“These are essentially free miles for things you would be doing anyway.”

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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: Michael W Travels

Michael is a special education teacher from Brooklyn and will be visiting his 50th country in April.  He writes the Michael W Travels blog where he shares his travels and experiences in different countries along with miles & points deals, so of course I was eager to chat with him!

Michael W Travels – Interview with Michael

Step Pyramid (Pyramid of Djoser)- Saqqara, Egypt

How and when did you start collecting miles and points? 

Great question- My first points earning card was the MBNA World Mastercard that I got years back.  It earned 1 point per $1 spent.  I thought this card would get me a free flight to Africa but I was greatly mistaken.  I saved up 75,000 points over some time and it ended up being worth $750 in travel or cash back.  Not exactly enough for a flight to Africa so I took the cash.

When I got this card, it was before the trend of airline & hotel cards flooding the market.  A few years after getting this card, I came across the Citi AA cards.  At the time the bonus offer was 25,000 miles.  I soon figured out that I could get the Visa, Amex, Mastercard and Business cards.  I started putting every purchase I could on the cards- even purchases that are $1!  I also started applying for them before I knew there was a term for what I was doing.

Why did you start your blog?  What’s special about it?

Many people over the years have told me that I should start a blog or try out for The Amazing Race.  I figured that it was easier to start a blog than get on TV!  While I always had this idea in the back of my head, this past spring I got some great news which would ground me from traveling for about a year.  My wife was pregnant! (My son is now 9 weeks old.)

I wanted to still be able to dedicate some time towards my hobby and starting this blog was my way.  Originally I planned to do something along the lines of a picture a day type site but I decided pretty quickly that was not the way to go.  I decided that I wanted to try to cover quite a few topics and try to be different than many of the other blogs out there.  I feel that many popular blogs cover the same topics each day.  I try to post things that most others are not posting about.  I cover current events related to travel, some deals and also share my stories from being an experienced traveler.

Michael W Travels – Interview with Michael

Ta Prohm- Angkor, Cambodia

What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?

I don’t think my answer is going to break any new ground here but the easiest & fastest way to get miles is through credit card sign up bonuses.  I wish there was another top secret answer but it is what it is.  I also always try to earn miles from the airline shopping malls and dining programs.  These are essentially free miles for things you would be doing anyway.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

This is an extremely tough question that I don’t really have an answer for.  I’ve had so many amazing experiences so I might give a different answer each time I am asked this question.

If I have to pick one for now, I think I’ll go with Trekking with Mountain Gorillas in Uganda.  This is a pretty unique experience that can only be done in three countries in the world.  It’s estimated that there are less than 800 left and I got to see about 15 of them!  I’ll never forget seeing the silverback come out of the bushes followed by the rest of his family.  They came very close to us and went about their business- eating, playing, napping and just enjoying life.

Michael W Travels – Interview with Michael

Waiting to cross the border from Uganda back into Kenya.

What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?

I’ve never really asked but feel that most think that it is pretty cool.  Some will ask questions about it but are usually not interested enough to do it for themself.  My motivation for collecting miles is the trips that will come from them.  If you are not interested in travel, why put the time into miles?  There are always cash back cards out there.

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?

People seem to always ask me where I find travel deals and mileage offers.  I always have the same answer- a place like that does not exist.  You need to read lots of sites & blogs daily to keep up on the offers out there.  I love the vibe over at Milepoint and feel there is lots of great information being shared there.

Michael W Travels – Interview with Michael

Flying  Business Class on British Airways

What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?

This is probably the easiest question so far- I have two words for my answer- Wendy’s Cups.

(For anyone not sure of what that promo was, just Google it).

What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you  started out?

I should’ve started diversifying my mileage collecting earlier on.  However, with the killer sign-up bonuses of the last few years, maybe that wasn’t such a big mistake.

Michael W Travels – Interview with Michael

El Volcan Totumo, outside of Cartagena, Colombia

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

1) I actually don’t really love to fly.  Growing up, I pretty much feared flying since I would often get sick.  My first flight was first class from NY to California and it was a great experience for an eleven year old.  After that we went on a few trips to Florida.  I got sick on the plane almost every time and had to make use of the barf bag on occasion.

