“Why You Should Have Enough Miles & Points to Escape a Bad Travel Experience!”

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“Why You Should Have Enough Miles & Points to Escape a Bad Travel Experience!”

Million Mile Secrets“Why You Should Have Enough Miles & Points to Escape a Bad Travel Experience!”Million Mile Secrets Team

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I always say miles & points are NOT investments.  Instead of saving them, plan for a travel goal and use your miles for Big Travel!

But team member Harlan likes to keep enough rewards for at least 1 award flight and a couple of free hotel nights.  I asked him to tell you why.

Harlan:    The more you travel, the more you open yourself to the unexpected.  But sometimes, you can see it coming – a bad travel experience.

I once arrived at a resort hotel to find malnourished horses and unkept grounds.  And, while sitting in the lobby, I booked 2 nights at a better hotel down the street.

Another time, I took an earlier flight to avoid incoming weather and treated myself to a free night at an airport hotel.

Why You Should Have Enough Miles Points To Escape A Bad Travel Experience
To Avoid Travel Delays, I Used Starwood Points to Book a Free Night at the Sheraton JFK Airport Hotel, Where Same-Day Rates Can Be $250+!

In both cases, I didn’t pay any extra cash because I had enough miles & points to cover the expenses.  Now, saving a few points for a rainy day is something I recommend to everyone!

Miles & Points Can Prevent Travel Delays & Disappointments

Link:   How Miles & Points Can Help You Be With Loved Ones During Emergencies

We’ve written about how having a stash of miles & points can help during tough time, like unexpectedly losing a loved one, or just any time you need to drop everything and go.

I agree with that thinking, and go a step further to say miles & points are valuable to avoid a bad travel experience.

I’ll share 2 times having enough points prevented my travels from souring when I saw it coming!

1.   Avoid Hotel Complications

A few years ago, I booked an independent resort in Fiji for a couple of nights.  But when I got there, the grounds were a mess.  There were downed trees, debris on the walking paths, and the tennis courts were covered in standing water.  It was clear the place wasn’t well maintained.

The place also advertised free horseback rides.  And at the end of a short trail, I found a couple of horses tied to a tree, who looked so sad and skinny that it broke my heart to see them.

Why You Should Have Enough Miles Points To Escape A Bad Travel Experience
I Can’t Stay at a Place That Mistreats Animals and Has Bad Service. So I Switched Hotels for Free!

Those weren’t the only things, though.  The hotel told me they’d already sold my room to someone else.  But they would prepare an inferior room for me if I was willing to wait a few hours for housekeeping to clean it…even though I arrived after standard check-in hours.

I agreed.  But as I sat in the lobby, I started searching for other hotels in the area on my phone.

I’d just earned a supply of Club Carlson points.  And saw the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island had free award nights open.  In that moment, I decided to book it.  Then I called a cab to get us out of there!

Why You Should Have Enough Miles Points To Escape A Bad Travel Experience
Muuuch Better! I Loved Staying at the Radisson Blu in Fiji

Sometimes the hotel you book isn’t what you expected, even if you carefully comb reviews, compare prices, or go on a personal recommendation.  Most of us book hotels sight-unseen based on the reviews of others.  And in this case, I wasn’t prepared for how bad the reality would be.

Why You Should Have Enough Miles Points To Escape A Bad Travel Experience
This Gorgeous Fiji Sunset Brought to You by Club Carlson Points 🙂

Sure, I probably would’ve been fine at the place I booked.  But having enough points for a couple free hotel nights made it so I wouldn’t have to find out.  And gave me the flexibility to switch at the last minute!

Now, I always make sure I have enough points for at least 1 award night in each of my hotel loyalty accounts.  I want the freedom to get out of an uncomfortable situation.  Especially when my time in a new place is already very limited – I want to enjoy it as much as possible!  Not deal with poor customer service in a place I don’t like anyway.

2.   Avoid Travel Delays

Another time, I was set to travel to Europe on an award flight I’d booked months in advance from Dallas to Brussels via New York.  The day before my flight, airlines started handing out travel waivers in advance of bad weather set to cause airport disruptions.  But there was no way I was gonna miss this flight!

Why You Should Have Enough Miles Points To Escape A Bad Travel Experience
If I’d Missed My Flight to Belgium, I Might’ve Never Seen Beautiful Bruges

I wasn’t worried about the flight from New York to Brussels, but rather the Dallas to New York segment.  In this case, I got out of Dallas a day early before the bad weather rolled in.  And got myself a room at the Sheraton JFK Airport Hotel to beat the rounds of cancellations and delays.  My flight to Europe left on time, and so did I!

