“Most people think that because we run a coupon and deals blog that we prefer to stay at hostels but honestly I like the fancy stays.”

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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview: Canadian Travel Hacking

Steve writes his blog to show folks in Canada how to use miles and points to travel.

Canadian Travel Hacking - Interview with Steve1

Family photo near beach in Obidos, Portugal

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting Aeroplan Miles in 1996 (after I graduated high school and entering university).  I have had my Air Miles (Canadian loyalty program) since 1997.  These are the two main loyalty programs for Canadians (many merchants available to earn points).  I started to collect points at a young age because I was swayed at the free trips and travel that I could potential take.

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

I just started my travel deals blog last month, but I have been running a couponing and grocery deals blog with my wife for over 4 years. My wife and I love to travel and I wanted to share some of the secrets to traveling with a smaller budget yet still experiencing some amazing places.

Using frequent flyer points is more challenging for Canadians (not as many good redemptions with our frequent flyer programs and heavy taxes on redemptions) so I wanted to highlight some of the good redemptions available to Canadians.

When I hear of how some of my friends and family were burned by some programs (not using Aeroplan miles efficiently and using the Aeroplan ClassicPlus Flight reward instead of a Classic Flight reward).

I consider my blog special because the deals and content that I post is strictly for Canadians.

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

The easiest way to acquire miles is through credit card signup bonuses but I always recommend looking at your everyday spending.  Instead of just going to a merchant’s website, look to see if they are affiliated with any loyalty or frequent flyer program to get an additional bonus.

I always try to double-dip when making a transaction on a frequent flyer e-store like Aeroplan.  I purchase a large amount of gift cards to earn the bonus miles and when the gift cards come in the mail I use those to make another transaction to get additional miles.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

My daughter was born in April last year and in Canada one of the parents can get parental leave (I chose to take off 2 months from my job).  We used up some of our Alaska Airmiles and redeemed with American Airlines leaving from Seattle with a stopover in Newark so we could visit family for Christmas in Ontario.

We went to Florida for a cruise from Fort Lauderdale and stayed for a week before a trip from New York to London with American Airlines.  We traveled to Rome, Barcelona, and Lisbon to visit family and the weather was fabulous for us (no major snow expect for a storm in Istanbul on a cruise we took).

Traveling is important to us as it lets you experience many beautiful places in the world.  I am fortunate to live on Vancouver Island but travel off the island is expensive (with the cost of the ferry).

Canadian Travel Hacking - Interview with Steve2

Enjoying the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi

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

My family thinks that I travel too much for having a little girl and most of my friends think it is too challenging to keep track of all the miles and points but our family trip to Europe showed a nice experience on a budget.

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

I am a big fan of following Flyertalk, blogs like Million Mile Secrets, and Boarding Area.

I learned about the Free Hilton Gold status upgrade that paid off on a 5 night stay in San Diego and the American Express lounge program from your blog.

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

I would have to say complaining!  When I applied for a Marriott card (Canadian credit card that had a 50,000 Marriott reward point bonus), the credit card company would not let me make automatic payments (to avoid missing deadlines for paying the credit card balance).  I threatened to cancel my card and the retention company awarded me an additional 20,000 miles to stay.

To me it was worth it as it gave us a few nights when we were in Portugal.

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

I wish I knew the best redemptions with each program.  I spent too much time in the Alaska Airlines earning just the base miles.  Using Starwood points, I need to only spend $20,000 to earn 25,000 Alaska Miles versus just 20,000 with the Alaska Airlines Mastercard.

The toughest part of this hobby is knowing the best redemptions but I always suggest researching where you want to go and you will see many blogs will share the best redemptions with various programs.  If you plan on going to all-inclusive resorts, I don’t suggest getting a travel rewards credit card (stick with a cash-back credit card).

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I enjoy staying at fancy hotels.  This past month I stayed at the Four Seasons Whistler where we had an upgrade and had an amazing dining experience.  The rate was not cheap but we used a Virtuoso travel agent to get some extra perks.

Most people think that because we run a coupon and deals blog that we prefer to stay at hostels but honestly I like the fancy stays.

Canadian Travel Hacking - Interview with Steve3

Enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks with my daughter

Any parting words?

Remember that as a consumer that you already are paying for these frequent flyer programs.  If you do not take advantage of any frequent flyer programs or a loyalty program you are missing out.

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

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15 responses to ““Most people think that because we run a coupon and deals blog that we prefer to stay at hostels but honestly I like the fancy stays.”

  1. Although it starts with a capital letter, and ends with a period, this is not a complete sentence:

    “When I hear of how some of my friends and family were burned by some programs (not using Aeroplan miles efficiently and using the Aeroplan ClassicPlus Flight reward instead of a Classic Flight reward).”

    Not sure what the continued value (for the reader, that is; I assume there’s some value being exchanged to benefit MMS) is of these interviews. Everyone says the same thing — “credit cards, but oh, don’t forget about shopping portals!”

  2. @Steve, I’m in Whistler today and tomorrow, then driving back to Vancouver, are there any activities you recommend? I’ve already done Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, Copalani Suspension Bridge, seen a few waterfalls, and ATVs/rafting in Whistler. Any suggestions would be great.

  3. Cutest baby ever! I love that she’s so happy in all the photos. Good for you that you still travel with a new baby!

  4. “I purchase a large amount of gift cards to earn the bonus miles and when the gift cards come in the mail I use those to make another transaction to get additional miles.”
    Do you mean that you go back to the portal and pay for purchases with the gift cards? Does that get you points on the second transaction?

  5. Yes, adorably happy baby.

  6. Yay, happy to see another Canadian blogger!

  7. @Jeff

    Thanks! We should do a meetup one day – will be in Vancouver next month for WordCamp.

    @Anne, @Jasmine
    Thanks! She is a great traveller.

    @Grant.

    I recommend Steveston village. If you had more time I would suggest taking the ferry to visit us in Victoria (beautiful)!

    In Harrison (not too far) they have nice hot springs.

    Garibaldi Lake and Squamish have some nice activities to look into as well (may need more time though).

  8. Nice to see another Canadian blogger. Following you already in twitter

  9. Steve- curious, a Canadian bank offers an Alaska Airlines card for Canadians?

  10. This baby reminded me of the E*Trade baby. And it’s even cuter!

  11. @Mark M – Yep, there is a Alaska Airlines credit card for Canadians, issued by BoA Canada Bank. Current signup bonus is 25k. 🙂

  12. Great to see you traveling with such a cute little one! Wish I would have known about this years ago. My friends also think it’s too challenging to keep track of everything. They just see it as frustrating, even though I send them the links and book their flights and hotel rooms!! So maybe we really are unique??

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