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
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.
(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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As someone who is married to a teacher this is so true. Granted our kids are in school but if we really wanted to we could work around that. But my wife can’t just take off a few random days in May.
Our options usually revolve around spring break, Christmas, and summer. Typically our family vacations occur during spring break so yeah… we’re forced to sacrifice the price side of the triangle!
I’m currently wrestling with this one for an upcoming trip to Spain/Portugal: We’re flying into Barcelona and back from Paris, so we have to get to Paris the day before our flight. We’d originally planned to start with five days in Barcelona, but the best flights from Spain to Paris leave from Barcelona :-/ That means I can’t really do an open-jaws route as originally planned (e.g., PHL-BCN, LIS-CDG/CDG-PHL. So if we want the best possible flight on our last day, we’ll have to fly in to BCN and then immediately go to the opposite end of the itinerary, working our way back to BCN.
Definitely deal with this all the time. Our newest trip is planned for spring break (had to for kids to be out of school) for the six of us to Peru. We had to take them out of school for an extra day on either end to get the price and, even then, could only get 5 tickets at the lowest price, which made our 6th ticket completely inflexible on time, so had to pay $400 extra (about 27000 chase points) for my wife’s ticket. Still ended up being about 83,000 UR points each for the return trip YEG to LIM in Business, so not bad and the five of us will get about 5500 united miles for the trip. For my wife, we kind of hit the jackpot. She received the AA gift of Platinum Pro until May 25, which I was able to successfully match to United Platinum. She will receive about 14,000 united miles and will be able to meet the Platinum challenge requirement of 18,000 EQM with this one trip, so the downside of the time constraint turned into a pretty positive result.
On the other hand, getting to Cusco, Puno, Paracas, and back to Lima with 6 of us inside 11 days (during Holy Week) means that some of our flights are going to be expensive and we are likely going to have to pay cash for at least some of them. Time is working against us and so is location, because it is best to do Cusco before Puno due to the extremely high elevation at Puno. With 6 of us, odds are at least one of us will suffer altitude sickness to some extent. We could go to Puno first for only 3,000 Lifemiles each, but will instead probably have to go to Cusco first for 6000 lifemiles each. Getting back to Lima on Easter Monday is prohibitively expensive on any kind of miles (Latam or life miles), so we will likely take advantage of the Latam visa 20% discount and book them for cash.