New Frequent Traveler - Advice Needed!

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by alvarez16, Jul 26, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. alvarez16

    alvarez16 Member

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    Hello!

    I've been reading the forums for quite some time but never registered/posted, but here I am with a question for you (the experts)!

    I'm in my early 20's and just started a full-time career with a consulting firm doing Tech Strategy consulting. Almost all of my projects will require weekly or bi-weekly travel so I come to you for help. All my travel costs are reimbursable so I don't necessarily ALWAYS have to book the absolute cheapest option.

    What airline should I aim to fly the most? What hotel chain should I stay at the most? Would it be beneficial to stay at one chain Monday-Wednesday and another Thursday-Friday? Any particular credit card(s) I should use?

    Flying Info:

    Home City: New York City
    Frequency: Round trip per week (2 flights)
    Rewards Desired: 1. Free upgrades(from economy to economy comfort, exit row, business class, etc), 2. Airline Lounge access, 3. Redeem free flights (very flexible on dates).

    Hotel Info:

    Travel Destinations: Mix of big/small domestic cities. First assignment is in Mexico City (rare case, most will be domestic at a mix of big/small cities)
    Nights per week at hotel: 3-4
    Type of Hotel: $100-200/night (SPG, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, etc)
    Rewards Desired: 1. Free wifi, 2. Redeem free nights (again, flexible on dates)

    Thanks for the help!
     
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  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Either DL or AA will likely be better for you in terms of getting upgrades and providing a decent network out of NYC, but you'll need to get to their higher tiers to make that work and flying a bunch of domestic hops will make that challenging to accomplish quickly. Only DL will get you lounge access for your domestic trips and then only at the very top tier (125K miles). If you want to play the CC game you can get a bunch of elite miles for DL (MQMs) with some cards but that doesn't necessarily help you in future years. And DL is probably the worst for award redemptions. UA will likely have more non-stop flights to places you're going from EWR than AA or DL will have from JFK/LGA but upgrades are harder (and lots of smaller destinations non-stop will be on RJs with no F anyways). UA miles are quite valuable for award redemption IMO.

    For free wifi just book at the Hampton/4 Points/whatever level in the chains and you don't have to worry about those issues. If your redemption desires are truly aspirational (overwater bungalows and 5* properties in major cities) then Hyatt or SPG are probably the best bet. Alas, Hilton, Marriott and IHG have much broader coverage which may come into play when you're visiting smaller cities. And the part where each program has a CC which can get you in to some status level doesn't hurt either.
     
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  3. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    In the frequent-flyer (FF)/frequent-guest (FG) loyalty program game, the most fun is had after one achieves elite status. So, your long-term objective should be to achieve elite status in a FF and a FG program, and considering how often you will be on the road, achieving that objective should be fairly easy. But it will take you at least a year to get there. A shortcut that I would take, knowing what I know now, would be to get a CC that offers some of the benefits right away. There may be others but my experience is with the United MileagePlus Club visa card from Chase, which will get you
    • Lounge access + free wifi, with a $100 statement credit the first year and much, much more.
    • Platinum status in Hyatt Gold Passport with wifi free.
    Free upgrades and redeeming for trips will come soon enough, but just like that, some of the benefits you desire would start rolling in. However, this would mean that you will need to choose UA MileagePlus as your FF program and Hyatt GP as your FG program. Although the nearest UA hub is EWR, that neither LGA nor JFK is a UA hub is not forcibly a drawback because if you need to qualify on segments, flying out of either LGA or JFK to a UA hub (ORD, DEN, SFO) usually adds at least 2 premier-qualifying segments on every trip, which increase one's PQS rather quickly. The problem with Hyatt is that their properties tend to be pricier, Diamond status is tough to achieve, and Platinum benefits other than free wifi are some of the worst second-tier elite benefits in the industry. However, after you make top elite (Premier Gold or higher) in UA MileagePlus following your first year, you will be entitled to a free Gold Elite status in Marriott Rewards, which has more substantive benefits...

    That is one scenario, and it is based completely on my experience as a fellow NYC resident.;)

    Welcome to MilePoint!
     
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  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    There are similar cards from DL and AA, too. No guaranteed hotel status but hotel status via CCs is easy, too.

    I wouldn't let that CC drive my travel habits. I'd find the right program for my needs (the OP wants domestic upgrades and UA is unlikely to do well there until a higher tier than what AA or DL offer) and then get the card from that program if so desired.
     
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  5. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    The CC is not driving the travel habit. It is a shortcut to get some benefits while what will become the bread and butter for someone who clearly has a lot of potential to earn airline miles and hotel points is taking shape. The goal should be to aim as high as possible in terms of elite status because things tend to equalize in the rarefied air up there among the various programs (I do just fine with upgrades on UA as a 1K even on domestic routes). Also, if one is in this business long enough, one usually finds a CC that fits one's pattern. What I suggested is what I would do to get started, and it has the benefit of hindsight because it works for me.
     
  6. dc_traveler
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    dc_traveler Silver Member

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    All of the advice above seems excellent. Unfortunately I don't travel enough to get top-tier airline status -- I am the second-tier (Platinum) on AA, but if you decide on DL or AA, it is probably worth getting the American Express Platinum Card because it gives you instant access to both DL and AA lounges when flying with those airlines. I believe you also get instant Starwood Gold status, and one of the Gold benefits you can select on check-in is free wifi (assuming that is not already available at the hotel.)

