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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: Goal Traveler
Marc & Cydny blog Goal Traveler to inspire readers to step outside of their comfort zones to discover new cultures, indulge in new dishes, and to simply “Just Go”. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I began collecting points and miles about 10 years ago. At the time, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into, and also that there was a whole subculture dedicated to this hobby. Since we live in Northern New Jersey, United Airlines is our dominant airline out of Newark airport so I signed up for Chase United Explorer.
Continental Airlines OnePass was initially the reward program until they merged with United Airlines. Not long after signing up for the OnePass mileage program, I applied for the Chase Continental OnePass credit card. I believe they offered me a 60,000 mile sign-up bonus (no longer available).
Given my limited credit history at the time, I was psyched just be approved. The 60,000 miles were exciting to see in my account, and that’s when I felt like I could go anywhere!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
My wife, Cydny, and I started the blog in January 2017. We started traveling together in 2009 and each subsequent year we raised the bar and traveled further and deeper. Our friends and family would always ask where we had just traveled or where we are going next.
One day, we decided that we have some stories to share, and we wanted others to realize that they can travel to exotic locations as well. We believe our blog is special because it showcases how extraordinary travel isn’t reserved for the wealthy. We consider ourselves an ordinary couple, and with some tips and tricks, we want to motivate others to seek adventure at home and abroad. Hence, GOAL Traveler…Get Out And Live!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Because it’s extremely hard to target every sign-up bonus, we think it’s more practical to focus on making the most of your everyday spending. For example, that daily coffee purchase could earn you more miles by simply using the right card. Why purchase the coffee with the Chase United Explorer card that only gets 1 mile per $1 spent?
Instead, use the Chase Sapphire Reserve and get 3X points on that same purchase. I know we’re talking small change here, but if you like to eat out, like we do, expect a surprising number of miles every couple of months that could easily cover a rental car, hotel, or even a flight!
Like to shop online? We take advantage of the United MileagePlus Shopping portal or the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping portal. It’s not uncommon to find upwards of 20X points per $1 spent. Before your next online purchase, be sure to check those portals and earn more points!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
So hard to narrow down our most memorable travel experience, but here’s one that stands out.
About an hour and a half into our transpacific flight leaving San Francisco heading towards Sydney, our stoic pilot informs us that we are heading back to San Francisco airport because we experienced “vibrations” during our departure, and it’s too risky to continue flying. We made it back to mainland after landing amongst fire engines, ambulances, and police, only to learn that birds took out one of our engines.
What Cydny didn’t realize is that I packed an engagement ring (carry on, of course) and booked an intimate dinner on a private pier a few days later in Bali. Cydny was freaking out because she thought we would crash in the Pacific and I was freaking out because we would arrive 1 day later, which meant we’d miss out on our private dinner on a pier. This pier can only be reserved for 1 dinner each day and is booked months in advance.
Let’s just say I didn’t sleep that night, not because we nearly crashed in the ocean, but because I had to convince people in Indonesia to reschedule for another day. Miraculously, she said “yes” and quickly realized why I had been acting so weird the whole trip.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Our family and friends probably don’t realize the depth of our hobby. They think it’s secondary to our travel, when in reality it’s usually the catalyst of most trips. Without miles and points, we wouldn’t travel as much, and if we don’t travel as much we won’t earn more miles…it’s a viciously delightful cycle.
Just last year, I sent out mass text messages informing everyone to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I realized I’m probably not the best salesman because most of the ALL-CAPS pleas to earn 100,000 CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS POINTS were unanswered (offer no longer available). Evidence is mounting that they may believe we are a little crazy.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Something that’s helped us out, and it may seem obvious, but keeping a spreadsheet or Word document containing all the programs we are enrolled in. Having all your points and miles laid out in one place can make planning and booking less of an organizational nightmare, especially since the total is always changing. A centralized document prevents you from having 20 tabs or windows open on your desktop while you’re researching and planning.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The least expected way we’ve earned miles is also the most altruistic. United MileagePlus does a great job encouraging others to donate to charities. This past summer, Hurricane’s Irma & Harvey devastated areas of the southern US. United Airlines and some other airlines rewarded donors by offering 4 to 5X bonus miles for each $1 spent. Definitely the most rewarding (in every sense of the word) and least expected means of gaining miles and points.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started?
When I first started collecting miles and points, I wish I was a little more selective while redeeming them. Before I really began researching and learning the best ways to use miles and points, I felt like I always had to use the miles instead of purchasing a hotel, flight, etc. Sometimes it feels like they are burning a hole in your pocket and you need to use them, but be patient and weigh all your options.
It doesn’t really make sense to redeem 50,000 miles on a domestic flight that would only cost you $250 out-of-pocket, does it? In this case, I think it would be wise just to purchase the ticket and accrue mileage for another flight and airline elite status. Conversely, if that same flight cost $750 and you had to be on it, then using miles makes a lot more sense. Focusing more on redemption rate per point has proven to be very valuable.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Most people may be surprised to know that we hate flying! Sitting in a metal tube is inherently boring and uncomfortable for us peasants that don’t fly Business or First Class. Even though we’ve flown on numerous 15-hour flights, that doesn’t make the seats more enjoyable.
Regardless, flying is a necessary evil if you want to see some exotic places, so we do whatever is necessary to make ourselves comfortable. That means pillows, blankets, eye-masks, ear plugs, etc. Whatever it takes to arrive refreshed and ready for adventure.
That’s why we’ve created the Airplane Mode package that can be found on our website. Everything you need for a more relaxing flight.
Any parting words?
We can’t stress enough the benefits of traveling and using points and miles to help alleviate some of the financial stress associated. No matter where you go or how you get there, just realize that traveling is an investment. We choose to invest in experiences rather than material goods. Someone much wiser than us once said, “The more you travel, the less you know.”
That’s why we choose to Get Out And Live!
Marc & Cydny – 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!