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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: Justin Does…
Justin started his blog, Justin Does…, to share tips, tricks, and stories he’s learned both at home and on the road.
He travels close to 100,000 miles a year, spends close to 50 night per year in hotels, and has visited 48 states in the US and almost 30 countries on 4 continents.
And he’s giving away a $50 Amazon gift card.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I have pretty much always had the travel bug. As a kid, my family did a lot of road trips around the country with a camping trailer. It wasn’t until I took a trip to Washington, DC, in the 8th grade that I finally flew on a commercial airplane. In case you were wondering, it was a Shuttle by United Airlines 737 flight from Seattle to San Francisco, then on a United Airlines 747 flight from San Francisco to Washington, DC.
Being the youngest of 3 brothers, I had seen my older brothers take trips and heard about frequent flyer numbers and points. So I knew that I needed to sign-up with United Airlines’ frequent flyer program before my trip.
While I was at it, I signed-up for the Northwest Airlines, Continental, and Delta Airlines frequent flyer programs too. I still have my original frequent flyer cards.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
For years, my friends have come to me for travel advice: where to go, how to get there on the cheap, etc. Of course, loving to earn every mile and point that I can, I would also interject some tips on how to earn more bang for their buck. Everyone…I mean EVERYONE said I needed to start a blog.
I’m not very technologically advanced so the concept seemed pretty daunting. With the help of a friend, I launched my blog, Justin Does… Most people don’t get the name, but it all started when I began to do status updates on Facebook of places where I was visiting: Justin Does…Seattle, or Justin Does…New Orleans. The idea seemed to stick.
There are tons of miles, points, and travel blogs out there. I’m just 1 of many. What makes mine special, since you asked, is that it’s 100% me. My friends that read the blog say all the time, “Oh man, Justin, I can totally hear you saying this.” I find writing blog posts to be therapy, but I also like to use it as an opportunity to document where I’ve been and what I’ve done.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
You can earn miles and points for pretty much everything you do. These days, most everyone shops on the internet but not too many people realize that shopping portals will give you miles or points or cash back just by stopping at their site first. The key for me is to get extra points for things I’m going to do anyway.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
This is really tough because I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world. However, the 1 trip that really stands out is when I was an undergraduate and I studied monkeys on a remote Indonesian island. While the primary purpose of the trip was to collect data for my thesis, I planned my trip to see almost all of the Southeast Asian countries before and after my fieldwork.
I found cheap airfare from Seattle to Bangkok, Thailand, for less than $600 and then traveled overland to Jakarta, Indonesia. On the way back, I made my way from Saigon, Vietnam, through Cambodia, and then back to Bangkok. I only budgeted myself $25 a day (this included all overland transportation, lodging, meals, and beer). I’m still in touch with many of the people I met on this trip.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They think I’m crazy, of course. Most people think I put a lot of effort into earning more miles and points, but I don’t go out of my way from doing things I would do normally.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
For shopping online, I always go to evreward to see which portal pays out the best rate for where I want to shop.
When planning a trip and researching airfare, I always use Yapta, which monitors flights and itineraries and emails you when prices drop. I’ve saved thousands of dollars using Yapta. Yapta can also be used to track existing airfare purchases so when the fare drops, you know to call the airline and get a travel credit for any fare on JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
When I was an undergraduate, United Airlines had a program called CollegePlus as a way to attract college students. I earned thousands of bonus miles for just flying United Airlines when I was in college. I also earned 10,000 United Airlines miles just for graduating. I earned 2 bachelor degrees simultaneously, so CollegePlus awarded me the bonus miles for each degree. Score!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had learned early on to pick 1 airline and 1 hotel chain instead of bouncing around. Instead, being the typical college student, I always went with the lowest fare even if this meant flying at horrible times or routings (think flying from Seattle to Los Angeles via St. Louis). I wish I had been more cognizant of elite status.
Not that I would have paid a lot more to fly 1 carrier, but at least it would have been on my radar to try to focus on remaining loyal to maximize my miles and perks.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’ve kept my boarding pass for every flight I’ve ever taken. My collection ranges from my 1st Shuttle by United Airlines flight to a hand-written Thai Airways boarding pass issued in Jakarta. It’s really the only thing I hoard!
Any parting words?
While First Class flights and fancy hotel rooms are always enjoyable, they are just nice perks along the way. I’m perfectly happy in coach (even on long, overnight flights) as it is about the destination and the lifelong memories that are made during the journey.
Get out there and travel!
Justin – 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!