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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 Forward Cabin
Jamie started The Forward Cabin to share miles and points news and help young college students and professionals travel cheap.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting them probably around 8 years ago. Though, at that time, I didn’t really know what to do with them, or how to strategically use them. In many cases, early on, I was tempted to still buy cash tickets, since I wanted to preserve those coveted miles and points for something special, though soon learned that was not the right way to do things, and it was better to “burn” as I collected them.
My 1st true loyalty program where I started collected points, and attained elite status, was with Amtrak, funny enough. I took the train quite a bit during college and in years prior as I was located within the northeast corridor. I found Amtrak to be the easiest, fastest way to get around on a limited budget.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog haphazardly about 2 years ago as a place where I could share the occasional musing. It was more of a side-project at the time, and wanting to expand it and really give it the attention it needed, I approached Randy Petersen from Boarding Area, and from there, the rest is history. I started on Boarding Area in the summer of 2014, and the traffic has grown exponentially each passing month.
I try to stay on top of the latest deals and offers to give readers a sense of “urgency” when it comes to finding the latest tip, trick, or savings.
I also try to offer content that isn’t on other blogs, such as my recent addition of a meal review section, where I’ve explored various pre-packaged sandwiches, First Class hot meals, and free snacks that are offered at 30,000 feet up.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
By far the easiest things to generate more miles is signing-up for lucrative credit card bonuses. Then, putting your daily spending on cards that generate more miles. While it’s been said before, it’s well worth repeating that large sign-up bonuses are the way to accumulate miles fast.
I’m also a fan of mileage running, though I know many in the hobby have since proposed this way of generating miles has “gone dead.” As a top-tier elite on an airline, I earn a 100% bonus on miles flown. So if I can creatively route myself to my destination, or pick up the occasional mileage run, I can earn more miles.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
This past summer, I traveled to Spain to see the Running of the Bulls, which was really a spur of the moment idea.
I had not been to Spain before and having some vacation days to use from work, I decided to look into mileage Business Class tickets to Spain. I started out in Barcelona, traveled to Pamplona to witness (not run) the Running of the Bulls, and then finished off in Madrid, a city that I now absolutely love.
The summer prior, I was fortunate enough to be in Nice, France, at the time the Tour de France was rolling through, which provided a really unique look at this world-famous event.
It’s now my goal to try to attend many of these “famous events” as much as possible, whether it be tennis matches, large New Year’s Eve celebrations, or cultural holidays.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They have mixed feelings, to be honest. There are some in my family that think I must work for the CIA, since they can’t fathom routing to Los Angeles from Washington, DC, via Chicago and Dallas. There are others that don’t understand the value of miles and points, and can’t understand how they greatly reduce the cost of travel, thus leading them to believe I have an off-shore bank account somewhere with money I won in a Nigerian lottery scam.
There are others that appreciate my love of travel, but think I may be more obsessed than “in love.” I think most of my family and friends can understand the hobby in general, since, funny enough, there are several folks they happened to know that were doing it as well, that they didn’t realize until recently.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I love socializing with others on their travels, so the best tool or trick I’ve found is to take advantage of talking to other folks who are just as interested as you are.
Often times they’ve traveled to 1 of your aspiring destinations, have that latest credit card bonus, or burned miles to that far off destination in Business Class that most can’t seem to find award seats. I’d encourage every travel lover to attend a miles and points meet-up, or Frequent Traveler University.
The knowledge you’ll gain there is invaluable. That said, I know networking can sometimes be difficult. For easy-to-use online tools, I frequent ExpertFlyer and ITA Matrix, as well as working with the airlines and hotels directly.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
This is a difficult 1 to answer, to be honest. Up until just a short time ago, I never realized billing things to your hotel room would generate more points since it counts as spending at the hotel versus just paying for them individually with a credit card,which is really to helpful to know if you stay in hotels often.
I’ve also earned miles off by paying my monthly rent, which in the beginning never happened since I wrote checks directly out of my checking account (shocking, I know…).
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Everything can generate miles and points, and you have to be very strategic on how you charge things. For the longest time, I used a debit card for purchases, not ever wanting to have a credit card, or worse, get into trouble with one.
Soon enough I found out that a credit card can be your best friend, so long as you use it responsibly and have the proper attitude. Growing up, I also wished I had paid more attention to elite status, as I think that in many cases, that’s the make or break between having a good travel experience and a bad one.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I work for a youth-serving non-profit, which, interestingly, has me traveling less than 5% of the time for work. So, to those that believe you can’t travel often, or in luxury on a set amount of vacation days, you’re completely wrong.
As a true random fact, I’ve done CPR probably well-over 25 or so times, and used to serve as the Captain in my local emergency medical services agency.
Aside from traveling and blogging, which are true passions of mine, I enjoy volunteering my time in the public safety realm, also serving as an instructor in a variety of fields. Most recently, I also began helping out on the organizing staff for the Frequent Traveler Universities, which are a lot of fun, too.
Any parting words?
I absolutely love traveling, and have a passion towards this great hobby. As parting words of advice to those reading, I’d encourage them to share the same passion, and to share their knowledge with others.
I would not have learned as much as I did without the help of others, and I’d hope those with a similar experience would pass on words of wisdom, tips, tricks and more to those that are newer.
Coming from an education background, I find teaching folks to be something I want to inspire others to do. So I hope you’ll take a moment wherever you are to reply on a forum to answer someone’s question, chat with a newer miles and points collector at an event, or make small talk to those that may not have a frequent flyer account on your next flight.
Jamie – 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!