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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: Kangaroos & Kimonos
Laurie writes Kangaroos & Kimonos to show readers how to travel more, travel better, and for much less.
You can follow her on Facebook.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points years ago, but it was always random and unorganized. Last fall I started diving in head first.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I have been traveling for many years, but something changed about 8 years ago when I read about Couchsurfing. I often stayed in hotels and felt a little empty after my travels. Since, I’ve hosted over 350 people in my home and traveled to ~50 countries.
My 4-year old has already been to 17 countries.
People think sites like Couchsurfing are only for the single guy sleeping on a couch – not so! We have done free hospitality stays around the world. Many times getting the whole place to ourselves. We stayed in a wine making house for 3 weeks with a wine writer touring the vineyards of Piedmont.
We’ve made friends for a lifetime and learned how to make local dishes. All while paying nothing! We are traveling more and so much better, for so much less!
When my family went to Dublin for the Navy-Notre Dame football game, hotels were a fortune and no award rooms available. Navy was charging $4,000 per person for their package.
So I got online, found a special fare, and got a beautiful apartment on the riverfront for a week FREE! We have so many similar stories that include cities all around the US. For example, I once got a free stay at a beachfront condo in Saint Thomas!
Friends are always intrigued about my methods. I started doing seminars locally and knew I had to start a blog and write a book. I’m working on the book and the blog is up and running. My blog is special because no one really talks about flying AND staying for free!
I attended Frequent Traveler University in fall 2015 and it changed my life. I knew about staying for free around the world, but I could now delve into flying free too! Afterwards, I couldn’t sleep as my brain was processing so much great information from that weekend.
I learned all about Million Mile Secrets then and read it everyday now. My husband is totally on board and we are constantly learning.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The 1 thing people can do to get more miles is use shopping portals.
I recently purchased a futon and went through the United Airlines shopping portal. I found Kohl’s was offering 8X United Airlines miles! I bought a futon and 2 cool chairs for ~$900, things I needed to buy anyway.
We used the Discover It card to earn 5% cash back at department stores that quarter, which Discover will match at the end of your 1st year. So for buying a necessity we earned 7,200 United Airlines miles ($900 spent x 8 United Airlines miles per $1), $130 in Kohl’s cash, and 10% back with the Discover it card. It’s CRAZY!
Friends say, “Oh, that’s too much to process.” But once you know, it’s just innate. Every time my husband needs something from Home Depot, I ask him to get on a portal and buy it there for pick-up at the store.
We have earned 18,000 points just this quarter using shopping portals for things we were going to buy anyway! On our upcoming trip we will only get 1,100 miles for going to Costa Rica.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
There are so many memorable experiences! One of my favorites was this past fall, I took my 4-year old on a month long trip to Spain. We stayed in Seville, Malaga, Chinchilla, and Barcelona all free through hospitality exchange.
In both Malaga and Barcelona, we had a 3 bedroom apartment to ourselves for 10 days. The host families moved into their parents’ place very close by and showed us around in their spare time. We went to amusement parks, ate at the best local spots, played in the parks with local kids, and even ate together quite often.
My greatest compliment was when someone stopped and asked if I was a local. I even got free daycare at times when they would watch my daughter for an evening out. None of that would ever happen in a hotel.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My family and friends are very interested when I tell them my travel stories. My husband is totally on board. My 4-year old is very fortunate as I will home school her while we travel the world! If only I could get her credit cards 😳.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
One tool or trick is to use credit cards card to pay for everything. We pay our mortgage, car payment, tax bills, and almost everything else with cards to meet minimum spending requirements and earn sign-up bonuses.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The least expected way to earn points is definitely shopping portals. You would be surprised to see how many stores you can find by clicking through portals to earn miles with airlines like Southwest and United Airlines.
Also, always complain if there is a problem. I had problems during various hotel stays and they have compensated me with points.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
One thing I wish I knew then that I know now is that having lots of credit cards does NOT hurt your credit score. It’s all about how you use them and paying your bills on time.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Readers would be surprised to know, I won $10,000 in a dance trivia contest on The Regis and Kelly Show, I donated a kidney anonymously, and I’m a Gulf War veteran.
Any parting words?
If you want to travel more, travel better, and travel FREE, check out my blog Kangaroos & Kimonos!
Thanks to Daraius and Emily for enlightening the world 1 traveler at a time!
Laurie – 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!