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In my life, I have dealt with a lot of construction contractors (some good, some bad), and I have developed what I call the “Contractor’s Triangle”, which states that with contractors, out of good price, good work, and reliability, you can only pick 2.  Those of you who have dealt with contractors are probably nodding your head right now

  • If you want a contractor that does good work and is reliable, they will be very expensive
  • If you instead choose someone that is reliable but has a good price, the quality of their work will be low
  • If you pick having good work at a good price, you will have to deal with general unreliability and other “eccentricities”.  After all, if they were reliable, then the laws of economics say that they would start charging a lot more!

For myself, I usually choose the 3rd (good work at a good price), but then resign myself to the fact that I have to be constantly following up / harassing people to get the job done.

The other day I was musing about a similar maxim, which I have coined “The Traveler’s Triangle”

Flexibility of Time, Price and Location


In the award redeeming space (as with the contractors), there is a correlation between your flexibility on time, price and location.  Again, you can really only fix 2 of these areas.

  • If you’re flexible on your time and location, you can usually get a good price (be that miles or waiting for a fare sale)
  • If you’re flexible on your time and price is not an object, you can go wherever you want!
  • If you’re flexible on your location and want to get a good price, you need to be flexible on the time you travel (that could be time of year, or flights at more “awkward” times)

Some real world examples


On the beach at Lake Tahoe

The Traveler’s Triangle can cut both ways, for the good as well as for the bad.  Sometimes you have certain sides of the triangle (price, location and flexibility).  Just know that if you’re able to be flexible on 1 or 2 sides, you’ll have a much better time with the 3rd leg of the triangle.

Here are a few examples from my recent travels

Not flexible on time and somewhat flexible on location = medium price

When my family and I were planning our family reunion vacation in Lake Tahoe, we had

  • No flexibility on time (the reunion was happening a specific week)
  • Limited flexibility on location – we had to go to Lake Tahoe, but we did have a bit of flexibility in where we left from

As such, we had to pay a bit of a premium.  In the end, we decided to drive from Cincinnati to Chicago, in part to get a cheaper price – it still ended up being 170,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards (after the discount of our Southwest Companion Pass)

(READ: Finally putting all those miles and points to good use – 2014 family vacation!)

(READ: Keeping track of 17 pieces of luggage at the airport)

(READ: Passenger: “You’re the type of parent that should not have children”)

Not flexible on location or price = bad time

When we took our getaway trip to Miami, once we had decided on our location, we gave up on any flexibility on location.


Rocking the Everglades on our trip to Miami!

(READ: #TBT – My very first trip paid for with points)

We only had enough US Airways miles for 2 tickets at the SAVER level (though if I had not been such a newb, I SHOULD have transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards over to British Airways Avios and saved us 5,000 miles each).

As such, we had to take a 6 a.m. flight back to Cincinnati instead of being able to sleep in on our last day of vacation, we had to get up at the crack of (before) dawn in order to catch our flight back.

Have you ever run into the Traveler’s Triangle?  Share your examples in the comments


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