a telescope in a room with a table and chairs

I have a confession: I travel too much, if that’s a thing. If you’re reading this, you probably do too.

After all those miles and nights away, sometimes even sometimes jumping through hoops to earn benefits, there’s no better feeling than the satisfaction of enhancing your travel with the benefits you earned in the year before. I just cashed out a few, and it’s such a wonderful reminder of how “worth it” some travel can be, and how satisfying it is…

Last year I managed to earn a suite voucher for reaching Platinum with Accor Hotels, a round trip upgrade for two for hitting 2,000 tier points as Gold with Virgin Atlantic and a whole bunch of others I’ll discuss at a later time. I just cashed those two benefits in Q1 of 2020, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

As some of you may know, we just welcomed our little girl Olive into the world, and that changes how we travel significantly. Those travel tips about taking flights from nearby cities or adding connections to save money which I’ve so easily doled out to others are over. For the foreseeable future it’s direct, one stop or bust – and ideally in comfort.

a window with a plane in the backgroundI took one extra flight last year to hit the 2,000 tier points with Virgin Atlantic, which triggered a round trip one cabin upgrade for two people. The one extra flight to get it cost something, but the benefit just saved me $5,000, a multiple of what it cost to achieve. A350 Upper Class both ways isn’t sad.

Actually, it made a trip possible, because I wouldn’t have paid what the trip would’ve tallied to, and instead would’ve had to punt for less favorable dates. That’s what travel loyalty is about. I was able to book a premium economy fare and immediately upgrade to business class for two on a London-Los Angeles – New York – London itinerary, ensuring extra comforts for my family, all on the back of sticking with an airline.

To be fair, I earn BA gold each year too, but I stick to these two programs alone.

The point here is simple: benefits are only worthwhile if you manage to redeem them, and if the effort that goes into earning them saves you money in the long run.

Next, it was hotel time. Accor offers a suite voucher for two nights when you hit Platinum, and an additional night after a few more points are earned. While I came up well short on nights, big benefit of earning elite status with Accor is that it can be done on spend alone, and due to some promotional activities for work, that ended up being easy.

a telescope in a room with a view of a city and waterWithout any mattress running or extra night, I was able to create an enjoyable amount of space in a hotel for a big trip, rather than just a standard room. It feels super, and the difference in cost between a standard room and a suite is over $500. That’s a $1500 value.

If earning that benefit would ever require a bit of extra travel, it’s just a matter of weighing the cost of those extra hotel stays or flights versus the money it will save, or value it will create. For this one, I wouldn’t have gone through much extra effort, but it’s still valuable.

These are equations that only we each individually can do. It doesn’t matter if a blog says suite upgrade benefits are worth $1000, if you always travel solo and arrive at 11PM and leave to the office at 8AM and don’t ever benefit from them. It doesn’t matter if top tier status with an airline gets you an upgrade certificate for international flights, if you never travel internationally.

It’s all about you, how you’ll use it and how much it will save for something you’d do.

Loyalty programs aren’t making it any easier to stay loyal, but when you’re able to find a “win”, no matter how big or small, it really does make you realize the potential that exists where you give a brand extra money and time based on your ability to be rewarded from it. It only seems fair.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Gilbert,
    Congrats on the arrival of your daughter. Will change your world! I always enjoy the “perks” of hotel points and elite status (mostly free nights, bigger rooms and breakfast) but I’m conflicted about award travel on airlines. I’m a OneWorld guy, and not a frequent business traveler, so usually qualify for midrange status with personal (and a little bit of work) travel. The idea of flying across the world on an award booking and NOT getting elite status credit for the miles totally bums me out! So my stash of miles keeps growing while I look for the perfect award redemption (in the front of the cabin, of course). Based on my situation I really want upgrades, not award flights. Any advice?

  2. Congrats Gilbert and welcome to the world of the travelling with a family. I’m looking forward to your tips and trips on travelling in this new context, this will be especially true once your daughter turns 2 and both the BA 2 for 1 and the Virgin upgrade for two dont quite cover you like they used to. Whilst the challenge becomes harder its also more rewarding.

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