“I wanted to see 30 countries by my 30th birthday, I was able to hit 65 earlier this year.”

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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: Point Me to the Plane

Adam is a consultant at a New York based company.  He also writes the Point Me to the Plane blog where he shares his secrets on traveling using miles and points, so I was looking forward to our chat on Friday!

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

Freshman year of college I signed up for an American AAdvantage MasterCard and so began my mileage obsession.  Within weeks I was following along on WebFlyer, constantly looking for additional earning opportunities.  Lucky for me, as a college student at the start of the millennium, there were many.

I had a new phone number every 60 days thanks to the MCI 25,000  AAdvantage sign-up offer.  All meals (and bar tabs) were paid using a mileage earning credit card, some class time may have been used on AOL OpinionPlace surveys, and Sharper Image gifts were most definitely given for birthdays and holidays.

My balances in each program grew quickly with easy promotions and I soon realized I couldn’t get enough!

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

My blog actually began as a weekly email to colleagues.  It literally pained me to see some of them squander the point collection opportunities granted to them in a position with frequent and extended international travel and I knew I had to help.

I started a weekly email to update colleagues on upcoming promotions, maximize their points, assist with redemptions, and provide air, hotel, and sightseeing advice.

The email distribution quickly expanded to family and friends and updates became more frequent.  The blog was a way to transition these email updates into a fully interactive blog for a larger audience while maintaining a feeling of sharing awesome points deals amongst co-workers.

The blog is unique in that it provides a young professional’s perspective on the latest point offers, industry news, and redemption opportunities.  Traveling internationally for work also has a huge benefit, my local co-workers in each country introduce me to the best restaurants, bars, clubs, and sights, which are not always known to tourists, but that I love to share via trip reports with my readers.

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

Don’t be scared to take advantage of the sign up bonuses for credit cards!  It’s second nature to those of us who are mileage junkies, but I can’t tell you how many friends and colleagues refuse to sign up because they are scared of lowering their credit scores.

If you are a responsible individual, pay your bills on time, and monitor your credit score, there is no reason to not be earning sign-up miles every 60-90 days.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Point Me to the Plane – Interview with Adam

Skydiving over Queenstown NZ

That’s a really tough one. I wanted to see 30 countries by my 30th birthday, I was able to hit 65 earlier this year.  Some of my most memorable so far…

– Skydiving over Interlaken, Switzerland / Skydiving over Queenstown, New Zealand

– Visiting Jerusalem and the Western Wall, floating in the Dead Sea

–  Swimming into the blue grotto in Capri after everyone else and all the boats had gone for the day

– Riding camels around the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, Tubing with the Prince of Kuwait in Sharm El Sheikh

– Scuba diving at the Outer Great Barrier Reef in Australia / Hiking the Sydney bridge on New Year’s Day after a very long night (sleeping in the hotel lounge when we couldn’t get a room anywhere)

– Everything about Turkey and it’s mix of East and West.

– Greek Salads in Greece and the amazingness of Santorini

– Visiting Ireland so many times (19) that the customs officials began to recognize me and allow me to enter via the resident lane.

– Being in India during the Festival of Ganesh and a historic India v. Pakistan Cricket match.

– Seeing three co-workers in Stockholm, Sweden become ecstatic and run through the streets when seeing snow for the first time.

– Tapas in Madrid…or Barcelona…or Sevilla, everything about Spain

– Begging a group of Olympic volunteers in Beijing to allow us into one of the events at the Bird’s Nest when we had no tickets.

– Partying with friends in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo.  Partying to music from two decades ago in Serbia, Estonia, and Slovenia.

– Being caught in a typhoon somewhere between Ho Chi Minh and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

– Being in Moscow in the dead of January with snow flying over the Kremlin and Red Square while we try not to slide on the completely iced streets.

– Visiting Auschwitz

– Flying the A380 on Emirates to Dubai and flying Singapore on the longest flight in the world from Newark- Singapore.

– Carnival in Rio, Oktoberfest (x2) in Munich, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin.

– Having a group of wild monkeys knock on the sliding door to my hotel room in Zimbabwe all night long while I prayed that they wouldn’t be able to get inside.  Bungee jumping off Victoria Bridge that next day.

– Running from a rhino while on safari in South Africa.

