My wife and I were selfish travelers for many years as we earned or redeemed our frequent flyer miles while jet-setting off to London or Paris or Amsterdam for each Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter week holidays. Each summer for ten years we typically stayed in Europe for three to five weeks.
During those years of heavy travel I spent many hours each week at home, before and after work, figuring out schemes for earning frequent flyer miles and hotel points. I was clever at landing cheap reward tickets and upscale hotel rooms and suites using points and miles, even when traveling the busiest travel weeks of the year.
Most of those excursions happened when we were in our 30s and 40s. Family gatherings for the holidays were not part of our travel plans. I wanted to see the world with the millions of frequent flyer miles I had accumulated through various shopping schemes and mileage run trips for enormous six and seven figure bonus miles.
The exception to family visits interrupting our international travel were the months after 9/11 when airfare was so cheap and frequent flyer mile bonuses so lucrative that we flew to Europe for a few vacation days and then flew back to the states on open-jaw itineraries to see our families. Then we flew back to Europe on another open-jaw airline ticket for a few days before flying back home to Monterey.
In 2004 I was scheduled to fly to Honolulu for a family vacation gathering with my parents, sisters and grandfather. I landed a new job one week before the trip and I canceled my trip to Hawaii and the hotel award stay at Starwood’s The Royal Hawaiian.
My 89 year old grandfather had a heart attack while in Hawaii and my family spent the last half of the vacation at the hospital in Honolulu. My frequent flyer account balance was sufficient to fly my grandfather and parents home in First Class on United Airlines. Papa died six months later in a hospice center in Los Angeles.
I missed his funeral. My job assignment at the time was leading a group of teachers on a working retreat at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Arizona to design a standardized mathematics test for third graders. I gave my job preference over family for the family gathering in Hawaii and the funeral of my grandfather. Six months after the funeral I was laid off from the testing company in a severe corporate downsizing of employees.
Six months after being laid off from corporate life and desiring a more autonomous way of earning a living, I founded Loyalty Traveler to share with the public the strategies I learned about traveling with miles and points.
When Family Gets in the Way of Seeing the World
Now Kelley and I are in our 50s.
In the past year I have had the opportunity to travel to London, Zurich, Berlin, Oslo, Helsinki, Toronto, Kauai, Chicago and Miami in addition to spending several days visiting National Parks in the western states.
I could travel all the time if I had less consideration to the hardship my being away places on my wife Kelley.
Kelley did not visit any of those international cities with me. Her travel itineraries during vacation weeks from her work as a school teacher have consisted primarily of more than a dozen trips to Denver over the past three years.
Kelley has an 84 year old mother dying in Denver. The end appears to be near.
Kelley wants to walk the cobbled streets of cities in Europe again. She has not been to Europe in several years.
As Bruce Springsteen sang in the song ‘Highway Patrolman’ –
“Man turns his back on his family, well, he just ain’t no good.”
Kelley has been good.
Sometimes family gets in the way of seeing the world.