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: The Deal Mommy
Dia is a super mom who loves to travel. She also writes The Deal Mommy blog, so I was looking forward to our chat on Friday!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I’ve been an amateur collector of American Express Membership Rewards Points for probably 15 years, but only started focusing them on travel about three years ago. I was given 10 days solo travel and a $1,000 budget as my 40th birthday gift and stretched them into an adventure in Panama! Since then I’ve been, well, a bit obsessed.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
The Deal Mommy is an uncommon collection of tips and ideas on getting the best for less. It came about because I realized the easiest way to answer the “how do you do it?” question I always got was to write it down! Since then it’s blossomed from a hobby into a real community, of which I’m proud.
What makes The Deal Mommy Special? My point of view. My blog is both aspirational and accessible for the average family. There are awesome resources out there (like Million Mile Secrets!) for points collecting, but my experience is that the process seems overwhelming from the outside for the person who isn’t experienced with the idea of travel even being possible in their lives.
The Deal Mommy strives to fill the gap between the “frugal” blogs that tell you that camping in your backyard is vacation and the reality that most of us can’t drop everything on a dime for a 3k “bargain” first class ticket to Singapore next week. I highlight the best promos, of course, but focus more on the whole experience. For instance, I like Luxury Link, condo rentals and the occasional Groupon, which are areas points blogs often ignore.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
That’s simple: automate all of your bills on your miles earning credit cards! I’m shocked at how many miles people leave on the table by paying bills straight from their checking account.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Tough question as I’m just back from Madrid, Tenerife, and Paris, which were all great! I’m going to go with sending my 4 and 7 year old kids down a zipline in Guatemala last year. My four year old actually screamed “Yahoo!” as she sailed down the mountain!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
It varies between bemusement and admiration. Since the blog, I’ve had much more success with converts. I’m happy to announce that three family members are at a Park Inn on a mattress run as I type! Success stories from readers/friends are my single biggest source of pride.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
It’s more of a mantra than a trick: “Think about the experience, not the destination.” This leads me to lower costs and more offbeat destinations that American’s don’t visit as much, such as Tenerife and Guatemala.
Focusing on WHAT I want to do: “take my kids to an ancient ruin” or “drink sangria on a balcony overlooking the ocean” maximizes both the fun factor and my travel budget. Granted, the Eiffel Tower at Epcot won’t replace the one in Paris, but on my recent trip I was able to use a free stopover to splurge on three days in Paris since the week before I had been in low-cost Tenerife.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
My kid’s annual checkups! Yes, I charge medical bills too.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Focus! It took a while to learn how to cobble together all of the different programs into a cohesive travel strategy. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the volume of offers and not know where to start! For instance, transferring my 40,000 AMEX points to Delta with a 50% bonus to fly for free on Air France and Air Europa to get to the Canary Islands would have flummoxed me five years ago.
I would have been less scattered in my travel plans and not chased the lowest fare 100% of the time. For instance, if an extra $10 in an airfare gets me on Delta, where I have status for a possible upgrade and lounge access via my Platinum AMEX, it’s worth the $10!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
That I am a reformed coupon queen! I used to think getting $.99 doubled would give me money for travel. I was putting pennies in my savings jar when I could have been banking thousands of dollars in miles. Sure, collecting miles is work, but no more so than sitting around organizing coupons!
Any parting words?
A song lyric from Rush: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Inactivity takes as much work as activity. Get out there!
Dia– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!