“Nothing Is as Humbling as Seeing Thousands of Graves at the Normandy Invasion Beaches”

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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:  The Traveling Professor

Steve writes The Traveling Professor to give tips and pointers to readers and travelers.  You can also find him on Facebook! And if you have any questions, you can email him here.

The Traveling Professor

The Professor in Florence

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I became an American Airlines AAdvantage member on August 24, 1984.  I have Platinum elite status.  And I am a “Million Miler” with 1,495,955 miles flown in the air.

However, I estimate I have earned over 10,000,000 miles & points through flying, credit cards, credit card bonuses, and through other miles earning opportunities.  I started collecting miles & points with my American Airlines AAdvantage account.

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

I started my blog in 2007.  It started out as a specialty blog about Paris travel, and evolved to cover more destinations in Europe and South America.

I started adding travel tips, including how to collect and spend miles, about 4 years ago.  I think my blog posts are special because one of my goals is to print tips and pointers that are not commonly found in other blogs.

The Traveling Professor

My Book, The Traveling Professor’s Guide to Paris

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

Sign-up for credit card deals.  I presently have 4 credit cards where I got at least 50,000 mile bonuses for signing up:  Barclaycard Aviator Card, Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and a British Airways Visa Signature Card.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

I have 2 memorable travel experiences.

The first is when I visited a remote island on Lake Titicaca in Peru called Amantani.  Very few outside visitors have come to the island since shipping across Lake Titicaca ended many years ago.

The Traveling Professor

Here I Am With Maria (Mother), Jessica, and Jefferson on Amantani, Lake Titicaca, Peru. The 2 Children Had Never Had Their Photograph Taken Before

So, the island has been pretty much isolated for generations.  No phones, no newspapers, no internet, no machines at all.  I was part of an inaugural program where visitors would come to the island, bring gifts and stay with a resident family for a night.

I gave the household food and the 2 children some very simple toys.  They were overjoyed.  The next day when I left, the children just disappeared as we walked to the marina to catch my boat, never saying goodbye.  It bothered me.  Did I do or say something wrong?

But after I left the island, I realized why they never said farewell.  The island’s inhabitants don’t know how to say goodbye.  They never had to, because no one ever left before.

The second memorable travel experience is visiting the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer at the Normandy Invasion Beaches.

The Traveling Professor

For Me, Nothing Is More Emotional Than the Normandy Invasion Beaches

Words cannot describe the emotions at seeing what our heroes confronted to accomplish their mission and walking on the sand at Omaha Beach.  Nothing is as humbling as seeing the thousands of crosses and Stars of David at the cemetery.  I am eternally grateful to these brave warriors.

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

My friends and family love my miles & points hobby because they are frequent beneficiaries of my miles & points redemptions!

The Traveling Professor

My #1 Traveling Companion Is the Biggest Beneficiary of My Miles Awards and Upgrades

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

The tricks are in redeeming miles for the best value.  For instance, avoid flying through London Heathrow Airport on miles because the taxes & fees charged usually outweigh the cost of the “free” ticket.

Another trick is to use miles to get elite status on airlines for better seat selection, reduced mileage awards, lounge access, and reduced fees like baggage fees.

My other big tip is the “Status Match” program available on other airlines.  For instance, I have Platinum status on American Airlines.  It takes 50,000 flight miles per year to become Platinum and it comes with a lot of great perks.

The Traveling Professor

The Professor in London

However, I can request a “Status Match” on another airline like Delta or Virgin America and voila!  I have equivalent elite status on that airline without flying a mile!

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

The least expected way I earned miles (and an airline voucher) was many years ago when I volunteered to be bumped from an oversold flight from Las Vegas to Chicago.

They arranged to put me on another flight, but then switched me back to my original flight.  I call it the “bumpless bump” because they still gave me a voucher and miles for my “inconvenience”.  Those were the good old days.

The Traveling Professor

The Professor in Bolivia

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

American Airlines has a Business Extra program where points are accumulated in ADDITION to miles.  These points can be used for things like flights, upgrades, and lounge access.

I love double-dipping on miles!  I only enrolled in this a few years ago and wish I had done so earlier.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

Everyone is always surprised to learn I was a Statistics Professor for 31 years and I was the Male Scholastic Typing Champion of the State of Virginia of 1979.  LOL!

The Traveling Professor

The Professor at Machu Picchu

Any parting words?

Miles & points are starting to have less and less value for the more casual flyer.  Lately, the airlines are trending towards giving their best rewards to their corporate First Class flyers.  The other piece of advice I have is to find an airline that is best for you, get elite status, and concentrate on accumulating miles & points on that airline.

The Traveling Professor

A Group From One of The Traveling Professor’s Small Group Tours to Paris

Steve – 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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12 responses to ““Nothing Is as Humbling as Seeing Thousands of Graves at the Normandy Invasion Beaches”

  1. The above photo is captioned as Florence, yet it is actually Venice.

  2. Enore Antonio Bondan Filho

    Great article!!! Congrats!!! Just to correct: the first picture is from Venice, but I also love Florence.

  3. I really enjoyed the story of the family in Lake Titicaca. I thought the children not saying goodbye was very moving. Thanks for sharing Steve.

  4. We toured the dday sites last summer. It is a must do for Americans. There were many older Americans on tours probably having wanted to come for many years and making the pilgrimage. I was touched by the respect they showed us from all the memorials everywhere.

  5. Love these posts! I don’t spend a lot of time reading various travel blogs, but I love the subject. These articles provide a cool overview of their best bits. Thanks for the article!

  6. “The other piece of advice I have is to find an airline that is best for you, get elite status, and concentrate on accumulating miles & points on that airline.”

    Bah. Absolutely rubbish advice. Earn enough cheap miles to fly front of the bus and you’ll get almost all the same perks as those with elite status – without any need for loyalty to a single airline (which really means forgoing better/cheaper options elsewhere).

    One’s goal should be to find programs that allow the most flexibility to send miles to the best programs – there is no single one “best” airline – all have their plusses and negatives. Concentrating on one airline is foolish stupidity.

    • Hi Mser,

      Well thanks for the compliments! Never had my comments referred to as “foolish stupidity” but that’s OK. Best of luck to you and whatever works for you is fine.

      Steve Solosky

  7. You can’t really use miles to get elite status, right?

  8. Thanks for the interesting account of your travels, Professor. I’ve got the book on order.

  9. Great read. Your correct about earning status as I earn gold with Delta each year just with CC spend. Also use their business SkyBonus to double dip. A number of flights later at Platinum. Status match that with other carriers and you have elite with all three alliances. Unfortunately not everyone’s gets what we do, but that’s ok as it leaves more space up front for us.