“Most People Are in Disbelief That I Don’t Pay for Airfare. I Mean Ever.”

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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:   Spartan Traveler

Clayton reveals in Spartan Traveler his uncommon travel adventures, travel hacks, thoughts on lifestyle design, and working in the 21st century.  You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Spartan Traveler

Clayton in Lombok, Indonesia

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started early with my first credit card out of college.  I remember either my mother or father having a rewards card for something like Southwest Airlines, so it ran in the family.  My first credit card had a $500 limit, but I maxed it out and paid it off every month to build credit.

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

I quit my job to travel around the world in 2011.  A lot of people told me I should be blogging about it, but I also had a deep-seated desire to process some of the things I was thinking through, not really about travel but about lifestyle and work choices.  What the other options were and what the framework for thinking about them should be.

Spartan Traveler

Budapest, Hungary

My blog is a little different in that it’s not a travel blog, but a more of a reality check on what being a digital nomad is actually like.

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

Wait for the right offer, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s previous 100,000 point sign-up bonus, and earn lots of points at once.  Beyond getting new cards, the only way to get massive amounts of miles is to use rewards cards for business (but you also then have to build a business).

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

There are quite a few that stand out. I’d say either living in the jungle for 2 months in Sumatra or surfing the longest wave in the world in Peru.

Spartan Traveler


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

Most people are still in disbelief that I don’t pay for airfare.  I mean ever.

I think they assume I’m making a lot more money than I am.  But the reality is most of the time I fly from Europe to the US it’s the equivalent of about a $200 to $300 ticket each way, paid in miles.  It’s surprising how many people I run into who still aren’t clued into this.

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

I think one key is creating a good Google Sheets or Excel document for managing credit cards and miles, reminding me of things like credit limit, annual fee dates, etc.  Just keeping things organized.

Spartan Traveler

Easter Island Sunset

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

At a former job, I once negotiated a perk where all online advertising costs went through my personal credit card and I was reimbursed later.  Almost all the miles I’ve ever earned came from this one event.

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

Basically to not get caught up in the frenzy to get more points that you don’t need.  i.e. get a couple of the right cards and use them for everything, but don’t sign-up for 8 cards at once.  Most of us don’t actually travel enough to make this kind of thing worthwhile.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I’m currently living in the Canary Islands which is about 62 miles off the coast of Morocco.

Spartan Traveler

Canary Islands

Any parting words?

I think credit card rewards programs for frequent flyer miles are the best travel perk ever invented, and you don’t have to do anything special to take advantage of this.  Just get a couple of the right cards, keep it simple, and keep your eyes out for screaming deals.

Clayton – 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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10 responses to ““Most People Are in Disbelief That I Don’t Pay for Airfare. I Mean Ever.”

  1. I would LOVE to know how you “don’t pay for airfare. I mean ever.”! I have over a million miles from travel hacking as you call it. But I pay with the cost of my time to run around hoping through hoops to get the miles bonus. I pay the taxes and fees most miles tickets come with. I pay via opportunity cost of taking the leftover flights that end up getting posted. So there IS a cost to doing this hombre.

  2. 80,000 miles. A piker. Who remembers Global Pass 1 million miles program.

  3. “At a former job, I once negotiated a perk where all online advertising costs went through my personal credit card and I was reimbursed later. Almost all the miles I’ve ever earned came from this one event.”

    So basically you got lucky and you know nothing else about the hobby. Thanks for the input

  4. I would be interested to see how you organize your google sheets can you post a blank? thanks

  5. What cards does Clayton recommend getting right now? What cards does he have in his wallet?

  6. So the way I see it, in order to amass a huge amount of miles to replenish those you use, is pretty much by signing up for new credit cards that offer big sign up bonuses for a minimum amount of spending because even the most generous credit cards only offer 5 miles/points per dollar and most only offer 1 to 2 miles/points per dollar. I really don’t see how the average Joe (without a business or business cc’s) can take multiple European flights as you claim to do without constantly getting new credit cards and meeting thousands of dollars in the minimum spending requirements for each cc. If my assumption is wrong, please enlighten me.

    I currently have credit cards from most the major airlines that offered large sign up bonuses as well as Thank You Points. Most the FF miles I’ve been awarded have been used and assume I would need to cancel my current credit cards and then reapply after 24 months (or whenever I could next qualify for a sign up bonus).