“…I’ve always dreamed about showing my wife and kids the world.”

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“…I’ve always dreamed about showing my wife and kids the world.”

Million Mile Secrets“…I’ve always dreamed about showing my wife and kids the world.”Million Mile Secrets Team

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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview: Donnie Law

Donnie writes Donnie Law which shows young families how to plan family vacations and travel around the globe.

Donnie Law - Interview with Donnie
Family on South Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I’m a relative newbie to the miles and points game.  I started collecting in September of 2012 after reading a blog post by Chris Guillebeau on a frequent flier challenge.  He opened my eyes to possibility of earning huge amounts of miles through credit sign up bonuses.

He’s visited 192 countries so I figured he was an authority on the subject but it still seemed too good to be true.  A few days later I found Million Mile Secrets through a Google search and it has been my go-to resource ever since.

As for the reason why, as a busy husband and father of two I’ve always dreamed about showing my wife and kids the world.  I want my two boys to get the travel bug at a young age and build family memories with them.

Donnie Law - Interview with Donnie
Hiking in a valley in Denali National Park

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

I started my blog at donnielaw.com for a few reasons.  My wife has a successful blog and encouraged me to start writing about accumulating and redeeming miles and points.  She’s seen first hand how a family can benefit from this hobby.

I also wanted a resource where I could send the countless friends, family members, and coworkers who question me about my new travel habits and are wondering how I do it.  I just launched the blog a month ago but I plan on taking new readers systematically through the same process I went through.  My goal is to provide simple, actionable advice that someone brand new can implement.

I also want to show people that you don’t have to be a single guy/gal to take advantage of free travel opportunities.  Even a family with young children can benefit from accumulating miles and points.

Donnie Law - Interview with Donnie
Hitchhiking our way to Denali National Park

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

It’s definitely not flying more or mileage runs.  It comes down to planning and executing credit card application sprees.  For most people this will be the number one way they earn miles so you cannot take it lightly.

You have to decide when to apply for cards and what cards to apply for.  To get the most out of my application days I spend roughly 8 hours planning.  It sounds crazy but it’s how I was able to earn well over a million miles and points in under 12 months.

If you’re not organized and don’t think you’ll be able to keep track of all the moving parts involved, I wouldn’t recommend getting into this.  If you’re up for it, the rewards are amazing!

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Denali National Park in Alaska was incredible.  I’ve spent time in Haiti and a week canoeing through the Florida Everglades but Denali National Park trumps them all.  One summer during college myself and four buddies worked at a Salmon Cannery in Naknek, Alaska.

Search for that on Google maps and you’ll notice you can’t even drive there!  It was very remote.  One of the perks of the job (besides earning enough to buy my wife an engagement ring!) was that we were already in Alaska so after the salmon run had finished we spent some time backpacking and hitchhiking around Alaska.

There was nothing like camping at Wonder Lake with the best views in the world of Mt. McKinley.

Donnie Law - Interview with Donnie
Wonder Lake with Mt. McKinley in Background

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

Some think I’m crazy but most are curious how I do it.  My dad has recently gotten on board and even used some of his Starwood points to join my family in the Blue Mountains of Ontario this summer.  It’s been fun showing him the ropes!

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

There is no one magic trick but it’s helpful to remember that others have gone before me and I can learn from them.  I follow about a dozen incredibly helpful blogs in this niche and I’ve found it’s a quick and easy way to daily stay up to date and not miss any opportunities.

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

I converted a few hundred thousand Hawaiian Airline miles into Hilton points at 1:2 ratio.  This was before the devaluation in the spring and those Hilton points were quite useful for my family of four!  It’s important to understand all the possible sources for miles or points in a given program.

Donnie Law - Interview with Donnie

Canoeing through the Everglades

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

I’ve mentioned this on my blog but I wish I would’ve realized how much more valuable lots of points are in a few programs than a small number of points in many programs.

If I was starting over, for the first 6+ months I would only focus on earning points with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and American Express Membership Rewards because of the transfer partner flexibility.  As I gained knowledge and experience I would slowly branch out to other airline and hotel programs.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

For my day job I work in the energy industry in my home city of Pittsburgh.  Prior to that I had a unique federal law enforcement job in the desert southwest.  I also once spent a week building a school in northern Haiti.

Donnie Law - Interview with Donnie
Street in Cap-Haitian, Haiti

Any parting words?

Make sure to give back.  Instead of hoarding information and points make sure you share your knowledge with others that could benefit.  If you have a family member or friend in need of a trip to see a sick relative but can’t afford it, help them book a trip using your points.

We are incredibly privileged to be able to fly around the world and see far off places.  Actively look for ways to help someone out.

Donnie – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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On the Alaska Airlines website it says a first class award starts at 50k. In order to get from my house to Alaska I would need to take American to Seattle and then go Alaskan the rest of the way. The American Airlines award is 65k. If I use Alaskan miles to book a trip, which award would it be? The 50k as stated on the Alaskan site or the 65k as stated on the American site. I am guessing if you book through Alaskan it would be based upon their award chart.

Richard Hornback

I was glad to see someone with two kids. I also have 2 kids (14 and 11). It is more difficult for me to get deals and use points because the there are more restrictions and less open tickets when my kids are off school.

By far my favorite place to stay with kids is marriott hotels

Thanks for the kind words Leana.

Mark I enjoy your blog because deep down I have some lawyer envy. I have some regrets about not pursuing a law degree.

I think its great, that more blogs are popping up, dealing with regular families and more attainable goals in travel. And I agree with Mark, the “law” part is kind of cool. I actually thought it was a name of a law firm, when I saw your comments on this site!

I’ve enjoyed recently getting to get to know Donnie via his blog and his always thoughtful comments on my own posts. Besides, anyone with a name “[anything]law” MUST be cool! 🙂

Nice interview… keep it up, Donnie Law!

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