Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Mouse Hacking
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
We’ve each been dabbling in it for about 10 years. But it was mostly a focus on cash back or less appealing redemptions than travel. About 3 years ago, we really turned it up a notch. What kick-started it one day was just seeing if we could get a single flight for free using points.
Once you do that – once you get your first notable signup bonus and redeem it – you start to see what is possible, and it sort of snowballed from there for us.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
We started it for 2 reasons.
First, it combines 2 things we love: travel hacking and Disney. Second, it brings together those 2 communities, which don’t interact enough.
There are a number of reasons Disney travelers don’t often think about travel hacking – they think it’s just for frequent flyers; they think it won’t apply to a tight ship like Disney; they think it involves shady practices.
What Disney travelers don’t realize is that by having a fixed destination in mind, they’re in a better position than many travel hackers. Having a fixed destination allows you to determine exactly what sort of points you need, how quickly you need them, and how you’re going to get them.
We’re expanding the ways that people think about saving on a Disney vacation (and really, any vacation). A lot of sites mention things like bringing your own food, or booking when Disney has deals. We talk about flying successfully on low-cost airlines.
We talk about earning points and booking your Disney trip with them. We also aren’t just about doing Disney for “cheap.” We talk about how to save on deluxe stays and how to get the most out of club level.
There’s really something for every sort of Disney traveler. Every week we read some story about someone paying for a honeymoon entirely with points – we’d like to see more stories of people doing the same with Disney.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Organize your spending around sign-up bonuses. You often don’t need to try anything crazy to earn the sign-up bonuses. You just have to be deliberate about which card you’re going to use for the next 3 months.
It’s good to get 3 or 5 points per $1. But with a typical sign-up bonus you’re going to be earning ~11 points per $1 spent – that’s an unbelievable return.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
We did 10 days in Europe this past fall that included running the Berlin Marathon and a few days at Oktoberfest in Munich. Both were amazing experiences in 2 amazing cities.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
It’s safe to say they don’t think much of it, which speaks to the sort of travelers we are. While we have some big plans ahead, we don’t often redeem our points for glitzy, premium First Class experiences. If we can get somewhere on 20,000 miles instead of 25,000, that’s what we’re likely to do.
That’s something we really try and get across to our readers, too. This hobby isn’t just for grandiose experiences and free champagne. The glitz and glamour can sometimes make people think it’s too good to be true. It really can be just about getting you and your family to Disney for a few extra days each year (for free!).
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Learn to work with people. The more of this you do, the more you’re going to chat with concierges, customer service reps, people in the reconsideration department, airline representatives, and so on. They’re great at their jobs, but you’re often asking a lot of them.
Be polite in working with them. It’ll help more interactions go your way, and it’ll make the ones that don’t much more pleasant.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
We emailed IHG about a booking that we hadn’t gotten points for. It turned out we weren’t entitled to the points because of how we’d booked, but they gave us 1,000 points anyway.
Hotels and airlines will occasionally offer miles when they mess up. But we were surprised to get even a small amount of points just for a simple inquiry where they admittedly owed us nothing (and we hadn’t asked for any leeway).
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
The rules that card issuers like Chase, American Express, and Citi have for getting new cards.
The Chase “5/24 rule” is obviously the big one. We made a few “comfortable” choices, like getting the Disney Rewards Card and getting a 2% cash back card early on that wound up being awful decisions in light of the “5/24 rule.”
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
We completed our first triathlon, at the half-iron distance, last summer.
It was typically us. We set a big goal, and then did it as simply as possible. None of our gear was at all fancy, we had to learn to swim that summer and just taught ourselves in the pool and the lake, and on race day we took almost every second they gave us to finish.
Any parting words?
If you can dream it, you can do it. -Walt Disney (but actually Tom Fitzgerald)
Ken – 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!