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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: Share Traveler
Dawn started Share Traveler to help readers find budget lodging, transportation, local guides, and other resources.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Two years ago I quit the job I’d had for 13 years to take a gap year and travel. When the year was over I found that I had no interest in going back to my old job or even working in the same industry.
I just wanted to continue traveling. So I decided I needed to find ways to travel on the cheap. After a little research it was clear to me that the best solution to the cost of airfare was collecting miles.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Around the same time I started collecting miles I also started looking into home exchange as a way to get free lodging for travel. I found there were tons of membership-based websites that connect home swappers but very little information helping me select the right one.
In fact, I couldn’t even find a list of my options. So after creating a spreadsheet for my own use, I decided to put it up on a website as reference for others. And I included my review of all the sites I’d looked at closely.
This research got me interested in what other things could be swapped or shared while traveling so I started writing about sharing economy travel resources in general. And I don’t just write about it, I use what I learn to make my travels both cheaper and so much more fun. I’ve met lots of amazing people, enjoyed fabulous meals and experiences, and had the benefit of staying in lovely homes for free.
After about 7 months of learning and writing, last September my wife and I spent a month in Spain traveling all around the country. We used ride-sharing for transportation, home exchanges for lodging, miles for the flights, peer-to-peer tour guides for some cool experiences, and even delivered some shoes as a part of a crowd-sourced shipping service. We had a fabulous trip that cost us a total of $500 each.
I think of that as my proof-of-concept trip: sharing economy travel services really do save money and provide incredible travel experiences. My blog is part resource guide, part evangelist for peer-to-peer travel related services.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I’m all about credit card sign-up deals. In fact, I don’t ever pay for revenue flights unless it’s a crazy cheap price (I did purchase the $99 WOW airlines flights to Iceland). I learn new things all the time, but I think credit card bonuses are the easiest way in, especially for beginners.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Wow, hard question. Kayaking and watching whales in Alaska while living on a small boat for a week was pretty phenomenal. Hiking the Lycian Way on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey was also amazing.
But I think most of my travel memories center around people; shared experiences with those with whom I am traveling or visiting, as well as people I meet while traveling. And of course the incredible food I eat in other countries. From Laotian green papaya salad to Egyptian falafel, I fall in love with the food pretty much everywhere I go.
Sorry, I think I gave you about 10 memories there.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My parents loved the idea and quickly jumped on board. And I have a few other friends talking about the travel they will be doing for free now that I’ve gotten them into it.
But plenty of people are skeptical and think I’m cheating the system and or doing something far too difficult to be worth their time. The more free trips I take the more people take it seriously and start asking me how they can do it.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I get a lot of use out of AwardWallet for tracking all my programs and easily storing all my program log-in information. But the best tool is a daily review of my favorite miles and points blogs (including yours!) in an RSS feed.
I don’t need to do the research myself, I just review the work done by the experts and act on the relevant items.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Test driving a Cadillac for 7,500 American Airlines miles (This deal is no longer available). That was super easy and a good example of deals I learn about in my daily review of relevant blogs.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
The Southwest Companion Pass! I don’t know why I thought it was too hard to get the 1st time I read about it, but your posts on it a few months back made me realize how simple it is.
By February, I will have over 110,000 miles posted to Southwest and a Companion Pass good for 2 years of free travel for my wife. Anyone who travels domestically within the US with a spouse or partner should get this.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I haven’t practiced in years though so don’t ask me to demonstrate a jumping wheel kick.
Any parting words?
Consider exploring sharing economy travel services to your next trip. Even if you’re not trying to save money, peer-to peer-services can provide great alternatives to the traditional tour bus and get you out meeting locals and experiencing your destination. Home exchange allows you to leverage your existing home to stay somewhere nice for free.
Ride-sharing gets you around conveniently and cheaply in many countries and almost always includes fun conversation with locals. Peer-to-peer meals and tour guides are great ways to meet locals and have travel experiences that are unique and interesting.
And if you want to make money, crowd sourced delivery is an interesting and growing area to consider. There are even shared Wi-Fi options!
Dawn – 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!