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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: Dream Travel On Points
Rupert writes Dream Travel On Points to help readers discover incredible travel destinations.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I signed-up for my 1st reward program over 20 years ago when I started to travel a lot on business. I got my 1st airline credit card soon after when I moved to the US. It was originally more “accidental earning & redeeming of miles” rather than a focused effort.
The more I enjoyed the perks of status and the free flights and hotels I earned, the more I read about miles & points. And the more I realized it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to make your dream vacation come true! With every year I’ve traveled, I’ve spent less and less on making my dreams a reality!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I took a year off from work to follow my life-long passion and travel around the world. Along the way, I met people who inspired me with their photos and stories to travel to places off the beaten path. I, in turn, shared my photos with friends and family and many said, “I wish I could go, too!”
Often, money was holding them back or lack of information kept them going to the same places over and over.
So, I want to inspire people to discover new destinations (why not Koh Samui, Thailand, instead of Hawaii?), use miles, points, or promotions to spend less, and get independent tips to travel better! With all 3 elements, anybody can realize a trip to their dream destination without breaking the bank!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The single most effective thing to get more miles, at least for people residing in the US, is to sign-up for credit cards. Million Mile Secrets is all the evidence anybody needs.
For people outside the US or anybody not comfortable with credit cards, I’d say promotions. Making use of points promotions or sales can save you more than 50% of your trip!
I just completed a 4-week trip across 5 Southeast Asian countries and paid under $1,200 for 11 flights and 27 nights in mid and upscale hotels by using a mix of points, sales, and promotions!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Every time people ask me this, pictures of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, diving with seals in the Galapagos Islands, safari in Africa or climbing the ruins of Angkor Wat come to my mind. All of these trips contributed to making me so passionate about travel.
But the single most important experience was in Luang Prabang, Laos. I had traveled around the country for a week and only spent $250 for hotels, food, and transportation. I felt quite proud of my budget achievement.
One morning, after being woken up at the crack of dawn, by the temple bells I watched the monks walk down the streets to collect alms from the locals to feed them for the day. When 1 of the monks shared some of the rice he just received with a little street kid, who had nothing…it was a very humbling experience.
I realized that my most memorable experiences were with people I met or places I saw, regardless of the amount of money I spent! Anybody can collect travel memories for life, regardless of how much money they have!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My family and friends know how passionate about I am about travel and are very supportive. Despite that, they are still a little skeptical of the miles & points aspects. But with every “free” hotel stay or business class flight, they are getting more and more interested how this all works.
I got most of my family signed-up for some rewards program by now and I’m sure, getting their own free stays or flights will win them over, 1 point at a time!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Read, read, read…your blog, my blog, other web sites. There is so much information available today that anybody can realize dream trips for little money and without much effort.
What would have taken weeks of research a few years ago can be accomplished in an hour or two. Find the bloggers closest to your idea of travel, sign-up for a newsletter, read with your Sunday morning coffee, and the effort and cost of your next vacation just went down dramatically!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Anything goes when it comes to earning miles and points these days. I set out to earn a free ticket on Air Berlin, without setting foot on 1 of their planes or signing-up for a credit card to prove that point!
I earned points with signing-up with their partners, writing online hotel reviews, looking at duty free offers or participating in hotel promotions! A Facebook “Like”, a survey, or an online game can earn you points, anything truly goes!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I ended up with lots of small balances in many accounts, some of them went unused for years or expired. If you don’t travel a lot, focusing on earning points in a few programs and with credit cards that allow you to transfer points to those programs, is the fastest way to make your travel dreams come true.
Figure out your dream destination and choose the programs that get you there. Everybody’s dreams are different, so there is no “best” program, only the best for you!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I write about destinations, hotels, flights, things to see and do…what’s difficult to bring across is that every 1 of my most memorable experiences is really shaped by the people I’ve met, a flight attendant, a front desk agent who made the day special, or a little kid waving hello from the back of a bicycle.
Even though my photos don’t capture them (mostly, because I don’t really like to be photographed), there is always a person in my mind for the photos cities or scenery I took…
Any parting words?
The now defunct, Ansett Australia Airlines had my favorite advertising jingle, “If you never, never go, you’ll never, never know” and that is so true.
Dreaming of travel is great, I do it every day, but making that dream real is so much better! And travel is like laughing, it’s contagious. And once you start, you can’t stop!
So, go out there, leave your comfort zone, use those miles to book a trip to a destination none of your friends have ever been to and create memories of a lifetime!
With every place I go to, I add 2 more places to my list of places to see! And that’s a wonderful problem to have!
Rupert – 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!