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Combating the Herd Mentality in This Hobby

There is a tendency in this community to follow the herd. That’s normal in any group . People look towards each other for advice and in this case, that pertains to how we earn and redeem our miles. There’s nothing innately wrong with that, but sometimes I wonder whether this herd mentality can limit the experiences of those following along. 

There’s a tendency in this hobby for people to travel to the same places, fly the same airlines, and stay at the same hotels. It always starts with a simple trip to Hawaii (staying at the Hyatt Regency Maui of course), then on to Europe (Lufthansa First Class anyone?), a trip to Asia that involves Cathay Pacific First Class, a stay at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, and then lastly a trip to the Maldives may be in order. There’s nothing wrong with this – but don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it. Make sure traveling to the Maldives is actually in your budget, points and miles aside.

Park Hyatt Maldives on points and miles

The Park Hyatt Maldives – a go-to destination for points and miles collectors

I’m guilty of this too. I’ve followed the herd and found that in some cases, the hotel and airline choices I made weren’t a good fit for me. For example, I learned that while the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong was a very nice hotel, I would probably be better off staying at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui next time. It’s a better fit location-wise and almost half the price. But instead of exploring that option, I got caught up in this mentality of following the herd – traveling where others were going and redeeming miles the way other people were.

Of course, that’s not completely wrong. Going someplace where others have been can make trip planning easier. A foreign city can feel more familiar when you’ve read a dozen trip reports and gotten feedback on how to get there on points, what to do, and where to stay. But this can also limit our experiences. We could well be missing out on great destinations, hotels, and airlines because we’re afraid to break the mold. 

Back in October, I traveled to Chicago with my sister for the Chicago Seminars. I was looking into hotel options and the first thing I initially went for was the Park Hyatt Chicago. It’s where everyone I know stays in Chicago and by the way, they let Diamond members order room service breakfast. A free night requires 25,000 points but its totally worth it because paid rates are like $500. 

Except, I didn’t want to spend 75,000 points on a 3-night stay. Especially when my sister and I were going to be spending most of our time outside of the hotel. I wasn’t thrilled with the location on the Magnificent Mile either and preferred to be in the downtown area. A hotel search on the Hyatt website turned up the Hyatt Place Chicago Downtown The Loop, which was going for just 12,000 points per night – half the points required at the Park Hyatt and breakfast was included.

I really had to fight the mentality of “but why stay at a Hyatt Place if there’s a Park Hyatt?” I ended up loving the Hyatt Place. The hotel was brand new, the room was huge and the location was perfect. While there was no club lounge, that really encouraged us to explore the area and eat locally. The Hyatt Place just met every criteria we were looking for. It was a great fit, which is what should really matter when you’re redeeming points.

When I was planning a stay in New York recently, I immediately got, “Are you staying at the Grand Hyatt or the Andaz 5th Avenue?” Strange, how those are automatically the go-to options for points and miles collectors. I decided on the Kimpton Ink48 for the first two nights and switched to the Andaz 5th Avenue for the last two. The Kimpton was a bargain at 12,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night and perfectly located for all the places I needed to be during the first two days. I chose the Andaz, mainly because I liked the boutique hotel vibe and didn’t want to be in a super crowded area of midtown. It was a good fit overall and the lemon poppyseed pancakes had nothing to do with my decision. 😉

I don’t want to knock flying first class or staying at 5-star hotels, but rather point out that there may be better options if you choose to downgrade sometimes. You don’t always have to go ultra fancy or follow someone else’s footsteps. Do what works for you. Don’t model your travel around other people’s habits and experiences. If you don’t need club lounge access or free breakfast, then make your hotel choice accordingly. Similarly, showering on a plane may not be on your bucket list, so feel free to skip that too.

Do you ever find yourself following the herd in this hobby? Do you think it’s good or bad? How do you break away from it?

