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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!