing on food and tours as well.

    Whistler,BC is a great destination in summer. There is downhill BMX rentals, and skiing at the peaks as well. Everything is less crowded and less expensive.

    Europe in august was a re-scheduled Israel trip that was redirected due to hostilities. It was probably peak season…It was more crowded, and I far more enjoy most European cities in winter than summer.

    Points have far more valuable with airlines than other programs. Especially on long journeys or upgraded tickets.

  6. I think its all about a balance of both. For our family of 4 (kids about 4 and 6) its been very easy with the companion pass just to pack on Wednesday night, hop on a plane Thursday morning, be somewhere else by noon and then come back Sunday night and still be able to go to school and work on Monday. Little disruption to our daily lives and able to recover at work pretty easily. Doing that about once every 4-6 weeks is great for us. Then about 2x a year, book a week or longer trip. I do like the idea of involving grandparents, we need to start doing that more.
    We have been able to use the heck out of our companion pass all over the US and Aruba, where our only non SW booking over the past 3 years was United to Hawaii. Now we have 2 bucketload (~2mil in different programs) of other points/miles that we are trying to plan an amazing trip somewhere. It just gets very complicated for 4 people.

  7. My mom used to say:”In our family we can have many small trips or few big ones”. What she meant was we could go have several weekend road trips to the beach and rent a place like many of our friends did or we could save time and money to then have 1 or 2 amazing and memorable vacations in the year. We always chose the later. This year we spent 10 amazing days in Hawaii and 10 amazing days in Brazil.

  8. I have gone through this now having teenagers.

    You will have to meticulously plan around school breaks, then you girl will tell you we travel too much I want to spend more time with my friends. Use your time now while you can.

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