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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: Not Your Average Gal
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
We decided to buck the traditional wedding trend and had a destination wedding in Somerset, England, in 2013. Plus, I was secretly hoping to snag Prince William prior to my nuptials. Just kidding – love you, honey!
To make traveling more accessible and earn miles, I signed up for a Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, since most of my prior business travel was on Delta and I had Delta miles already. We put most of our wedding expenses on that card and made sure to pay for our tickets with it.
I saw how easily we could earn miles and started to explore it more.
When we started planning our honeymoon soon after, I read about the great opportunity on Million Mile Secrets and other blogs to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It didn’t have any international fees. And with our upcoming honeymoon to Thailand and Cambodia, that was important to us. We put our travel expenses on that card and soon after met the minimum spending to get 40,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
I was hooked.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my site originally as a way to showcase my portfolio. But it quickly turned into a space for like-minded, feisty guys and gals to read about the antics of my entertaining life traveling, running and poking fun at myself. As a marketing copywriter, I hear I have a witty way with words (how’s that for alliteration). I think the reason it’s so special is most readers can relate to me or take something away from it.
The name of my site alone, Not Your Average Gal, is an ode to not taking the standard path in life or feeling obligated to aim for the “American Dream.” Many decisions I’ve made, including traveling so much, are often met with critical questions or doubtful naysayers.
My blog shows that you can do what you want and live the life you envision for yourself, and no one else.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Honestly, read more blogs. I know the big thing is sign-up bonuses, but they don’t always come at the right time for me and it needs to make sense financially.
Don’t feel pressured to grab all the big deals the moment they come out. It can easily suck you in. Trust me.
I use the blog aggregator Feedly and have a specific category for travel tips. It keeps me up-to-date on what the big deals are currently and even perhaps some speculation of what happening in travel rewards programs. I’m an avid reader of Million Mile Secrets and One Mile at a Time.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Gosh, this is a loaded question. I’ll narrow it down to 3 experiences:
1) Traveling to Thailand and Cambodia for our honeymoon. Not only was the cultural experience eye-opening, but we also learned how easy it could be to travel to “far off locales.”
I also became a Delta Silver Medallion member because of that trip and even though the perks didn’t compare to most frequent flier programs, I loved it. I’m now a Gold Medallion and hope to someday be Diamond, but we’ll see. Everyone has goals, right?
2) Taking my husband to Japan and South Korea to celebrate his graduation from medical school. We flew in the upper deck of a 747 on Delta and had such a great time. On our way home, we flew a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
We were able to do this with points earned on my Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, and my miles earned flying Delta, also with my Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
Plus, the food in Korea and Japan! *Swoons*
3) Traveling solo to Hong Kong. After I went to Australia and New Zealand with my girlfriends, I thought it would be fun to “hop on over” to Hong Kong on my way home to the US. All this was paid with points.
Collecting miles works!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Most love hearing our travel stories and have been slowly but surely asking for credit card suggestions. In fact, our most recent trip to Cuba has garnered quite a bit of attention with many people messaging me on my Facebook page, as well as my site.
There are certainly others that think we should be settling down and saving our money – but that’s the beauty of travel hacking. We have the ability to save our money by traveling big and spending little.
In fact, now that my husband lives 1,400 miles away during his ER residency, we put all our tricks of the trade to good use and know how to best utilize getting miles or using them so we can see each other more.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I think using Eveward has been such an easy way to add more points to my bank, so to speak. I head there any time I’m making a purchase to see if one of my credit cards will offer extra bonus points based on shopping through their portal.
It may not seem like much at first, but it really adds up! We even traveled to Cancun for nearly nothing simply by using my Chase Sapphire Preferred, which was partially funded through using this portal!
Oh and this goes without saying really, but pay your credit card balance each month. Accruing miles and points literally isn’t worth it if you’re carrying a balance and interest charges.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Honestly? It was as easy as getting an email from Delta telling me they would add 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles to my account if I upgraded to the Delta Platinum AMEX card. Seemed like an easy enough decision, but…
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I should have called and asked for more miles.
I know now when you’re given an offer or perhaps missed a bigger sign-up bonus because you already applied for the card earlier, you just need to call and, very often, they want your business so much they will happily give you more miles & points.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I rapped in front of everyone to “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa at my wedding. Because, who wouldn’t?
My husband also lives 1,400 miles away in the metro Detroit area of Michigan for his ER residency, while I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. So far, we’ve made it work.
I’m also an avid Elton John and Spice Girls fan. In that order.
Any parting words?
Traveling makes you a conscious, contributing member of our society. You learn. You broaden your horizons. You’re uncomfortable.
You’re taken out of your little suburban, rural, or urban bubble and placed into unknown streets with unfamiliar customs. Your heart beats a little bit faster. Your senses are piqued with new sounds, new smells. New lessons.
I implore you to broaden your view. And collecting miles & points can truly help with this!
But, you don’t need to travel to another country. Take an afternoon and go to a new coffee shop, try a different restaurant, explore a city in your state you’ve never visited. Meet new people. Smile at strangers.
Meet someone’s life experience and listen.
That, my friends, is travel. To explore. To learn. To understand.
To respect. To build bridges…not walls.
Caroline – 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!