“…most of my readers are more interested in error fares or fuel dumps to save money.”

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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: Le blog grand voyageur

Nick runs the French frequent flyer site le blog grand voyageur and loves to travel around the world, enjoying the holidays at his favorite places, in hotels and airlines using miles and points.

Voyageur Frequent - Interview with Nick

Lazy Sunday at Canal St. Martin

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I’ve been a globetrotter all my life.  I enrolled in frequent flyer programs in the early 90s before blogs and forums existed, but didn’t really get serious until I finally started following Flyertalk around 2004.  I was doing business travel between France and Japan and realized it was better to become a Northwest Airlines Gold elite member and take advantage of cheap intra-Asia redemptions.

Unfortunately many of the deals to earn miles are not available for those of us living outside of the US.

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

I started le blog grand voyageur (which roughly translates to “the frequent traveler blog”) because there were no French language blogs dealing with miles and points.  I wanted to share my knowledge learned from my own travel, Flyertalk, blogs like Million Mile Secrets and hopefully learn more about the local frequent flyer scene.

The site is now the primary resource for miles and points in France even though French is not my mother tongue and I have since moved to Japan.  It’s good to see more and more blogs covering the rest of the world.

Voyageur Frequent - Interview with Nick

The hilltop village of Peillon, South of France

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

In the US, opening credit cards of course.  In France it’s slim pickings with Amex the only player and few ways to manufacture spend.  France is the desert of frequent flyer earning, but the food and wine makes up for it!

Due to the lack of good earning opportunities outside of business travel, most of my readers are more interested in error fares or fuel dumps to save money.  Please subscribe to my Facebook page to see these limited time deals.

Voyageur Frequent - Interview with Nick

Paris, je t’aime

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

This year we went to Borneo and saw wild orangutans and Proboscis Monkeys in the jungle.  We also stayed at a resort called Pom Pom Island with crystal clear water where we swam with giant sea turtles.  It was really great, but pretty expensive with my only use of points being an Starwood hotels redemption in Sandakan.

Since it’s more difficult to get easy miles outside of the US, I focus more on finding a great destination first and then see if there are any ways to use points afterwards.

Voyageur Frequent - Interview with Nick

Funky monkey!

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

They can’t take advantage of the US credit card offers, so they just know I’m good at finding good deals and travel a lot.  My wife doesn’t mind as long as I don’t spend too much time behind the screen.

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

I’ve found that reaching out to hotel general managers before arrival can really help with upgrades or special treatment without necessarily having any status.  I really like milez.biz to compare how many miles are required in different programs for a redemption.  This helps you find the good value redemptions and saves time searching across individual award charts.

I also use Awardtraveler.com to find award flights on the three alliances, which again saves the hassle of having to log in to different sites.

Voyageur Frequent - Interview with Nick

Pom Pom Island, Borneo

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

A few years ago the same flight could be credited to two programs, but that bug no longer works.  I credited to a partner program and it was a good surprise to see the miles appear in two accounts…

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

At the beginning it was exciting to see how people in the US were able to travel using only miles and points, but since the best deals are not available in France I’ve shifted the emphasis from saving money towards making the best use of my time.

I also appreciate that in Europe, we have longer vacations so we’re not rushing around trying to see and do everything in a few days.  We don’t have have as many miles as you guys do, but we probably have more time to actually travel.

Voyageur Frequent - Interview with Nick

Telling time at Musee d’Orsay

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I might have the best job in the world designing cars for a living, so not planning to quit my day job.

Any parting words?

Why all the hate towards bloggers in the US?  I know how much time and effort it takes to run even a much smaller blog than Million Mile Secrets, so I don’t understand how people expect to learn without sharing knowledge with others.  The great thing about the internet is how much easier it has become to share information.

Everything I learned about miles and points has been online, so I suggest to ignore all the naysayers and keep a positive attitude.  Having said all that it’s very important to go offline, see the world and spend time with friends and family.

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

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8 responses to ““…most of my readers are more interested in error fares or fuel dumps to save money.”

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

    I’ve found that reaching out to hotel general managers before arrival can really help with upgrades or special treatment without necessarily having any status. ”
    —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —–

    This question & answer really peaked my interest during reading your story. Could you please expand on this subject with examples? Very interesting!!

  2. I thought I had good pictures of the Eiffel Tower….but his pic is amazing! Great article.

  3. Very unique interview. I hope to go to France someday. Somehow never made it there, even though I am from Europe. Interesting tips, never heard of miles.biz for some reason. I wish I could speak French, so I could understand your site better.Agree about longer european vacations, totally different mindset. I have become americanized and rush through all the sites now.

  4. What a terrific interview and point of view! Thanks, Darius, for finding Nick’s blog and introducing us to it.

  5. Great interview, Nick! Looking forward to your fuel dump alerts – something I’ve been taking baby steps learning.

    @BillyBob – Daraius has a post about how to contact hotel managers -http://millionmilesecrets.com/2013/07/20/hotel-general-manager-email/

  6. what exactly is a “fuel dump” in the AOR/churn context?

  7. Nick,

    I love that you found a good niche for your travel hacking blog and I do miss my 30 days of vacation that I had back in Germany 😉 You’re right, people outside the US might not get as many deals, but they sure do have a lot more vacation which equals a less stressful travel experience.
    Question: Do both you and your wife sign up for frequent flyer programs or are only you doing it and then paying for both of your tickets with just your mileage account? I’m wondering if it would be an advantage if both of you would be hunting for mileage deals in separate accounts and then maybe merge it.

    Keep up the great work!!
    Dan

  8. Thanks for all your comments and especially MMS for the interview.

    @BillyBob I use Daraius tips from the article Debbie mentioned to get more personal attention at large hotels. The shangri la in KL got us a suite upgrade and airport pickup for my wife’s birthday! Often you’ll get a fruit basket or bottle of wine, which is already a nice gesture.

    @Leana you can use Google translate, but many of the topics are already covered by MMS

    @Debbie Check on my Facebook page for the latest deals ex-europe. It usually involves open jaws between two countries like CDG-GIG-MXP and then taking a cheap flight home.

    @danny what’s AOR/churn? Fuel dumps are flights which have the fuel surcharges reduced or removed. There is a huge cryptic thread on Flyertalk which I don’t bother to follow

    @Dan We both have accounts since we generally travel together anyways, but we don’t do mileage runs. BA has family accounts and Avios are great for intra-Japan flights. The error fare out of Myanmar was a great deal, but we ended up in Thailand instead…