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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: Milenomics
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I was a cash back fanatic until ~10 years ago. I was getting married and struggling to put together a honeymoon. A friend of mine, Brandon, told me to look into miles. I started reading, and joined some forums. I thought “this seems easy,” so I started collecting miles and points.
And boy, it was easy to earn miles. A little too easy, maybe.
But using them seemed impossible. Turns out my friend, Brandon, had never actually used miles, he’d only earned them.
I found out the hard way, miles and points are not for everyone. It was not possible to use my miles for the dates and places we wanted to visit. So the honeymoon was booked with cash. But I started to see strategic areas where I could use miles and points. And Milenomics started to form based on this strategy.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
The blog started because I was getting tired of friends, family, and strangers failing to use their miles, yet continuing to earn more. I had already experienced failure. I realized miles and points are not the only travel tool, but are a tool that sometimes fits the need.
What’s special about the blog? Well, it’s back from the dead. Not back from the dead in a zombie apocalypse way. But back from the death of miles. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I personally think it is the best blog on Earth.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
More miles? I’m not sure I would recommend more miles. I recommend the right miles, and especially flexible ones.
I argue people should balance what they have with what they need. We call it a Demand Schedule on Milenomics. Excess is, well, excessive. And the idea that earning miles will someday get harder and harder fails to look at the bigger economic picture of the world of miles and points as a whole.
Everyone, on every side is loving it; the banks, the airlines, and us. Miles and points aren’t going anywhere any time soon, so don’t hoard.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’m assuming this is usually a good memory, but I’ll share a bad one because it came to mind first. For me, it was when I was involuntarily denied boarding on a 13-hour flight, then downgraded. I spent 13 hours flying home upset. And then spent the next 2 years fighting for EU-261 compensation. This escalated through the European courts and ended when the airline filed for bankruptcy. It still bugs me.
Yet I still continue to travel…why? Because travel is transformative. It unwinds my world and rewinds it in a different way. I’m constantly traveling in search of peace and quiet.
That sometimes involves 45-minute speedboat rides on the open ocean to a small island with only a handful of hotels. Or it means hiking the Inca trail. Trips end, but the memories persist and the change to your inner being is equally permanent.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Honestly, they long ago lost the patience to listen to me ramble on and on about miles and points. I also learned complex answers aren’t what people want to hear. I now just politely smile and nod when I’m asked about something related to miles and points. The blog is where the complex answers go.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I like flexibility. And miles often demand flexibility, but also they reward you with flexibility. Award flights are better than the cheapest paid tickets because they can typically be cancelled for less than a paid ticket costs. So I make speculative bookings when I know I can cancel a flight later on.
I’m a big proponent of a Demand Schedule, which is a fancy way of saying make a list of where you want to go and approximately when you want to go there. I’ll book anything and everything I can on my demand schedule with miles & points that allow me cancel with no penalty.
Then I’ll wait for something better to come along. Maybe a fare war, or a mistake fare, or a deeply discounted ticket. Maybe Business Class award seats will open up, or I might scrap the entire trip and not go on it at all.
I can use the Demand Schedule to target what I earn. If I have a trip I want to take next summer. I have the next few months to collect the miles & points I might need for it.
Lowered expectations are another important tool in this “hobby.” We talk a lot on Milenomics about how travel is never free; there’s a cost to traveling with miles and points. If you want to go to a specific place, you don’t get to pick the dates.
Or if you have to pick the dates you probably can’t pick the place. And you might possibly fly the wrong way around the world, or in a cabin other than the one you wanted to be in.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I earned 25,000 miles buying Biscoff Cookie Butter through the old US Airways Grand Slam promotion. I hardly ever plug products, but this stuff is so good; even though the miles I earned are long gone, my love for it continues.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had known that there are situations where miles and points work and situations where they don’t. I’m not making a blanket statement; what’s valuable to me might be useless to the next person, and vice versa.
And there are miles that, regardless of how great the offer, you just have to pass on. If you live in a city that’s not served by Southwest, for example, should you be earning Southwest points? Thinking that way would have been helpful to a younger me.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m very shy and extremely private about my personal life. Which seems odd when you write the greatest blog in the world, no?
Any parting words?
Thanks for reaching out and inviting me on here. I wasn’t really online much for the past few years and so I didn’t know what was going on with Million Mile Secrets. It’s nice to see you guys are still around.
Sam – 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!