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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: The Honeymoon Guy
Michael writes The Honeymoon Guy to help others plan a champagne honeymoon on a beer budget.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I was lured into the game in the early 2000’s by some great Southwest deals. It’s hard to imagine it now, but up until 2005, Southwest would award double credits for booking online instead of over the phone.
On top of that they would often run other targeted double-credit promotions. With the combo of those promotions applied to work travel, I was racking up free flights.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my site after we returned from our around-the-world honeymoon. As I explained to friends and family members the travel hacking approach we used to take an elaborate honeymoon without spending a fortune, a lot of them encouraged me to start a site to share tips and advice.
I saw that there were a few excellent travel blogs like Million Mile Secrets, but I didn’t see any with a specific focus on honeymoons.
I decided to give it a shot and started the blog in early 2015. I figured that even if it didn’t get much readership it would be a learning experience for me.
My site’s focus remains on honeymoons but much of the info and advice I share is useful to non-honeymooning travelers also.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Credit card sign-up bonuses. Some people get a travel credit card and then simply put all of their spending on that 1 card, day-in and day-out. Then they are surprised when it takes 3 years to get enough miles for a single free flight.
Banks that issue credit cards are a bit like your local cable company. They don’t necessarily provide the best offers to existing customers, but instead go to great lengths to get new customers.
Though it does take a tiny bit of work to track new cards and meet minimum spending requirements, the payoff from sign-up bonuses is extraordinary.
To get that, I spent $3,000 on the card. That means the net return I earned ($625 / $3,000) was an incredible ~21%! And it’s $3,000 I would’ve spent anyway.
If instead of signing-up for that card, I simply put that $3,000 of spending on a 2% cash back card, I would have earned only $60 instead of $625. I’ll take $625 over $60 every day of the week! This is just 1 example of how lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses are!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
It was definitely our around-the-world honeymoon.
For the cost of a 2 week Caribbean vacation, we instead visited Maui, Tokyo, the Philippines, and Cape Town in South Africa for a safari. Each part of the 3 1/2 week trip was different from the others so it was like 5 mini-vacations in one.
Here’s a quick video of us cruising around with a sea turtle in Maui!
We were absolutely mesmerized by the wildlife in the Kruger National Park region and the natural beauty of the Philippines. When a visit to Maui isn’t even the 1st or 2nd best part of the trip you know it’s a special one.
Being a little more “travel specific” I’d say it was our experience flying in international Business Class on Cathay Pacific from the Philippines to South Africa. The lay-flat seats and in-flight service were excellent. On top of that we had a relatively long layover at the Hong Kong airport.
Though a long layover is usually a negative, in this case it added to the fun of the trip because we got to hang out at the Cathay Pacific lounges and they are spectacular!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Sometimes they think I’m a little crazy but overall they’re mostly supportive.
My immediate family members don’t necessarily understand the details of the hobby. But of course they are super appreciative when I’m able to offer a free flight or hotel room to them.
My wife is now into the hobby almost as much as me. She finds it fun to search for award flights and hotels for upcoming trips.
My wife’s family has joined in on the fun too. Almost all of them were able to use British Airways Avios points for free flights to Ireland this summer.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
A trick I’ve been using lately for international trips is using Google Hangouts Dialer to make free calls. While I’m abroad, many of my calls are to family, friends, or coworkers back in the US.
I also use a spreadsheet I created to capture and manage info on my travel credit cards such as when I signed up, the bonus value, spending requirements, etc. Being organized reduces the chances of screwing up and missing out on a huge sign-up bonus.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I’d say the least expected way I’ve earned a significant amount of miles is through changing my electricity supplier. Many people don’t even realize they can switch electricity companies, let alone pull in a nice chunk of frequent flyer miles for doing so.
I got 10,000 United Airlines miles for making the switch, and if my electricity rates rise I’ll switch back to a cheaper supplier and retain the miles I’ve received.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew more years ago about stopover rules on award flights. In hindsight I realize that I could have squeezed a lot more value out of some award redemptions. We would have been able to visit additional destinations without burning any more miles!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Readers might be surprised to learn that though I’m an avid traveler now, I didn’t step foot in a plane until I was 20 years old. My family isn’t wealthy so our vacations involved driving, not flying (I’m not complaining, my family is great and those trips were wonderful). Of course since taking that 1st flight I’ve progressed to the point that I’m usually flying 15 to 30 times a year now.
I also progressed from a Disney “hater” to actually liking Disney World. Since our family trips were local when I was a child, we didn’t visit the parks. At my wife’s urging I visited for the 1st time in 2012 and have since gone back for a 2nd visit.
Now that I’ve seen the production the Disney teams put on, especially around Christmas time, I have a great appreciation for the company and the parks.
Any parting words?
With rumblings that Chase will expand their “5/24” policy, it’s easy to get discouraged. But I think that readers shouldn’t overreact. Agility is key in this hobby. As 1 door closes, another opens.
Michael – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!