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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Just Another Points Traveler
Angelina Aucello writes Just Another Points Traveler and used to tell folks that she wanted to be a “world traveler” when she grew up. Of course I wanted to chat with her!
I’ve always been an avid traveler, even at an early age, but it was only in 2011 that I became a “smart traveler” by really understanding and appreciating the incredible value of traveling using points and frequent flier miles.
All the way up until early 2011, the only frequent flyer account I paid attention to was my Continental OnePass account. I knew there were other programs out there, but I never thought of looking deeper into them.
My father, on the other hand, quickly became obsessed. Being a frequent reader of all of the points/miles travel blogs and forums, he’d email me from time to time about ways to earn “free points.” The phenomenon started catching on to me, and my interest was sparked immensely.
The next thing I knew was that September came around, and my father started thinking about attending the seminars, but didn’t want to go alone. I thought, “hey, I haven’t been to Chicago yet, and it’ll be a fun weekend getaway.” I went with the intention of keeping him company, and with an open mind, of course.
Needless to say, I was blown away with how much I learned from the seminars. Each and every session made me more and more excited to put my best foot forward and to seriously start collecting points and miles. I even found myself registering & getting “hits” for the U.S. Airways Grand Slam promotion in between each session.
My perspective of travel was completely transformed, and it was safe to say I was hooked!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
In all honesty, when I returned home from Chicago, I was completely inspired and motivated to implement all that I’ve learned. I started my blog merely as a way to contain my uncontainable excitement about all things points and miles and to simply convey my “crazy points & miles” stories to important people in my life such as Kevin (the mister in my life) and my family.
By day, I work full time in the film industry, and by hobby (or in this case, life), I’m a passionate traveler and bargainista. Combine the two and you get a points & miles fanatic who takes too many vacations. Actually, I once saw an inspiring billboard at my home airport (EWR) that states: Nobody ever says, “I take too many vacations”. So I guess that puts me in the clear. 😛
Back to a serious note, I believe my blog is special because I incorporate my personal touch into every post. Everything I write about is a genuine, authentic account of what I’ve experienced along my journey of collecting points and miles. I’ve even learned how earn points and miles from day to day business expenses.
From time to time, I do spend a lot of time out of town, on the road, and in hotels. I also have to occasionally send “thank you gifts” (ahem, Biscoff cookies) to other industry professionals. It’s nice to be able to incorporate my points and miles hobby into all areas of my life.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
It’s simple – all it takes is a little bit of focus, some organization, and a game plan. Be aware of promotions and earnings-opportunities and try to fit them into your life as it is now; that’s key to making this your new daily habit. Soon enough, collecting points and miles will become a natural part of your routine.
Remember, it’s important to integrate your points and miles hobby into your daily life just the way it is, not the other way around – you shouldn’t have to bend over backwards [too much].
Some tools I use to make sure that I am on the right track of getting the most out of my miles and points are: evreward.com, awardwallet.com, and just simply keeping my eyes open for opportunities. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have a high credit score, because some of the most lucrative point offers come from credit cards.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Oh man, I really have to choose only one? I’m so grateful to have seen so much of the world at such a young age, and I appreciate that those opportunities were available to me. I truly believe that traveling is the chicken soup for the soul and the best source of learning.
So far, I’ve traveled to many phenomenal places including Europe, Asia, Central America, etc. I guess if I had to choose my most memorable travel experience, it would be our trip to the Philippines this past April.
Kevin is half Filipino and has never had many opportunities to partake in International travel before meeting me, but he has always had an interest in doing so. We both agreed that it would be a wonderful cultural experience for him to go meet his extended family in the Philippines for the first time. At that point, we both have never been to any parts of Asia before, so it was an exciting journey for us to travel that far abroad together.
We also brought along Kevin’s mother, a native of the Philippines, who has not been back to her hometown in decades. During our stay in the Philippines, we certainly did not feel like tourists; we spent most of our time in the small town of Caloocan City, far away from the hotels of metropolitan Manila.
It was so awesome to have a first-hand experience of life in the Philippines as a local. It was a beautiful trip filled with culture, family, love, joy, and learning.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
For the most part, my immediate family and Kevin love me for it because come on, who doesn’t love free travel? Before I went “public” about my points/miles obsession to my friends, most thought I was “high-rolling” through life, or incredibly spoiled-rich to be traveling so much.