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Ariana Arghandewal

35 Comments

  1. you’ve got decent content, and it’s a well thought out post. how about some editorial oversight to catch the most basic spelling errors? it’d go a long way to earn you some credibility.

  2. btw..to all the ‘Heard’ comments; maybe she meant it as a Double Entendre…ya know….”heard”, “herd”…..just sayin. 😉

  3. I want to shower on a plane, but I’d rather fly with my herd so I haven’t yet. To me, it would be for a joke just to do it. Also, I don’t drink so the champagne in 1st isn’t a draw.

  4. TOTALLY AGREE. I tend top travel a lot with my wife. And even tough I started in this thanks to TPGuy. I move away from his marketing oriented blog to this one. Some blogs make HUGE noise about getting a US 500 hotel but honestly who wants a 500 hotel in Cuzco, Peru where you can get a much better deal for US 100 or less. Or taking a business class seat on a 3 hr flight. Is not really about dollar value so I can then scream that I won 2,000 USD, which is the reason why I promise not to click on TPG anymore!!!! Nice post!

  5. It’s a common phenomenon common in all aspects of society: Keeping up with the Jones.

    The neighbor bought a new car, so maybe we should too. The neighbors put their kid in xyz sports camp, so we should too. Jimbob from FTU flew first class NY-MIA and stayed in a suite at Hyatt Miami Beach… we should too.

    Despite my cynicism, I also believe that they have people that relay a positive experience. So they can trust that if they use their hard earned vacation days and points that they won’t end up in an undesirable situation.

    Another reason is crossover; for example a lot of people in this hobby are able to collect a fair amount of Hyatt points, and gravitate towards those hotels because of it. Inevitably you’re going to have overlap.

    • That’s definitely part of it. And while I agree that it’s totally legitimate to get advice from others, I also think it shouldn’t be the most important factor. For example, everyone who goes to Sydney always stays at the Park Hyatt. Great hotel – seriously beautiful and one I’d love to return to. But I have to say, when it comes to the breakfast buffet and location, the Hilton Sydney was so much better. But you don’t ever hear about that because everyone is always sticking to Hyatt. So while it is true that the accessibility of that currency is what draws us towards Hyatt, we should also keep that in mind when we’re asking our friends for advice on where to stay.

      • I would avoid the Park Hyatt Sydney just because it’s 30k points. I mean I’m sure it’s nice and all, but I just can’t bring myself to dump $500-$600 worth of points for one night in a hotel!

        I’m not familiar with the hotels there but like you, I’d put location at a far higher importance then the allure of staying at a Park Hyatt.

  6. Not sure how you got that rate of 12k pts for Kimpton Ink 48 in NYC? Looks to be about $00/niter, which puts the price at closer to 27K pts. Maybe you hit a sale?

    • There was a great sale going on, which brought the rate to ~$180 with taxes. I booked under a CSR-affiliated account, which brought the point rate to a little over 12,000 points per night. It was a really terrific value – especially considering the Hyatt hotels were all 20,000 – 30,000 points per night.

  7. What is a CSR affiliated account? I am looking at hotels in NYC for Mid March. Just 2 nights. Looking at IHG or Hilton. Seems that ihg is 40000 points per night. Am I better off using the 40000 points or points and cash because there is a 15 percent discount on the cash now with IHG. I do have Chase points as well. This is the part of the hobby that always confuses me. When to use points, or points and cash? Wish this were easier to figure out.Thanks

    • When you use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to book awards through the Travel Portal, points are worth 1.5 cents each rather than 1.25 with a CSP or Ink account. How much are the IHG paid rates? The way I determine whether to use points, cash, or a combo is based on how much the paid rate is. For example, back when I had an Arrival card, I would figure out how much I would have to spend on that vs. an Ultimate Rewards card vs. a co-branded hotel card in order to cover that expense.

