“Sure, collecting miles is work, but no more so than sitting around organizing coupons!”

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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: The Deal Mommy

Dia is a super mom who loves to travel.  She also writes The Deal Mommy blog, so I was looking forward to our chat on Friday!

The Deal Mommy - Interview with Dia

Eiffel Tower, last weekend

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I’ve been an amateur collector of American Express Membership Rewards Points for probably 15 years, but only started focusing them on travel about three years ago.  I was given 10 days solo travel and a $1,000 budget as my 40th birthday gift and stretched them into an adventure in Panama!  Since then I’ve been, well, a bit obsessed.

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

The Deal Mommy is an uncommon collection of tips and ideas on getting the best for less.  It came about because I realized the easiest way to answer the “how do you do it?” question I always got was to write it down!  Since then it’s blossomed from a hobby into a real community, of which I’m proud.

What makes The Deal Mommy Special?  My point of view.  My blog is both aspirational and accessible for the average family.  There are awesome resources out there (like Million Mile Secrets!) for points collecting, but my experience is that the process seems overwhelming from the outside for the person who isn’t experienced with the idea of travel even being possible in their lives.

The Deal Mommy strives to fill the gap between the “frugal” blogs that tell you that camping in your backyard is vacation and the reality that most of us can’t drop everything on a dime for a 3k “bargain” first class ticket to Singapore next week.  I highlight the best promos, of course, but focus more on the whole experience.  For instance, I like Luxury Link, condo rentals and the occasional Groupon, which are areas points blogs often ignore.

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

That’s simple: automate all of your bills on your miles earning credit cards!  I’m shocked at how many miles people leave on the table by paying bills straight from their checking account.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Tough question as I’m just back from Madrid, Tenerife, and Paris, which were all great!  I’m going to go with sending my 4 and 7 year old kids down a zipline in Guatemala last year.  My four year old actually screamed “Yahoo!” as she sailed down the mountain!

The Deal Mommy - Interview with Dia

Kids on the altar of sacrifice, Guatemala

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

It varies between bemusement and admiration.  Since the blog, I’ve had much more success with converts.  I’m happy to announce that three family members are at a Park Inn on a mattress run as I type!  Success stories from readers/friends are my single biggest source of pride.

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

It’s more of a mantra than a trick: “Think about the experience, not the destination.”  This leads me to lower costs and more offbeat destinations that American’s don’t visit as much, such as Tenerife and Guatemala.

Focusing on WHAT I want to do: “take my kids to an ancient ruin” or “drink sangria on a balcony overlooking the ocean” maximizes both the fun factor and my travel budget.  Granted, the Eiffel Tower at Epcot won’t replace the one in Paris, but on my recent trip I was able to use a free stopover to splurge on three days in Paris since the week before I had been in low-cost Tenerife.

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

My kid’s annual checkups!  Yes, I charge medical bills too.

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

Focus!  It took a while to learn how to cobble together all of the different programs into a cohesive travel strategy.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the volume of offers and not know where to start!  For instance, transferring my 40,000 AMEX points to Delta with a 50% bonus to fly for free on Air France and Air Europa to get to the Canary Islands would have flummoxed me five years ago.

I would have been less scattered in my travel plans and not chased the lowest fare 100% of the time.  For instance, if an extra $10 in an airfare gets me on Delta, where I have status for a possible upgrade and lounge access via my Platinum AMEX, it’s worth the $10!

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

That I am a reformed coupon queen!  I used to think getting $.99 doubled would give me money for travel.  I was putting pennies in my savings jar when I could have been banking thousands of dollars in miles.  Sure, collecting miles is work, but no more so than sitting around organizing coupons!

Any parting words?

A song lyric from Rush: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”  Inactivity takes as much work as activity.  Get out there!

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

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14 responses to ““Sure, collecting miles is work, but no more so than sitting around organizing coupons!”

  1. Pingback: Want to know how I do it? Here are my top tips for family travel planning! | The Deal Mommy

  2. Dia, I like your style. We have a 12 year old grandson we drag around with us in our travels. He adores it. (Our adult children are jealous but we didn’t have the money or the tricks to do that much when THEY were young.)

    You’re right about being overwhelmned, but I have urged friends to dip their toes in the water. That’s how we started.

  3. Nice tips. Unfortunately some utilities (ConED, looking at you!) charge excess fees to pay by Credit Card.

  4. The Deal Mommy

    Anne, Thanks for the nice feedback. I agree about starting small. I can literally see the eyes spin in my friends’ heads when I lay out too much at once!

    Elliot, I have the same issue with local govt. bills such as water and property tax. Haven’t found a work-around yet. But I did find to my surprise that not only my car but my life insurance company take Visa/MC! Now, if we could only find a way fee-free way to charge the mortgage…

  5. We’re farmers and the water bills hit the 4-5K a week mark with regularity in the summer, especially in a drought as we are having now. Paying the water bills has always been stressful, but, you can’t grow food without watering the plants. I recently discovered that yes, I can pay the irrigation bill with a credit card that earns miles. Now, I feel like I get a free ticket with every (summertime) water bill. That at least is the big upside to trying to stay in business.

  6. I pay my con ed bill or rather prepay it so that the fee is less than one percent also do these for fee pauments while making minimum spends for signup bomusrs.

  7. The Deal Mommy

    Jill: We’ve been hearing so much about the drought…glad you are finding a silver lining in the lack of clouds.

    bacc: Prepaying bills is a great idea to make cc spends, as long as the interest doesn’t eat up your miles benefit. We were able to charge an entire year of preschool tuition, save 10% from the school for prepaying, and bank the miles towards the Chase UR min. spend.

  8. Great post! Oh yes familiar w the eye roll from friends. Then they call you back later to ask questions once they process. Love my travel addiction.

  9. You’ve got a good sense of humor, Deal Mommy. It is indeed the silver lining on the cloudless sky. Now when I get a 15K water bill, I console myself by thinking… half a trip, half a trip! It’s the spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down! I just hope that nobody puts the kabosh on my program before I get some serious traveling done for me and my family.

    LOVE the Eiffel tower photo, btw.

  10. Any woman that quotes Rush is a winner to me.

  11. The Deal Mommy

    Thanks everyone, for the great feedback. Thanks especially to Daraius for the exposure, and keep up all the awesome tips on Big Travel with Small Money!

  12. Thanks for the interview! I love reading about families traveling, but especially families who travel on a shoestring budget and/or with points. We’ve been developing our own travel strategy for years to maximize our dollars, and as our family has grown – our travel budget has not, which means good planning and creativity are golden. Reading other people’s stories and tips and tricks really helps us maximize our travel days.

  13. Pingback: True Deal Mommy Confessions: I don’t clip coupons! I use this site instead. « The Deal Mommy

  14. Pingback: True Deal Mommy Confessions: I don’t clip coupons! I use this site instead. | The Deal Mommy