“A More Purposeful and Meaningful Life Includes Lots of Travel”

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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:   A Life Less Conventional 

Caroline writes A Life Less Conventional to share her journey to financial independence and thoughts about personal finance and travel.  You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

2015 in Bermuda. This Was a True Last-Minute Trip, and Although We Didn’t Get It Through Points, We Did Get the Package on Sale via JetBlue Vacations and Earned a Ton of Points in the Process

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I’d say my husband and I have dabbled in miles & points for quite a number of years now but only got serious in 2014.  Our first big experience of what points could do for us was all the way back in 2009, when we were able to stay in a Marriott hotel in Midtown New York for 7 nights after my husband had accumulated points through business travel.

However, it wasn’t until we moved to America (we’re from the UK originally) in 2013 with my husband’s job that our eyes were opened to travel hacking with credit cards.  The credit card travel hacking game is nowhere near as lucrative in the UK and so we had no concept of all the ways you could travel for cheap (or free).

Our first foray into serious travel hacking came in 2014 with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.  And since then, we’ve had the bug!

Why did you start your blog?  What’s special about it?

My blog is primarily a blog about my husband’s and my journey to achieving financial independence (having enough assets to live on that we don’t need a regular 9 to 5 job).  Ultimately, it’s a record of my journey to live a more purposeful and meaningful life – which will include lots of travel, as that’s one of our main passions.  Achieving financial independence and not needing to work full-time jobs as we do at the moment will enable us to travel extensively and enjoy a different kind of life.

Niagara Falls Had Always Been a Dream of Ours to Visit, but We Just Never Seemed to Get There, Despite Living in the Same State! However, We Decided to Go for It One Weekend and Used JetBlue Points for Award Flights, Hilton Points for a Free Hotel Stay, and Enterprise Points for Free Car Rental! Made the Trip All the More Sweet

What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?

The simplest way we’ve found to accumulate is to get a rewards credit card and use that card for absolutely everything you can.

For example, we made the decision to take a career break for part of 2017 to travel.  We have planned a 4-month trip that takes in 4 continents and 40 different cities and locales.  We knew we wanted to keep the cost as low as possible to enable us to pack in quite so much and so we turned to reward credit cards, and particularly the introductory offers, to seriously help us out.

We ended up opening 4 new cards for the intro offers, and what we did to meet those minimum spending requirements was to open one card directly after meeting the minimum spend on the previous and to use the card for everything possible.  From grocery shopping, transportation costs, days out, Netflix subscription, gifts for special occasions – everything we could we put on the card we did.  It was surprisingly easy to do!

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Our honeymoon in 2011.

I grew up living a quite sheltered life and rarely had the chance to travel internationally before my mid 20’s.  Our honeymoon to Las Vegas and Hawaii was not only the most luxury I’d ever experienced, but it was also the most natural beauty I’d ever seen in my life.  It came with a price tag (we weren’t serious travel hackers back then), but it certainly opened my eyes to what was out there and left me wanting more.

We Road-Tripped Highway 1 in California Over Christmas in 2016. Seeing the Big Sur Was Such a Long Held Dream of Ours That We Relished Every Minute of It. I Love How Travel Opens Your Eyes to So Much and Really Grounds You

What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?

We have a couple of friends who also travel hack with points and miles and so it’s great when we catch up with them and can swap notes.  We actually learned of the Chase Hyatt credit card through a friend which we promptly applied for and I’m pleased to say we’ll be using our 2 free nights (that particular sign-up bonus is no longer available) from that card in the Park Hyatt Tokyo this September!

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?

The trick we’ve learned is not to limit ourselves with a restrictive card.  We jumped on the Barclaycard JetBlue card when they were introduced last year and got ourselves a nice little stash of JetBlue points with the sign-up bonus.  But we had trouble using them and felt restricted with what we could get.

JetBlue also has a really terrible points transfer policy – the only other way to use your JetBlue points is on Hawaiian Airlines.

Prague Was the First Stop on Our Four-Month Trip We’re on Right Now. It Is a Wonderfully Old City With So Much History and Beauty. And Even More Sweet for Us Was the Fact We Got There With Award Flights Using Our British Airways Avios Points!

It definitely taught us to think about the points and miles we’re getting and how we can use them.  We prefer the Chase Sapphire Reserve that lets us transfer our points out to any number of hotels and airlines, or a card that applies statement credits to any travel expenditure.

What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?

Through work.  I don’t travel extensively through work and when I started needing to travel (mostly to conferences), it took a while for the penny to drop that I could actually collect points and miles as I go.

But it didn’t take me long to get into the swing of only flying certain airlines to collect miles – I’m all about expensing travel and collecting the free miles!

What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?

To be a bit more careful about what accounts we get authorized card holder status on.  Because we’ve applied for multiple credit cards more than once quite a bit over the last couple of years and because I generally get authorized card holder status on my husband’s accounts, I was locked out of snagging a Chase Sapphire Reserve because of the “5/24 rule”.
The Town of Manarola, Part of the Cinque Terre (5 Lands) in Liguria, Italy. The 5 Villages Are All Built Onto the Mountainside and the Earliest Record of Them Existing Is the 11th Century! They Are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Are Truly Amazing!

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I used to fear flying.  With how many flights I’ve taken in the last few years, you wouldn’t think it to look at me!  I got myself over that fear though, purely by telling myself there was no way I was missing out on all the world has to offer just because I didn’t like being airborne.

Any parting words?

If you’re still on the fence about travel hacking – do it!  You won’t regret it.

Caroline – 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!

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