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: Discover with Andy
Andy and Becki are your average Midwestern couple who like to travel cheaply and effectively so I was looking forward to our Friday chat!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I first really took a notice to travel hacking after seeing a class for it being offered on Dabble. The class description spoke eloquently of traveling around the world for only hundreds instead of many thousands of dollars. The instructor had already flown roundtrip to Russia for under $450, to Peru and back for about $280, and was planning a full round-the-world trip in the future.
That was about a year ago that I went down the rabbit hole.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog because I got tired of seeing a certain paradigm in most budget travel publications. I noticed that in articles written in many magazines, they’d go on and on about finding the old laidback Flipflop paradise of the Caribbean, where a hut on the beach was only $30/night, margaritas cost about $2 at the bar, and movie starlets were nowhere to be seen.
After lavishing the most detailed of praises to finding this true travelers paradise, they’d write something like, “or, you could stay at the boutique hotel down the way for $700/night”. And guess which hotel they’d give you the website and phone number for, and which they wouldn’t? How is that budget travel??
I wanted to give detailed information to people about the high quality, low cost places I had been to. Not just to save money, but to show people that they can travel the world and have amazing adventures without being rich that it’s possible for myself, for them, for everyone.
But the blog has now grown and changed over time. Now I’m married and my wife Becki travels everywhere with me. We still seek out unique mom-and-pop places and tell everyone about them, but we also include more stories to engage people, in addition to boots on the ground information.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Credit card applications are the number one way to get miles. Other than that, I’d say pay attention to the special promotions often run through the airlines’ online malls. Just recently I saw that you could get 10 miles/dollar spent on flowers for Valentines Day, and now you can get 6 miles/dollar spent at H & R block since taxes are coming due.
Lots of times they’ll have specials on things you’d do anyways, so you might as well get extra miles for them.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My wife Becki and I just got married right on the beach in Vieques, a small island just off Puerto Rico. Between dealing with a wedding planner that almost did more harm than good, coordinating travel plans with our family, and a ceremony that was an inch away from disaster but ended up being perfect, we went through so many ups and downs that I wasn’t sure if we were in the Caribbean or riding Raging Bull at Six Flags.
Add to that the sheer joy of getting married, enjoying the sun and sand, and sharing the breathtaking beauty of nature with our families, and you’ve got a travel experience we’ll never forget.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They’re pretty suspicious of it. They all assume it’ll ruin your credit score (it didn’t), that it won’t amount to much (it did), or that it’s too much work. It is a lot of work, but no more than couponing, or your actual job. And if you do it right you’re definitely making money by travel hacking.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Yes, I really like Award Wallet (feel free to enter your Award Wallet link here if you don’t have one, here’s mine) to help keep track of my miles and points. We’re still getting ready for our round-the-world trip, so I haven’t looked into many of the tools that help you use your points more efficiently. So far we’ve only redeemed hotel points for staying in downtown Chicago $ 370/night room on the river for only $20? Yes please!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
When we go out with friends I think it’s fun to offer to pay for dinner on my credit card (signed up for the dining bonuses, of course 😉 and have everyone give me cash. They wonder why someone would do that when it’s a hassle to take the cash to the bank. I tell them I’m doing it for the miles and they all laugh and think I’m joking 🙂
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew how important it was to get multiple cards at the same time. I was getting them one after another, and that does make more of a ding on your credit score. Applying in an “app-o-rama” as Daraius calls them is the best way to go you just have a plan for how to meet the minimum spending on all of them.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I once got hit in the head with a lawn jart. Seriously. If you’ve met me in person, that’ll probably explain a lot.
Any parting words?
There’s not a lot of hobbies out there that make you money instead of costing you money. If you’re already collecting miles and points, keep on going you know the succulent fruits of your endeavors. If you’re reading this and contemplating a dive into travel hacking, just know this: it isn’t an easy hobby, and it’s not for everyone.
Making yourself some spreadsheets, and coming up with a game plan isn’t easy if you’re already doing that 50hrs a week. But to get an extra $5,000 to 6,000 in travel money per year? Worth it.
Andy – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!