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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: Regional First
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started as a child, traveling with my parents. My dad used to travel a lot for business, so I’ve collected miles & points most of my life. I’ve long had a passion for travel, especially on airplanes.
I even earned elite status one year in elementary school but it was nearly 2 decades later when I started traveling frequently for work before I earned status again. I have had various forms of status ever since. Somewhere along the way, I found Flyertalk. From there, the quest for earning miles & points has been ongoing.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started somewhat reluctantly, because I didn’t think I really had anything too interesting to say. I met Mike Cargian, the founder of Upgrd.com, who convinced me otherwise.
Since then, I have tried to use my blog as a way to document my travels and hopefully share some of the joy it has brought me. I certainly utilize miles & points, but I don’t discuss it too much in my blog, where I try to focus on my experiences.
Also, I am a frequent traveler for business, as I work for a large Biotech company doing customer training all over. Most of my travel is in North America, but I also usually do a few long-haul trips for work. “Road warrior” is a fitting term to describe me. I’m not traveling as much as I have at times, but I still enjoy it most of the time.
Having a young child at home has made this a lot tougher than before she was born.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Credit card sign-up bonuses are obviously #1, but category bonuses are often very easy as well. Chase Freedom is a no-brainer for the easy categories that earn 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points each quarter.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Probably the day I visited 3 countries in 1 day, in the Golden Triangle; Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.
I have to also mention my first international trip with my wife and daughter. Much of my travel is for business, so I was glad to share a fun trip with family.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Because I’ve been collecting miles most of my life, much of my family thinks it’s just typical, although not necessarily more of the unique ways I’ve earned through the years.
I get lots of questions about helping to plan trips, and I’m happy to do so. I have some family more interested than others, and a few are even starting to collect miles & points for their own fun travel experiences. Personally, I’m now focused on collecting and using points and miles for 3 of us!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Flyertalk is a great resource, as are the various miles & points blogs for all sorts of topics. As for tools, AwardWallet is a great way to keep track of point balances and, more importantly, expiration dates.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
There are some promotions that come about that make earning miles & points easy. American Express on occasion offers bonus points for their charge cards just to sign-up for an option to pay over time. It was a nice way to bank 10,000+ AMEX Membership Rewards points even though I had no intention of using that feature.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Diversity is key. I think many people focus on a few programs, and that is good advice to a point. But I think there are so many more opportunities if one can earn in various programs. That also helps insure against devaluations, at least to some extent.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’ve had some great experiences using miles & points, flown in some amazing First Class products, but still much of my travel is pretty boring domestic trips for business.
While I get as frustrated as anyone does when there are delays, having done it enough I usually have routines that I can use to work through them, and have backup plans as needed.
Any parting words?
While the hobby has changed a lot in recent years, and in many ways it has become more difficult, there are still countless opportunities out there to see the world at below-market prices, and hopefully in premium cabins.
Brad – 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!