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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Noob Traveler
Geoff Whitmore writes Noob Traveler to show folks new to miles and points (noobs) how to get started with collecting miles and points. Geoff writes in a very upbeat and engaging way so I was delighted to chat with him about miles and points!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles just 3 years ago. Yep, newbie alert. I got into the game out of jealousy. My buddy and his wife kept taking these trips overseas and I envied them.
I couldn’t figure out how they were able to afford to travel like this. One day, I asked him if he lived off of a trust fund or inherited some money from a great aunt. He laughed and said “I play the miles game.” I have been hooked ever since.
Why did you start Noob Traveler? What’s special about it?
When my wife and I got married, we always dreamed about going to Europe. We told ourselves that we would save for 5 years and then maybe we could afford to rub shoulders with the Euros.
Because of the previously mentioned miles/rewards enlightenment that I had (thanks to my friend), we ended up traveling to Italy and France before we ever thought possible. We had a vacation of a lifetime, and for only a fraction of what we thought it would cost.
Thus began my love for rewards travel. I started diving into every forum and blog, soaking up all the tricks and tips. I became a miles earning mad man. I understand how overwhelming it can be to get started in this racket. I’m often reminded by close friends when consulting them just how confusing and intimidating it can be.
So, I started noobtraveler to be an oasis for newbies to come and find the resources that they need without any judgment. There is a wealth of information out there and deals are changing daily. Let me comb through flyertalk and milepoint for hours for you. I’ll do the dirty work.
I’ve dedicated myself to educating other newbies and the average traveler on the points game. I want them to enjoy dream vacations like I have. Anyone can see all the world has to offer and do so on a shoestring!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
It’s been said many times that signing up for credit cards and raking in the bonuses is the best way. It’s true. However, there is a responsible way of doing this. I would never encourage anyone to go into debt or to try to meet a spend outside of their comfort level.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Oh boy, where do I start? The most memorable travel experience I had was probably in Florence, Italy. After an amazing day in the markets buying leather goods and seeing the Duomo and other fabulous works of art, my friends and I returned to our rental car at the parking garage to find the garage was shut down (and it was only about 9 PM!).
We were losing it, because we had nowhere to go. We had driven in from Tuscany that morning into Florence to shop and sightsee. I suppose we could’ve gotten back by taxi or gotten a hotel last minute, but that’s fool’s gold. A rewards traveler doesn’t pay full price. It was a wild adventure from there on out… after many phone calls and much troubleshooting, we decided to stay at a hostel.
Lots of cheap wine, horrible sleep, a missed trip to Rome the next day, and the worst french toast I’ve ever had, later…it’s a memory I wouldn’t replace.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
There’s no question that my family, especially my wife, and my friends think I’m totally obsessed with the topic. I really can’t blame them, because the truth is, I am! I live and breathe this stuff now, because I’ve seen the benefits. My wife does complain less now that she doesn’t have to pay for vacations, but she still rolls her eyes in the evening when I’m on milepoint or flyertalk or Million Mile Secrets. That’s where I soak in the knowledge and make vaca’s happen for pennies.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
The “two browser trick” isn’t too shabby. I loved cashing in on the 150k AA miles I earned. It has also been fun to apply for the AA business card. I collected the 75k bonus twice on the Biz card bringing my personal AA credit card bounty to 300k miles this year. I’m thinking about getting it again, but I don’t want to be greedy.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
In the Grand Slam this year, I received a hit and miles for getting a car insurance quote. This was absurd to me. I never would have thought that I could earn miles by signing up for a sharebuilder account or canceling and re-signing up for Netflix.
I love finding these random, creative ways to earn miles. It’s fun and addictive. Three years ago, I couldn’t have seen myself doing these outlandish things for miles.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
The easy answer is to say that I wish I’d started earlier or been more aggressive when I did start applying for credit cards and looking for promos. But, I’m actually happy that I took my time and researched. It has put me in a better position long term.
The one thing I wish I’d known starting out is that there is such a friendly, helpful community out there. I would have solicited more advice from the pros. It took me a year to figure out that there are other people just as passionate as me who are willing to help and converse on miles matters.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I am a three time reigning pie eating champion at a local fall festival.
Any parting words?
My advice to all is to research, research, research. This is the key to obtaining the miles that make dreams come true. Also, have fun with it. Let’s not be an uptight community of travel rewards hoarders. There are so many people out there who don’t know they can see the world on a shoestring!
Geoff – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!