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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: Travel Addicts
Laura and Lance write the blog Travel Addicts, focusing on helping working professionals maximize their limited vacation time to see the world. They write about culture, food and beverage, and unique experiences around the globe. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
We started accumulating points and miles in 1994 when we both started traveling. However, it wasn’t until we both had a lot of frequent business travel (early 2000’s) that we really started focusing on it. Like many people, we started by consolidating programs and leveraging credit cards. Initially it was airline credit cards.
First, we got the Chase United Explorer card, because we lived in a United Airlines hub city. Then, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard when we moved to an American Airlines hub city. Recently, we have been focusing on hotel points, because our airfares are frequently covered by work. So hotel points make more sense for us.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Going back to the beginning, our travel story started in about 2007. We lived in New York and didn’t have the money…or the time…to travel. We were focused on our careers (60-hour work weeks were the norm) and we knew there was a better way to live, but we didn’t know how.
We moved to Pennsylvania and Lance started graduate school. And in grad school, he had to take a summer immersive course in Italy.
That forced us to take the time and re-evaluate things. And rekindle our love of travel.
The blog started about 6 months later. We started Travel Addicts to showcase some of our more exotic travels. It really started as a way of updating friends and family at home.
Somewhere along the way, we realized we had tens of thousands of readers and we made it a focus. Our focus is the intersection of time and money. And how you can get the best vacation possible for the least amount of time and money spent.
As North Americans, we’re starved for vacation days compared to our international counterparts. Most Americans get 2 to 3 weeks of vacation. How can you make the most of it? That’s what we write about.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The single best thing people can do is understand your company’s travel policy – and then leverage it. We’re not suggesting being dishonest or breaking policy or the law. However, there’s a lot of gray area in these policies. Exploit them!
If it is not explicitly excluded, use your personal credit card for work expenses and get the points and miles. That way, you’re getting the rewards, but you’re not actually out any money.
You can even offer to plan the company party at a hotel and get the bonus points as a meeting planner. By being the instigator and taking the lead on the planning, you can earn lots of reward points!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of really amazing trips. From safaris in Africa to luxury trips through the capitals of Europe, we’ve made a lot of happy memories. However, the absolute highlight was Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
We went horseback riding on a volcano, ate incredible food, and learned about the local culture. We also explored Darwin’s famed Galapagos Islands where we went swimming with wild dolphins, snorkeled with sea turtles, and hiked one of the world’s largest volcano calderas. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Frankly, neither of our families understand our hobby. We end up having lots of unusual conversations with family members. However, they love the benefits. A few years ago, we took the extended family to Egypt and stayed at an amazing beach resort for free on Hilton points.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Having a good tool or aggregator to keep track of all your points and miles is particularly helpful. There are a million such services out there. We use TripIt Pro because it keeps track of the trips and it’s helpful to have it all in one place. However, there are tons of services to keep track of your rewards.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
In each program, you can accumulate rewards for shopping through their mileage portals. Some of the shops can be pretty unusual (5,000 points for a fruit basket, etc.). We leverage these whenever possible, including when we need to buy company gifts.
We’re always delightfully surprised to get points unexpectedly. For example, there might be a bonus period you didn’t know you were participating in. So it can be tough to keep track of bonus periods and sometimes you’re just surprised.
It happened to us once while planning a company meeting and we suddenly ended up with an extra 100,000 Marriott points!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
It’s a total rabbit hole. It’s addictive. You can research programs and deals, look for new opportunities and find ways to game the system. And it’s time consuming.
We focus on the 80/20 rule. We look for the 80% of wins that take the least amount of time and then let other opportunities go.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Many people assume that being a travel blogger or travel writer means that you spend all of your time traveling. And many travel writers try to live a nomadic lifestyle. That’s not us.
We love our lives and our home. So while it may seem like we’re always traveling someplace new and exotic, we actually spend a pretty substantial amount of time at home.
Any parting words?
Points and miles have a value. They are currency. But saving this currency never really does you any good (particularly as lots of programs are being devalued) unless you actually SPEND them.
Accumulating for the sake of having them is nothing but hoarding. Every year, we establish a goal for our points and miles, and then make sure we both save for that goal. But we also spend our rewards to make our goals happen.
Laura and Lance – 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!