Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: World Wander Lusting
Brad has been traveling the world along with his brother Sheldon. They also write the World Wander Lusting blog, so I was looking forward to our chat on Friday!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
We come from a family that bargains for garage-sale items. Our tight wad-ness has been carefully cultured over centuries, and while such attitudes generally wane over generations, in our family it has done exactly the opposite. It is in our nature to think cheap. It is not, however, in our nature to travel… we found that on our own. The wanderlust seized me before a steady job did, and points were the only way to bridge the gap.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Brad: I got to where I was telling so many people what to do that it just made more sense to put it out there and let people read it. We didn’t invent travel-hacking and we’re certainly not the best at it. If the traditional “Travel Blog” is Spain and the “Miles and Points Blog” is France, then we must be Andorra. If we have a niche in this world, its showing people what amazing trip itineraries they can build with optimized point usage.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Sheldon: Ask for them. Whenever a company has given you terrible customer service, or when the flight has mechanical problems that causes you to miss your connecting flight, ask for some points.
Use Twitter to contact the customer service team and explain your situation. In three instances of airline errors I’ve scored 27,500 miles. I’m batting three for three at 100% and averaging 9000 miles per complaint.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Brad: I took my family of six to Medellin, Colombia for a total of $574 and 150k AA points. We spent a month there and made Colombian friends for a lifetime, indulged in more than our fair share of “bandejas paisas,” climbed to the top of El Peñol, traced the history of Pablo Escobar, visited the historic city of Santa Fe de Antioquia, and paraglided over the Andes.
Sheldon: Two months ago I returned from an Alpine Europe tour – visiting Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Italy for 12 days. My wife and I brought along our 10 month old little boy to see the wonders of Europe. He visited castles in Germany, rode on a gondola in Venice, and ate gelato in Milano all before being a year old. With some help from American Airlines and Starwood Hotels, our total out-of-pocket cost was $900.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Brad: They are believers. They were the earliest adopters and are our biggest advocates. Last December we had a block of 6 rooms at the Salt Lake City Radisson so all of us could cash in on the Club Carlson promotion. For the first time, my miserly father is staying in hotels that aren’t named with a number. We get calls, texts, emails…we are volunteer travel agents and we love every moment of it.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Sheldon: Most of the travelers out there have a normal 9-to-5 job, and can’t be on the go all of the time. Such is life for the majority of Americans. I’ve had the strategy of booking a trip every six months. When I get home from a trip I let myself get settled in, and then book another trip that is about six months out. Taking two vacations a year is a must and most jobs allow for that. This gives you something to look forward to on those long, dragging days at work between trips.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Sheldon: The recent Fidelity promotion has been a great success for me. 50,000 United miles instead of 0.000001% interest is a deal I’ll take any day of the week. Can’t wait to put those miles to good use on a fun vacation with the family!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Brad: Too many people think that they’re playing the miles and points game by simply spending on a frequent flyer card. That’s like saying you’ve toured Italy when your cruise ship stopped in Rome. I know. I was guilty of it.
You’ve got to capitalize on every promotion and every opportunity. If you knew where a treasure chest was buried, you’d go to great lengths to dig it up, but far too many people opt out because “it will hurt my credit,” or “I don’t have time to figure it out.” Investing time in understanding these things pays immediate dividends.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Brad: I’m a little bit compulsive when it comes to taking on hobbies. In addition to travel and WorldWanderlusting, a full time job and four adorable kiddos, I am a political junkie (I’m on the city council in my hometown). I helped found and run a non-profit Haiti Relief Organization, HaitiSakPlen.
I’m a hopeless romantic and I write and read extensively (finally getting into Hemingway at the moment). I love motorcycles, languages, and architecture… and I have a thing for blue turf.
Sheldon: I spent two of my prime years in Paraguay doing a service mission, which was totally worth it. I received my degree in Business Finance and had a 3.96 GPA. My only B came from the class in which I met my wife (it was worth it). I spend most days calming people about their health insurance rates going through the roof, and convincing others that it’s worth the hefty premium.
Any parting words?
Both: We are arms-dealers in the war of monotony vs. adventure and excitement. It is a sad fact that most people simply raise their white flag in surrender to boredom and sameness. They’re overpowered by the battle-call of the humdrum, “we can’t afford to do things like that.” They cower from the challenge with phrases like “we can’t find a babysitter,” and “traveling to those places isn’t safe.”
We just won’t tolerate weakness like that. We won’t let them win. We soak in the refreshing springs of civilizations’ celebrations. We gorge on the sweet variety of global gluttony. We learn the intriguing history of local legends. We wanderlust.
The opportunities that are out there for absolutely free travel justify banishing those despicable phrases forever. Come see what we’re doing, come do what we’re saying. Wanderlust with us. www.WorldWanderlusting.com
Brad – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!