2014 Travel Review & 2015 Strategy

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With one week left in 2014, its time to wind down and enjoy some much earned time at home.  As the year ends, I find myself conducting a 2014 travel review and formulating a plan for 2015.

My 2014 travels covered 14 countries and many US states.

My 2014 travels covered 14 countries and many US states.

 

What a year it has been – my travels covered fourteen countries/territories and yet I only took three round-trip flights out of the United States.  Thanks to some savvy travel planning (and four separate cruises), I tackled my leisure travels in a slightly different way.  My business and volunteer travels took me all over the United States although I spent a concentration of my time on the west coast, the southeast, and the Ohio River Valley.

I was disappointed to see my travel taper off steadily in the second half of the year but through some careful planning, I managed to not lose any of my statuses.  My personal travel leaned towards cruising over flying.

Here’s what I earned or was comped in 2014:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum (earned on segments)
  • Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond (earned on stays)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum (earned on stays)
  • Hilton HHonors Diamond (earned Silver on stays, comped to Diamond)
  • Marriott Rewards Silver (earned on nights)
  • National Emerald Club Executive Elite (earned on total rentals)
  • Seabourn Club Silver (earned via points)
  • Princess Captain’s Circle Gold (earned via cruise segments)
  • NCL Latitudes Bronze (earned via cruise nights)

Analysis and 2015 Strategy

Airlines

I had intended to qualify for status with another airline (at the beginning of the year, that was United, where I once held 1K status) but my travel patterns did not allow for that.  It was also unusual for me to qualify on segments, but not on miles, probably because all but two of my segments were domestic short-to-midcon flights.

In 2015, I’m planning to continue to requalify for Executive Platinum.  This will be my 15th straight year with the status and as I am currently DFW-based, it makes sense to fly considerable volume on American.  I right now also have a surplus of SWUs (systemwide upgrades) to use so I foresee more discretionary travel in my future.

I do however want to diversify, particularly as I cannot predict what disruptions might occur as the merger nears the integration phase.  I lived through a very rocky merger for United and Continental and may wish to stay off American during the initial hiccups in service and technology.  Right now I’m leaning towards Delta.  I know that many naysayers feel that the program has been ransacked but I have liked my limited Delta experiences and their fares and schedules are competitive to the cities where I know I’ll be traveling.  The Crossover Rewards program with Starwood gives me benefits on Delta as I start that journey.

When splitting airline programs, unless one does heavy international or transcontinental traffic, it’s best to have one to focus on for longer mileage flights and one to focus on for more segment-oriented itineraries

Priority:

  1. American (mileage)
  2. Delta (segments)

Hotels

I took a hit this year as I attended several events where my hotel was paid on a master bill and I did not receive stay credit.  I also decided to burn off some of my Hyatt points, even though that meant forfeiting those stays.  I consider Hyatt to be the best of the programs where I am a member and will bend over backwards to requalify again in 2015.  I am 20 nights away from Starwood Lifetime Platinum status so that program may shift to a backburner.

I travel to many cities where there are no Hyatt or Starwood properties so it’s essential that I have either Marriott or Hilton status.  I had intended to throw all my business to Marriott this year but then Hilton dangled comped Diamond status in front of me.  Still, I think Marriott has more long-term value to me.  I may change my mind after I see the lifetime status plan for Hilton (I have had Diamond probably 10 of the last 16 years so I may be well on my way), but currently Marriott has the edge.

With hotels, I try to divide up my nights credits (often several days in the same location) and my stays credits (frequently single night stays, the bulk of my travel)

This year I’ll focus on Starwood for nights before switching to Marriott and Hyatt for stays.

Priority:

  1. Starwood (nights – want to get to lifetime so I can stop worrying)
  2. Hyatt (stays)
  3. Marriott (nights)

Cars & Cruises

I don’t really think much about these programs.  My business presently has a direct bill arrangement with National so that’s where most of my rentals go and I never have a problem qualifying for their top tier.  I use Hertz as a backup plan where there is no National location or where they are sold out.  I really enjoyed renting with Silvercar, however, and will consider them in their limited cities when the price is right.

I consider myself cruise line agnostic at this point – I don’t have high enough status in any program to make it worthwhile to place preference for a program over the itinerary or amenities of the ship.

Priority (Cars):

  1. National
  2. Silvercar
  3. Hertz

Priority (Cruises):

  1. Whoever has the best itinerary for the price

I’m already booking travel for 2015 – 7 segments, 3 hotel nights, and 2 rentals just for the first week of the year.  I will be checking in quarterly to see how my strategy is holding up.

What is YOUR strategy for 2015? Share in the comments below….

 

 

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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Comments

  1. On the hotel side, I’m re-considering my strategy.

    Statuses for 2015:
    Marriott Platinum (earned)
    Hyatt Diamond (trial completed)
    IHG Platinum (from credit card)
    Starwood Gold (from credit card spend)

    My business travel for the current client averages 8 nights/month. That could end after March, or continue all year. If it does end, there’s no telling what the next client will bring, might be lots of travel, or no travel at all. And I have no idea what 2016 will bring,.

    But the thing is, I’m not getting much benefit from my hotel statuses. I’m finding most of my stays are at lower end properties without lounges, without meaningful upgrades, and where breakfast is included for all. Residence Inn, Hyatt House, Hyatt Place, Staybridge… Most often this is driven by cost, sometimes by what properties are located nearby, and sometimes I specifically want the extended stay amenities (e.g. kitchen).

    So I think my initial strategy for 2015 will be to chase redeemable points. I have lots of miles but never seem to have enough hotel points. So this means working the bonus offers. I’ll start by knocking off the IHG Set Your Sights promo in January, 5 or 6 nights will net me 45K. Then I’ll probably switch to the yet-to-be-revealed first quarter Hyatt promo,and if I still have nights after that, the Marriott Megabonus. And so on.

    If I’m still traveling in the 2nd half of the year, then I’ll take another look at status, probably looking first at Hyatt re-qualification.

    • I’m in the same boat on lower end properties. So I’m very much about what I get (and can use) when I have a higher end property stay or I’m on vacation!

  2. Thank you for sharing Jennifer, dang, that is a lot of traveling the last 12 months. Glad you got to keep most of your elite statuses with the programs you use most often. Happy new year!

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