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Some people are planners, and some are more “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of people.  I’ve long since realized that there isn’t one true and fast “right” way to do things but different people are wired differently (and that’s…. okay…. :-D).  But I will say that in my case, there are 2 big reasons why being a planner works out very well.  I’ve talked a little bit about this before in some of my very first posts ever written

(SEE ALSO: Demand Schedule – what is it, and why is it important?)

(SEE ALSO: Demand Schedules Part 2)

Kid routines

Again, I know that there are many good and successful parents who don’t keep a routine, but for us, it’s been somewhat of a lifesaver for us.  We are one of “those” parents who is always back in the middle of the day for naptime, and home early to put the kids in bed.  Again, different people do things differently, but for us, we have noticed an increase in overall family happiness when we try to keep a schedule and a routine, even when on vacation.


Thankfully, after 14 years of dealing with naptime, we are finally free of the evil naptime beast (and the even more evil “kid that misses his nap!!”)

Maximizing your miles and points

The other reason being a planner works out well for us, especially in the miles and points world is that it lets you make sure that you have the right miles and points for the trips that you want to take.

I’ve written before about the 5 reasons that I think Chase Ultimate Rewards are the best miles out there, but if you are going on a trip where you need American Airlines miles, those Ultimate Rewards aren’t going to do you much good!

Even if you’re flying with British Airways Avios, which transfer from both American Express Membership Rewards as well as Chase Ultimate Rewards.  But which one you use to transfer has a lot to do with your other trips – if another trip needs United miles, you should save your Ultimate Rewards to transfer to United.  Similarly, if you have a big trip on Delta, then use Chase to transfer to British Airways and save your Membership Rewards to transfer to Delta.

Here are my tentative 2015 travel plans

So… having said that.  Here is my first shot at plans for 2015 and beyond.

  • January – surprise trip to Somewhere Warm 1/21 – 1/25
  • March – ng-conf work conference in Salt Lake City 3/5 and 3/6.  Followed immediately up by FT4RL #2 on March 7th in Charlotte.  Yes, that does mean that I’ll be taking a red-eye from SLC-CLT on Saturday morning (ugh).  Airfare and hotel in Salt Lake City are paid for by work, though I will need a 4500 Avios flight from CLT-CVG and possibly a night at the Hyatt House in Charlotte.
  • Summer
    • Mississippi county trip – remember I am trying to visit all 3,143 counties in the United States
    • Week long getaway trip – we have a babysitter lined up and we’re looking to probably go to Europe for a week or so.  This will either be in May or September.
    • 2 week train trip with the family – this will take 100K-130K Chase Ultimate Rewards transferred to Amtrak (depending on what rooms we get)
    • Visit to the House of Miles in Colorado Springs
  • Other possibilities that need to be slated in to an actual time.
    County signs

    Why do you think they call them “count”ies?

    • I may take another county trip or two – I have a potential one near Philadelphia to pick up my remaining counties in PA / NJ / NY, and another one in West Texas.  For an idea of what my county trips are like, you can see Central Kentucky county trip, or NV/ID/OR county trip – 17 hours, 3 kids, no electronics
    • We have a big family reunion every 2 years – last year’s was in Lake Tahoe (SEE: Finally putting all those miles and points to good use – 2014 family vacation!), so this is an off year, but we have had talks about getting together with our parents / siblings on both sides.
    • COSI weekend – short weekend family trip up to Columbus to visit COSI (where we get in for free due to our reciprocal membership through our local museum)
    • Indianapolis Children’s Museum weekend (Free First Thursdays) – we went there last year and it was a blast!
    • Other family weekend trips – these would be driving trips with a night or two in a hotel – long weekend trips to various close destinations.  Nothing specifically planned yet.
  • Payback for bartering – we’ve done 2 of our getaway trips and paid our babysitters by bartering airline miles.  So of course I need to make sure to keep enough miles to repay my obligations!
  • 2016 – still a year away but here are some of the bigger trips that we’re planning on.
    • Disney World – saving my SPG points to stay at the Dolphin or Swan resort on Disney property.
    • Scotland trip with parents?
    • 2016 Family reunion (Location TBD)

What miles and points do I need?

Our trip to Puerto Rico happened a few weeks ago, so those points are already spent.

(SEE ALSO: San Juan expenses: How much did my “free” trip cost?)

Looking at some of the upcoming trips we are looking at:

  • Amtrak trip – 130,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards for the train trip
    • We’re also looking at 6 nights of hotels * 2 rooms, tossed around to different chains as we move around
  • Trip to Europe – 2 business class seats will be 115,000 United miles one-way, or 100,000 American miles (still investigating other mileage options)
    • Again, that is probably another 5- 6 nights of hotels (just 1 room this time since it will only be the 2 of us)
  • British Airways Avios – probably 5 of the 4500 Avios flights, so that’s 22,500 Avios, which I have since I transferred about this amount over in the recent 40% transfer bonus from American Express
  • Bartering – I need enough for 5 roundtrip plane tickets and some hotel nights.  These should be domestic tickets, so I may be able to use some of my Southwest miles.
  • Other trips would just likely need hotel points which I have a bunch of.  Though I won’t be able to stay at as many Hyatts because I have no Hyatt points and I’ll be spending down most of my Chase points.

Takeaways I learned from writing my trips down

One thing that I realized is that I need more miles!!! :-D.  I actually was originally planning on doing the Europe trip as a roundtrip on United, with a free one way to Alaska (before I realized how deceptive United’s award chart for travel to Alaska is!!), but that would mean with the Amtrak plans that I would need 360,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards or United miles, and I actually don’t have that many.  So I tentatively made the decision to go one way on United and back with American miles.  Or possibly (gasp! :-D) go one way in economy or premium economy.

Another thing I realized is that if I want to use my IHG free night certificates this year, we will need to save our Europe trip for fall

(SEE ALSO: Why you should get 2 IHG cards at the same time)

Our anniversary dates for the IHG card are in June and July, so if we went in May we would not yet have them, and using them somewhere in Europe (London?) seems like a pretty good idea!

I hope you found this interesting – the exercise was very useful for me in trying to plan out where I want to go and what miles I need to get there.  I’d love to hear about your planned and upcoming trips!  Leave me a note in the comments!

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