Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Indecisive Traveler
Rease writes Indecisive Traveler to share her travel adventures, travel tips, and food reviews.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I actually didn’t really start collecting until 2012, and I didn’t get very serious until 2013. Prior to that, I did a lot of bus travel in South America, so the points thing was a bit foreign to me.
However, while living in Argentina, I desperately longed for a visit back home. But earning Argentine pesos, I could nowhere near afford a $2,000 round-trip flight.
A kind family I worked for allowed me to exchange work for some of their miles they had accrued and flew me to the US and back. Knowing that they had earned those miles, which were worth so much in plane travel, really opened my eyes to the value of miles.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started blogging because I spontaneously moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
My blog began as more of a journal so that my friends could keep up with my life abroad. Eventually, it morphed into a travel blog with the motto, “Choosing Not to Choose,” which refers to my refusal to choose 1 location and 1 career to stick with for the rest of my life.
I think what makes my blog special is that I’m a funny and sarcastic person, and I do a pretty good job of conveying my humor and unique view of life in my writing. I strive to make my articles both informative and entertaining.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Get a credit card. Most people do not purchase flights several times a year, so saving up points and miles can take ages if you are only counting on actual travel to help you accrue them.
If you get a credit card that is tied to a specific airline or multiple airlines, you can earn points just by paying bills and spending the money you already spend. A good credit card reward program will give you at least 1 point per dollar, so if you spend $20,000 in a year on your credit card anyway, why not get points for it?
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’d have to say moving abroad to Buenos Aires. I had always wanted to live abroad, but there always seemed to be something or someone holding me back. When I finally decided I just had to do it, I bought the 1-way ticket and that was that.
My 2 years living and working in Buenos Aires were a roller coaster of emotions, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
It was in Buenos Aires that I truly fell in love with travel and began blogging about it. It gave me a sense of freedom that I never believed I could feel, and it allowed me to completely re-define my idea of success and happiness.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They tease me about it all the time, especially my boyfriend. He says I go into “crazy point mode,” which is basically when I end up on the internet for hours, scouring new survey sites, travel promotions, shopping portals, and anything else I can find that will help me earn points faster.
However, once I was able to start giving people dollar amounts of how much money I saved, they became more interested. Now a lot of people end up emailing me for tips and advice, which I am happy to give.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal has been great. I do most of my shopping online anyway, so being able to get extra points per dollar just for clicking through the portal has really helped me. There are often bonus periods where if you spend “X “amount of dollars you will get “X” amount of bonus points on top of whatever you earn normally.
There was 1 around the holidays that offered 1,000 bonus points if you spent a least $400 through the portal.
So even if every store only offered 2 points per dollar (many were in the 2 to 5 points per dollar range) I would get 800 from the portal, 1,000 bonus points, and if I put it on my Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, I’d get another 400.
That’s 1,800 points just for doing shopping I already planned on doing.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I didn’t expect survey sites to really offer me much in the way of points. I’ve tried several survey sites before to try to earn extra income, but I never felt like the time was worth the very low reward.
However, I have found that I have earned a pretty decent amount of points through E-Rewards. The amount of points is based on the time it takes to complete the survey, so I feel like my time is rewarded fairly and the points add up quickly!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had known some airlines will let you use your points on other carriers.
I recently discovered that if you have a Southwest Rapid Rewards card, there is a third-party that facilitates redeeming Southwest points for international travel. I was able to use Southwest points to fly to London earlier this year. Had I known international travel was an option sooner, I would have saved the points I spent on domestic flights.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I suppose my readers should know this about me by now, but I find it still shocks people – I’m a recovering workaholic who never used her vacation days.
I used to be the kind of person who made 5 and 10 year plans and believed success was measured by your job title and salary.
After I nearly burnt out at the age of 21, I turned to travel to give myself a better purpose. I am now a freelancer doing a wide variety of things, which allows me to pick and choose the work that makes me happiest while still allowing me plenty of time to travel.
Any parting words?
Anyone can afford to travel. In fact, it is often the people who make the most money who are too afraid to leave their jobs (even for a week) to go out and see the world. When I was earning what would be considered a very nice salary, I was too stressed to even sleep through the night, much less take a vacation.
I may not earn very much as a freelancer, but I am always able to save points and money to make trips happen. In 2014, my goal is to be traveling for at least 70 days. As of April, I have completed 25 of those days and have 21 more booked!
Rease – 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!