“…I’m Currently the Owner of 2 Large Ugly Pigs Roaming Around the Basement”

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Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview:   I Go By Plane

Mike started I Go By Plane to share share stories, pictures, tricks, and ideas for traveling.  He’s also giving away gift cards on his blog!

I Go By Plane - Interview With Mike

Mike in Front of the Murugan Statue at the Batu Caves in Malaysia

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting miles and points while traveling as a consultant for work in 2002.  But I did not use them very efficiently at the time.  For the most part I redeemed them for merchandise to sell on eBay.

From 2007 to 2011, I worked at a local model consulting firm and didn’t accumulate much.  Although recently, I started traveling again and came back into the game in a big way!

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

I started my blog to save and share pictures and stories.  I also wanted to dispel some of the myths I think my friends have that have kept them from trying to travel with points.

The most special thing about my blog is I’ve created some engines on the site that will tell you the best path to accumulate points or reach a goal based on your criteria and currently available sign-up bonuses.

While the 50,000 Chase Southwest sign-up bonuses are gone, my Companion Pass Engine still tells you the least difficult path to the Companion Pass.

I Go By Plane - Interview With Mike

Shooting Machine Guns in Las Vegas

The United and American Airlines Engine gives advice on how to score ~274,350 United miles or ~342,152 American Airlines miles.  The engines take into account all card point sources and conversions.

Don’t want a card with fees?  No business cards?  Want to put in a goal of traveling from North America to Japan on American Airlines?  Enter this in and it will tell you how to accomplish your goal.

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

Aside from charging everything, probably the biggest thing people could do is to pay their mortgage or rent with credit cards to get miles.  Aside from that, anyone financially responsible should have no problem at least getting an occasional 1 or 2 cards for sign-up bonuses.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

I just traveled in Southeast Asia for 3 weeks with a buddy and that was a lot of fun.  We just happened to be in Kuala Lumpur doing Thaipusam.  I also really enjoyed petting some tigers in Thailand.  As a car guy I thoroughly enjoyed and will most certainly be back to the Nürburgring.

I Go By Plane - Interview With Mike

Nice Kitty

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

Naturally they think I’m cray-cray.

I have convinced a few friends shooting for a Companion Pass or a fancy honeymoon trip to start playing.  But many consider what I do to be damaging to my credit or involve too much time and effort.  To dispel this, I have a post on my credit score as well as a calculation on how much the job pays per hour, considering the time and effort to achieve an award.

If my parents visit my sister in Australia this year, I’ll use my American Airlines Executive Platinum systemwide upgrades to upgrade them and we’ll see who thinks I’m crazy after that.

I Go By Plane - Interview With Mike

Disappointed With the Small Portions in Germany

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

The 1st flights I booked with miles were to Berlin on First Class via London on American Airlines and British Airways, then returning through London via United Airlines in First Class.

I didn’t chat him up until landing and seeing he was reading a Top Gear magazine, but the CEO of TireRack was sitting next to me.  In any case, I ended up paying for going through London Heathrow Airport and not using any of the special bonus trip options one can do around international award flights.

I Go By Plane - Interview With Mike

Waiting to Board My Flight to Thailand

I learned my lesson and recently used the free 1-way flight trick on United Airlines to tack on a  Business Class trip to the end of my Southeast Asia trip.

You see, my trip wasn’t to Chicago, it was really to Buenos Aires…I’m just taking a stopover here in Chicago to work for a while!  Business Class to Buenos Aires was an additional $25 and 10,000 miles for the 1-way.

I Go By Plane - Interview With Mike

Ugh! He Got Me!

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

I bought some artsy gold pigs on sale during Black Friday.  But I’ve been lazy, so I’m currently the owner of 2 large ugly pigs roaming around the basement.

I also still have a few extra bags of luggage…

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

In the beginning, that I would have been much better off using those points for travel rather than redeeming them for “stuff.”  Today my advice to newbies is to start with 1 to 3 cards and have some kind of a goal in mind.

I think I, like many, voraciously gobble up points now.  But I have orphan points in programs off to the side now that I’m not sure when I’ll use, sprinkled here or there.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

My first job was McDonald’s?

I had a pretty hard sprint and some crazy runs to get American Airlines Executive Platinum status last year.  I’ll post a story on that one soon.

At the Chicago Seminars last year I did the work that resulted in Team SPG winning the maximum value out of points redemption contest.  I heard during the presentation that Team Chase was expected to win.

It was pretty challenging to complete everything in the amount of time we had available.  It really was pretty intense work on the laptops in the hallway by all teams.  Those points geek competitions really get the adrenaline flowing eh??

Any parting words?

I encourage anyone interested in doing a bit more travel to jump in the pool, if they’ve been waiting on the sidelines to take any action.

I actually consider the current situation a travel arbitrage, and windows like that usually close. So jump in while there are still great awards to reap.  Plus I could use some travel companions.

