Well, guys and gals, I guess I’m officially back. I know, you’ve been in agony over the last few weeks, eagerly anticipating my return. Fear not! I’m here to provide all the miles and points news updates. What? Are you telling me that there are already 100 blogs doing just that on a daily basis? Ten posts per day, including covering all the latest naked airport sightings of middle-aged white males? Are you saying you don’t really give a rat’s behind about my blog? I’m not gonna lie, that hurts.
So, I took time off from posting while my parents were visiting us here in Florida. Best decision, and I intend to do it during all of my trips. I didn’t write one single word for 10 days, hardly checked other sites or Twitter, and it felt great. Obviously, not everyone can do it, but if you are able to leave your job (blogging or whatever) behind while you are on vacation, it’s the way to go.
There are always going to be some pressing matters, but consider letting others do the rat race for awhile, so you don’t end up like this:
Image courtesy of bigjom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yes, it’s a stock photo image of a dead rat. Quirky! Wait, did this guy/gal kill the rat so he/she could take a photo and sell it online?
Anyway, miles and points universe didn’t fall apart without me in it. But in case you are like my cousin-in-law who only follows this site, check out my list of secondary credit card offers. Several worthwhile bonuses have popped up lately, including Amex Blue Cash (with cell phone bill credit offer) and new Jet Blue co-branded credit card. I told you this hobby isn’t dead. Oh, and don’t forget that AAdvantage award chart will change on March 22nd. See my post for more on this topic
So, back to my parents. As the title implies, there was a lot of dysfunction to be savored over the last week and a half. But before I get to it, let me make it clear that I’m not making fun of my parents. Truth be told, I’m a lot like them. In fact, when I complained to my husband about something they said or did, he would give me the look. And I knew exactly what he meant by it.
Where are they? Is this free?
One of the biggest challenges was just keeping track of them. We would lose sight of mom and dad on a regular basis. It was like having two extra kids to take care of. They were constantly getting distracted by taking pictures of mediocre, ordinary stuff. Here is a table with glasses on it, let’s snap a photo!
Another challenge was explaining the difference between “free” and “complimentary.” We would be sitting at a breakfast diner and my mom would ask me if she could put sugar, jelly and syrup packages in her purse. No, it’s complimentary, but only when you consume it on premises. My mom would make an amazing hobbyist. Her biggest joy was going to a Chinese buffet. Our exchange:
Mom: Is this section included too?
Me: Everything is included.
Mom: And this?
Mom (2 minutes later): What about this section?
Me: Still included.
Mom: Is my orange juice included?
Me: Nope, that’s extra.
Mom: So why did you get it then?
Me: Because you asked for it, and you are a guest here, so I want you to be happy.
And don’t even get me started on shopping. I’m breaking out in cold sweat just thinking about it. I hate shopping anyway, but when my mom is here, it’s a fate worse than death. She can easily spend hours upon hours looking at stuff, but she has a hard time deciding what to get. Hey, do you think my co-worker will like it? How am I supposed to know, I’ve never met her!
Even worse, she made me try on a bunch of stuff she was going to get for my sister. We both happen to be the same size, so mom wanted me to put on blouses, pants, revealing shorts and parade them in front of her as well as all the other customers. And this went on and on at four different stores.
We stayed at two beachfront hotels, and I made a huge mistake in getting connecting rooms at one of them. My parents took turns walking over to our section (unannounced) and complaining about each other. Never again. To be fair, they kept the kids a few times so my husband and I could go out to eat alone, which was an amazing treat.
When we were taking them to the airport, my daughter asked where we were going. My husband: “We are taking your Belarus grandma and grandpa on a plane and you won’t see them again. Maybe ever (grins)” I’m sure he was kidding. I think…
I would do it again in a heartbeat
Because they are family, period. I don’t know any family that’s not dysfunctional. And those who say they are not, are usually the most dysfunctional of them all. I love my parents and want my kids to spend as much time as possible getting to know them, quirks and all.
In fact, I’m bringing my mom back this November and will again be taking her shopping and Chinese buffet-ing (a word?) But I won’t lie, I’m a little relieved that dad is staying behind. It will cut down on dysfunction considerably.
How The Hobby helped me pay for it all
I used 100,270 Citi Thank You points to pay for two airline tickets, which were obtained from sign-up bonuses on Citi Thank You Premier cards. I can’t really say that the tickets were free because I could have redeemed this amount for $1,000 in Walmart gift cards which are almost as good as cash. Still, getting 1.33 cents ( I have Citi Prestige cards as well) made this option more advantageous than using miles. The point is, my windfall came as a result of participating in the miles and points hobby and saved me $1,332 which I otherwise would pay out-of-pocket.
Assigning value to lodging is a bit more tricky, but I’ll give it my best shot. We redeemed hotel points for 2 rooms/8 nights. All of them were received from sign-up bonuses, but I did pay annual fees in the amount of around $216. I won’t bore you with the exact breakdown, but will mention that I utilized Club Carlson BOGO benefit (now dead) for 6 nights and used free e-certificates from US Bank for 4 nights. The other three nights (2 rooms) were booked with Wyndham points. I will have a separate post on it later.
Since we were vacationing during Spring Break, it would be impossible to get a 2-bedroom beachfront condo for less than $250 per night. Once again, if I didn’t have points, I would simply pay cash. So, by that logic, we saved at least $1,784. Of course, condos have kitchens, but we weren’t in the room a whole lot. There was a fridge and a coffee maker, which saved us some money, though not a huge amount. I’ll be honest, I hate cooking while on vacation, so this was kind of a blessing in disguise.
The grand total is $3116. Not a bad return in exchange for signing up for a few credit cards. Of course, as I’ve said few weeks ago, this visit was far from free. In fact, we dropped at least three grand on visas, Belarus airport transit, sightseeing, shopping and dining. If it wasn’t for miles and points, this would have been our only major vacation this year, which is OK. Kids sure loved the beach as well as all the other activities. For my parents, this trip was downright exotic and a welcome break from nasty March weather in Belarus.
But since I love travel and was able to offset considerably the cost of my parents’ visit, we decided to add Alaska cruise to our long list of vacations in 2016. For that I’m grateful to miles and points hobby. Family visits always come first, but it’s nice that we don’t have to choose.
Average dysfunctional families, are you out there?
I’ve mentioned before that my family makes less than $65K per year, which includes income from this blog. We are debt-free, but still, many destinations and hotels widely promoted in this hobby are simply out of our reach. It doesn’t really bother me because we are having a fabulous time, and I feel extremely blessed. Still, I hope to help families just like mine so they don’t have to choose between family obligations and true vacations. Let’s face it, many times, those two are not the same thing.
One of well-known bloggers recently confirmed what I suspected all along. The average household income of miles and points hobbyist is $150K per year. While I have absolutely nothing against those who do well financially as a result of their hard work, my blog is primarily geared towards a middle-class family who makes less than half of that amount. Sure, it’s not a particularly hot niche, but I don’t really care. This blog was born out of frustration with lack of information for people like myself. In other words, if you are OK with vacationing in Florida because you can’t afford Maldives, I hope you find my site of benefit.
Readers, care to share your own stories of vacationing with parents/in-laws?
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