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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: World On A Dime
Kelly writes World On A Dime to stay in-touch with friends and family around the world and share her travel adventures.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I grew up in Massachusetts my whole life, but when it came time for college I wanted to go somewhere new for a different adventure. I ended up in Nebraska and began collecting some airline miles as I flew home for holidays, but I never paid super close attention. I’ve collected some for work over the last few years as well, but really started concentrating on airline miles at the beginning of 2014.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog last spring after hearing from so many friends and family that I should really start writing about my travel adventures!
As I began learning about the world of travel hacking, I dove in full speed ahead, and people were shocked by what I was telling them. So I started my blog to help spread the word and to keep my family and friends who live far away in the loop on my travel activities.
Plus my husband, Pablo, takes amazing photos of our travels and I wanted to document those somewhere for others to see!
I think my blog is special because I really try to gear it towards the new college graduate crowd. Most of the time this demographic is facing thousands of dollars in loans and starting out at low paying jobs.
But this is such a prime time in life to travel before many people have children or big mortgages to worry about!
I’m so passionate that money should not be the hindrance to traveling. There is way too much to be learned from experiencing other cultures firsthand for anyone to have to miss out due to lack of funds.
I also try to include any and all resources I used in my travel planning on my site as well. It can be exhausting at times going from 1 blog to the next to find resources, so I try to pool mine all together so everyone can see my reasoning behind choosing each hotel, flight, and excursion.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The obvious answer to this is credit card sign-up bonuses. There’s nothing else I’ve found that’s come close to competing with this. But I also think a great option is online shopping through portals.
Whenever I have a purchase to make online, I always, always check out the portal options out there. It’s extra free points that you can earn for a purchase you were going to make anyway!
One other thing is that I’m usually the 1 organizing big events for our friends. I try to make all the big purchases and then just have everyone pay me back for their portions. This has been especially good for wedding or baby shower gifts where the group all pitches in for 1 large present, and I make the purchase with my credit card.
This often simplifies things and friends are happy to have me take care of the details which in turn translates to more points for me!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
The million dollar question that’s almost impossible to answer! I think our most memorable experience was our trip to the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.
Backpacking across Europe with my husband for 3 weeks last year was an incredible experience all around, but we also really love hiking national parks here in the US. We prefer the outdoor adventure style of travel most (you won’t find us laying out on a beach much).
We just returned from a recent trip swimming with whale sharks in Cancun.
Probably the biggest, craziest, experience of all was meeting an Australian girl, Rachel, while I was living as a volunteer in Honduras and backpacking through Nicaragua together (with a highlight of Volcano boarding in Leon!). We became great friends.
She later visited me in the US and I traveled to Australia months later to visit her as well. We still keep in touch and I’m hoping to see her next year when we travel to Thailand in March.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Mostly they think I’m crazy and that it’s too dangerous to have so many credit cards. Others just don’t quite believe it and probably think I’m going to end up in jail because somehow I’m participating in illegal activities in order to go on these trips for so cheap. Most of all they just think it’s way too complicated and a ton of work.
My family traveled a lot when I was growing up and took my sisters and me to all 50 states. My mom always used hotel points for these trips and in the past few months she’s started exploring the airline credit card options as well, so there is hope!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I use OneNote through Microsoft Office to keep myself organized with all the details. This helps especially to keep track of the 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points bonus categories each quarter upon activation, up to $1,500 with the Chase Freedom and to know when I applied for cards and when I need to cancel, etc.
I also have a bucket list of all the destinations I want to hit and some tentative ideas of when we’ll go there over the next few years.
Since we love adventure travel, I want to make sure we’re checking all our extreme trips off the list, that won’t be quite so easy to do once we have kids, and saving some of our tamer options for the future.
I also have a shoebox at home filled with all our credit card info. Each card has an envelope with all the terms, agreements, and info such as sign-up dates, bonuses, etc. I keep the cards we don’t use on a regular basis here so my wallet isn’t exploding all the time.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
About 6 months ago I tried transferring points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to Southwest. The system had an error and kicked me out. I logged back in and attempted again and this time it was successful.
However when I went back a little while later Chase had deducted the miles from both tries! I called them right away to get it taken care of and they were gracious and returned the points. My miles showed up again in my Chase account, but a few months later my Southwest account still had double the miles available as well.
While I would’ve loved to keep the double miles (30,000 extra!) I knew it wasn’t right so I called Chase and Southwest 3 times to get it corrected. Both companies told me it was not their problem and the other company would have to make the change. On the last call the Southwest agent finally just started laughing. She told me to enjoy the extra miles and have a good night.
I was not expecting that at all and wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy for anyone else to try. But in my case I tried to fix it and ended up with a pleasant surprise in the end!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Honestly, I started out slowly and I think it was the perfect way to go. I was really nervous the 1st time I ordered Visa gift cards wondering if something would happen and I wouldn’t be able to load them to Bluebird or they would be lost in the mail.
Just don’t go too fast at the beginning and make sure you feel comfortable with everything.
One thing I am still working on learning now is how different airline alliances work and which airlines can be booked with miles from United Airlines and American Airlines.
Stopover and open jaw rules can also be very confusing so I’m still learning all the ins and outs of those as well. I wish I had known right at the beginning before I started booking.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I was home-schooled my whole life up until college and I think that’s what really has contributed to my wanderlust. We would take long trips all across the country during the school year when other kids were still in school. So we were able to avoid crowds and long lines at the popular places where we experienced a lot of science, history, and art firsthand.
I can’t wait to develop the travel bug in my own kids someday as well!
Any parting words?
Sometimes I’m not sure which I enjoy more, doing all the planning and researching for a trip or actually traveling on it when the time comes!
I love poring over blogs, books, and websites like Million Mile Secrets to get more information and plan the perfect itinerary. My worst fear is returning from a trip and learning about an amazing experience we missed while we were there!
This interview series is especially helpful in finding new resources to add my list all the time. Thanks, Emily and Daraius!
Kelly – 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!