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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: Boomer Traveller
Ian and Celina write Boomer Traveller to help other Canadian Boomers maximize their joy of travel.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
In the early 1990s when we bought our first home, our bank in Alberta suggested we get an Air Canada Aeroplan credit card. This was when loyalty programs were relatively new. Because the bank suggested it, we got the card. No real thought went into it.
Like most Boomers, we collected points slowly. It took a few years to get enough points to visit family in the old country (Ontario). Back then, before the World Wide Web (yes, Boomers even remember a time before personal computers), using points was even more unpleasant than it is today. It involved phone calls with long waits and irritating elevator music.
If you actually did get through, you had to contend with agents who kept telling you that it was impossible to get what you wanted. When you finally did get what you wanted, the cost in fees and taxes was not much different than a cheap fare. In fact, it was frequently more.
There was little incentive to give miles and points much thought. Plus, career, family pressures, fiscal constraints, and limited numbers of days off made travel a luxury we had little time for.
By 2012, leisure travel was something we could start to indulge in. We discovered a wealth of information about miles and points on the web, particularly on BoardingArea and Flyer Talk. But most of the information was for Americans, not Canadians. And most of that was for younger travelers, with minimal family or job constraints who were willing spend 2 hours to save $20.
We took our first real dip into the world of miles and points by getting a few cards with serious bonuses so we could do the type of travel we wanted. It was a few years before we got serious and started to take a half dozen trips a year (which maxes out our leave from our day jobs). Since then it has become a part of our lives.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
The Baby Boomer experience with credit and credit cards is very different than subsequent generations. In 1981, bank rates skyrocketed to a whopping 21%. People who were living on credit could no longer afford it, and the world changed. Many people we knew had to declare bankruptcy and forfeited their assets. For the following decades, Boomers remained wary of credit of any kind.
Once we became lightly-seasoned travel hackers, we started to tell the people in our lives what we were doing. For the most part, our Boomer friends were envious of our travel. But they were not comfortable with the concept of using credit cards to their advantage. Most Boomers are scared of credit cards – they feel there must somehow be some hidden catch.
So we wanted to develop a Canadian Boomer-centric travel blog that soft-plays miles and points. We focus on the type of travel most Boomers prefer, with destination stories and pretty Technicolor pictures.
We also show them the very basics of credit cards, to ease people into it. Then they can graduate to the more advanced miles and points blogs.
We think of Boomer Traveller as a gateway drug to miles & points for Boomers.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
For Boomers – and anyone else not already doing it – apply for credit cards (although it seems that for Canadians this world is rapidly shutting down)!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
That would to be Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The whole family – 6 of us – went down for 3 amazing days. Using Air Canada Aeroplan miles, we got to Mexico City where we stayed at the InterContinental Presidente Mexico City on IHG points. Then using a “fat finger” $300 deal, we flew LAN to Santiago, then Easter Island, and returned the same way.
We wrote a few blog posts about the island. It’s a truly magical place, with amazing archaeological and geological sites and exquisite food, particularly the tuna ceviche. And a very interesting local socio-political situation. We hired a guide from Green Island Tours, who showed us all the regular tourist stuff, plus some more out-of-the-way spots. Real bucket-list stuff.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
The Gen X and Yers got on the bandwagon before they even did their homework. The Boomers are “intrigued.” Others think there must be a hidden downside, and we think they are secretly waiting to see if we “get caught” so they can have a schadenfreude moment – which they will not. A small few, mostly tail end Boomers, have joined the cabal.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Excel is great for keeping track of your credit cards. And of course, all the great blogs out there that share tips, tricks, and occasionally great deals.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Last year we went to Israel for the holidays. On the way back, we had booked First Class tickets on British Airways using Alaska Airlines miles. Long story short, Alaska Airlines messed up, and issued the tickets without a PNR (Passenger Name Record). When we discovered this, they not only apologized profusely, but bought us full-fare First Class replacement tickets. It must be one of the few times anyone has gotten miles for using miles!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Mostly how easy and safe it is! We are nowhere near as intense as some of the real miles & points bloggers. But at the level we operate, it is really simple and very rewarding.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
No secret identity or anything like that – maybe just that we are able to travel so much on decent, but not extravagant incomes.
Any parting words?
For Boomers and other credit-shy people, try it – you’ll like it! It really is not that scary. It’s easy, and you don’t need to do a lot to start seeing real value from it. If you are at a loss, ask around – this is a helpful community!
Ian and Celina – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Big Travel with Small Money!
If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!