Little did they know that most of my recent travel was done using very little money. After sharing my stories and blog with them, they think it’s pretty cool, but I could tell that they think I’m a little nutty and quirky for doing it. Oh well, to each their own, and I have no problem being called “nutty” while doing what I love and seeing the world on a dime. 🙂
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
It’s definitely useful to stay current in the points/miles world because earnings-opportunities could come and go with the blink of an eye.
While most of the world wakes up to read the daily newspaper or their Facebook newsfeed, you’ll find me reading the FlyerTalk and MilePoint forums, the blogs, and the Twitter accounts of hotel/airline frequent flyer programs. I love staying on top of my game, learning and sharing more and more as each day passes.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Hmm… least expected. Kevin and I received a total of over 100,000 free bonus points after completing 2 stays (one for each of our Club Carlson accounts) during Radisson’s “Big Night Giveaway” promotion. Then, I signed us both up for Radisson’s current “Redeem Points. Earn Points” promotion (until January 31) where you will receive 9,000 bonus points after making an award booking using points.
I decided to fully take advantage of this promotion by taking a road trip from NYC to Texas that’s planned for the end of January, staying at 5 different “Category 1” Club Carlson properties, which free nights redeem at 9,000 points per night.
Essentially, I used 9,000 points to book each hotel room, but since I’m registered for the promotion and completing my stays before January 31, I will be getting those 9,000 points back for each night.
We all know simple math, 9,000-9,000=0, and that’s how many points it will cost me in the end per night (times 5 stays), making a grand total of 45,000 points worth of hotel stays completely free. Score!
As far as the least expected part, I can’t say that my Radisson strategy describes the least expected way I’ve earned points and miles, because it was thoroughly planned (now let’s just hope the points get credited as planned), but I can easily say that’s my least expected excuse for an impulsive road trip! 🙂
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Oh boy, I’ve learned so much over the past couple of months, I literally feel like a giant sponge off to absorb as much information as I can! If I could go back and apply what I know now to the past, I’m sure I’d have a lot more travel under my belt.
However, I am proud that I have discovered the world of points and miles at a young age, and I’m happy that I could document my experiences to share with others. Since my wee-little years, I’ve always had a passion for travel, and as far back as I can remember, whenever a grown-up asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied “a world traveler.”
I now know that there is no longer a such thing as a “dream vacations”. Traveling with points and miles allows you to have the world at your fingertips by bringing your most desired vacations to life. I’ve been introduced to a myriad of opportunities to learn about and explore the world, and it’s safe to say that my entire perspective of world travel has been forever changed for the better.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I think readers would be surprised to know that I am a full-time Film/TV actor. In 2007, while in college, I earned my Screen Actors Guild card and also joined AFTRA. I’m fortunate to have had some nice gigs along the way, but do know that It’s hard being an actor in NYC; the term “struggling actor” doesn’t just come from anywhere, and you can only imagine how competitive it is.
I often find myself traveling out of town for work in smaller film markets such Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore where it’s a little less competitive. With long days on set (a typical day is 14-16 hours), It’s refreshing to know that I can redeem points to get a good night’s sleep as needed after a long day working.
Aside from acting, Kevin and I are both self-employed, granting us the “freedom” to construct our travel plans as we please. However, it’s not always as easy as it sounds; even though we both work from home, more often than not, we find ourselves too consumed with work, and somehow we seem to “forget” to make time for each other or a little getaway.
I firmly believe that a healthy life consists of a balance between work and play, and I make it a point to plan little spurts of travel throughout the year. Whether it be a large trip abroad or a weekend getaway in town, It helps us reconnect with each other, and it’s fun counting down the days ’till our break from the world!
Any parting words?
Although I’m new to the game and haven’t had the time to redeem my points and miles for much “free travel” yet, I will say that I am very excited about our year ahead in 2012.
Kevin and I already have solid plans to visit Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore, Hawaii, and London, entirely by using points and miles. We are most excited about flying first class from JFK-HKG on Cathay Pacific in March. With ticket prices reaching over $8,000 per person each way, I feel so grateful that we were able to use miles to indulge in the complete first-class flight experience.
Never in a million years before discovering the wonders of points and miles did I think it would be financially-feasible for us to even visit Hong Kong, yet alone fly first class. That, my friend, is a real-life example of a “dream vacation” brought to reality.
If I could leave you with one last thing, do know that there aren’t any “rules” when it comes to earning and redeeming points and miles. I see points and miles as the seeds to creating your footprints around the globe. There is no right or wrong way to use your miles and the possibilities are endless. I might only be just another points traveler, but do remember that there are miles of inspiration, and all points in between ahead. 😉
Angelina – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
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