I Go By Plane - Interview With Mike

Cruising Through 1 of the Over 70 Turns on the Nürburgring

I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on my blog.  I plan to continue posting more deals, tricks and stories and to keep on exploring and knocking things off my bucket list as well.

Thanks Daraius and Emily for having me!

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

If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!

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18 responses to ““…I’m Currently the Owner of 2 Large Ugly Pigs Roaming Around the Basement”

  1. I always enjoy these Friday biographical sketches. It reminds me to get back in the game when I start to slough off.

    I just had a question under the part about the most unusual ways you earned points. Pigs roaming around your basement? I’m assuming they are some sort of art objects? And the comment about extra luggage, also? Did you mean you spent money buying it for the points?

  2. @anne, i bought some quirky gold pigs off the SPG site during black friday to get some points and a deal, under the plan to sell them on ebay for a minimal loss if any. currently my brother is just wondering why we have a few eird ugly pigs in the basement… the luggage was alluding to the big ebags promo where they were giving 35x AA points through the AA portal, where i and others bought a slew of luggage to resell. i still have about 1/4 of it left as i’ve been lazy ebaying off the remnants. some spring cleaning to do!

  3. “Aside from charging everything, probably the biggest thing people could do is to pay their mortgage or rent with credit cards to get miles”

    You don’t get miles for paying your mortgage or your rent. In fact you don’t get miles for paying anything. Why does every blogger preach this, it’s 100% wrong. You get miles for buying with your credit card. If you chose to buy giftcards to pay your mortgage or rent, you still owe the money to your credit card. All you are doing trying to brainwash people into thinking they get miles for this and that, the dumb people play along but anyone with any common sense whatsoever would realize this.

  4. Edit: In fact you don’t get miles for paying anything (that doesn’t already accept credit cards as payment)

  5. @josh, i agree it is indirect (or any direct means to do so loses more in fees than returns in miles) – but at the end of the day, last year i never got anything for the monthly expense of my mortgage, this year i get a little something back by using a gift card and bluebird. between no return and some return, for something that takes little if any effort, i’ll take the return…

  6. Two places I would recommend to put on your bucket list; Blue Lagoon in Iceland and taking a slow boat from Mandalay to Bagan in Myanmar. But since you’re headed to Scandinavia I would go to Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen!

  7. It’s hard to know what to suggest for your bucket list as we don’t know all the places you’ve been. 🙂 But Great Britain is one of my favorite places on earth, not just London but all over the country. Some fantastic cities and some fantastic countryside.

    But perhaps you’ve already been there.

  8. David Gutierrez

    Pretty cool inteview. Very inspiring.

  9. You should add the Son Doong Cave in Vietnam. It has a jungle and a river inside and is large enough to hold a 40 story skyscraper inside. The cave was only discovered four years ago and tours will start this year. It’s definitely on my bucket list.

  10. Mike – I’m sure glad you helped the SPG team! My newbie friend Linda was thrilled that you did the work and won! Everyone loved you! You sure fooled the Chase team! I still need Linda to catch the passion for the game. Maybe you either have it or you don’t?

  11. “Petting some tigers in Thailand” activity was awesome. I would never come close to that “kitty.” Thanks.

  12. @lynn get her enough to take a trip! i haven’t turned too many of my friends into pointshounds yet. i’m surprised the conversion rate is so low, i think it has a lot to do with misconceptions around effort/risk/reward. on one hand i suppose that’s a good thing – less people doing it so banks and programs probably care less about us than they would if 10x as many people were doing it…

    @nguyen you know when you pet cats and they sometimes knead their front paws? he was doing that and shards of wood were falling off…

  13. Hi Mike,
    I was on that SPG team that won the miles at the Chicago Seminars last year.
    You made it happen! Thanks again.
    You are very savvy and I am glad you have done so well in your travels.
    I will follow your Blog!

  14. Im in. I want to pet tigers!

  15. @lynn+misty – haha funny to see both of you here! are you going this year? i have not signed up yet as my schedule is pretty volatile but will probably end up going.

    @donna it was so fun! looking at the pics makes me want to go back and pet them again and play around with the little ones a lot more. i have doing the living with lions program on my bucket list which is a lot of time around lion cubs.

  16. Mike – I’ve planned a trip for my hubby and Linda & Andy to Israel, Rome and Berlin, with free air and 21 nights of free hotels! I was even able to get business class for all of us on US Air on way over to Israel! We are coming back through Chicago on Oct. 16th, on our way back to Minneapolis. We could just jump off in Chicago and attend the seminar. At that point I may want to get home, but I did tell Linda she could attend! So it’s not like they haven’t experienced multiple benefits from this game! They’ve had several free flights before this trip and hotel nights. They still think the game is very confusing!

  17. I’ve been an active accidental tourist for over 50 years from the time we drove from Long Island to Miami Beach in 1967 to my rejoicing life after beating Non Hodgins Lymphoma with a 3 week expedition to New Zealand. A few years ago Karyn and I started Maverick World Travel to help help prospective travelers fulfill their life’s dreams.