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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: Saving for a Dream
Nancy’s blog Saving for a Dream focuses on traveling with a family of 5, living on a tight budget, and how to save money on Disney vacations. Her goal is to be debt-free (including mortgage), travel with her family, pay for her kids’ college education, and be financially independent during retirement.
And she’s giving away a $25 Disney gift card.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points about 15 years ago when I traveled a bit for work. Through business travel, I was able to earn enough airline miles to go on a trip to Italy with my parents and sister.
My husband also traveled for work, so we saved his miles and points and got a few free domestic flights and hotel stays from his travels.
In 2007 and 2009, we made 4 trips to Russia for some important family business, and we decided to open up a credit card with Korean Air to get some bonus miles on the airline we were using for our Russia trips. That was my 1st airline credit card. We used those miles to get free tickets for our family of 4 (at the time) to Orlando to spend a week at Walt Disney World. And we still have miles on Korean Air that have not expired that we will use for an upcoming trip.
But I really didn’t start collecting miles and points seriously until early 2013, when I was inspired by your blog to apply for a personal and business Chase Southwest Airlines credit card and earn the Southwest Companion Pass. Our family has grown to 5 members, and we really don’t like long car trips. The Chase Southwest card is perfect for us. The miles combined with the Southwest Companion Pass afforded us 2 trips for 5 to Orlando, and we still have points left over!
We recently booked a trip to Hawaii for all 5 of us on miles, and we are working on earning enough miles and points for free hotel rooms for this trip. This is huge for us, since 5 tickets to Hawaii would have cost us around $5,000 cash. Because of the huge cost to get to Hawaii, it’s a place I thought we would never go.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog in 2011 to channel my enthusiasm about saving up for our 1st Disney Cruise (which we took in 2012) and also to share some frugal entertainment ideas for moms on a tight budget. I quit my corporate job in 2009 after we adopted our 2nd child, and found I struggled with ideas to entertain and enrich my kids on a very limited budget.
Now, my blog focuses on ways to save money on Disney vacations, activities to teach my kids about our vacation destinations, local parks and hikes, and trip reports of our vacations.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Sign-up for credit card bonuses, and charge all of your monthly expenses to your card (be sure to pay it off each month). Get your spouse to do the same. Repeat. But be responsible.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I spent 10 weeks in Russia over 4 trips and have a lot of memories, both good and bad. One memory that sticks out in a funny way is when my husband and I went to a restaurant near our hotel for dinner.
We did speak some limited Russian, but the Cyrillic alphabet and our limited vocabulary still made some things a challenge for us. We successfully ordered our dinner and just received our food in this quiet restaurant, and then within a matter of minutes the restaurant turned into a discoteque without warning. The lights went down, a DJ appeared out of nowhere, strobe lights came on, and the restaurant filled up with dancers.
We were not expecting that at all, and we felt really out of place while we finished our dinner. We still laugh about that night.
Aside from Russia, my most memorable travel experience was our 1st Disney Cruise. I spent so much time researching how to make it more affordable and within reach for us. Since I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband works from home, we spend a lot of time with our kids, but we don’t have access to free family babysitting for date nights. The cruise provided us with our 1st time alone on vacation to reconnect.
The 2nd night of our cruise, we sent our kids to the kids club on-board and my husband and I had our 1st “date” ever on a vacation. We had several more dinners together as a couple while our kids were having a blast in the kids’ clubs, so the cruise was a win-win vacation for everybody!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I’m pretty sure that people assume I’m living dangerously or being irresponsible, but no one has ever called me out on it. A few people have asked me for credit card recommendations. Most people don’t understand it.
But my sister-in-law and brother have traveled on miles and points for years and have done some amazing trips. My sister-in-law introduced me to your blog!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Reading travel blogs and websites is my most useful tool. I read them not only for tips on how to earn more points and miles, but to see pictures from trip reports and learn about future vacation destinations. I like reading Million Mile Secret’s Friday interviews to be introduced to new blogs.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
My husband and I each earned over 1,000 American Airlines miles by playing a game on the company’s Facebook page earlier this year!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I now know how easy it is to book award travel on Southwest compared to other airlines! Southwest has a lot of award seat availability at low prices. Booking our tickets to Hawaii on American Airlines was a whole different story! I think that earning the miles is actually easier than redeeming the miles on many airlines due to limited award availability (and traveling as a family of 5).
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I grew up in Colorado, but I have never skied! The chair-lifts freak me out.
Any parting words?
Make travel plans with your friends and family…the memories are priceless!
Nancy – 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!