      For example, say you’re looking at a Hilton hotel that goes for $200 per night or 50,000 Hilton points. You’d have to spend $10,000 on the Arrival card or $16,666 on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve to get that free night. Obviously, spending $10k is preferable, so I would choose not to redeem Hilton points in that case. If you earn your points strictly from sign-up bonuses and paid stays, then you should make your decision based on point valuations. I don’t assign value to points since I earn them via manufactured spending, but if you do a quick Google search for point valuations, you’ll come across the major blogs – they all pretty much assign the same value to various currencies. Hopefully that helps in determining when to redeem hotel points vs. UR points, etc.

      • Fyi if you’re doing MS to acquire Hilton pts, you can use the AMEX HHonors cc which pays 5X. So, a $500 Visa GC earns 2500 pts; with a purchase fee of $6 for the GC, your pts cost about 1/4 ct per pt. Compare that to approx 0.5 ct per pt value.

      • Thanks for trying to educate me on this. Still a bit unclear but trying to get it. Here is
        A specific example.

        IHG hotel
        Cost $234.22 or 40000 Points
        cash & points
        35,000-$40.00
        30,000-$59.90
        25,000-$99.00
        20,000-$125

        If you ever do a course on this count me in!

        • A lot of bloggers value IHG points at 0.4 – 0.7 cents, so based on that its tough to assess the above scenario. It also depends on how you earn your IHG points. In my case, I would compare the cost of ms’ing with the Freedom Unlimited vs. Arrival Plus. You’d have to spend $26,666 on the Freedom to earn 40k IHG points. Meanwhile, you would have to spend just $11,700 on the Arrival card to cover this rate.

          In terms of Points + Cash, you can either apply your personal point valuation or do what I do: Compare the cost of paying for one night with points and one with cash vs. paying for two nights with Points + Cash. In this case, booking the Points + Cash rate would result in a total of 40,000 IHG points + $250 for two nights. That’s higher than redeeming points for one night and paying the cash rate for another.

  8. do you think is good to upgrade from chase freedom to chase saphired reserve only for the 1.5 cents on chase travel agency? is it worth? Not sure if I should upgrade or not.

    • Are you talking about a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited? I’m personally sticking with Freedom Unlimited at the moment, but I can definitely see the appeal of the Sapphire Reserve. I would consider the following: 1.) How do the benefits of your other cards stack up against Sapphire Reserve? You may not need to upgrade if another card along with Freedom cover the travel benefits you need. 2.) Are you redeeming enough points to make paying the extra annual fee worth it?

  9. You are absolutely right on this. Based on this article alone, I have subscribed to your blog. I have learned my lesson on this too. My fiance wants to go to Maldives for our honeymoon, and naturally I transfered my 100k points to Hyatt and booked a 4 night stay at the PH Maldives with all the bloggers raving about it. After booking I digged into it more and can’t justify spending that much points and still have to pay for $1100 airport transfer, $520/night to upgrade to an overwater villa, +$70 per night for breakfast since now I am an “explorist”. I know the PH is gonna be super nice, but not nice enough to justify all that extra spending on top of 100k Hyatt points.

    I started looking for alternative and ended up booking at the Dusit Thani Maldives on sale which is as far as I can tell just as nice or even nicer with pool water villa (hyatt water villas dont have plung pool). I booked the whole stay on agoda for 2 night in a pool water villa and 2 night in a beach pool villa with full breakfast everyday and 2 night dinners and airport transfers for the same cash amount I would have paid at the hyatt and save my 100K. There r thousand of hotels and resorts in the world that we dont have to get stucked into the Hyatt world and blogger’s recommendations especially now with the sad state of WoH.

    • Happy to hear it was useful. I have no doubt the Maldives is a special experience but you can get way more value going elsewhere. What you have to keep in mind about some bloggers is that they’re raking in affiliate cash – so to them paying thousands extra may not be a huge deal. Besides, I guess they could write those expenses off by using the trip to produce extra content for their site. Redeeming points doesn’t always make the most sense so I’m glad to hear you found an awesome alternative.

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