– Being chased out of a ping pong show by the Thai mafia in Bangkok.

– Having a snake charmer throw cobra after cobra around my neck until I agreed to tip him while in Marrakesh, Morocco

– Always being happy to return home to New York.

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

They are definitely on-board with the hobby and in fact they had their AA credit card long before I got mine.  Seriously though, what’s not to like?  Starting about eight years ago my mileage and point balances exploded, thanks in part to my jobs which have always included significant travel.

At the same time I began taking my parents and sister to a different Caribbean island during winter break every single year using miles for flights (low level of course) and points for hotels, a great deal during holiday season.  They are now accustomed to upgrades, lounge access, and elite member treatment.

I was also happy to book my parents business class tickets to Italy last summer.  While at first they were hesitant to accept my credit card sign-up advice, they now sign-up for whatever I suggest!

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

I have a lot of SkyMiles with Delta, sometimes refereed to as SkyPesos for their lack of low mileage award availability, especially on the most direct itineraries.  I can usually find a less than desirable connection around the dates I want to travel when starting my search several months out.

An easy way to circumvent paying more for the direct flights is to go ahead and book the connections as far out as possible. It’s almost guaranteed that the flight times will change over the next couple of months and you can then switch fee-free to the direct flights with no additional mileage required.

The official policy  states that schedule changes must be 1 hour or greater, though I’ve always found an agent who is sympathetic to any time change that impacts a scheduled event or a connecting flight on another airline.

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

My least expected way was on the streets of Tokyo, I was stopped and told that because I was wearing Puma sneakers I had won 500 AAdvantage miles.  I thought it was a joke but it turned out that any person passing by with Puma gear on was given American Airlines miles as a thanks for their loyalty to the Puma brand.  An unexpected but amazing way to earn miles is via donations.  Almost every airline and hotel partners with charities all over the world which award miles for your generosity.

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

I wish I got in earlier on the Citi American Airlines credit cards.  I’m extremely jealous of those who earned 1-2 million miles by applying for new American Airlines cards every 30-60 days before Citi restricted sign-up bonuses to new customers.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I’ve never flown JetBlue, Virgin America, Southwest, or AirTran.  I do think Virgin America and JetBlue look great but I always find it hard to justify giving up miles in one of my legacy programs and a potential upgrade to make the switch, especially when they are the same price as the “low cost” airlines.

Any parting words?

One of my favorite quotes is from Hans Christian Andersen – “To Travel is to Live”, so take advantage, travel and live for free using miles and points!

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

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33 responses to ““I wanted to see 30 countries by my 30th birthday, I was able to hit 65 earlier this year.”

  1. Usually love your interviews; this one just didn’t do it for me. Not sure if it was that there wasn’t much new here (sounds like he racks up tens of us thousands) of miles on work’s dime, which most can’t do. Or if it was the “brag” list (you’re asked for a moment, singular. You don’t need to list 25 things).

    I also tend to despise anyone that takes those lame photos like the Taj Mahal one. “Look, the Eiffel Tower is so tiny I can hold it in my fingers!” Yes, yes, we get it, photos have perspective! (But maybe I’m alone on that one).

    Keep up the good work, Daraius. Always be thinking about whether the is fresh (like the NYC trip report).

  2. Sorry that should say “content is fresh”.

  3. I’m new here. I LOVED the interview! I smiled the entire way through. Loved the pics! Re: the Taj Mahal….I liked it. I wouldn’t put the pic up on my living room wall…but I would put it up on Facebook.

  4. Nice interview! Actually liked to hear all of the great examples of points collecting and dream trips. I’ll take the specific ideas here and enjoyed the pictures. @Reader – Take his list is an ideas list for your future travel not a “brag list”.

  5. Hey… sharing enthusiasm for travel shouldn’t cause flaming. Not all of us are lucky enough to have figured it out before age 30, or rack up points on our bosses tab. You go, Adam!

    But when I read this, it doesn’t apply to me much as a middle aged parent, self employed, with lots of responsibilities. I’m trying to drag my family of 4 anywhere and have to juggle two work schedules, two school schedules, award availablity x4, differing travel ideas of 4 opinionated people, pet sitting, etc etc. It’s a whole different slant on travel then grabbing a back pack and heading out.

    However: This is very relevant to my daughter, who has the whole world ahead of her. Her backpack days are still to come!

