TPG’s Top New Year’s Resolutions for Travelers
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The TPG team is excited to see if 2015 will bring higher point valuations, cheaper award redemptions and (in a dream world) lower hotel and airfare costs. As a companion piece to our list of fabulous destinations to visit in 2015, TPG International Correspondent Lori Zaino has compiled a set of resolutions designed to help us improve our collective outlook in the realm of travel, points and miles.
1. Take a trip somewhere where you’ve never been. Rather than heading back to your favorite destinations yet again, add a little excitement to your life by taking a trip somewhere new. For instance, I’m hoping to skip my usual cold-weather beach escape from Madrid for opportunities to explore Krakow, Poland, the country of Myanmar, and the coastal city of Cartagena, Colombia. (If you’re lacking for ideas, check out our list of top destinations for 2015.) Never been to Memphis, Chicago, San Diego, or even just your state’s capital? Your trip doesn’t have to eat up all your vacation time—consider a weekend drive or simply an overnight from your home.
2. Achieve elite status. Whether with an airline, hotel brand or both, try to streamline your travel so that you earn enough miles or points to gain elite status with at least one loyalty program. With new spend-threshold requirements, changes in loyalty program tiers and a movement towards a spend-based mileage-earning scheme (cough cough, Delta), it’s becoming more and more difficult to earn elite status. However, keep in mind that spending on some credit cards can earn you qualifying miles—which brings me to our next resolution.
3. Find the right points or miles-earning credit card. Spend a lot of time at specific airports and want to have access to the Centurion Lounges? Then Amex Platinum is a good card for you. Spend tons of money on food and drink? Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which offers double points on dining. Fly Southwest with your partner all the time? Work towards the Companion Pass with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa. In 2015, with just a little time and research (and help from TPG, of course) you can find the card(s) that work for you by using the following strategy:
- Determine which benefits you value most: cash back; flexible, transferable points; lounge access; business class seats; companion passes; no annual fees, etc. Once you’ve got your list of valued benefits, visit the TPG Credit Cards page to find reference posts related to them (e.g., Best Business Credit Cards With No Annual Fee, Top Credit Cards for Premium International Travel, etc.).
- Which airlines and/or hotels do you prefer to fly with/stay in? Do you live near an airport that’s a hub for a specific airline, or always stay at a particular hotel brand for business travel? If there are brands that already have your loyalty—or should—you’re halfway to choosing great cards.
- Finally, download the TPG TO Go App, which will not only help you find the right card(s), but also enable you to track your spending and bonuses.
4. Retire your Knee Defender (and your bad travel attitude). Being squashed in economy inside a small metal tube is uncomfortable. I’m 5’2″ and I think it stinks, so I can’t image how larger people feel—especially TPG, who is well over six feet tall. However, there have been entirely too many news stories this year about people being crappy passengers/human beings! Depriving someone of the right to recline their seat and making a huge scene so the flight gets diverted is just not cool, nor is throwing hot water at a flight attendant or having a nervous breakdown related to nuts. Flying isn’t meant to be comfortable, it’s meant to get you from Point A to Point B; if you’re stuck in a middle seat in coach, I’m really sorry for you, but don’t—I repeat don’t—be a jerk. Let’s all try to have a better attitude when traveling in 2015, shall we?
5. Use ALL your vacation time this year. Although Americans get much less vacation time than in other countries (we’re looking wistfully at you, Europe), recent surveys show that Americans aren’t even using the time they do have. According to a survey done in 2014 by research company Harris Interactive, American employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation/leave time, and if they do take time off, 61% use that time to catch up on work. CNN reports that Americans are actually taking less vacation time now than they have in the past four decades. So do yourself a favor and use your paid time to take a real vacation, the kind where you detox from your assignments, e-mail and even social media—and eventually return to work refreshed and renewed.
6. Book ahead for better prices. You’ll sometimes find great fares and awards at the last minute, but it’s generally better if you book your travel ahead of time. If you can be flexible with your dates (not a likely scenario when you’re flying last-minute), you’ll increase your chances of getting a better fare or a saver award ticket. If you absolutely have to book last-minute, at least be aware of these TPG tips and strategies.
7. Plan a trip specifically to eat/drink locally. Sure, not everyone is a foodie (such as myself or many members of the TPG team), but trust me —traveling somewhere solely to enjoy eating and drinking the local fare is loads of fun. Exploring a destination known for its cuisine and beverages (e.g., wine tasting in Port, Portugal or indulging in la pizza in Naples, Italy) means that you can skip overcrowded tourist spots in favor of wandering into emerging restaurants, hole-in-the-wall eateries and food stalls, or onto welcoming bar stools. You can always renew your gym membership when you get home. For gastronomic inspiration, check out our foodie guides to Playa del Carmen, Mexico City, Madrid and Hanoi, Vietnam.
8. Don’t let your miles and points expire. It cuts me deeply when I hear people say they’ve let their points or miles expire, when it’s so easy to keep them active. You can reset that expiration date by spending as little as one dollar on a co-branded credit card or in some cases, on a purchase through an official shopping portal. So please, pay attention to your expiration dates and don’t commit this epic fail of letting your points and miles go to waste! Here is a post on airline mile policies so you’ll never let another point or mile expire again.
9. Surprise a loved one with a trip. A vacation with you can be one of the most wonderful gifts you can give a person you care about. Back in 2011, TPG (Brian) surprised his late grandmother with a trip to California, and he still considers this to be one of the best ways he’s used his miles, as it offered an unforgettable experience for both of them. Even if you don’t have a huge stash of points or miles, though, surprising someone with a trip can create some beautiful memories. I can attest to this personally, as Brian also surprised ME with a visit to Madrid for my birthday last year; I’ll never forget this, and I’m hoping to pay it forward it 2015.
10. Book accommodation the modern way. The past couple of years have seen the introduction of some amazing new travel services that enable you to easily book your lodgings in style. Heading into 2015, try something new like Hotel Tonight, a last-minute booking app that allows you to book seven days or less in advance. Rocketmiles lets you book hotels and bank the points to your favorite frequent flyer program, and based on your social media presence, you might snag a good discount on a hotel booking with Hotelied. Websites like Airbnb (a new partner of American Express Rewards) and Flip Key offer cool alternative to hotels, with a large roster of rental properties like villas, apartments, or even beach bungalows and tree houses. Here at TPG, we’d like to wish a very Happy New Year and the best in life and travel for 2015!
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