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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: Cruisinaltitude
Kerwin started Cruisinaltitude to give readers tips for a stress-free travel experience.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
In 1987, I signed-up for American Airlines’ frequent flyer program and have not looked back. Their tag line then was “Something’s Special in the Air.” Back then, I only collected miles when I flew. What a concept! There was not all the cool ways that existed now.
I later had a job where I had to keep abreast of what all the airlines were up to. So I joined pretty much every program out there. When I was preparing to live a simpler life in June 2011, I found all my loyalty cards and ditched them as a nomadic lifestyle has no room for them. It was fun looking at the old logos.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I wanted to share my travels with my friends and the world. It was not even called a blog back in 1998. My main goal was sharing the pictures of planes, airports and destinations (I still do that today). Trip Reports were big back then.
I had friends who would write emails with really detailed Trip Reports. I coded the site from scratch with raw html initially, then used Microsoft Frontpage, Blogspot, Dreamweaver, and now WordPress. The technology today makes it so easy to get your blog up and running.
I try to give the reader a taste of the world outside their doorstep. I try to let them experience exactly what I’m experiencing. Also, I try to give travel tips so the traveler has a hassle-free travel experience.
It’s travel explained from an insider. My hope is that they will then go and explore the world for themselves using my tips to be a better traveler.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Umm…I’m going to sound like a broken record, but ensure that every dime you spend is done using a credit card that earns miles. Use your credit card like it’s your debit card. Get the right card (Daraius does a good job of helping you there, so listen), pay for each facet of your life with the card, and just pay it off in full each month from your checking or savings account. Don’t spend more than you can afford to repay!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Geez, that’s tough as I have so many. I took a trip to Monaco for my birthday in 2009 and took my 1st helicopter ride. I flew from Nice to Monaco Heliport on Heli Air Monaco.
It was only a 7 minute flight, but it was totally worth it. The flight was spectacular and provided unprecedented views of the coastal area. I loved every second of it. Later that night under the cover of nightfall, I took a local bus back to Nice for ~$1. 🙂
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My mom thinks I’m nuts as I use a credit card for everything. When we go out shopping she gets mad when I pay for a ~$1 item with my credit card. But then I explain and she’s kind of good to go.
My friends just think I’m crazy, even when I explain what I’m up to. Some of them actually participate, but for the most part, I’m the crazy one. They don’t really have the patience for it all, but they do want the perks.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
You know, being polite and genuine to the staff is the best trick in the book! It’s not even a trick. I’m genuinely nice to the people I interact with when I travel.
Just remind yourself that these are the people that can make or break your trip and ask yourself, if you were that person, how would you like to be treated? I’ve gotten upgrades, no luggage charge, complimentary Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast to name a few, just by asking and being genuine. Try it, you’ll be surprised. I expect nothing when I’m being genuine as that is who I am, but somehow people feel obligated to “repay” me for being kind to them, it’s really strange.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Riding Amtrak. I got Amtrak Rewards miles and United Airlines miles as I used the Chase United Airlines Presidential Plus credit card (this card is no longer available) to buy the ticket.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
As strange as it sounds, I wish I knew about earning miles using credit cards. I did it the old fashioned way, by flying and staying at hotels. Which is fine because I just love airports. 🙂 But wow, it takes so much time!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m a big fan of trains. I’ve been riding trains since I was an infant at 7 months old. I grew up with my grandparents in a rural area of Jamaica. Now when I travel, I seek out train rides. Despite my love for air travel, there is nothing like looking out the window of a train going around a bend and seeing all the train cars. It’s like nothing else to me (except watching a Boeing 747 take off).
I’ve been on some really cool train rides around the world. Most recent of which was Sri Lanka on the Kandy to Colombo route.
Any parting words?
Yes. Every penny you spend should earn miles for you, every penny. I hate it when I’m forced to use cash, which you sometimes have to do in Europe and other countries where using a credit card is not as common as in the US.
Plus, when you travel, look for ways to make your journey easier. If you see a queue, don’t join it unless you know what it’s for. I see people do that all the time and it’s really silly, plus it drives me nuts.
And for crying out loud, check-in online especially so you can get on the stand-by list for an upgrade. I could go on and on, but you can learn all the secrets from Cruisinaltitude.com by signing-up for my travel course.
Kerwin – 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!