  6. Regarding a point (a pun, a pun) that Adam made: I’d like to see a blog on the merits of focusing on one program vs. Diversifying across many points “currencies”. I see the benefit of concentrating on one or two sets of mile rewards, too. I focus on AA and BA myself, have a smattering of old Membership Reward points from B of A, and just signed up for a Amex Gold. I hate to pull my spending away from AA and British, because I have a family to move around.

  7. Didn’t apply to me either, but I still enjoyed his enthusiasm. I’ll listen to almost ANY traveler talk as it’s my passion.

  8. I really enjoyed the interview… like always, a lot of repeat stuff (we’re all reading the same blogs) but a couple news insights. The fact that Adam’s blog started as an email update says a lot about his generosity. Keeping going Adam!

  9. I am feeling envious. I am 36 and have not been to nearly as many countries. Way to go Adam!

  10. The picture from Ho Chih Minh City … (sigh)… I don’t even want to start. I will not be reading this guy’s blog.

  11. Interesting read. Thats about it. The Ho Chi Minh City (w/bananas) and Taj Mahal pics were tacky for me. The bananas are a tourist scam in HCMC.

  12. Really enjoying your interview series. You guys have taught me so much about miles and points collecting! Thanks for the great writing.

  13. I really liked his memorable travel experiences! Sounds like he really knows how to enjoy life. I’ll be sure to check his blog out; great interview!

  14. This article is completely irrelevant to the usual reader. It’s pretty obvious that Adam is either a trust-fund kid, or most likely, travels for work on the company dollar. He’d have to visit 5-7 countries a year to hit 65 and he still has tons of skymiles left?

    Any of us in that situation would have tons of miles accumulated without any effort.

  15. I’ll stay away from reading his blog as much as possible cuz he only approves the comments he likes. As an expert/blogger who has “insane amounts of miles”, I’d expect him to not need to ask his readers why the cost of award flight fees to London was different on various airlines. I posted as much on his comments section, but my comment is awaiting Moderation even though about 5 comments after mine were approved. I can’t stand that type of behavior by bloggers, that’s why I don’t read Delta Points blog either. I’m not a big fan of bloggers in general, but I give you kudos MMS that you have thick skin and can roll with the punches if people ever question your posts. ^ BTW, since I can’t post my comments there (regarding his blog post yesterday about award flights to the Olympics), I will just post it here:
    “You’d think a blogger with so many miles would have a bit more of a clue about UK APD fees as well as close-in ticketing fees. All the fees are the same on those awards with the exception of BA which has fuel surcharges. From your final costs I can tell u have high status on aa but not UA.”

  16. I can relate to this interview as I am also a young professional who used to travel for work a lot. His list of places he has been to and the diversity of them is also very impressive.

  17. Definitely work travel — says he has “frequent international business travel” on his website.

    And, from the way he wrote his London post, I’m sure his Olympics tickets are courtesy of his employer — “About two and half weeks ago I received the awesome news that I was going to have the opportunity to attend the London 2012 Olympics. I was psyched to see up-close the sports that I somehow only pay attention to every four years – Swimming, Athletics (Track & Field), Volleyball, and Diving.”

  18. @Lively, Ron B., Jill P, Anne, Kids Meet Worlds, Jasmine, Brad, Aena – All thanks for the feedback, traveling is truly my passion and I love sharing my experiences via my blog. I’m looking forward to collecting more points and earning free travel together!
    @Traveler, Lee – Totally agree with the cheese factor on the Taj Mahal & HCMC pics, though I’m comfortable with a cheesy pic or two per trip.
    @rick – No trust fund but I do travel quite a bit for work. One of the key features of my blog is ensuring that readers are taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them, including accumulating points while traveling for work. However, 90% of the trips above (and all the pics besides the Taj) were not work related, but were booked with points that I earned via traveling for work, via credit card sign-ups, and other promotions. In fact, the majority of work points are with Delta, where I have the hardest time redeeming.
    @gregorygrady – Sorry for the delay in posting, no harm meant! I worked extremely late last night and then started writing today’s blog entry. In the meantime, the interview was posted and lots of comments on all different posts started coming in. Your comment has been approved and responded to and will automatically trigger approvals for future comments on any posts.
    @N – Yep, travel for work. However, my Olympics trip was booked using personal miles and points and tickets were obtained like everyone else – post on this later this weekend.

