Miles & Points Interview: Miles Traveling Teacher
Ellen Taylor, a teacher for 20+ years, blogs Miles Traveling Teacher to share her passion with others who have the same interests. She loves both teaching and traveling.
And she’s giving away a $25 Visa gift card and 2 United Club passes!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points 14 years ago when our USAA credit card gave points for dollars spent, which could be redeemed for flights, a new idea back then. I remember booking a flight with points for my son to visit his uncle. It was “free” and I was hooked!
Almost every trip since then has been booked with miles! Needless to say, I still have that no annual fee credit card, although I don’t use it much since I’ve become savvier about collecting miles and points.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I LOVE to travel and I love teaching, so Miles Traveling Teacher is a combination of those 2 loves.
Through the years, many teachers have asked how I can travel so much, so I started my blog to inspire teachers and anyone with an adventurous spirit to use miles and points to explore the world. There are lots of great blogs, but none had filled the niche of traveling teachers.
I started my blog last winter during the “Polar Vortex” and bouts of boredom. What better way to spend a snow day at home than writing about your travels and how to get there using miles and points?!
I think my blog is special because I try to personalize it by writing like I’m talking to my best friend.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
One of the best ways is to purchase gift cards at an office supply store using the Chase Ink Bold card for 5X points, then going to a shopping portal and using that gift card to earn even more points. That can really maximize your miles for something you are going to buy anyway. Of course, credit card sign-up bonuses are the best way to get more miles and points.
But I have found it never hurts to ask for miles or points anytime you have problems with airlines or hotels. Customer service is critical in our global marketplace and companies don’t want to blacken their reputation. Last year United Airlines didn’t inform me of a schedule change, and I got 5,000 miles from that experience.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
It’s very difficult to pick just 1, because all the places I’ve visited are special in their own way. I love to experience the culture and traditions unique to each place. I’m older, but young and adventurous in heart, and it’s just been in the last 10 years that I’ve done most of my traveling. Seeing iconic places like the Great Wall of China, Machu Pichu, Petra, or the Egyptian Pyramids fulfills a life-long dream that seemed impossible to a child growing up in Texas!
But I will limit it to 3 memories… wearing my salwar kameez given to me by an Indian friend and visiting the Taj Mahal on a picture perfect day stands out!
Seeing a leopard walk within touching distance of our jeep in South Africa recently also was memorable.
And last, a trip to the Maldives was amazing because of the beauty of it all… the baby powder fine sand, fantastic snorkeling, and unbelievable sunsets! I rarely visit a place twice, but I would definitely go back to the Maldives.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
No one can believe I can travel so much for so little. Some of my friends are quite interested and I have even been asked to teach a class! My family is fascinated by my travels, but not really into playing the miles and points game to the extent that I do.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Organization is essential and it’s imperative to find a way to stay organized that works for you. Some people have spreadsheets with credit card information, due dates, miles expiration, etc. Others like Award Wallet.
But I have alphabetical lists I use each month to pay bills, according to their due date, and another list I use to update my miles and points. These are simple to use, quick to update and they work for me.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
About 8 years ago, I had just returned from a trip booked with miles and we were buying a used car. I inquired about paying with our credit card, so we got over 16,000 miles for buying a used car!
Another was last year when I was trying to link a new credit card to an existing account. I called the credit card company (which will remain nameless) 3 times, spent at least 2 hours on the phone, and was finally told by a foreign agent that they would be linked within 24 hours.
Twenty-five hours later, I called and got a US agent and asked for this simple problem to be solved immediately AND asked for 10,000 points! She was very apologetic, fixed it, and I was 10,000 points richer! When you are mistreated by a company or airline, always ask for recompense.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had known about hotel points and how easy they are to accumulate and redeem. Since I started in the hotel points programs over a year ago, I have stayed in very plush accommodations that I would never be able to afford on my own!
And I wish I had been using the Southwest Companion Pass sooner (thank you, Daraius for great info on that). Last year, our family of 4 flew to Puerto Rico for ~$500 during the Christmas season, and I used the Companion Pass this year to travel to Key West, Reno, and New York City! It’s a great perk and now you can use it to book international awards.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I am a certified private pilot and love flying in small planes! Like most people, I can “feel” a bad landing. And no, knowledge does not make me more fearful of flying, but just the opposite, I absolutely love flying in all kinds of planes (especially in Business or First Class on long hauls)!
Any parting words?
A quote from Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
I don’t ever want to look back, and wish I had gone somewhere. Traveling has enriched my life in a multitude of ways and I’m very thankful that miles and points have enabled me to “sail away!”
Thank you, Daraius, for this opportunity to share my thoughts on miles and points and how it has changed my traveling life!
Ellen – 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!