Despite the many articles I’ve read about vacation being important for productivity (to help you rest and recharge), I am admittedly terrible at actually taking my vacation time. Because I travel so much for work, all I want from “vacation days” is time at home. With that being fairly date-agnostic (no flights or hotels to book), I often end up delaying the “scheduling” part of the vacation process as well. My thinking is that since I can take my vacation anytime, then why not be flexible and take it when it’s a particularly “good” time? But the problem is that there is never a “good” time for vacation, so I end up not scheduling it at all. This is the story of how I have a perpetual vacation balance of 176 hours that has actually stopped accruing and has been frozen for a few years now. Yuck.
This week, though, I got spurred to action by a program created by my amazing hotel loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest. They’ve created something called “SPG Moments” where you can use your points to bid on once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The program is a few years old, and I’ve often browsed the list of “moments” you can bid on, but I’ve never found one I was passionate enough about to give up some of my hard earned points in the auction process… until this year.
The headline was, “Enjoy an exclusive running retreat with Deena Kastor in Mammoth Lakes, California.” What?! That sounded incredible – basically my dream vacation. I saw that the current auction price was low, but decided to bide my time and put the auction close date on my calendar rather than getting into a bidding war early on. (That also meant I didn’t have to decide immediately.) I then forgot about it for a month or so.
Last week, I saw the auction date approaching. Did I really want to bid on this retreat? I hadn’t given it a ton of thought when I first saw it, other than “that sounds pretty awesome”, but now I had to decide whether to commit. As luck would have it, the retreat is actually the same dates as my boss’ vacation, and he said it would be a good idea for me to take vacation around the same time and we’d just shut our area down for a few days. Plus, I had been trying for weeks to think of a wonderful trip to surprise Adam with for his 35th birthday… which happened to be a few days before. I have always found it hard to justify booking a luxury trip for myself, but the idea of booking it for someone else is what sold me. All of a sudden, it seemed like the stars were aligning, so I cast my bid the morning of the auction close and hoped for the best.
Unfortunately, even though I had bid just two hours before the auction was ending (which I thought was reasonably close in), someone outbid me. And then someone else outbid them. Something about that back-and-forth got my head into the “battle” and inspired me to really go for it. Was it this phenomenon, or did I really want the prize? Either way, I decided to stop “hoping” for the best, and instead make it happen.
I set an alarm for five minutes before the auction ending, which I figured would give me ample time to log in, fill out all the fields, and get ready to bid with just two minutes or so to spare. Sniping for the win! I watched the clock count down nervously, and then with one minute left, placed a high bid I felt sure would trump what was in there already. It did! But then I noticed the auction was now ending at 11:03 instead of 11:00. Turns out, SPG has put in anti-sniping controls that add five minutes to the time whenever a new bid has been entered.
Someone outbid me, and then I immediately outbid them, and then they outbid me again. I then put in a fairly high bid, hoping that they’d get sick of trying to increase in small increments, and that they’d just give up. My palms were literally getting sweaty at this point, but it seemed to work – the back and forth stopped. But were they out for good, or were they trying to wait and snipe me at the end (not realizing it wouldn’t work)? I hoped for the former.
I watched the clock tick down toward the new end of the auction, getting more and more nervous as I did so. At this point, I had clued Adam in that I was trying to win an auction for his birthday trip, but I refused to tell him the details until I knew it was secure – so he was getting pretty antsy too. I was nearly in full blown panic mode counting down the final few seconds with him. And then, finally, the clock reached zero – I had won! We were going to Mammoth to enjoy beautiful scenery, relax, and run – all with the inspirational Deena Kastor!
When I called Adam with the details of what exactly we were doing, I was giddy. This is going to be the weekend of a lifetime! I was a little nervous as to his reaction (I always am worried about surprises), but he turned out to be just as excited as I am – perhaps even more so. Yippee! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world that both of us can have this extraordinary opportunity.
Less than a month till our flights, and I can attest to the research that says anticipating a vacation will make you happier. Let the countdown begin! :)