Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Free Sports Travel
Ben writes Free Sports Travel to share how easy it is to collect award points and how you can use those points to travel to sporting events and other spectacular places around the world for a fraction of the price.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I work for a major television network and my job requires traveling at least once a month. When I started 10 years ago many co-workers would brag about getting First Class upgrades on Delta Airlines. At the time, I had never flown in First Class.
I didn’t even know that you could pick your own seat on the plane! Immediately I signed-up for a Delta Airlines account. I didn’t get Medallion status right away, but eventually I got there, which led to my 1st complementary upgrade. It’s funny how the drinks in First Class seem to taste so much better!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started Free Sports Travel because I am a huge sports fan! There is nothing better than being at the game while everyone else in the country is watching on their TV at home. I cash in the points and miles I’ve earned for travel and accommodations and the only out of pocket cost is the game ticket!
My blog features some of the biggest sporting events and explains how fans can get there for next to nothing. If you see a sporting event I am not featuring and you want guidance I also have a Customize MY Trip option where I can help you customize a trip to get to the events you are most passionate about.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The best way to earn more miles is to keep up with travel blogs. I have a few bookmarked and every day I take about 15 minutes and read through them. I also follow travel bloggers, airline companies, and hotel chains on Twitter.
It’s the best way to stay on top of deals and promotions. You can follow me on twitter @FreeSportTravel. Act quickly, because most deals don’t last long.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’ve been to college football Bowl Championship Series games, NBA Playoff games, and Major Championships in golf like The Masters.
Those sporting events are great, but some of my favorite travel destinations have been to exotic locations with my beautiful wife. When I started getting serious about collecting points and miles I made a challenge to myself to visit Bora Bora.
In 9 months I accumulated enough points and miles to book that trip. It’s how my wife and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary.
My favorite moment in Bora Bora was when I swam in shark infested waters and my wife touched the dorsal fin of a 12 foot lemon shark. In the past 7 months, we’ve vacationed in Las Vegas, France, and Aruba, all using points and miles!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I haven’t told many family members how I collect all of my miles and points. I like it when they think I pay full price to travel the world in luxury a couple of times a year. I’ve explained the process to some co-workers and friends.
A few have started in the process. My advice helped a friend get enough miles to travel to Europe for free on his honeymoon.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I keep track of all of the credit card offers I sign-up for in a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. I list the date I was approved for the card, minimum spend requirements, retention offers, and card benefits. I also keep track of how much I’ve spent on ways to meet sign-up bonuses.
In my “Value” column I keep track of how much money signing-up for a particular card has actually saved me in terms of flights and hotels.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The least expected way I’ve earned miles or points has been through retention bonuses.
When my credit card’s annual fee comes up I call the customer service number and threaten to cancel the card. The credit card companies want to keep us as clients so they do what they can to persuade us to stick around.
I’ve had my annual fee dropped, and received some great offers. It’s like getting a 2nd sign-up bonus!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew how nice it is to have elite hotel status. When I first started I thought I was a big shot by having silver status at Marriott and Hilton. Now I’ve become spoiled with room upgrades by having Platinum and Diamond status.
In my opinion the best hotel chain to have top status with is Hyatt. When you earn Diamond status they give you 4 suite upgrade certificates. You can book a base room using points+cash, and then apply the suite upgrade certificates. I’m used them in January for an oceanfront suite at the Andaz on Maui.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
My wife and I have a fear of flying. It seems like every time we fly, there is some kind of aviation accident! Here are 3 noteworthy examples: In December 2009, we flew into Buffalo, NY. Later that day a plane crashed in Buffalo.
In November 2012, on our honeymoon to Hawaii our plane got struck by lightning…twice! On our way home from a trip in July 2013, we were standing in line to board our plane when all the TVs started breaking into coverage of the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco. I chalk it up to the fact that we travel a lot, but it’s still a strange coincidence.
Any parting words?
The 2015 NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament is less than 2 weeks away. March Madness is a busy time for Free Sports Travel.
I’m planning a series on how to travel to the marquee host cities including to the Final Four in Indianapolis for 95% off the cost of a plane ticket and hotel room. Be sure to check it out!
Ben – 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!