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Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Magic of Miles
Melinda writes Magic of Miles to offer helpful hotel & trip reviews, pictures, program analysis, promotions, and tips about learning how to save on travel.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
It is said that the love of travel runs in my veins. My parents met in the Philippines when my mom worked for the Department of Defense and my dad was a pilot with the Air Force. So as a child I was intrigued with tales of far away places.
My professional photographer/astronomer uncle brought me back trinkets from foreign lands, and even my grandparents traveled to places like the USSR when it wasn’t a popular time to travel.
Hanging up my pointe shoes after a stint with the San Diego ballet, I switched directions completely, finished college, and went to work for a really great mechanical engineering company that offered 3 day weekends.
I calculated my costs and was surprised to find that I could buy a round-trip ticket to Japan for less than I’d spend staying home and going out to dinner with friends during a weekend. A couple of weekend trips later, I’d earned a ton of miles that could be redeemed for a free flight.
I was hooked, and feverishly created spreadsheets to maximize how many miles and points I could earn.
I’d wish everyone a good weekend, gleefully knowing that in a few hours I’d be exploring a new country. Monday morning it would be back to business as usual, and in the afternoon I’d enjoy a pretzel picked up in Frankfurt just a few hours before.
The only worry I had was weather, and I remember dreading telling my boss that the reason I’d be in 3 hours late Monday was because my flight from London was terribly delayed.
That’s how it started for me.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
A little over a year ago I started Magic of Miles. I love doing research on hotels before staying at them, and was frustrated by the lack of good photos and credible reviews. BoardingArea is a great community, but I noticed that no one focused exclusively on hotels, so I decided to start a blog to help others.
I’m not sure what is special about Magic of Miles, but it is definitely a labor of love! I’m a bit of perfectionist when it comes to my hotel & trip reports and spend hours and hours each day.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Use shopping portals. Credit cards are really the golden ticket, but not everyone is in the position to sign-up for new ones. Many folks don’t know about shopping portals or forget to use them when shopping online, and they can be a gold mine for earning a nice chunk of miles.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I often get asked that (as I’m sure you do too Emily), but the beauty of traveling so much is that there isn’t just 1 amazing travel memory but rather thousands of them. Here are 3 that stand out in my mind –
- On our trip to the Maldives – My husband surprised me with a romantic dinner under the stars. Our table for 2 was set in a beautiful spot overlooking the calm ocean, and the weather was perfect with just a slight breeze. Instead of a menu, the chef prepared a custom meal based on our preferences.
As we dined, the stars came out and got brighter and brighter, and there was only the sound of the soft waves against the sand. When the meal was over, we walked back to our villa bathed in the glow of the lanterns.
- Harbin, China – The site of the biggest Ice & Snow festival in the world, where whole buildings are created out of thick ice from the Songhua River. Different colored lights are added inside for a mystical effect. I wandered from frozen column to ice slide and my nighttime visit was like stepping into a fairy world.
- Sitting on the plains of Africa – Thrilling animal sightings, and seeing them interact was riveting. I can’t wait to return, and hope that readers of Million Mile Secrets get to experience the awe of Africa!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
There are some who think I’m bonkers, but thankfully the important ones are very supportive. I love traveling with my husband, and am so grateful he understands my passion. As I get older, my travel pattern changes but there will always be tremendous value in having miles & points to use.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
ITA Matrix has been invaluable to me, for checking flight routings, fare buckets, and pricing.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
When I started in this hobby, credit cards didn’t offer the phenomenal points & miles earning that they do today. I collected cereal box tops for miles, and my only regret now is that I didn’t do it more!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I’ve found that collecting miles and points comes down to learning. Just like anything else, the more you learn the better you get at it. Million Mile Secrets is a great resource, as are many other blogs and websites. The travel miles and points community overall is such a fun and friendly bunch, and there is always someone willing to share or help.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I enjoy snowboarding, and am a voracious reader.
Any parting words?
Thanks so much for interviewing me! This was really fun and I wish you and your readers all the best in your exciting travels.
Melinda – 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!