  19. How many points and miles does it take to meet the prince of Kuwait? Did you go to Ireland 19 times just for fun, or were they work trips that gave you 28 total transatlantic flights?

    Seriously, going to 6-7 different countries a year, plus going back to some many times (like Ireland) just on points and miles, and still having tons of miles points left is just not possible with signup bonuses only. You must be paying for most of it, which anyone can do. Or you’re briefly transiting through most of those countries and not really visiting them.

  20. ..I meant 38 transatlantic flights…bad math 🙂

  21. Can I hide in your luggage?

  22. Loved the list of fun things to do! I enjoy reading about almost anything done is passionate about, great interview.

  23. Why is it that, in these guest interviews, when we visit their blogs we are splashed in the face with yet more credit card aff links? Getting really tiresome…

    Then again….you have seemed to figure out that cross links really do wonders for website rankings;-)

  24. @Rick – UA miles on Emirates for a business class seat to Dubai and then on to Egypt. In Sharm, stayed at the Marriott (also on points) which had a watersports activity center. The Prince randomly asked my friend and I to join him for a few activities as no one from his family wanted to go and the tubing and boats required more than one person. We only found out he was a Prince when the hotel staff told us later that day.

  25. Travis Swanson

    You guys are both lame and jealous of someone that has traveled so much at such a young age! I love the excitement and enthusiasm that he shows. So his work pays for much of it. Who cares? It just allows him to travel more!

  26. Daraius, love your site (I just received a Bofa Virgin Atlantic Amex I applied for through your site) and all of the interviews . Adam, I thought your list of highlights was awesome and inspiring; you obviously put a lot of thought into it. My wife thought so, too. The anger/jealousy/snobbery that Adam’s interview elicited was pretty lame (I agree with Travis). I really enjoyed reading about a very happy world traveler!

  27. Wow, that is a long list of memorable experiences. That is until I hit bullet point 20 where I began to think how spoiled this kid is. Not all of us have the time or money to travel this lavishly during a recession mind you. Also, the kid shows an utter lack of respect for other cultures as evidenced by the childish pictures. I will never read this kid’s blog again.

    MMS on the other hand is right on point, unpretentious, and totally cool.

  28. Daniel I think your comment is absolutely ridiculous. I am a Sr. Professor of Early Modern European and Asian history at a highly respected university and I have these same “childish pictures”. I am extremely knowledgeable and respectful of other cultures, but a fun picture every now and then is fine. It’s ok to be a tourist for a few moments and it says nothing about any sense of culture awareness. Adam you are doing a great job, keep it up and keep enjoying travel! I’ll be reading the blog.

  29. @Mark. Actually no, you are just a racist bigot (most likely caucasian) who has no respect for other cultures while sitting in your underwear in your little white ivory tower. You may be knowledgeable about the technical workings of other cultures but you lack class. And anyways, which “university” do you work for, if its in the US, they should fire you.

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  31. Ok, so why are all of the commenters above hating on someone who has a good job that allows him to travel? Good for him, I am jealous! I am going to assume that you all are the same type of people to brag about how you used to like Coldplay until they became popular, and you have one of their first bootleg singles, and you are so pissed that everybody jumped on that bandwagon.

    Adam, I loved the interview. I am in my early 30s, and enjoyed reading something from someone who is in the same place in life as I am. At this age, your choices often are a) travel or b) be responsible and buy a house. I like that you can do both if you take advantage of miles/points. Which is why I am reading this blog to begin with.

  32. Inspiring interview. I copied his list to my wish list! May not be able to do them all but if your goal is nothing and nowhere, your sure to hit it!
    Darius, I’m having all my grown children apply for cards through your site even though they don’t read you. (super busy lives). It’s the only way I can thank you for how you’ve changed my life with this fun and exciting hobby!

  33. Wow. There are a lot of haters here! He’s an avid collector of points/miles, who also has accumulated miles/status on works dime. That’s awesome! You can’t do it? Start a business, write off pleasure travel. I do it every month.

    The “brag” list looked more like a motivational speech to me. Maybe it’s because I’m 34 and have ONLY been to 40 something countries. When I head his experiences, I’m envious and want to work hard to get where he’s been.