the rooster or the egg? Do you e book flight or resort awards first?

Spoiler alert: on this coming weekend’s Frequent Miler on the Air, the query of the week is the title query of this put up. Readers Frank & Deana wrote in with this query:

Which comes first, the rooster or the egg? (Aka when reserving a journey which do you usually e book first to be able to maximize worth, the flight or the resort?) Clearly, as soon as one is booked it vastly limits flexibility to seek for awards, alter dates, search upgrades, and examine opponents for the second. Some fabulous motels/gives might justify accepting a 2nd, third or worse selection in flights/itineraries and vice versa.

Whereas we’ll every reply on tomorrow’s podcast, the query has caught in my thoughts as a result of I feel it actually speaks to the center of award journey.

We’re deal hunters at coronary heart

There are most likely no statements that apply uniformly throughout all factors and miles afficionados, however one factor that I feel many award vacationers have in frequent is that we’re deal hunters at coronary heart. Earlier than I used to be a points-and-miles particular person, I used to be a web-based reseller, spending my free time discovering issues on sale that I may flip for a small revenue on eBay or Amazon. Earlier than that, I used to be combing the Sunday newspaper for coupons or if we roll again the clock 20 years I used to be comparability buying with the advert from one retailer at one other retailer or I used to be studying an internet site about all the free or low cost issues to do on my journey to Las Vegas. I blame credit score my dad and mom for my intrinsic appreciation of getting a great deal.

And so once I finally chanced on award journey, it was whereas on the lookout for a method to get a great deal on flights. I used to be instantly hooked on the concept of getting “free” (or very extremely discounted) flights and motels by simply spending cash that I used to be already spending and getting the flights and motels together with it.

My “deal-hunter” tendency has extremely influenced how I’ve booked journey since lengthy earlier than I started enjoying this sport.

That’s to say that somewhat than deciding on a place for subsequent yr’s trip, I used to be at all times deciding on a visit based mostly on getting a great deal ever since I used to be sufficiently old to be planning my very own journeys: We merely went the place a budget economic system class airfares would deliver us. One yr we went to the Bahamas as a result of JetBlue had a trip package deal deal from New York that included flight and resort for a number of nights for about the identical value because the flights alone. One other yr we went to Eire in January as a result of flights have been solely $260 spherical journey (positively not the best time to go to Eire!). Yet one more yr, we went to Abu Dhabi as a result of we chanced on an airfare sale on Christmas morning providing tickets from New York to Abu Dhabi for $187 spherical journey. We by no means thought to plan a visit round a vacation spot and time however somewhat we picked them based mostly on cheapness affordability.

That need for a great deal didn’t finish when I discovered methods to e book flights and motels with factors and miles. Quite the opposite, I feel this interest as fed that need.

Looking out a great deal first

I feel the last word reply of the “rooster vs egg” debate for me is that the deal comes first. It doesn’t matter how a lot I’d wish to see a spot, I can’t deliver myself to overpay. If I do know {that a} saver award would value 50K miles, I simply can’t deliver myself to pay 100K miles. It typically gained’t matter to me even when I’ve thousands and thousands of factors and miles that I may afford to spend 100K miles, I simply gained’t do it if I do know it’s attainable to pay 50K. As a substitute, if I may solely discover tickets for 100K, I’d let that journey wait for an additional day.

Once more, it’s not as a result of I can’t afford to make use of extra miles however somewhat as a result of I’m obsessive about getting nearly as good a deal as attainable. That isn’t to say that I’ll by no means pay just a little greater than the naked minimal for comfort or luxurious or each. In reality, I very often pay the premium to fly in worldwide enterprise class somewhat than economic system as a result of I really feel just like the expertise simply justifies the value. By the identical token, I’m certain that there are some who would spend 100K in my theoretical instance if it meant checking an merchandise off of the bucket listing or one thing to that impact (and even when it meant flying in economic system so long as it meant not utilizing money). I can settle for and respect that, but it surely’s not my jam.

And so I’m most definitely to go the place the deal takes me. As a substitute of on the lookout for the most cost effective economic system class airfares, I’m now on the lookout for award availability for 4 passengers in enterprise class on the “saver” (lowest) stage since we journey as a household of 4. The uncommon likelihood to get 4 seats in enterprise class to Fiji is why we booked a visit there that was meant to occur earlier this yr (we in the end needed to cancel). Fiji hadn’t essentially been on a shortlist of locations we have been contemplating however somewhat it was the chance that knocked and we are inclined to reply that knock.

That perspective would appear to counsel that I’m equally more likely to begin with both flights or motels based mostly on an excellent award deal presenting itself, however in actuality I feel I’ve a clearer reply.

Flights are tougher, so these are extra usually my first step in journey planning

Most locations on the earth which might be visited by many vacationers have a number of motels. In lots of (most?) conditions, there are quite a few points-and-miles resort choices. On the very least, I can usually use Chase factors at 1.5c per level or Capital One miles to reimburse a resort keep. Since I’m diversified in several award currencies (together with resort factors applications), I’m typically assured that I can discover a resort when and the place I have to journey. There are clearly exceptions, however for essentially the most half I do know that I can discover a cheap resort choice utilizing factors in Paris or Rome or Bali or the Maldives or wherever. No, that gained’t be true on New 12 months’s Eve or the evening of a Taylor Swift live performance, however more often than not I can discover an choice or three on the resort aspect.