I’ll never forget the time another passenger refused to switch seats so I could sit next to my mother.  An hour or so later he was more than willing to switch after I didn’t grab the barf bag in time!  Payback‘s a bitch…  I don’t have any problems with flying anymore but still take Meclizine just to be safe.

2)  To make things more fun, I like to get pictures of me jumping at interesting places and sites.  My wife and I have became quite good at timing these shots.  We’ve also done well using a tripod so we can both be in the picture.  It started when a member of Virtual Tourist asked to use one of my pictures I had posted for his collection.  Usually people walking by stop to watch, usually walking away laughing or with a smile on their face.

3)  I collect hats from countries that I visit.  Not cheesy, touristy hats that say the city or country.  I collect hats that are worn by locals or were used traditionally.  My collection is pretty big and I’ve been lucky enough to have some given to me in a few places!

4)   I try to eat at McDonalds in every country I visit.  I love seeing what local-inspired items will be on the menu.

Any parting words?

I’ve traveled around the world mainly with my wife and have also been on a bunch of trips with friends.  I am hoping to get away with my son when he will be three months old.  We went to apply for his passport last week so he will be good to go.  We are going to Barbados  in April (my 50th official country) and I am glad that I will have a new travel partner joining me!

Michael W Travels – Interview with Michael

View of Cuernos del Paine from catamarn on Lake Pehoe, Chilean Patagonia

Michael – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!

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13 responses to ““These are essentially free miles for things you would be doing anyway.”

  1. Great job guys, very good read! I agree with you, Michael, MilePoint is my jam recently…people are so nice 🙂

  2. Assume interview – certainly inspiring to read they’ll be traveling with the new bundle of joy. I wonder if they will pay for their baby to fly or if they’ll be using miles for him.

  3. Fewtreezy- MP is a great resource! Glad you liked the interview!

    Xavier- Good one! That was me in my past life. lol

    Susan- I’ll be adding lots of jumping pics to the tab at the top in the future.

    Johnny- We are not buying a ticket for my son. We are flying international & do have to pay taxes to bring him as a lap baby.

  4. What a GREAT interview Michael. I very much enjoy your blog and hope my Delta Points readers check your blog often. We have so much we can learn from such a good kind person and world traveler like you. Keep up the great work!

  5. Pingback: Million Mile Secrets interviews are worth your time! - Delta Points

  6. Rene- thanks for the kind words! I am glad that you are enjoying my blog and liked my interview on MMS!

  7. Great travel advice and I do agree – credit card frequent miles are the way to go!!!! Congrats on such a great interview article 🙂 More Power and fun with your new baby too 🙂

  8. Pingback: “These are essentially free miles for things you would be doing anyway.” « Will Travel For Work

  9. Why is he behind the rope at Ta Prohm? They put those ropes there for a reason; to keep you from causing additional wear and tear on the ruins so that they can be enjoyed equally by future generations. (Not to mention, if you’re going to ignore the rules, at least have the decency to tell your photographer to not get the rope in the picture!)

    Last interview we had a college student scam a bunch of senior citizens for a free trip; now we have a traveler blatantly flouting the rules of another country’s ancient sites. Is this what BIG TRAVEL with SMALL MONEY is all about? Getting what you want when you want it, others be damned?

  10. TskTsk- I hear where you are coming from and appreciate your concern for future generations to come. I will thank you for them in advance! However, before accusing me of “flouting” the rules maybe you should know the full story. Yes I did go behind the ropes to get some picture, but did I break the rules, no I did not. A guard said that I could take some pictures there and that the ropes were put there to keep large groups from being all over that area or going inside the doorway. Do I know if you would get the same answer at Ta Prohm if you were to visit, no I do not but this is what it was for me. If this offends you, I am sorry, but what’s done is done.

  11. I didn’t get an answer when I visited Ta Prohm, because I didn’t ask; I had enough respect for their preservation efforts, and didn’t need to treat the site as my jungle gym.

    But you are right, what’s done is done, whether or not it offends me. I look forward to reading your blog.