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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: Have Child Still Travel
Laura’s blog Have Child Still Travel focuses on collecting miles for your family to travel to awesome destinations.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I used to work for 2 major airlines and was very used to flying (for free) all over the world in Business Class and First Class. When my son was born in 2008, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, so I had to come up with a new way to travel for free.
While I was working for Delta in 2002, I signed up for the Delta SkyMiles American Express card because they were offering it to employees with no annual fee. I used that card exclusively for about 8 years and earned ~500,000 miles. Yes it took 8 years. I can now do that in less than a year!
Fortunately in 2010, I discovered this wonderful hobby of collecting Miles and Points using multiple cards.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
For the past couple years, I have been reading many miles and points blogs and looking at all the pictures of the bloggers relaxing in their lie-flat First Class seats, sipping champagne on their way to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome.
That’s great…if you’re single. Or even married with no children. It’s quite easy to earn enough miles for just your own ticket. Add even 1 child to that equation and everything changes.
There are a few family-style travel Miles & Points blogs out there. But not many. I wanted to write from the perspective of not always flying First Class and not always staying in the fancy hotel suites.
I still want to show my child the world, and I am able to show him more of it if we “rough it” in coach sometimes. In travel, isn’t the destination more important than the journey?
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Obviously taking advantage of sign-up bonuses. But also using those cards for every purchase. Every. Single. Purchase. I seriously die a little inside when the person in front of me at the grocery store is writing a check or paying cash.
I may be behind them buying 1 loaf of bread, but you can be sure I’m earning miles for it! I understand that some people have financial difficulties and can’t open new credit cards. But there are many that are able to do it and don’t because they don’t want to learn how or invest the time to keep track of everything.
Oh well….more award seats for me!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
We just returned from a 3 week trip to Thailand so I would have to say that is at the top of my list right now. We spent a week scuba diving in the Similan Islands with manta rays and whale sharks. Absolutely incredible!
And I have to brag and tell you that for our 3 weeks of hotel stays (at 4 star hotels) and all international and domestic transportation our total cost was $580. I added up the retail value and it came to $15,808.
When my son was 16 months old, we used some of my Delta miles to go to Morocco and took a camel trek through the Sahara Desert. People thought I was crazy for taking him there, but the Moroccan people loved him.
When we got off the plane in Casablanca, the girl working the airport transfer desk asked if she could kiss him. I lost track of how many times he was kissed and hugged during our 2 weeks in Morocco.
Can I have 3? About 10 years ago we took our dog to France. She was a poodle so I thought she might like to visit the motherland. (Ha!)
She flew in Delta Business Elite, but hated being under the seat. She whined and cried and disturbed other passengers so we took her out and hid her on my lap under a blanket.
Walking around Paris with a dog was so much fun. She was allowed to go in restaurants and stores, and everyone assumed we were locals. But she was NOT allowed to walk on the grass in the parks. We were trying to get her to sit still for a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower and got yelled at by a French policeman.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They’re envious of all our travel, but they also think I’m crazy and have too much time on my hands. This can be a very time consuming and obsessive hobby. I have spreadsheets and charts and a huge binder filled with travel plans.
You have to be strategic and organized and willing to plan things a year or more in advance. I had a friend call me and say, “I want to go to California next month and use miles, what do I need to do?” My answer was, “Start planning it a year ago.”
A couple years ago I got my father-in-law in on the game. He and my mother-in-law are not very interested in international travel but they like to go to Arizona and California to play golf.
People will act interested in what I do and ask me how to do it, but when I start explaining it, their eyes glaze over and they start drifting away. I think most people think it’s just way too complicated and too much work.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found useful in this hobby?
The free 1-way on United award tickets! I added a 1-way to Los Angeles on the end of our Thailand tickets so we are going to Disneyland for a week in June!
I also love using Award Wallet to keep track of all my accounts.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The Rewards Network dining program. I am currently signed up with IHG Rewards Club Dining and to be honest I don’t pay much attention to it. I’m not crazy about most of the restaurants in my area that participate so I don’t go out of my way to dine at them. But it’s always fun when a couple hundred points pops up in my IHG account just because I went out to dinner.
What do you know now about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Buying gift cards and using services like Bluebird. I was absolutely clueless about this until about 18 months ago. I am very cautious when it comes to using gift cards to meet minimum spending requirements and I only do a few thousand a month.
If I have a big minimum spending requirement to meet on a new card, like the 100,000 mile Citi Executive American Airlines card, [Expired] I will do a bit more, but overall I am very conservative.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
That I am also a paranormal investigator with my own group called Gatekeeper Paranormal. I have never mentioned this on my blog, so I guess my secret is out now! Over the years my friends and I have traveled to some supposedly “haunted” locations and I may eventually write some trip reports about it.
Any parting words?
I honestly believe that travel broadens the mind. It’s 1 thing to read about another culture, but to witness it with your own eyes is completely another. To taste the different foods, hear the different languages, and see the different customs is an extremely enriching experience.
Being able to show my son the world is the best gift I could ever give him. Without using miles and points I would never be able to afford it.
I will leave you now with 1 of my favorite travel quotes:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in 1 little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Laura – 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!