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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: Milly Lives
Milly writes Milly Lives to inspire readers to travel around the world.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Well this is super new to me. I’ve aspired to travel the world but never really had the means to do so growing up. My big family really didn’t have the funds to travel so it was always a lofty goal for me.
I applied for study abroad in college since I figured it was the easiest way to get out and I was even given a scholarship to cover most of the cost of spending a summer in Europe.
I then caught the December mistake fare to Dubai and the research led to a lot of travel hacking blogs which just fascinated me. I then realized the potential of this hobby so I applied for a few cards that offered the best sign-up bonuses.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Mainly to document my own personal journey, I didn’t grow up with money and have had my fare share of financial mistakes. I was also diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was 16, became super depressed and really thought my life was over.
Eventually, I realized that life truly is short and I don’t want to regret missing out on things or be sad all the time! I’ve also learned a lot in terms of managing and saving money so I like to share my financial journey.
To be honest, a lot of the blogs I came across were from middle-aged males or families and couples that though helpful, I couldn’t connect with.
I am a Latin American female in my 20’s from New York City, I travel alone a lot and my blog reflects this.
If I can inspire a young lady to get out of her comfort zone and travel or do anything out of the ordinary, that’s awesome! I blog about the people, food, and art I see during my travels.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Well this site does a great job of covering everything, but seriously using a rewards cards for every single purchase you make is key. I don’t remember the last time I paid for something in cash. Everyday I see people paying in cash. The way I see it, I’m going to pay this bill anyway, so why not use a card and get points for free!
I notice that everyone in this points game wishes they could’ve started sooner than later, but it’s better late than never.
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What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’d have to say, my 1st international trip in 2012 when I was still in college.
I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, for the summer and a scholarship paid the majority of my expense. When I told everyone about it, the 1st thing they’d say was, “Are you going alone?” (Yup!) and “Are you scared?” (Nope!)
More recently, the Christmas Day Etihad mistake fare (this deal has expired) was amazing! I booked travel for February and was able to afford 2 tickets with a day trip in Paris!
The overnight flight from Paris to Abu Dhabi was thrilling! We rushed to make it and once we arrived, the agent handed us our tickets and we were upgraded to Business Class! This was shocking and amazing, I wanted to cry! The seats became fully flat beds, and the champagne started flowing as soon as we sat down, wow!
Abu Dhabi and Dubai tickets were so cheap I actually took the plunge and booked rooms at each city’s Sofitel hotels, which were the true epitome of 5-star luxury. The city was just so over the top but had a lot of rich cultural history. It was more than I could’ve asked for.
I hope to return 1 day, but it’ll never be as amazing as that 1st trip!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Most people just don’t understand how it works and are more concerned about the impact on their credit. My credit is actually better now than it was before I got started with this hobby.
My goal is to go to Bali for my birthday in November. When I tell people that I’m planning to use points and miles to get there, they really think I’m crazy!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Even if you aren’t a fan of tweeting, it’s a useful tool. I’ve snagged 2 mistake fares since Christmas. I also get notifications directly to my phone, when certain travel hackers post about deals.
Time is precious when you are looking for deals and the elusive mistake fares but Twitter is the fastest way to find out about these deals.
What I’ve done is create a list of all the travel hackers and bloggers I’m interested in and I just check that list for information, deals, and posts that interest me. It’s a time saver that I always recommend.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Using my card to dine at certain restaurants.
I also charged someone else’s week-long car rental to my card they gave me the money to pay the card. But make sure it’s someone you trust before doing this!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Would’ve started sooner of course! I would also be smarter and research certain cards more instead of randomly applying to them.
My initial application for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card was denied, but if I would’ve known what they tend to look for maybe I would’ve held off on applying.
Also, set goals. At 1st I saw myself becoming a miles monster but soon realized, I can’t just hoard miles, I have to use them! Especially because they don’t always retain value.
Working towards goals gives you a great prize to look forward to and the ability to plan and use your miles for an affordable experience that you’ll remember forever.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I recently dyed my hair purple. I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis and besides my knee bothering my from time to time, I’m actually fine.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a concentration in Latin American and African Studies, with a Minor in Spanish. I’m super easy going and friendly too of course!
Any parting words?
If you’re new to this hobby, just know there is no need to rush, you can go as slow or fast as you like. Do your research and know how to manage your finances before you start applying to every offer you see.
Traveling is something that so many people want to do, but they never actually take the 1st step. When people see my pictures and posts they are quick to say, “Wow, I wish I could do that!” They can and it’s easier than they think.
I used to be that person, but I no longer wait on friends or family to book or plan a trip, which has been a huge part in being a successful traveler.
I’ve learned no matter how many times I tell someone to get a passport, make a travel fund, and start earning miles they don’t listen. Sometimes you have to just do it alone!
I’ve learned experiences are more valuable than material things. Never forget that the flights and the hotels are only a part of the journey.
Milly – 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!