Recalibrating 2017 Travel Goals and Travel Program Status Qualification

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2017 has been a whirlwind year for me.  That’s why it is more important than ever to pay attention to my 2017 travel goals.  It’s also important to monitor my travel program status qualification as the year ends.  I don’t want any major surprises in December when it can be costly to recalibrate.  And I like going into the holidays with a sense of calm.

In the last 12 months, I’ve had major life upheaval.  Most of it is positive (Jim’s move back to Texas, our decision to begin a major renovation of the homestead, and the associated overall changes to my lifestyle).  Some of it has also been generally disruptive (from the death of a close family member to a major reorganization at work).  Juggling all of those balls plus two major volunteer commitments, other relationships, and even this website have taken their toll.

My travel habits have seen that too.  As we prepare to undertake our renovation and remodel (which started as one room and has turned into the entire house), we’ve cut down our leisure travel.  It’s not a matter of budget but time.  We’ve needed to spend a few long weekends decluttering and working through organizational projects.

At the start of the year, I committed to my annual travel goals.  They were part of my overall focus on achieving a goal of “less” this year.  Less in terms of the excess in my life.  Less in the minimalist sense of the word.

2017 travel goals travel program status qualification
Working through my 2017 travel goals and travel program status qualification requires focus.

I like to check in on my goals, particularly status acquisition, every quarter.  That allows me to adjust my plans and see if I need to tweak any of my habits.  I did this at the end of the first quarter and again at mid-year.  I was on track at the end of June but then my travel suddenly slowed down considerably.

October is typically the last major point where we can still make adjustments to status qualification.  It is also the time when we do any travel planning for the remainder of the year.   And we start to think about our travel goals for next year.

I wanted to see how I as doing on my 2017 travel goals as well….

Maximize my actual travel time

I have increasingly focused on getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible.  And once I do, I want to be back home again.  This has meant more same day trips (out at 6 am, back on the late flight), more flight changes to come home early when business is done.

I’ve still managed to rack up the miles but my hotel stays are down considerably from where they were.  I used to fly in the night before or stay in an airport hotel to be able to have a more restful night of sleep.  Now I stay at home and get up at 3 or 4 am to head to DFW.

Spending quality time at home has just been more important.  I also like to figure out what I can do away from home to be more productive.  And I still regularly evaluate my regular routines to improve them.

Maintain only necessary status

I’m on track for most of my travel program status qualification with no problem.  That has been no small feat.  My work travel is down considerably plus  I also have spent 24 nights (so far this year) on cruise ships so the normal nights I might have in hotels for leisure travel just aren’t there.

I am here with my travel program status qualification through Q3:

  • American Airlines – 88% of the way to Executive Platinum qualification.  I blew past the $12k revenue requirement already and I have enough travel booked or pending that I will hit the rest of the miles with no problems.
  • Delta – 64% of the way to Gold qualification and like American, I already hit the $6k revenue target.  I have enough travel booked for Q4 that I will make my qualification with no issues.
  • Marriott – 34% of the way to Platinum qualification.  I haven’t even been trying but I’m Lifetime Platinum on Starwood so I’m still getting matched to Marriott Platinum.  I have also had quite a few Starwood nights this year.  So all-in-all I’m feeling okay about where I might settle out for the year.  I will wait to see how this program comes together to decide what to do next.
  • Hyatt – Over halfway to Globalist qualification and at minimum, I’m Explorist for next year.  I planned to leave after the move away from Gold Passport.  I find the new program ridiculously frustrating and have encountered odd challenges along the way (like misuse of my suite upgrades).  Still, I continue to have great stays at Hyatt and my projects this year, while less travel intensive, have made staying at Hyatts my best choice.  I am not going out of my way to qualify, but I am trying to book my stays at Hyatt anyway.  We’ll see what happens, but I don’t have high expectations.
  • National – I’ll keep my Emerald Club Executive Elite for yet another year.  National is still a very consistent program and they continue to innovate in the market.

Figure out what I need and then pay for it

I buy up to first class when it makes sense.  And I don’t worry about hotel programs when I want to stay at a nicer property that isn’t in one of my programs.  Occasionally I still luck out on a great upgrade along the way (like this Penthouse Suite on Seabourn over the summer).

Monitor my points and miles credit cards more carefully

I’ve worked very hard on this over the year.  Jim and I have both been taking a regular look at our credit and figuring out what to do to maximize miles while also elevating our credit scores.  I still have not worked in manufactured spending even though I could easily  manufacture 100,000 miles a month.  Instead, I’ve been focused on figuring out how to refinance the house and plotting the best way to earn miles while tackling the remodel.

Until this year, i had no paid much attention to what these cards could also do to help me with travel program status qualification.  I’ve recalibrated my spending to make sure that is now a focus.

Here is a breakdown of what I’ve been doing on the other fronts:

  • Citibank AAdvantage Executive MasterCard – I haven’t used this card much since maxing out the bonuses in Q1.  I’ll pick it up again in 2018.
  • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver MasterCard – I upgraded to Silver this quarter and have already hit my $50,000 spend to obtain $6,000 in EQDs.
  • United MileagePlus card – I was planning to cancel this card as soon as I used the United companion certificate for 2017.   But I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet.
  • MileagePlus Explorer card.  – I’ve had this card in heavy rotation to try to build up my United miles so we have enough banked for two F tickets on LH next year to get to Europe to start our transatlantic cruise.
  • USAA Cash Rewards Visa – This is a low credit limit card .  I only keep it because I’ve had the account for almost 25 years.  That kind of longevity of open credit is good to have on my report.  I use it maybe once a month just to keep some activity on it but mostly forget that I have it.  This is a no-fee card and I have other USAA accounts though so there is no harm in keeping it.

I also took on a line of credit with Home Depot this quarter to finance new windows for the house with no interest.  I loved that LifeLock notified me of the approval while I was still on the phone with the representative (who said I knew before she did!)

Spend quality time at home

I continue to work hard on this, especially given how intense my travel schedule has been.  I only spent 26 nights away from home in Q3 which means my travel is down to about half of it was last year.  Jim and I try to have dinner together every nigh when I’m home and we also keep up our weekly date night no matter what.  (See our Instagram feed for Jetsetter’s Homestead for some of the places we’ve gone!)

Stop collecting destinations

It has been a light leisure travel year.  After returning from the Caribbean in January, we have both had light leisure loads overall.  In May, we went to Cuba just in time to be ahead of the new travel restrictions.  In June, I went to Alaska on Seabourn with my mother.  Together this year we have also had long weekends in San Diego and New Orleans that we piggybacked with my work trips.  We also took leisurely weekends in Mexico City and London.

This morning we booked tickets to Denver/Colorado Springs for the end of the month to go see the rest of the BoardingArea crew.  But we still have not figured out Thanksgiving or Christmas travel yet, despite having had award tickets on Cathay Pacific on hold for months.

Leverage technology

Hub continues to run our lives!  We keep trying other things to help us manage better as well.  Chipolo has kept me from losing another set of keys (or my phone).  And Amazon pretty much runs our lives between Amazon Prime, Dash Buttons, and Alexa.  Jim is further automating our home to make things easier to manage too.

Conclusion – My 2017 Travel Goals are Achievable

I’ll be spending some time back on the road as the year wraps up.  There is still time to recalibrate my travel program status qualification.  And I can also still do more to polish up my 2017 travel goals before the year wraps up.

Are you achieving them?   Or are you struggling with any of your travel goals for the end of the 2017 travel year?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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