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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: No Mas Coach
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I think it started big for us back in 2011.
We dated long distance and the only way to be able to see each other with any regularity was to fly back and forth between Miami and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since we didn’t wanna have to pay for all of it, generating miles and points to do it for free was a huge deal for us so we had to get pretty resourceful in order to make it work.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
In the beginning it was a way for us to share some of our experiences with friends and family. The more we posted, the more we found out that we actually had a lot to share! We like to find ways to maximize travel in First and Business class.
Life’s too short to fly in coach after all, especially if you can do it for the same price, or less, in Business Class! We bring the perspective of a couple 9 to 5 desk jockeys who make it a point to earn miles in everything that we do. We have limited vacation time, so we utilize long weekends, holidays, and just plain ingenuity to visit as many countries as we can!
So far this year, we’ve visited 13 countries. And last year the count was at 22.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Everything, that’s the key. One thing won’t do it, so you have to go all out and get a little bit from here, a little bit there. Then in the long run (or not so long) it all adds up.
Perfect example: People may be surprised to find out that flying isn’t what earns you the most miles. In fact, the vast majority of the over 1,000,000 miles that we earn every year are from online shopping, eating out, rental cars, ride sharing, and a little bit of “creative” spending.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
This is too hard to nail down for us. Thanks to utilizing all the points and miles we’ve earned, we have had so many life changing experiences. From walking with white rhinos in Zambia, to hot air balloons over Luxor, to dining with an unknown local family in Ben’s ancestral town in Spain.
With every trip we make memories that last a lifetime.
That’s the power of travel. One of our best friends we met at a hotel in Fort Lauderdale (he was visiting from Amsterdam), and since then we’ve made it a point to meet at least once a year in some far flung place.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They don’t understand, they think we’re crazy, and that’s ok! We do so many random and obscure things to earn miles. They usually just stare at us and their eyes glaze over when we try to explain what we do and how we do it.
Next month, we’re flying to Panama in Business Class during a long weekend via Seattle – San Francisco – Los Angeles – New York – Miami, and back via Miami – Chicago – New York – Los Angeles – San Francisco -Seattle.
Things like that make perfect sense to us in the miles and points community, but make the uninitiated cringe in disbelief. That being said, anytime they need help, we’re the first ones that they call!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Ditch the debit cards or cash! Every time we see someone pay with a debit card we die a little bit on the inside. Even if it’s 20 miles a day, that’s 600 miles a month, which is 7,200 miles a year. Small changes like that make a big difference long term.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
We recently took some test drives at a Cadillac dealership for American Airlines miles (even though we happily commute via bus to work every day). Jon went for a Bosley Hair Transplant consultation for Delta miles a few years back, even though he’s been happily bald since 2003.
In 2007, after fighting with trying to figure out how to insert contact lenses, Jon gave up and sought out Lasik surgery. Turns out that month Delta was running a promo for both the consult and the procedure (win-win!).
And just recently, we got Solar Panel consultations for our townhouse for American Airlines miles. The Homeowner’s Association wasn’t too happy with that meeting, but who cares 🙂 Nothing is off limits for miles.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Diversification is key. When we started we were 100% Delta and 100% Marriott. Sometimes it was hard for us to get to where we needed to go, because those two companies didn’t service the places we often visited.
Once we realized that diversification was the key, we expanded our horizons. Now we hold elite status with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, Starwood, IHG, Marriott, and Hilton Hotels. We have in fact reached a point where we don’t have sufficient time off to burn through all the points. #FirstWorldProblems
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
We both hold full-time desk jobs, completely unrelated to the travel industry and none of us currently travel for work, but we still manage to visit at least 20 countries every year. Between the two of us, we hold 2.6 million miles and points, 5 different passports, 3 citizenships, and have visited 32 unique countries together since we met.
We travel upwards of 175,000 miles a year, but no matter what, it never fails that one of us usually forgets his toothbrush. Just goes to show that even the most seasoned travelers make rookie mistakes!
Any parting words?
If all of this seems daunting at first, you’re right! It is a lot of information to soak up. We started very slowly and kept building on the information we learned on blogs, at live seminars, chatting with others in the field, and eventually found our own path.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the latest way to earn miles & points, but just because it’s new and shiny doesn’t mean it will work for you. We’ve tried plenty of things to earn miles and points, and trust us, many a free weekend were spent driving around town from store to store seeking out a discount or some other deal.
Find what you like to do, find what works with your schedule, and start small. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to caviar and champagne in the sky (or a 2-star hotel in Kansas if that’s your thing…)
Thanks for reading, and we hope that you’ll join us at 36,000 feet soon!
Jon and Ben – 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!