Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Mrs. O Around the World
Ana Silva O’Reilly is a 30-something globetrotter who finds her peace and quiet on long-haul Business Class flights to somewhere warm. An avid traveler, Ana is also a good daughter, religiously following her mother’s motto: “If you leave home, it has to be better,” or “I love camping, in 5-star hotels”.
A city girl at heart, she moved to the quiet English countryside for love, and lives her travel dreams through her award-winning alter-ego and travel blog Mrs. O Around the World. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started in 2000, but living in Portugal and only having TAP Portugal and Star Alliance as real options, there wasn’t much I could do. I joined oneworld through the British Airways program in 2002, but only when I moved to the UK permanently in 2009 did I really start benefiting from the program – and obviously gain status.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog – Mrs. O Around the World – in 2011, so it is now almost 5 years old. I have always traveled quite a bit, and in the same style that I do now, and forever kept getting emails from friends of friends who would be going to Lisbon, London, New York, or Istanbul, and wanted to find out what to do. I decided to share these online and that is how it really started.
I only cover luxury and I put price tags on things. Sometimes people really think they can’t afford to do something as they have unrealistic price expectations.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
As we do not get the credit card offers and incentives here in Europe like you do in the US, which is a bit unfair, one needs to be creative. Of course credit cards matter an awful lot, but my most successful way of collecting miles is to fly Business or First Class on a paid ticket and obviously take advantage of my oneworld Emerald Status (British Airways Gold – American Airlines Executive Platinum) and see a substantial increase in your points bank.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
A difficult question for me, as I do travel a fair bit. I will never forget our journey from Venice to London on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, it really was special. But the Maldives is my favorite place in the world, and we go every year – and there is nothing quite like landing at Male Airport.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
It is all about being clever – and understanding how you can benefit from a program. Or not.
My inner circle of friends are now very good miles collectors and understand why status is important (as part of the travel experience) and why pooling your points cards towards a single program (or maximum 2) really brings the rewards.
They do think of me each time they board their British Airways First Class flight to the US or somewhere more exotic, which they didn’t so often before.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
It is better to have 100,000 or 500,000 points in 1 airline and have real options to fly – and get status with that airline – than to be a nobody with 34 airlines. Also, flying Qatar Airways Business Class is a little blessing as you do get double credits for tier points and miles as you are going on 2 flights rather than 1.
Also, don’t get the miles bank too low – you need to have enough there for an emergency.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
We are not as creative here in Europe, so it is less difficult to be surprised. I collect at hotels, car rental, flights, and general purchases through credit cards – nothing too sexy, I am afraid.
I have however seen many interesting incentives via American Express, but still light years behind from the US.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Don’t spread yourself too thin – it is better to be Mr. or Miss Special with 1 company than being a nobody with 3 or 4. I only collect points on 1 airline program and 1 hotel group.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Bearing in mind I have built a whole new career around social media and being online, I do not want Wi-Fi and connectivity onboard. In Europe we still don’t see it often at all (thank God), but obviously I understand things are changing. It is the only time in my life where I can have some ‘me’ time.
I love boarding a long-haul flight and knowing that no one can reach me for 8 to 12 hours. No email, no work, no nothing. Just time to catch up on movies, nap, and enjoy those delicious chocolates and a couple of glasses of champagne.
Any parting words?
You are going to need to pay for tickets – and a lot of them. I am a bit shocked with the sense of entitlement that many people seem to have. It is all ‘take, take, take’ but they generate very little revenue for the actual airlines. Like anything in life, there needs to be a balance.
Ana – 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!