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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: One Foot On Sand
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I began collecting in 2006 with my first credit card, the Chase United Mileage Plus Card. I had just moved to Philadelphia from Hawaii for college, and was looking for cheaper options to visit home. As a broke college student however, I didn’t have the spending power to take advantage of sign-up bonuses until after I started working full-time.
I remember going on FlyerTalk to learn everything about miles and how to hack routing rules on paid and award tickets. Since around 2011, I’ve stuck with a fairly strict cadence of opening at least 1 new credit card every 3-4 months.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog in 2011 as a way to keep in touch with friends and family when I decided to quit my first job to live and study in Taiwan to improve my Mandarin Chinese.
There’s a story behind the name of my blog. “One Foot On Sand” is a reminder that regardless of where I live or visit, a part of me will always be tied to my home state of Hawaii.
Since 2012 I’ve been based in the Washington, DC, area. After coming back to the US, my blog has focused on providing readers with trip advice, particularly to travelers that are based in the Northeast Corridor who are looking to maximize their 2 to 3 weeks of vacation a year.
I think a lot of travel blogs focus on destinations overseas. My blog certainly covers this as well, but there are a lot of places up and down the Northeast Corridor that make for great weekend or day trips from cities like Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Know what kind of award you’re working toward, determine what kind of points you need to collect to get it, and create a list of all the credit cards you plan to open to get the sign-up bonus.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
This is a tough one. I tend to travel for 3 things: the people, the scenery, and the food. I’ve been fortunate to have dozens of travel memories, but here are 3 from the past year:
1. Hiking up Table Mountain and drinking my way through the Cape Winelands with my boyfriend in South Africa.
2. Using points to fly from Washington, DC, to Phuket, Thailand, for a day to be one of the groomsmen in my college roommate’s wedding, then flying to Boston later that evening to see another college friend get married that same weekend.
3. Taking a shower on the plane and experiencing the luxury of Etihad’s First Class Apartment on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My friends think it’s crazy I have 2 plastic bags full of credit cards: one with more than a dozen credit cards currently open, and another with a dozen or so that have either been closed or replaced.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
AwardHacker to see how many miles it’ll cost to fly somewhere. Another oft-forgotten tip I think is to check Wikipedia to find an airport’s destinations. When building complex routing rules, I always recommend getting a feel of what destinations you can jump off to next by creating a list of all the cities you could head to after your initial stopover.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Getting permission to charge business expenses at a former company to my personal card. I ended up opening 3 credit cards within the span of about 3 months and met the minimum spending on all 3 of them.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Earn to burn. I remember starting out in the miles hobby wanting to save up all my points to book a free round-trip flight around the world. If I had done that, I’d be out of luck because the major legacy carriers don’t offer that reward as an option any more.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, and that dream is still alive. While I don’t have the time or money to start taking pilot lessons on a regular basis, I hope someday I’ll earn my pilot’s license!
Any parting words?
With all 3 US legacy carriers moving to revenue based mileage-earning, my outlook on miles and points has shifted towards viewing loyalty accounts as discount programs. Even if you have points, award redemptions are increasingly harder to come by. Start the search early.
Jason – 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!