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Happy New Year! Whether you rang it in standing outside with a million others in Times Square, by watching fireworks from a fancy pants NYE event at the Park Hyatt Sydney, or on your own couch with your kids far before midnight thanks to the on-demand Netflix countdown, I hope your year is already off to a good start. While I can’t help much with any resolutions about diet, exercise, etc. I am here to help with any and all resolutions or goals for 2015 that might be travel related.
In case you aren’t yet sure about your 2015 travel goals, let me share five practical suggestions that I think can benefit most of us who like to travel more for less!
1. Come up with and implement a good strategy to earn miles and points for 2015. Whether you want to just pick up a credit card or two and get a healthy infusion of miles and points from the sign-up bonus, you want to make better use of category bonuses to earn 2x – 5x for lots of your daily spending, or you want to dabble a little more in the world of things like gift cards, Redbirds, and more, come up with a plan and get to it. Your plan does not have to be super elaborate, in fact it’s probably better if it isn’t, but simply having an earning plan based on what type of miles and points you want will get you much further this year than simply flying blind and hoping for the best.
At the very least, I recommend pushing yourself and adding at least one earning method to your routine this year. That may be as simple as maximizing a category you spend lots in (like groceries), or doing all of your online shopping through a portal to earn additional miles, or it may involve a more advanced technique via the likes of Frequent Miler (here are his top 10 posts from 2014).
2. Identify a big trip you want to take and learn how to book it effectively. A big trip may be an “around the world in first class” adventure, a week-long trip to Europe, getting the whole family to Disney, or hiking in Colorado. “Big” in this context simply means “important to you”. As soon as you can identify where you want to go, spend some time on Google searching for tips on how to book that award trip and you will likely be pleasantly surprised at how many posts from miles and points bloggers there probably already are that can get you started in the right direction with learning some tips on how to effectively book and maximize your miles on the trip you want.
Similarly to with goal #1, make yourself learn at least one new mileage maximization tip this year as it relates to a trip you want to take. Certain programs are best for Hawaii, some are better for stopovers in Europe, some are better for short haul travel, and while you don’t need to know every detail of every program, learn something new about a program that will help you get where you want to go. Again, Google and old blog posts are some of your best friends in that department.
3. Bring a friend or family member with you on a trip.
While solo and couple travel can be awesome for certain trips, travel with a larger group can sometimes be even better, especially for families. I would encourage you to make it a goal in 2015 to take at least one trip with a larger group. It could be meeting up with friends, including another family, bringing grandparents, meeting up with cousins, whatever, but while it is harder to plan those trips, it can also be more rewarding.
We try to do one trip with cousins each year, as well as include our parents on various trips, and of course traveling to visit other family members along the way. We have also had some great trips where we traveled or met up with other families at our destination. I recommend looking at house rentals via VRBO.com, airbnb.com, or similar if you are traveling with more than just your own family as it allows you to hang out more during downtime as well as likely save money over getting multiple hotel rooms.
4. Use a new website or learn a new way to stay in the loop about miles and travel deals.
If you are still using the exact same tools and websites to learn about travel deals as you were a couple years ago, you are likely missing out on some good info. A simple addition for some will be Twitter, since that is where deals can light up before anywhere else. Follow @theflightdeal and @airfarewatchdog immediately upon joining. Then add some of your favorite loyalty programs and bloggers. You can find me @mommy_points – many travel deals and opportunities get shared here before they ever make it to a blog post.
There are also newer tools like the Wandering Aramean’s Hotel Hustle hotel award tool, new forums like Travel Codex, and tons of new bloggers (some of which can be found on BoardingArea’s sister site, Prior2Boarding. We also launched a series of e-books in late 2014 that may be quite helpful if Hawaii or Orlando is in your family’s future. Take some time to poke around and learn to use at least one new tool that will help you maximize your miles and save your travel dollars.
5. Just book a trip and go.
I already mentioned identifying and learning about a big trip you want to take, but even if you don’t actually take that specific big trip this year, go somewhere. If you want to be impulsive, jump on some great fares that pop up from time to time (like $20.15 flights yesterday), or use some of those miles you have and just go explore somewhere new, or visit an old favorite destination.
It’s okay if the trip you take isn’t the perfect redemption or a super complex itinerary, just get out there. Some of the trips I am most excited about for 2015 are some of the most straight-forward. Beach time with my family in Aruba on a good paid fare + Hyatt and Club Carlson points, using 22,000 ANA miles + Hyatt points to head to Jamaica with friends, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party in Orlando are all not super complex trips, but we are very excited about all of them.
So, where is 2015 taking you?