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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Travel Hacking Norway
Scott Meyer interviewed me as he was writing the credit card section for his book, The Travel Hacking Guide to Norway. Scott focuses on a lot of other ways besides credit cards to have Big Travel with Small Money so I was curious to learn more!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started passively collecting points as a child with my parents setting up accounts for me when I flew as a child. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to study abroad in Norway that I became more strategic, choosing airlines and routes based on miles. I then set a goal to work for one month a year on every continent on earth, so points are essential for that adventure! (Three down, four to go!)
Why did you start your blog ? What’s special about it?
I started blogging in 2004 and focused my online writing in 2009 to helping readers work anywhere, travel everywhere and learn everything. Today our community of explorers at scottdavidmeyer.com share tips and inspirations on how to be true renaissance people, able to teach themselves anything, work on their own terms and see the world. Join us as we push the frontiers!
This community inspired me to write my first book, The Travel Hacking Guide to Norway. The book is available on Amazon and is a blueprint for exploring Norway and Norwegian culture on a budget using social technology, personal connections and promotions like miles and points. This week only, we’re offering the Kindle download for free, so start planning your affordable and unforgettable trip to Norway by visiting: travelhackingnorway.com
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I’ve seen the greatest mile acquisition through credit card offers (the Citi American Airlines cards are my favorite) and hotel promotions like Radisson’s stay for one night, get 50,000 points.
One tip that many mile junkies forget about is the ability to also “travel hack” without miles and points. Using websites such as couchsurfing or airbnb enables travelers to find accommodations for free or cheap. Plus, staying in someone’s home opens up a new way to see a destination.
I have been invited to the Finnish national hockey semifinals, Easter dinner and numerous local bars and restaurants thanks to connections made on Couchsurfing. Consider searching on social media as well before heading to a destination. If you can make connections before you arrive, the entire trip will go more smoothly, you’ll experience the local culture and you’ll see more for less.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My first international trip outside of my comfort zone was a six month stay in Tanzania. During that time, I took a two-day train to Victoria Falls in Zambia, and it was an adventure. First I learned that the train in Tanzania paid its workers by the hour, so it was incredibly slow.
As soon as we hit the Zambian border we tripled our speed since they paid the workers by the trip on the Zambian side. Along the way I experienced Tsetse fly attacks, bed bugs and learned how to exchange currency on the black market since there was no official Tanzanian to Zambian currency exchange.
After all of these adventures, I arrived and was blown away. The power and beauty of the Falls as well as the elephants just wandering around the area were incredible. I white water rafted down the Zambezi River and nearly drowned, before finally deciding it was time to head home!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My family and friends seem like they can’t be bothered with miles and points, even registering me instead when they stay at hotels. However, when I travel for free they all kick themselves thinking they should have been doing the same. I try to tell them and also readers in The Travel Hacking Guide to Norway that it can be as simple or as difficult as you want.
At least earning miles on your flights is a start. I recently logged in to an old mileage account I had when I was a student. I didn’t try to accumulate miles but I had enough for two domestic flights!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
My biggest trick is to consider travel hacking as a whole. I define travel hacking as exploring the world on a budget and using personal connections, social technology and promotions to see more for less. Miles are a big part of this equation, but not the only one. Consider other ways to travel and stay for free.
One of my favorite ways is volunteering at music festivals. They’ll often put you up for free as well as feed you and give you the opportunity to see a festival in exchange for a little bit of work. This is a great way to meet locals who will often offer to host you or guide you around the country. Sites like Vayable enable you to hire a private guide for much less than a typical tourist guide.
Traveling to cities or countries during local holidays or festivals also is a great way to experience a unique event and often get invited to join a party for free. In Norway for example, visiting on the 17th of May, the national Constitution Day, ensures that you’ll see everyone in the street and be offered food and drink in celebration! Hip hip hurra!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
My wedding! I’m getting married in July and using airline credit cards to purchase the ring and wedding items has led to huge stashes of points! Think about using a rewards card if you have big expenses or events coming up.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I would have known more about credit cards early on. I’ve always been hesitant to take out credit cards due to credit risks or worries about paying off the balance. However, I realized I was using debit cards anyways for monthly expenses like rent. I created my own method of balancing rewards with fiscal discipline: if I can earn the reward by using the card only to pay rent, it is safe to use the card. That has worked well for me and kept my credit card balance at zero.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I live in South Dakota! It’s true. Not many people have been or know anyone from South Dakota and few travel hackers reside in the plains of the United States, but it’s a great home and a great base for adventure. I live abroad one month a year and spend the rest of year work as a digital marketer and educator, generating leads online for businesses at 9clouds and creating online training and courses on how to use digital media for business and universities at: digsandbox.
Any parting words?
I hope you get the chance to download The Travel Hacking Guide to Norway. Please share your thoughts as an Amazon review or on the blog at: scottdavidmeyer.com. Remember that even if you’re hesitant about credit cards or promotion programs, there are numerous ways to travel on a budget. The technology and social connections available to us today make travel easier and more affordable than ever. Explore your frontiers today!
Scott – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!