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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: Two to Travel & Tango
Patrick and Laura write Two to Travel & Tango to give travel tips and inspire readers to travel.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I grew up in the travel industry as my dad worked for an airline.
So it was the norm to be at home in Albuquerque and get a call from my dad saying, “I managed to get 2 tickets to the Broncos game. If you can get to the airport in 40 minutes we can get you on standby on a flight, go to the game, and then get you back tonight so you’re home for school.”
It was a very unusual way to grow up, but it was my norm. And so for many years, I managed to grow savvy in travel while not collecting miles because I never needed to. In college, it just so happened that I was on a few trips that were American Airlines and got Gold Status.
It wasn’t much, but getting upgraded to First Class on a Christmas flight home after breezing through the priority security lane for the 1st time ever, I realized that miles mattered in several ways.
So really in college I’d say I started earning status. And a few years after college is when I became serious about collecting points and miles from any and all sources and dragged my wife Laura into the process as well!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I think it just dawned on us that we had something to offer in the space. For the last couple years, we’ve had friends reaching out to us to help them plan travel. Every time we helped someone the conversation ended with “you guys should really start a blog or something” and so it was always in the back of our minds.
On top of that, I’m really obsessed with storytelling. So while we were in New Zealand on our honeymoon, the conversation started as we took off for a 12 mile hike through Tongariro National Park. And so we created a blog that’s uniquely us.
We don’t try and be something we aren’t. So we write about what excites us, which is simple strategies to enable people to travel more affordably, because that leads to what we are passionate about…the ability to encounter the stories of other people as you travel.
At the moment, we’re still finding our full voice, but it’s been a lot of fun doing it and what we discovered is there are a whole group of people out there who are receptive to what we’re trying to do mixing concrete travel tips in with inspirational travel posts and stories!
Our blog isn’t perfect, but it’s something that brings us joy and when we hear from people that we either inspired to travel, made their day better, or provided a concrete strategy that got them anything from a free airline ticket to a free magazine subscription, we’re happy!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
It’s hard to get past the information overload that exists in this space. No one wants to read for hours and hours on the internet to discover the very best of strategies.
And often times basic ways to earn miles that are as easy as providing your American Airlines frequent flyer number when flying on a British Airways flight don’t happen because people just don’t even know about alliances and the way you can earn miles even if it’s not on the airline you have an account with.
So I think it’s important to find travel blogs that make the reading easy and dare I say enjoyable. But even more then that, I think the best thing to do is connect with people in the know.
Whether that means reaching out to a blogger who lives or travels through your area and offering to take them our for a meal, or talking to a friend who seems to have a better grasp on the ins and outs of earning points and miles and taking them out to eat.
I think when we sit and casually talk with people, we break down some of the barriers that intimidate people and then they’re more confident and better able to turn to websites and blogs like yours and really leverage them for all the helpful advice they offer!
So do this: Reflect on who within your reach has a fairly decent grasp on travel miles and points, and then talk to them face to face. After that, come to a site like Million Mile Secrets and dive in! It will make it more enjoyable and useful!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
There are so so many and that’s 1 of the things we are most thankful for.
In 2012, Laura and I both decided to quit our jobs and travel through parts of Asia.
One moment we were eating dinner wistfully saying to one another “can you imagine how cool it would be if we ever decided to do this” and a couple weeks later we were finalizing our oneworld Explorer tickets (which are no longer available) and crafting our letters of resignation.
People thought we were crazy, and we don’t disagree. It was absolutely crazy. But if you can’t be crazy in your 20s when can you be? There were tradeoffs for certain but in the end, it was all worth it.
The trip was amazing because so many parts of Asia are incredible places to travel. But I think that trip was also the moment, as Laura recently wrote on our blog, when we both decided the only thing we were more committed to than travel was one another.
Months later, we were engaged to get married.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
It varies. A few friends have jokingly taken to calling me FlyerTalk Furlong. But generally, people glaze over our conversations on miles and points usually until they have some experience with it and they realize how great it can be.
So some people think we’re crazy and the rest I would say think we’re crazy but want a little bit of our craziness to rub off on them!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I’m surprised by a few things. First, I am surprised how many miles we have earned over time through Rewards Network. The restaurant we visit the most just joined the network, so every time we grab a meal there, we’re automatically earning bonus miles which is great.
I’m also surprised how many miles we actually do earn by butt in the seat a.k.a. flying. Many of my travel-obsessed friends have been asking if status even matters anymore. Given the amount I still do travel on paid tickets between work and personal travel, earning double miles on my oneworld flights is incredibly valuable to me.
This of course could change any day, we only need to look at United Airlines and Delta Airlines for evidence of that but at the end of the day status still earns us more miles flying than if we didn’t have status. So to me, it’s still very valuable!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I’ve been surprised how valuable Hotels.com has been to us. Most of our points earning strategy goes toward getting free airline tickets and so we pay for accommodations more often than not and the sticker price on staying at hotel chains is often just too high for us.
With Hotels.com, after 10 nights we earn 1 free night.
What’s more, we book through the Upromise shopping portal so we get 5% back into our high yield savings account.
And the hotel options on Hotels.com almost always allow us to find something cheaper than the big chain hotels while still in a convenient location. So we’ve become bigger and bigger fans of using the website.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Figure out your travel goals 1st and the points and miles needed to achieve them, and then figure out your earning strategy. I think most of us just get excited about earning any miles and points we can and then next thing we know, we’ve got a pile of miles in 1 account that we have little use for.
So strategize 1st and then figure out how to reach those goals.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
We’re both introverts. A lot of times I think people assume I am an extrovert, because I can talk to people with ease.
I am obsessed with stories and a big reason I travel is to meet interesting people.
But when we travel, we love nothing more than meeting awesome people and then making sure we have time to just sit in silence at a coffee shop and people watch or read a book in the park. I think people assume to love travel to the degree we do, you have to somehow be an energetic extrovert but it’s simply not the case.
Any parting words?
Living abroad years ago, I was reminded again and again by very well intentioned people that I couldn’t travel forever. I disagree. Travel, I have come to discover, is more a state of mind than a process.
If we approach each day with the curiosity of a traveler lost amidst a maze of new streets, greet each person with the wonder and awe we have when meeting someone from a new place, we create an environment where the light chases out the darkness.
Isn’t that why we travel? I think the past few months there have been so many stories in the news that have just made my heart sink.
It’s somewhat easy to conclude that the world is a crappy place and yet in difficult times like these, I’m strengthened by my experiences traveling, because I’m reminded how good the world actually is, even when it’s sometimes hard to believe it.
Patrick & Laura – 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!