However, I can’t make 4 enterprise class seats to Europe or Fiji or wherever else seem out of skinny air: it may be difficult to search out a number of award seats in a premium cabin on a particular day and even in a particular month. Succeeding in that area requires flexibility. When touring internationally, we worth flying in a premium cabin sufficient to prioritize that have. I do know that somebody who has at all times deliberate journeys by first choosing a vacation spot would most likely discover it loopy to prioritize the supply of a premium cabin award ticket over the place you’re going, however in our case we haven’t modified our journey planning drastically as a result of factors and miles sport, we simply traded one parameter for an additional. Whereas we used to plan journeys across the most cost-effective airfares, we now plan round premium cabin award tickets — in both case, it’s deal first and placement second for us.

I feel it’s value mentioning that some will most likely assume that we “have priorities backwards” due to this strategy. I can see the temptation to do this (or to punk rock your journey), however I’d argue that this strategy has opened us as much as locations that we’d have by no means thought-about and which have led to a few of our coolest journey recollections. If I began with a bucket listing, I’d absolutely have stuff like Paris and Rome on the listing (locations I’ve been and that I really like!), however I doubt I’d have even thought to place Lithuania or Saipan or Malta or Oman or Niue on my bucket listing. As a substitute, I’ve ended up in these locations as a result of likelihood circumstance of award availability or nice money offers sending me taking a look at a spot I hadn’t recognized I needed to go to or would get pleasure from a lot. I are inclined to assume that our strategy to journey planning has led us to extra serendipitous locations. That’s to not say that my strategy is higher than creating your personal bucket listing and checking it off one after the other however somewhat that I don’t really feel we’ve been cheated by our give attention to offers. My perspective is perhaps totally different if my objectives, age, and circumstances have been totally different, however up till this level we’ve not targeted a lot on checking locations off of a listing. I’m content material to assume that I can get wherever I need to go “sometime” (and settle for that “sometime” might by no means come for some locations).

Award journey is versatile, so it usually doesn’t matter which comes first

In the end, it doesn’t at all times matter the place I begin planning a visit since award journey usually supplies the pliability to alter as wanted.

My preliminary thought when studying the query was that it’s simpler to begin your journey planning with discovering motels since resort awards can virtually at all times be cancelled with no penalty up till a day or two earlier than the keep (with some uncommon exceptions). Which means that there’s usually no threat in speculatively reserving a resort since I’m usually utilizing an current resort factors stash (somewhat than transferring factors) and I can at all times change or cancel later. If I run into some uncommon resort availability, as I did when I discovered 5 nights on the Grand Resort Victoria on Lake Como, I’ll e book that resort availability first after which decide to looking out award flights (recognizing that if I in the end can’t discover flights, I can cancel the resort with out penalty up till the cancellation deadline). I’ll additionally contemplate reserving a number of units of dates aspiring to agency plans up as I discover flight availability.

However as we talked out our solutions to the title query on the present this week, I spotted that I’m not often reserving motels the place award availability is scarce. Resort award availability usually is significantly better than premium cabin flight availability, so it simply not often creates a measurable impediment for me. Even in these instances once I simply can’t discover resort availability, chances are high excessive that I can cancel flight awards with no penalty or a low penalty. That clearly varies by program, however most of the hottest award reserving applications don’t have any charges or the choice to e book a barely dearer award with higher flexibility. You may learn extra about award change and cancellation charges by switch companion on this put up.

It due to this fact doesn’t appear extremely essential to me which a part of the journey to e book first since I do know that I can often cancel one piece of the opposite doesn’t come by.

My strategy will change as my household journey evolves

A ultimate key observe right here is that my type is more likely to change as household journey evolves in my family. With years of being tied down by the varsity calendar approaching us, I do know that I’m going to should take care of time restrictions way more usually than I’m accustomed to. For nearly 15 years, my spouse and I’ve labored on-line with a substantial amount of schedule flexibility. I acknowledge that being restricted by the varsity calendar goes to have an effect on future journey.

I’ve beforehand written that flexibility is a large key to success with award journey and we’re creating much less and fewer time flexibility. On the plus aspect, we’re very a lot accustomed to location flexibility. That’s going to proceed to be a key for us as we transfer ahead.

That mentioned, I anticipate that we are going to usually have to plan additional upfront and e book as quickly as reserving calendars open to be able to discover awards throughout faculty break weeks, which suggests we are going to virtually definitely acquire much more emphasis on beginning with flight awards and accepting that we may have to regulate resort expectations. I absolutely anticipate some readers to chime in and say that it doesn’t make sense to prioritize an 8hr premium cabin flight over the resort the place I’ll spend 8 hours an evening sleeping for 8 straight nights, however that’s most likely how we’ll do it. That doesn’t make it “proper”, it’s simply the strategy that may apply in our family.

However in the end, whilst our strategy evolves, I feel that flexibility will stay a continuing. We’ll stay versatile concerning location and we are going to proceed to worth versatile awards. By sustaining flexibility in these two arenas, I feel we are going to typically proceed to plan journey principally based mostly on the place awards can be found throughout our schedule openings.

I’m curious to listen to from readers: which comes first for you?

As we mentioned this query and because it has continued to swirl in my thoughts, I’ve turn out to be very curious to listen to from readers. Please share your opinion within the feedback: do you focus first on flights or resort awards? What drives your award redemptions essentially the most? Do you give attention to availability of premium cabins like we do, or do you maybe give attention to discovering locations which might be extremely costly to achieve with money however cheap utilizing factors? I’d love to listen to your reply to Frank and Deana’s query within the feedback.

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