If you see inbound inclement weather, like a winter storm, hurricane, or tornado threat, get out as soon as you can!  You can use miles or points to book an award flight.  And then use hotel points for a free room on the other side!

How Many Miles & Points Should You Stash?

It depends on where you usually travel.  But my general guidelines are to keep enough for 1 low-level round-trip domestic award flight with your preferred airline (usually 25,000 miles).  And enough for 1 free night at a mid-tier hotel room with your favorite chain.

I’ve heard of people collecting hundreds of thousands of miles or points in their accounts.  And that’s just too much.  Use them!  Because they can and will lose value over time.

If you have a nice stash of flexible bank points, that’s even better!  Because you have your pick of several airlines and hotel chains.

Just be aware of the time it takes to transfer your points.  Some points currencies can take days.  That’s a big reason I love Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Because most transfers are instant!

Bottom Line

Team member Harlan recommends keeping enough miles or points in your loyalty accounts to cover a round-trip domestic award flight, or a free night or 2 at your favorite hotel chain.  Because you can catch and avoid a negative travel experience before it happens!

Harlan left a disorganized hotel in Fiji and got out of bad weather to catch a connecting flight to Europe using his backup supply of miles & points.  While I always say miles & points are NOT investments, there is value in preparing for an emergency, especially with flexible bank points (like Chase Ultimate Rewards points)!

Have you ever used miles or points to prevent a bad travel experience?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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The sway in that horses back means it’s old. With age like that it’s lucky to be that fat.

Poor animals, how sad:(!

I know, I couldn’t take it. The good news is that hotel is now closed for business. 🙂

I am hoping you did something to help those poor animals before you left: gave them something to eat/drink, complained about their treatment.

Yes, I told the management that was a big part of why I was leaving.

I absolutely disagree with your philosophy of only earning what you know you are going to use. I keep an ample supply of a number of different points available because there is no way to know in advance which ones are going to be most useful for future trips.
A recent example for us is in Cusco, Peru. We had long planned to go to Cusco sometime. An opportunity for flights to Peru came up a little while ago. We travel as a family of 6, so reward flights aren’t always easy to find. United has the cheapest business class award tickets, so one might collect United miles if they were planning to go to Peru, however, no opportunity for 6 award tickets were available. Instead, we had Chase UR points and business class flights were quite inexpensive, so we were able to buy them on a cash basis for about half a million UR points total for 6. If we had only had United miles (the logical ones to collect), there would be no trip.
In Cusco, there are 4 possible points hotel programs. Our first choice in most places is Hilton as we are diamonds with Hilton, so logically, we would have collected Hilton points to stay, however, from the timing, we would have had to get a lot of Hilton points (roughly 320,000) in a big hurry. And we would have gotten to the end of collecting them only to find out at this point that they don’t have availability for our dates. Instead, because I pile up points whenever I can, I have Marriott points sufficient to stay in a much better hotel that has availability for my dates. And instead of using Hilton points at about 0.3 cents each, a very poor deal, I can use Marriott points at about 1.5 cents each, an excellent deal.
Having a large portfolio of points available makes each of your points more valuable because you can choose to use them only when they give you best value, rather than having to use them in poor value situations because you have no other choices.
In the JFK example noted, you were lucky that the program you had your “emergency points” in had availability for the night you needed. On the other hand, if you always keep a portfolio of points, then you wouldn’t have had to hope that the one SPG hotel in the area would have availability, you would have had a selection of roughly 20 hotels in at least 8 different programs to choose from and could have chosen the best value or most convenient option.
If you really need to stick to one kind of hotel points for your emergency fund, SPG (at the time) or Hyatt are not the programs to choose. You will want to have stash of Hilton, Marriott, or Choice points (or flexible bank points) because the odds of SPG (prior to being bought by Marriott) or Hyatt having a hotel where you will have your emergency are definitely not in your favor.

Thank you for weighing in! Having enough points to travel with a family of 6 would definitely have different requirements.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

I was thankful to have enough points and miles for an emergency trip to get to my parents home in order to drive them to the Cleveland Clinic to see a specialist last minute. I’m actually on the airport shuttle now. At these times, I might not be enjoying my travel, but using up 12k AA miles plus fees for an otherwise $400 one way ticket (not sure yet when I’m returning home) is pretty amazing. Two free nights at the Cleveland clinic Intercontinental booked! Wish us luck…

Oh no! I hope it all works out for you! Glad you had the miles to go help your parents – best of luck to you and your family!