“Second to My Family, Is Travel”

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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:   Ellen Offner’s Travel Blog

Ellen writes Ellen Offner’s Travel Blog to share beautiful photos of her travels and experiences around the world, and offer readers advice on how they too can travel at affordable prices.

Check out her blog to win 1 of 4 sets of eBags packing cubes that will help you pack like a pro!

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Ellen and Her Husband Arnie at the Great Wall, China

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting miles while working as a manager at an innovative health care organization in Boston with a job that required extensive travel.

My husband started to collect miles when he began to travel weekly to his new job at a college in Pennsylvania, a commute that lasted for 21 years while we remained in our home outside Boston.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Baby in Rural China With a Portrait of Mao, the Former Chairman of the Communist Party of China, in the Background

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

Many of my friends and family who found our travel highly interesting have asked me to share our experiences with them.  One couple even asked us to plan their trip in exchange for providing a free trip for us to accompany them.

These requests inspired me to start my blog to share my travel experiences and offer people information about how to travel extremely comfortably at affordable prices.

I used my tried and true business system of issuing Requests for Proposals to local travel agents as a means to ask them to submit competitive bids.  We have used local travel agents in China, Peru, Uruguay, and Vietnam, for example, with great success.

Sometimes I use their proposed itinerary as a starting point.  More often I collect ideas online and create my own preferred itinerary, including lodgings at both luxury hotels and charming B&B’s.  And, when necessary, a car, driver, trains, ferries, and internal flights.

For example, during a recent visit to Milan, we stayed in a delightful B&B with an attached art gallery in a lovely residential neighborhood.  We discovered this place on our own by consulting TripAdvisor and other resources, and paid for ourselves.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Ellen in Taormina, Sicily

We also stayed at the super-luxurious Park Hyatt Milan near La Scala, using our Hyatt points.  This approach has yielded us savings of up to 30% to 40% over identical itineraries offered by well-established international travel agencies.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Cooks in a Restaurant Kitchen

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

The single best thing people can do is subscribe to Million Mile Secrets, my favorite and most helpful blog about accruing miles and points, and perhaps 1 or 2 other similar newsletters.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

My most memorable travel experience was my trip to China, a mix of ancient and modern, cities and rural areas, natural beauty, traditional Chinese art, delicious food, and wonderful people.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Floating Down Li River – China

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

At 1st my family and friends wondered why I was collecting miles and points as a hobby.  Some of them thought this activity was a bit frivolous.

Now that they have seen how miles and points have enabled us to travel the world affordably, the more adventuresome ones are starting to collect miles and points themselves, based on my recommendations about resources such as Million Mile Secrets.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Street Vendor Selling Produce

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

Credit cards have been a remarkably valuable tool, and I follow tips from Million Mile Secrets and a couple of other blogs.  I have found Million Mile Secrets to be the most valuable.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Terra Cotta Soldiers – Xi’an, China

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

I’ve occasionally earned miles or points by purchasing them when there are special offers.  This generally is an expensive way to acquire points, but can make sense when you need a few additional points for awards such as an upgrade to Business Class or to an international hotel like a Hyatt or Westin.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Terra Cotta Soldier and His Horse – Xi’an, China

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

I wish I had started collecting miles and points systematically earlier.  Now I see the value in having them to make traveling more comfortable and affordable than paying cash for airfare and lodgings.

Using miles and points, as noted in my travel blog, has provided us with many adventures and luxury travel, which we could not have afforded without this valuable supplement.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

My readers would be surprised to know that although I am an extremely adventurous traveler, I am terrified of heights.

To get to mountaintop Li-An Lodge in Longsheng County, China, set in extremely high rice terraces, diminutive, barefoot local porters graciously carried me up the 1,000-step rough stone footpath through the vibrant villages on either side in a picturesque and sturdy sedan chair.

With sheer drops on either side of the narrow footpath, these skillful people got me to the lodge safely.  When I got to the top and beheld the incredible view of the rice fields, seen before only in Chinese watercolors, I was breathless.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Woman Selling Bottled Water – Li River, China

Any parting words?

Travel is an enriching, broadening experience.  For me travel introduces me to new cultures, languages, people, architecture, art, music, and of course food.  As I think back over my 74 years, 2nd to my family is travel.

We learn everywhere we go and make friends with people all over the world.  By collecting miles and points systematically and using them judiciously, we are able to stretch our budget and enjoy touches of luxury that we relish.

We treasure our travel and love sharing our stories with family and friends.

Ellen Offner's Travel Blog - Interview With Ellen

Zhuozheng Garden, Humble Administrator’s Garden – Suzhou, China

Ellen – 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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2 responses to ““Second to My Family, Is Travel”

  1. Mrs. Ellen (and to Daraius for this wonderful installment): ABSOLUTELY love it! What wonderful adventures you’ve made happen and with such an adventurous spirit! Brilliant idea about the RFP for itineraries. Incidentally, I love the moment caught with the baby below the poster of Mao. Your tone is so inspirational and I wholeheartedly agree with your priorities of family (+friends as family), then travel experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love reading interviews like this, real people traveling around the world using points and miles, very interesting story!