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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: Common Sense Travel Guy
Joshua writes Common Sense Travel Guy to help others travel for less.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I actually earned my first points with the Hilton Honors Card from American Express way back when I graduated from college. I signed-up with the intent of saving up enough points for my honeymoon one day.
Unfortunately, while I had enough Hilton points saved up for a week-long stay in the Maldives, I didn’t have the money or points (at that time) to fly us there!
My next encounter with points was when the Chase British Airways card had a 100,000 point sign-up bonus sometime in 2010. Having recently married my wife, we each signed-up for the card.
We then used those British Airways Avios points in the fall of 2013 to fly Business Class from Boston to Dublin, and toured our way through London, Paris, Rome, and Cinque Terre!
We had such a great experience that I immediately started researching and travel planning the minute we got back!
That’s when some friends directed me to Million Mile Secrets where I learned:
- We paid way too much in taxes & fees for our Europe flights. I thought we got a steal paying $800 for the both of us!
- AMEX Bluebird and Walmart were a match made in heaven (though many folks have now had their AMEX Bluebird accounts shut down)
- I had absolutely NO common sense about accruing and redeeming points for cheap travel!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
With the knowledge I gained from reading various travel blogs, we started traveling more and sharing how we did it with family and friends.
It got to the point where people were willing to pay me to teach them how to accrue and redeem points! A friend of mine actually suggested and helped me start my blog and travel consulting website.
A deep desire of mine, in writing my blog, is to help college students, large families, and retirees travel for less.
College students often don’t have money, but have fewer responsibilities and more time for travel. Large families often miss out on travel experiences, that would further enhance and strengthen their familial relationships, due to limited budgets.
And, retirees are often living on set incomes and may feel as though traveling would put added strain on their income.
If you fall into any of these groups, it’s my desire to help you!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I’m going to give the clichéd answer that everyone who does one of these interviews gives, but before I do that, I want to say – Start.
Start collecting miles. I equate it with savings. Sure, you start off saving $10 to $20, and it seems painfully slow and it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere. But, if you continue to save, it eventually becomes $10,000 to $20,000 and more.
It’s when the numbers really start getting big that you’re able to dream about what you can buy, how you can retire early, etc.! The same is true with accruing and earning miles and points, the more miles and points you have, the more possibilities you open up for yourself!
And the single best way to get more miles and points is signing-up for credit card offers! There is always some sort of amazing credit card offer going on! Start!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
This is a toss up between staying in Vernazza, Italy, and hiking the trails cut along the cliff side of Cinque Terre, Italy, during our 2013 Europe trip. Or our bicycle ride down from the mountain through the villages and rice paddy fields of Bali during our 2014 Asia trip.
The icing on top of the cupcake to our Asia trip was the fact that we spent just a little under $1,500 for a full month of travel. This included Business Class on all legs of our trip, stays in 4 to 5-star hotels, all of our meals, and all activities and ground transportation!
Yes, the cost savings and experiences were magnificent!
However, the most rewarding part of all of our travel thus far has been the memories we’ve created together and the uninterrupted quality time spent with one another!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My family is appreciative of my miles and points hobby, especially since they live on the West Coast and overseas in Asia.
As of result of my miles and points stash, we have been able to visit each other more frequently and affordably.
Speaking of visits, my brother and sister’s family were just out here visiting (mostly on points!) and helped celebrate our daughter’s first birthday this past April!
Most of our friends want to travel and accrue points like we do (who doesn’t?), but are either fearful or don’t fully realize the value it can add to their lives. So they usually never START asking questions, reading up on blogs, dreaming, etc.!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I would have to say that Twitter has been supremely helpful for furthering learning and keeping on top of this ever-changing hobby. I highly suggest following on Twitter those blogs you feel give the best value for what you’re trying to achieve.
And not only following them, but activating mobile notifications. This is EXTREMELY helpful as these pop-up notifications on my phone allow me to quickly parse through deals and information that are relevant.
Also, AwardWallet is a great one-stop shop to view all your miles and points totals!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Recently there has been an unexpected uptick in promotions and contests where you need to physically send in a postcard with a list of specific required information.
Some people may find it silly to spend $50 on postage & envelopes and 2 hours of writing, ending with hand cramps.
But heck, if my return is 6X my $50 investment, in the form of travel, why not? These have been fun, so hopefully there will be more on the horizon!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish that I knew about all the different airline programs and the best ways to maximize my miles and points.
I know for many people starting out, this isn’t even a thought as they are simply trying to travel for cheap.
However, like I learned after our Europe trip, if I had taken a little more time to learn, I could have potentially cut our costs down even more by taking advantage of United Airlines’ generous routing rules.
One thing I stress on my blog is the ability to have options when it comes to traveling. If you don’t have all the pertinent information, it’s hard to know all of your available options!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I am an avid kicks collector, which is just another way to say…I love shoes! I probably have more pairs of shoes than my wife. I once sold a pair of shoes on eBay for over $3,000!
Any parting words?
There are varying degrees when it comes to any hobby. Just because I have 30+ credit cards doesn’t mean that you have to! Don’t let the fear of something being outside of your comfort zone keep you from learning!
The greatest thing about travel hacking is there’s someone out there with very similar fears and desires as you. And they probably have a blog!
But know that if you outgrow that blog, there are plenty more advanced blogs out there to learn from!
Happy travels and memory making!
Joshua – 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!