Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Points to be Made
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started in earnest around 2011 when I needed to buy 2 tickets to Thailand for myself and my girlfriend. In my mind, I knew there had to be a way to pay less than double the cost of 1 ticket. So I stumbled across Flyertalk and some of the BoardingArea blogs.
A couple of months later, I was on my first mileage run from London to Los Angeles and back for an American Airlines Platinum Elite Status Challenge.
6 years later and I’ve now been to around 80+ countries and loving every moment of it. I’d love to cross the 100 mark soon!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
At the time I was doing a PhD and bored with what I was doing, so I needed the mental stimulation. Air miles was the perfect solution to me. When I realized there were no UK-based blogs at the time, I decided to start my own.
But then I moved to the Netherlands for work so I decided to decentralize it from one country and try to pitch it to appeal to those around Europe.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
This will depend on where you live. But around Europe where most of my readership is based, and where credit cards bonuses are not prevalent, I would say take part in as many car hire or retailer promotions as you can. You won’t earn as much as the US counterparts but you can still earn a decent amount.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My most memorable experience came about through unfortunate circumstances.
It was my first time flying Cathay Pacific First Class last year, but it sadly came about through a family emergency. I had to rush to Asia to see my grandfather who had been in an accident and knew would leave us imminently so I had no choice but to take that flight. Though it had cost me over 120,000 Avios points, the tax component was only ~$53, which is a negligible price to pay as it allowed me to see Grandpa a final time.
At the start of the flight, I had burst into tears because of the stress of the situation but the flight attendants handled the situation with such grace and treated me (and the rest of the cabin) perfectly. After I settled in, the lunch service began, which was a wonderful experience, sampling every single wine on the menu. I remember waking up with the most horrible hangover somewhere above Siberia and working it off before my transfer in Hong Kong as I needed to use The Pier First Class lounge to sample their amazing breakfast and lunch menu, too.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
At first they thought it was a massive distraction to my career and I had gone off the rails. But now they love it and seek advice from me for any flight or hotel-related issue.
Now my digital nomad lifestyle is funded by miles and points, and through the income of my blog – and it’s not a credit card referral driven site!
I took a gamble to leave my stable job to pursue this passion and I’ve never been happier. Most of my friends are jealous as they see I’ve found my calling.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Many years ago I booked a Business Class redemption once from Asia to Europe which through a fare bucket glitch that ended up earning me a large portion of the miles back! I’m not going to say which airlines were involved, though. 😉
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
It’s incredibly easy to get addicted to elite status, points, etc., but always try to calculate the value of everything and whether it is worth pursuing some of the promotions, or craziest of all, the mileage runs.
Many air miles aficionados put no value on their time which is the biggest mistake of all.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Aside from being a professional engineer, I also play classical music on the oboe to a fairly high level. At university, I pondered becoming a professional musician but in the end decided better of it.
Any parting words?
- Don’t believe all the hype about airline miles and the luxury some travel bloggers portray. Many people collect the miles through their employer paying for their flights, but it’s a completely different story if you have to pay for it yourself
- It’s great to fly Business or First Class, but there’s a whole world to explore outside the airport and the aircraft
- Despite being nearly always away from home, it’s easy to let time and adventure pass by in a blur. Don’t forget your friends and family are only ever a flight or two away!
Tim – 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!