    Also, you asked whether to switch hotel chains mid-week. I wouldn't necessarily suggest that, but you could do something similar, which is that if there are different hotels that are part of the same chain in the same general area, switch between those hotels to maximize your number of stays. It is easier to hit top-tier hotel status if you switch hotels, because most chains require something like 25 stays but 50 nights. You'll have more than enough nights soon enough, but if you do some switching early on in the year, you'll hit top-tier status faster. For an example of how this works with Starwood, please see this thread. http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/spg-hotels-convenient-for-hopping.9026/

    Good luck!
     
  7. Mapsmith
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    Mapsmith Gold Member

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    Not being a Frequent Traveler but a leisure one that has covered much of the smaller towns in the USA, I would like to provide a comment on the Hotel Guest Programs.

    I am currently a member of most of the programs, but not elite on any (anymore). One thing to look at is the actual availability of Hotels in the markets that you will be traveling to.

    Hilton has locations about everywhere in small, medium and large markets. You can usually find a Hampton even in places like Durango, Colorado and Kayenta, Arizona.

    Starwood seems to have a better program, but there are relatively few hotels in towns of less than about 200,000 population. There are entire States out west where there are no Starwood Properties at all.

    Hyatt seem to have some of the nicest properties, but like Starwood, availability in smaller communities may not be there.

    Marriott, seems to have really nice properties and they do have a decent program.

    Carlson seems to be rising as a program and locations

    Even Best Western, Choice Hotels, and the smaller programs are providing a lot of perks nowadays.

    My choices when I travel are Starwood for redemption, and Hilton for availability where I go, but tend toward Choice Privileges when I am cheap.
     
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  8. alvarez16

    alvarez16 Member

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    Thank you very much for the advice so far (although quite mixed opinions haha)!

    I see a lot of you suggest particular credit cards.... Some of these have very high annual fees like the United MileagePlus Club visa card at almost $400/year. This is still worth it?
     
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  9. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    It depends on one's circumstances. If one is on the road a lot, then lounge access will likely be very valuable, so I would say it would be worth it. In addition, if one is on the road a lot, then the annual fee can simply be paid with miles -- it gets even easier after reaching top elite and loads of miles start to roll in as 100% elite bonus miles with every trip...
     
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  10. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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  11. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Not to me, though that's because I don't really think that the lounges are worth paying for in most cases.
     
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  12. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    In a forum like this it is inevitable that mixed opinions will be given, which can be both a plus and minus, but I believe it is mostly a plus because from the multiplicity of opinions, one could develop an approach that fits one's circumstances. A typical example is that I disagree with this view:
    People who are on the road a great deal, but, due to a company rule or to their particular circumstances, cannot always travel in premium cabins that give them automatic access to airport lounges might feel differently about paying for lounge access. But things do not have to be black or white, as there is usually a middle ground that works. The OP might find this post and whole thread on the topic of lounge access with a CC enlightening...because there is this:
    ...mixed opinions can sometimes come from the same posters in different threads.;) The job of those seeking advice is to sift through it all to find what works for one's travel pattern...
     
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  13. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Most premium cabin domestic travel - the type the OP would have - doesn't come with lounge access anyways.

    :confused:

    While that may be the best deal on that card that doesn't mean I think it is worth doing. In that post I was replying to a specific question about how to get UA club access, versus Priority Pass. And I still believe that if you want that access the CC is the best way to do it. That is completely consistent with what I've said here.

    But thanks for trying to skew my words to misrepresent me. I always appreciate that sort of fun. :rolleyes:
     
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  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Considering how much the OP will be on the road and that s/he explicitly included lounge access on the wish list, I should think that what you just stated makes my point, as I see no other way s/he would have access to a lounge.

    Your words, not mine, but they echoed what I had stated or proposed earlier (first year statement credit is now $100), as well as elsewhere. As for misinterpreting what you'd said, I cannot read your mind. I simply went by what you'd written and the inconsistency is evident...without reading your mind.
     
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  15. Jeanne23

    Jeanne23 Silver Member

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    I find lounge access very worth it (to the point where I buy lounge access itself so I can always have access to any star alliance, no matter what).

    I travel for work at the frequency you outlined and fly about 130k a year. The lounge is the difference between feeling crazy and uprooted all the time to having a routine you can rely on at the airport. It makes a world of difference, and I definitely felt every second of the US Airways club being closed in the Philly airport, and may have almost hugged the staff there when it reopened.
     
  16. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    This is my sentiment exactly. My traveling experience would be very miserable without guaranteed lounge access, even in the most remote airports. How miserable? So miserable that I have made sure I never experience it by acquiring multiple ways to access lounges around the world: (a) Star Alliance *G status for international lounges, (b) United Club membership through the Chase UC Business card for domestic as well as *A lounges around the world, (c) Full Priority Pass membership, (d) AMEX Business Platinum. In addition, I get lounge access by having a very high success rate of upgrade on int'l trips, or always redeeming to fly in C or F in Asia where one automatically gets a lounge access pass with one's BP for traveling in a premium cabin. ;):)
     
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