I am really excited to have some fantastic fellow bloggers post over the next couple of weeks. First up is Brian from Battered Luggage. I am particularly drawn to Brian’s site because his photography is absolutely fantastic, and I hope you agree!
“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”
By nature, I am not a planner.
I love traveling and when I travel, I photograph the world the way I see it. I use a vivid post-processing technique called HDR photography. It renders the world in an almost hyper-real way. People either love it, or they hate it (sort of like sauerkraut). When I visit a new place, I do quite a bit of research trying to find the best spots to take pictures. When planning to use points for travel, I fall strongly in the “by the seat of my pants” camp.
When Justin emailed me about doing a guest post, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. I am relatively new to the miles and points game. Over the last year I have amassed over one million miles and points in various programs that seemed to be applicable to the way I travel. No plan, just accumulation.
While this is good, it is completely unfocused. I find myself with decent quantity of points, unsure of what to do with them. There are just so many places I want to go, but I don’t know what the best use of the points is or what most interests me. I am also finding it difficult to let these points go.
This is where planning comes in.
My wife and I want to take a trip to New York City in the fall and I decided it would be a good time to use miles and points. We both have more than enough points to fly. It was the hotel stay that appeared to be the problem. Once I had the goal firmly in mind a number of options presented themselves. The recent Club Carlson promo fit fantastically! We have a few upcoming trips we can easily move to match the promo and it will give us enough reward nights for NYC!
What’s interesting is I don’t find myself wanting to hang on to these points. Unlike my other points, these have a purpose. They aren’t part of the stockpile. They don’t provide me comfort. They have already been spent in my mind. It’s almost as if the plan makes things easier, it helps make the trip happen.
Creating a SMART Plan (The How-To)
Write your goals down on paper. When we commit plans to written form, they gain power. They become real rather than abstract in our minds. Though setting goals goes against my nature, when I do set them, I use S.M.A.R.T goals.
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Attainable
- R = Realistic
- T = Timely
1) Specific – This is the who, what when where and why of your trip. Where do you want to go? When would you like to travel? Who will be going? Where would you like to stay? In what class would you like to travel? Etc. This is the foundation of your plan.
2) Measurable – This is where you ask the, “How Much?” or “How Many?” sort of questions. How much would this trip cost if you paid for it outright? How much inconvenience am I willing to take to accumulate points? How long will it take me to build up enough points for my goals? Etc. These questions will help establish a concrete criteria for the value of any points you might purchase or get in bonuses.
3) Attainable – Given enough time you can probably attain most things. Working with miles and points will require some flexibility, but once you have defined what it is exactly you are trying to accomplish, you can work on making these goals happen.
4) Realistic – Creating realistic goals is all about goal generation within the constraints of what you are actually willing to do. Be real here. If you and/or your family isn’t willing to hotel hop, for instance, planning this to generate points will only cause problems.
5) Timely –Don’t say I want to go to Italy sometime. Be Specific! Keep these timeframes realistic, but realize our nature works against us here. As Chris Guillebeau says, “We tend to overestimate what we can complete in a single day, and underestimate what we can complete over longer periods of time.”
Having a solid plan for your points not only helps you achieve your goals, it can help find new goals. It forces you to consider your travel goals in a new light…or in the words of the immortal Yogi Berra:
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
W Brian Duncan is an HDR Photographer and blogger at BatteredLuggage.com. You can find him on most social networks as @IPBrian. Direct links to everything are available on his blog.
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