Not that long ago, being an elite status traveler was a significant part of my personal identity. I was proud to display my elite status baggage tags and pull out my top tier cards. Comparing elite status with other frequent travelers was normal conversation.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve had dozens of conversations like this one over the years:
Then again, I’m the girl who filmed this spot with CNN back in 2010:
I’ve always believed that business travelers have a unique perspective on travel. In the past I’ve set both annual focus goals and travel goals. Making the decision that I’m not chasing elite status is a goal as well. But its a departure from the essence of who I thought I was.
So what changed? That’s a good question. I’m still traveling for work, the same way I have for the past two decades. Its not my travel habits, and my love for travel has not dimmed, so perhaps its my individual perspective.
I’ve pondered it and identified seven reasons why I’m not chasing elite status this year (and maybe ever again).
1. Lifetime status makes travel easier
My first reason for not chasing elite status in 2018 comes from a place of pure privilege. I don’t need to chase status because already have status.
I earned Lifetime Platinum with American Airlines a few years ago thanks to crossing the 3 million mile mark (all on travel with no credit card lift). I’ll cross the 4 million mark in the next 18 months. I also have Lifetime Platinum status with Starwood which in turn gives me reciprocal Platinum status with Marriott.
Because American is my primary airline and Marriott/Starwood are my primary hotel brands, I’ll always be at the minimum threshold for the key benefits I utilize in those programs. Anything I push for beyond that gives me extra perks (easier chance at upgrades, more points) but won’t tangibly impact my ability to travel easily.
2. Someone moved my cheese
Frequent travelers have felt a bit like Charlie Brown the last couple of years with Lucy moving the football. Only rather than Lucy, it has been the programs themselves. Hyatt altered the program so much that it was no longer worth it for me to chase top tier status. Airline programs have devalued benefits to the point where the extra effort may no longer be worth it.
If programs want me to chase after something, they need to make it worth my while with tangible benefits that I want.
3. If I want it, I’ll pay for it
The reality is, I can buy a lot of the things I got with status without the hassle of trying to obtain an specific level of spend or travel.
First class up-fares are often not that expensive, especially when I consider my billable rate and my ability to work on the plane. I’m happy to pay $100-200 out of pocket to upfare if it means I can avoid 3-4 hours of extra work on the weekend. Buying back my own productivity is worth it for me, especially as seats become smaller and pitches narrower.
Staying in a boutique hotel with no brand affiliation often comes with perks that I won’t get at the local variant of a chain hotel. I have come to value the experience more than the points.
4. Less is more
My 2017 focus was on less. Less clutter in my life, less filler on my calendar, less unnecessary drama. Trying to accumulate extra flights or stays was the antithesis of this.
The last month of December tested my resolve. I found myself less than 4,000 miles away from my next Delta tier. My spend was already well over the threshold (and had been for weeks) but I’d need some combination of 1-2 more business trips to get me to that point, assuming the right combination of flight segments, paid first, and strange routings.
I passed. The old me would have cobbled together a mileage run to get over the mark. Instead, I shrugged my shoulders and realized I’d start the year with 21,000+ rollover MQMs in my account.
Que sera sera.
Less has also meant the catharsis of getting rid of stuff. Carloads of it. Many many of them. And week after week of full-to-the-rim trash and recycle carts. Among my finds and discards… dozens of amenity kits, drawers full of airline pajamas, stacks of first class menus. I just don’t need it anymore… and I certainly don’t need to start collecting more.
5. Home is the new priority
We started a large-scale remodel of our home in the fourth quarter of 2017. Three months in, we have finished a refresh of most of the original 1924 section of the house (including full electrical rewiring, a bathroom gut/renovation, and fresh walls/ceilings/fixtures throughout). This followed the structural (roof and foundation) and exterior (landscaping, sprinklers, driveway, and fence) work I did in 2016.
But the fun is just beginning. This spring, we’ll tear down the old dirt floor garage that is no longer structurally sound. In its place a 550 square foot casita will go up with corresponding alley storage to replace the garage function. We will then move into that casita for several months so that they 1981 addition to the house (which includes kitchen, laundry room, and master suite) can be gutted and reconfigured for better functionality. That last bit has been a long time coming ever since the baseline renovations I completed a decade ago.
Jim and I have both written a lot about our love of being home, the tastes of home, and coming home after an international posting. I’ve realized that my house is where I want much of my extra time and resources going, not unnecessary travels to keep status.
6. I just don’t care what you think
The more self-exploratory of my decision was the realization that I cared what my status said about me. Whether it was giving me street credibility as a frequent traveler or just one-upmanship, I wanted that brass ring. It took a lot of introspection to figure out why… and then decide it no longer mattered.
My ultimate truth was that there were always going to be people who traveled more than me, had more pull, or simply had more glamorous travels. And it simply wasn’t something I could change – not without some other type of sacrifice.
Remember that part about less? This was part of that letting go.
7. I may just get it anyway
The sad part of all of this? While I’m no longer chasing elite status, I may just get it anyway. I travel enough for work and my volunteer commitments that I might still hit top tiers without much effort.
I certainly won’t resent anything I do manage to earn despite my lack of effort.
Conclusion – Why I’m not chasing elite status in 2018
This is where my focus is now and I’ve got 11 months to change my mind in 2018. (Or in 2019 when our home renovation is complete!)
But while I leave the door open for my perspective to shift again, perhaps if the programs alter benefits in a way I find attractive, I am happy with my decision.
Have you given up on chasing elite status? Or is it more important than ever? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comments.