From Getting Chased By Wild Boars in the Amazon to Meeting Her Lifelong Hero, Janice Makes the Most of Miles and Points!
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Welcome to the next installment of our Reader Success Series where Million Mile Secrets Readers share how they booked a trip with miles & points to get Big Travel with Small Money! This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Janice is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money. If you would like to be inspired by more stories like this one, take a second to subscribe to our newsletter!
What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
My name is Janice Schacter Lintz, and I blog at www.JaniceLintz.com.
I have been using miles & points for a long time now, but I have upped my game over the last few years. Over 20 years ago, I paid an expensive surgical bill for my daughter using a variety of credit cards. We traveled for years on those rewards.
Back in the day, my mother planned our family vacations with various airline promotions. Once, we flew on Eastern Air Lines (that’s no longer in operation) and took advantage of a deal that allowed us to fly anywhere over a 21 day period, as long as we were flying in the same direction. To this day I am not sure how she managed to secure tickets for 5 family members to so many destinations pre-internet!
We visited Jamaica, Bermuda, Mexico, and Las Vegas all in a single vacation. We looked like jet-setters when we were just a typical American family. Traveling on points is in my DNA.
What was the goal of your trip?
My goal isn’t about just a single trip, it’s to see every country and territory in the world. I have a severe case of FOMO, Fear-Of-Missing-Out. 🙂
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I have been collecting miles & points for a long time. But I had to pay off a sizable legal bill from my divorce, so I turned an obstacle into an opportunity by applying for credit cards to amass a significant cache of points.
The trips gave me freedom from the divorce process. I am in the midst of writing a book on the topic. It’s important to never waste a crisis.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
I have a number of different cards so that I can utilize the best card for any particular situation.
I was previously unable to obtain the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or the United℠ Explorer Card because of Chase’s 5/24 rule, so I used a few AMEX credit cards to earn Membership Rewards points which I then transferred to Air Canada Aeroplan miles, an airline that’s part of Star Alliance. The AMEX credit cards included The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express.
Thankfully, I now have the Chase Sapphire Preferred®!
Last year, I added a trip to Bologna so that my daughter could meet me and dine at Osteria de Francescana for her birthday after I traveled to the Caucasus and Lebanon. I use the stopovers to add an extra zest to every trip. My mother lives on within me.
The Citi Prestige® Card and Citi Premier Card cards are also a must. I use the points for the flights not covered by typical frequent flier programs. And I am hoping to use my points to visit St. Helena on my next adventure!
Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
The Platinum Card® from American Express: The AMEX Platinum is a permanent fixture in my wallet because of its medical evacuation program. After being chased by wild boars in the Amazon, I realized I had no idea what I would do if I had a medical emergency. The AMEX Platinum solves that issue. I will never cancel the card especially since I have had it for so long that it helps my credit score. Plus, earning 5X AMEX Membership Rewards points for flights is incredible.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: I am so excited to finally have this card in my wallet! I now earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on dining and travel, and because of the flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I can transfer the points to any of their travel partners, including United and Hyatt!
Citi Prestige® Card & Citi Premier Card: The Citi Prestige card offers an excellent travel credit plus the 4th night free award. The Citi Premier Card earn 3X ThankYou points on travel, including gas stations, and 2X ThankYou points on dining and entertainment. But the Price Rewind feature on all Citi cards to me is highly underestimated. I just moved, so I had a ton of purchases. Rewinding the price has become my new sport.
The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express: Receiving more points for anything that is not covered by a bonus is terrific. The AMEX Blue Business Plus allows you to earn 2X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on all purchases up to $50,000 (then 1X). Many of my medical bills are on this card. I am surprised no credit card has a medical category. Again, obstacles become opportunities.
How did you search and find the award flights?
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
I use TripAdvisor to find the properties but then I contact the hotel directly to see if they will offer me a lower rate, including waiving the single supplement for all-inclusive safari lodges which is my pet peeve.
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
Getting all the flights to work out in Africa is exasperating. I want to sit down in one room with the African tourism boards to explain that they could boost their tourism significantly, if they would open up flights between countries. The situation is improving but not fast enough for my trip.
Hotels that are still old-school and don’t permit online bookings are also frustrating. Some of the properties in Rwanda and Uganda are exhausting to book since they appear to discourage individuals from planning their own trips. I think they hurt the country’s tourism by making it unnecessarily complicated.
These issues require an enormous amount of time, which is impossible to avoid. But thankfully, well-traveled friends have enabled me to speed up the process.
What are you most excited about seeing on your trip. Parks, restaurants, famous sites, hidden gems, etc.
I am in the process of planning the entire trip. My goals is to travel every 4 to 6 weeks so that I can prepare the logistics for each segment. I am also in remission from cancer, so I need to have various tests between trips and also maintain a New York residency for my health insurance. I am also of a certain age where I need a home. I am traveling every 4 to 6 weeks so that I can prepare each segment.
The first trip was a test trip post-cancer to El Salvador to see if I could physically handle the traveling. The adventure was an outstanding success. I don’t think I ever appreciated traveling as much as that trip. The country is highly underrated, has fantastic natural beauty, delicious food, and the US dollar goes a long way there.
The next trip on my tour is Africa. I transferred AMEX Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan for an open-jaw ticket. I fly from Newark to Abidjan for 3 days to see the Basilica at Yamoussoukro, Abidjan and the UNESCO site, Grand Bassam. Then, I fly to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (Ethiopia) overnight where I will receive a free stay thanks to Ethiopian Airways. Plus, I will be able to visit Mount Entoto.
From Addis Ababa Bole, I fly to the Baramita Airport (Burundi) for 3 days. And the 3rd leg of my ticket with Aeroplan will be from the O.R. Tambo International Airport (South Africa), back to Addis Abada Bole, and then to Newark.
I was originally going to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but recent kidnappings of tourists closed the Virunga National Park, so instead, I’ll be traveling to Zanzibar. Part of my stay will be at the Park Hyatt Zanzibar, which I’m really excited about because both the hotel and island look stunning!
I will also be using Flying Blue (the loyalty program of Air France & KLM) points to travel to Comoros and Madagascar. Sadly, there were changes made to the Flying Blue program before I could book my return flight out of Madagascar, so now I’m just hoping it won’t cost too much more.
My goal is to see the best each country has to offer, and I don’t want to miss out on anything.
I love everywhere I visit. Each country has unique offerings and surprises which is what makes traveling so fantastic. Food, however, is a large part of travel for me. My goal is to eat my way around the world. My meals are very memorable to me.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
My entire life, I wanted to do one thing which was to see the whole world. My trip isn’t a race to be the fastest. I am not going for a record.
I raised 2 incredible children, and now it is my turn to live the dream. Getting back to the core of who I am is what I hope to accomplish on this journey.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is a good starting point. Earn enough points for 1 trip, and you will be hooked. The hobby seems complicated, but it’s about baby steps. Add one aspect at a time, or it can be overwhelming.
I only added shopping portals in the last year, and I cannot believe the points I left on the table. But if I had tried to do everything at once, I would never have started. So, better to start slow. Slow and steady wins the race.
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