“Collecting Miles Is Fun, but It Should Be a Means to an End. And the End Goal Should Be to 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: Extra Pack of Peanuts
He’s got a few projects going on, all of which have spawned off the idea of helping you travel. For people who think 2 weeks of vacation isn’t nearly enough, he runs a community for folks who want to become location independent over at Location Indie.
And his newest project is Jetto. It’s an app that sends amazing flight deals and mistake fares directly to your phone – both iPhone and Android!
How has collecting miles and points changed for you over the past 6 years?
I’ve certainly become more lazy. I used to take advantage of every opportunity out there. But now, I’m much more selective. Instead of opening 20 cards a year, I pick and choose a few and that’s it.
Some of it is because I’ve stockpiled a decent stash of miles. And some of it is because I realized that 20% of the work gave me 90% of the reward. And so I use that other time to focus on projects, like Jetto, Location Indie, and of course, traveling!
What has changed with your blog? Anything new or helpful we should know about?
The 2 biggest changes over the 6 years that we’ve been running EPOP are:
- We launched our Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast 4 years ago. And that, to this day, is where we create most of our new content. We’re very fortunate to have such amazing listeners – they’ve made us the #1 rated travel podcast in the world and downloaded our show over 3 million times!
- More recently, we launched a brand new app. It sends notifications directly to your phone when there is an amazing flight deal or mistake fare. It’s the culmination of a lot of years of work, and so far, the feedback is amazing. We’re currently giving away a free flight to Dublin to celebrate our launch!
What’s your most memorable recent travel experience or trip?
The best trip I’ve taken in the last few years (and probably ever) was to the Republic of Georgia. You won’t find Coca-Cola or sweet tea there. But you will find some of the most amazing landscapes in the world, incredibly friendly people, homemade wine on every corner, and Khachapuri.
It’s still pretty far off the beaten path, but I expect that to change dramatically in the next 5 years. Get there as soon as possible and take advantage of the incredibly cheap prices and lack of tourists while it’s still a hidden gem.
Now that you’ve been doing this for a while, have any of your family and friends changed their minds about miles & points? And have they been able to use them for Big Travel with Small Money?
When I first started Extra Pack of Peanuts, I wanted to convince EVERYONE I knew to take advantage of miles and points. But what I realized is some people just don’t care. And honestly, that’s why I started the blog and podcast – instead of convincing people I knew, I could start helping people who wanted to learn.
That being said, I was still able to score some “conversions.” My biggest one was probably my dad. He was highly skeptical at first, so I employed the ultimate “skepticism breaker” – I flew him to Japan in First Class to visit me. Before he even got on a plane back to the US, I got a text message from him. He’s sitting in the lounge, drinking champagne, and just said “So, what cards should I get?”
What new tools or tricks do you find most useful for this hobby?
One of the things I’ve started doing in the last few years is not using miles for everything. Wait, what? Not using miles? Because we have a good amount of flexibility in our schedules and our wanderlust is so high, we’ve started taking advantage of cheap, paid flights. So, when a great deal hits – like $150 to Milan, $225 to Madrid, $300 to Johannesburg – we jump on it.
When prices are that low, it doesn’t even make sense to use miles. So we’ll just pay for the tickets outright. These experiences led me to create our new app, Jetto. Our goal in creating the app was simple:
- Get these good deals to people as quickly as possible because they tend to disappear in a matter of hours
- Make it so easy to use that anyone, even my mom, could figure it out
No more inputting obscure codes or following tons of websites on Twitter. One app, cheap flights, booked with the click of a few buttons.
In your experience, what are the most common mistakes folks make when they start collecting miles and points?
I think there are 2 common mistakes I see people make when they first start. And luckily, both are easily correctable.
1. They collect the wrong points. They see a bonus for 75,000 Delta miles and they think “Wow, 75,000 points is so much, I’ve got to get that!”
What they don’t realize is that points are like currency. And each one has a different value per point. If you asked me if I’d rather have 75,000 Delta miles or 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I’d take the 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points every time.
So instead of just jumping on big offers, figure out which points are most valuable to you (for many beginners, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the easiest, most flexible, and best). Then, start collecting them and earn a big chunk of those instead of spreading your points out among a lot of different programs.
2. They hoard their points. Collecting miles is fun, but it should be a means to an end. And the end goal should be to travel. Sometimes people get so possessive of their “point balance” that they don’t even want to use them!
This one is easy to solve. Pick a dream trip – and then go out there and book it!
What changes have happened in the miles and points world which you are the most excited about and most disappointed with?
Overall, I’ve been super happy with the miles and points world over the last 6 years.
No, you can’t get credit cards every 7 days. No, 100,000-point bonuses aren’t growing on trees like they used to. And yes, many hotel chains have devalued their points. But it’s still pretty simple to rack up large amounts of points and then redeem them for free flights. And ultimately, that’s enough for me.
So the thing I’m most excited about is this hobby still exists, and allows me to travel around the world for (almost) free. And while I’m not really too disappointed in general, I do miss the Club Carlson 2nd night free on award stays with their credit card. I stayed in many amazing hotels around the world with that deal!
What tips would you give to folks who have young children and still want to travel?
As someone who has a 5-month-old, I should be getting tips, not giving them! But my general approach to traveling with a child is that my approach isn’t going to change. I’m still going to travel.
Yes, it might be a little bit slower. Yes, we might be toting around a few more bags. And yes, there might be things we want to do that don’t make as much as sense with a kid.
But who cares? We’re still going to travel. We’re still going to get out and see the world. We’re still going to go on adventures most people only dream about.
I think one of the best things you can do for yourself as a parent and for your child is to get them out to see the world. You’ll view the world differently now that you’ve got your parent goggles on and your kid will get a perspective very few children ever get to have.
Any parting words?
The best thing you can do when trying to travel more and spend less is to use all the tools at your disposal. If you’ve got good credit, take advantage of credit cards, rack up those miles and points, and then redeem them for (almost free) flights. Use Jetto to always know when great flight deals pop up and then act quickly to score super cheap plane tickets.
And don’t be afraid to travel to destinations that are cheaper (like my favorite, Georgia). You’ll stretch your dollar even further and have experiences that are much different than ones you might have had otherwise.
Travis – Thanks for your thoughts on Big Travel with Small Money!
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