I should do this. I should do that. Yada-yada-yada. Blah, blah, blah.
New Year’s resolutions? Not a fan. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing. No need to link it to the changing of the year, or to anything beyond its intrinsic self-worth.
This year, however, I’m making an exception to my exceptionalism. For the first time in decades, I’m going with the flow. I’m vowing to change my behavior in the new year. And because the change is travel-related, I’m going public with it.
This Year, I Resolve to…
Before the resolution, a confession, to be filed under “Do as I say, not as I do.”
For years, I have preached the wisdom of redeeming frequent-flyer miles sooner rather than later. The logic of that strategy is unassailable. The value of loyalty points has been in continuous decline over at least the past 20 years, as prices for award flights have been ratcheted ever upward. So hoarding miles—for the “trip of a lifetime” in retirement, say—is a sucker’s bet. It’s like holding a stock that has been losing value, and promises to continue losing value for the foreseeable future. The smart investor sells the stock, takes the loss, and moves on.
Similarly with airline miles. They’re never more valuable than they are the day they’re earned. So the savvy traveler cashes them in as soon as he’s accumulated enough miles for a desired award trip.
I know that. I preach that. And yet, for all my pious proselytizing, I’ve been sitting on hundreds of thousands of miles, for years. And yes, during that long period of inaction, they’ve lost value.
Stupid, stupid me. But that was then; this year will be different.
Resolved: I will redeem as many of my banked frequent-flyer miles as possible during the next 12 months.
Given the quantity of miles to be disposed of—around .5 million in American’s AAdvantage program alone—there’s little chance of redeeming them all myself in just a year. No matter: I have friends and relatives who can make good use of free travel.
So, with whatever miles are left after taking care of my own modest travel needs, I’ll happily book award trips in their names, and (perhaps, depending on their financial circumstances) ask them to reimburse me for any out-of-pocket costs for taxes and fees imposed on the award tickets.
In the end, I expect to give away more miles than I use for myself. Which might be deemed due penance for my own hypocritical inertia. But if the smart move also happens to be a charitable move, I’m fine with that.
(If you’re a budget-constrained friend or relative with travel aspirations for 2016, hit me up.)
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.