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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: Travel with Grant
Grant writes Travel with Grant to show folks how to travel for cheap.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
When I was younger, my parents would take us on summer vacations every year. They used to travel for work so they made sure to get frequent flyer miles on every flight we took. They set up frequent flyer accounts for us so we always earned miles.
Like most families, the miles that were earned were never enough for free trips, so they were never redeemed and eventually expired worthless.
Fast forward to March of 2012. I was in the backseat on a long road trip. I was curious about buying gift cards and earning cash back and stumbled upon Frequent Miler’s post on buying and selling gift cards. I was instantly hooked.
I read as many articles as I could and still read Frequent Miler’s posts every day. I finally met my hero at Frequent Traveler University in December 2012.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
If Lucky (@OneMileataTime) can do it, surely this 23 year old can too! I may not have nearly as many miles as Lucky (maybe 1/100th is more accurate), but my passion for travel is just as great. Honestly, I don’t think there is anything special about my blog, I just write about things that interest me that aren’t talked about on other blogs.
Motto: redeeming less miles = more free trips
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Besides the obvious (applying for travel credit cards), I also ask for retention bonuses. I call and say something like, “I’m thinking of cancelling the card because the annual fee is coming soon and the perks are not worth the annual fee. If you would waive the annual fee, I would gladly keep the card for another year, and spend money on it.”
Sometimes they will give you a bonus for keeping the card – especially if you spend money on the card and are a good customer.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
In January of this year, I went on a Euro Trip with one of my best friends. It was her first time to Europe, so I had to show her around. We flew from San Francisco to Amsterdam (35,000 US Airway miles round trip), took the train to Dusseldorf, flew to Paris, stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, flew to Munich for a few beers, took the train to Heidelberg, Cologne, Aachen, Brussels, and back to Amsterdam to stay at the Andaz Amsterdam.
90% of the hotel stays were on hotel points or from free night certificates. I got into trouble when I chose 500 free Starwood points instead of free Wi-Fi, so I never made that mistake again.
Here is the view from our walkout balcony from the 5th floor of the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome (2 free nights thanks to the Hyatt Credit Card. Retail price for our room was over 1,000 euros a night.)
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My parents get it. I tell them which credit cards to get, they add me as an authorized user, and I help them reach the minimum spend. My brother thinks I should “get a real job and stop traveling so much.”
If I had a mile for every time I heard that, I would be Executive Platinum with American Airlines (I apologize for the lame travel joke). My college friends will send me texts and Facebook messages asking me to find a cheap flight from ABC to XYZ. I start searching for award tickets, but then remember that they have 0 miles and 0 interest in miles; they don’t understand the concept of miles and points.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Award Wallet comes in first followed by Credit Karma/Credit Sesame tied for second. Learn about Award Wallet and Credit Karma/Credit Sesame. I use Award Wallet almost every day and can’t imagine life without it.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I once earned 45 United Airline miles for eating at a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco. Apparently they are part of the United MileagePlus Dining Program. The sushi wasn’t that great, but I will take the miles any day of the week.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Everyone starts at 0. Don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t travel a lot or spend a ton of money on credit cards. The phrases “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” come to mind. Everyone starts at 0. A few credit card sign-ups, travel promotions, and retention bonuses later, you will look back at laugh at that 0.
It’s hard to ignore the other travel bloggers and their many first class trips around the world, but they too started at 0. (I know I said I flew mostly economy, but when you can get a round trip ticket to Hawaii in first class for under $300, you take it )
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Not really travel-related, but I am also an eBay Power Seller (out of my bedroom). I have been selling “stuff” on eBay for more than 8 years and have over 3,700 positive transactions. I have run out of things to sell at home, but luckily friends and relatives are constantly giving me items to sell for them.
eBay has changed a lot of the years, but you can still make some good money selling items. You might be surprised to learn that people buy old/broken electronics, specifically cell phones, iPods, and cameras. You won’t get rich off that (unless you break a lot of electronics), but every dollar is one more dollar you can spend traveling around the world.
Any parting words?
Go to as many travel conventions as you can. Frequent Traveler University (FTU) and other seminars are great ways to meet friends who don’t think it’s strange that you have 13 credit cards and know exactly which card to use for every purchase. You will hear some crazy travel stories and learn a thing or two.
If this 23 year old “without a real job” can travel the world, there is no excuse for you not to travel too!
Grant– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!