“Go out and see the world, not just the hotels you’re staying at for free”

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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 Travel Playbook

Mark writes The Travel Playbook to show folks how to play the miles and points game so I was excited for our Friday chat!

The Travel Playbook – Interview with Mark

Mark in Paris

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting miles and points when I was a teenager.  I realized what exactly points and miles could do for you (free travel!) and I made sure that each and every flight I took with my parents I received my miles!  I didn’t start the obsession until 2010, however, when I was able to start traveling on my own in college.

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

I started my blog very recently, in October 2012.  I wanted to have a place to show a younger generation of travelers (people my own age) how to travel the world like I do, with miles and points!

I also wanted to teach my age group about credit, and how good credit (and spending wisely to maintain that good credit) can help you go abroad.

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

Maintain good credit.  If you don’t have good credit, you won’t be able to take advantage of all of the great credit card offers out there!

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

I would say spelunking in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon in 2008.  I was on the spelunking team at my high school (yes, we had a team, as well as rock climbing)!  We would travel to this remote ranch on top of a mesa near Monterrey once a year.

There, one of the deepest caves in the world exists.  We would rig ropes and explore down the cavern, which is about half a mile deep.  One spot, the Argo Well (and one of the deepest parts of the cave) only a hundred people had ever been to, and no one from my team.

I was able to reach it on my last trip to the cave.  The whole trip took nearly 12 hours!  The cave itself is incredible, with flowstone formations stretching over 300 feet in length.

The Travel Playbook – Interview with Mark

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

They love it.  My grandmother was the first in my family to start racking up points, and really showed me how they can take you places (literally).  They’re always asking me now how to travel to one place, stay at this other place.  It’s great!

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

I really like Awardnexus for its award search capabilities.  It’s a little expensive when you run out of the free points to use for searches, but the power of the application is incredible!

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

I won a Twitter Contest in 2011 for 50,000 Priority Club points!

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

The value of some of the points.  I was all about “free travel” at the beginning, and maybe used my points a little too freely.  I wish I would’ve conserved my Starwood hotel points a little better, but there are always opportunities for more points in the future!

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I am 40th in the world in Disney Trivia.  Two summers ago I participated in an official Disney Trivia Contest, and out of 2,000 people, I came in 40th.  I’m not sure if I’m proud of myself or a little scared…

Any parting words?

The Travel Playbook – Interview with Mark

Go out and see the world, not just the hotels you’re staying at for free.  Go out beyond the resort’s walls and visit with some of the culture of the area.  That culture may not be the same the next time you visit.

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

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16 responses to ““Go out and see the world, not just the hotels you’re staying at for free”

  1. I will be going to santa fe with my miles at the end of May!!

  2. Great interview! How old are you Mark? Looks like you’ve got a healthy jump start on the miles and points game compared to most people. Keep it up!

  3. Nice to read. Glad you figured out that the miles and points game isn’t just about getting free travel. It’s about optimizing and leaving no points on the table too! Like I always say, don’t spend 12.5k AA miles on a $100 one way trip from NY to Chicago. Not all “free” are created equal 😉

    And I like how you opened with a shot of my favorite city 🙂

  4. Love how your grandmother got you started in miles and points. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

  6. Oh gawd. A new low. This guy is a DB of the highest order. What self respecting person would ever admit he knows Disney trivia??? It’s hilarious.

  7. I’m not a licensed psychologist but it sounds like Ron must have had some sort of traumatic experience with a Disney-related character during his childhood. There’s nothing to be afraid of Ron. Mickey is completely harmless.
    Keep up the good work Mark!

  8. Old friend of this blog Mickey here!

    @Mark, you are not going to earn any business with this attitude. You do want retards to click the credit card of the month and get approved right? What people will see is that you are a young punk who doesn’t want to treat his customer’s well. Don’t you have aspirations of making a business out of your blog or are you one of those idiots who shared ideas for free with other people who were interested in travelling?

  9. @Chris

    What is up with you bloggahs suggesting anger management, therapy and going philosophical on commercial blogs these days? It seems like some of you are graduates of these outlets(hopefully you paid using your credit card with multiplier) but haven’t healed completely yourself.

    This is a business. We don’t anticipate anyone closing shop because of harsh critics and we don’t want it either. We do criticize when it is blatant commercialization using other’s ideas and credit card pushing with frivolously disguised financial advice and none of you nut huggers are ever going to stop us from doing it. We are not stopping anyone from opening blogs, don’t tell us to stop what we are doing either. Get it?

  10. @Mickey,

    It would be wonderful if someone clicks on a link or two on my site if they see a card they like or that I mention. I don’t mention them that often, and don’t push them like other blogs I’ve seen online. However, I would hope that they are an educated consumer and reader and not like the term you referred to people as.

    I love to write, and share the knowledge I’ve obtained through my travels and research. If I make a few bucks from it in a wholesome way, that’s great. If I don’t, it’s a great outlet for my hobby and a great journal to show my kids one day.

    I’m not really one to hide behind the anonymity of the internet, so when someone does to insult someone (looking at you, Ronnie), I’ll call them out with a playful meme or a sarcastic retort. I’m not a “punk,” nor would I associate myself with them. My customers (and I’ve had a few so far, believe it or not) love what I’ve taught them. I do have a sense of humor and call them like I see them. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to respond 🙂

  11. Sounds good. Thank you.

  12. Just regarding the title … before the onslaught of blogs and all of us talking about easy hotel points, how many people actually traveled places just to visit the hotel? Seems like very few. I travel for the destination.

  13. @Amol,

    I wonder a lot sometimes how many people give up going to a destination because they can’t stay in a hotel on points…

    Having slummed through hostels all over, I have come away with the notion that it really is about the destination, and I get way less of an experience staying at a 5-star hotel. You eat expensive dinners you can get at home, and are less tempted to leave. Go eat street food! Meet locals at the bar! See how others live! If points and miles can get you somewhere, great. Don’t let them lead you where to go.



  15. @Amos,
    Unfortunately, quite a few people travel just to stay at a particular hotel rather than because of the destination. I have good friends who will highly recommend a city mainly because of the hotel where they stayed. For example, they raved about Penang so I went there and I was not impressed. When I questioned them why they liked Penang so much they said it was because of the E&O Hotel; it was fabulous and they rarely left it. Now I ask more questions before I listen to their advice 🙂