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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: Traveling For Miles
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I got into this very late in life (I’m not young anymore!). But it was my move to the US in 2009 that kick-started it all.
I lived in Europe up until 2009 and Europe isn’t exactly a fertile ground to earn the large numbers of miles and points we in the US are used to earning. This was a big eye opener from me, and it was after a few months of reading everything I could on FlyerTalk that I was hooked.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Before starting Traveling For Miles, I traveled quite a bit anyway and writing about my experiences with airlines and hotels seemed like a good way of chronicling my travels for when I reach an age that I want to stop. It will be nice to look back and read about all the fun flights I took and hotels I stayed at thanks to the miles & points hobby.
What’s different? Well, I think I may mix together high, middle, and low end travel a bit more than some (I’ll happily review Etihad First Class, Cathay Pacific coach, and easyJet and Ryanair in the space of a couple of weeks) and that in turn affects how I view and write about each of those experiences.
I’m also as happy reviewing the local Holiday Inn Express as I am the Park Hyatt Milan…there are a lot of readers who, like me, need to know about both so hopefully readers get a good mix with what I write.
Lastly, I’m comfortable publishing what I spend on my trips and showing readers what I paid (in cash and points) for everything I’m reviewing (including the real cost if I originally bought miles and points that I then used on the trip). I think that helps people understand how much trips actually cost and gives them an idea if what I’m reviewing is for them or not.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Once you start thinking about it, you realize just how many things there are people can do. But, if I had to pick one that doesn’t get a mention too often, I’d say – make the most of shopping portals as often as you possibly can. They’re a vastly underused resource.
They shouldn’t cost anyone more than they were going to spend anyway, and when you combine that with putting all the spend on a credit card that earns miles & points, you can really get your miles & points balances moving in the right direction.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Outside of the miles & points game, it would have to be diving with Great White sharks off Guadalupe Island (Mexico).
Initially, we were inside cages just watching what the sharks were doing. But eventually we were allowed outside and on top of the cages where we were within touching distance of some of the most beautiful sharks I’ve seen…and with nothing between us and them. Amazing doesn’t begin to cover it!
If it’s a trip from the miles & points world, then it would have to be the 7 award nights Joanna and I spent in an overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa a couple of years ago – paradise!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Some are interested, others really couldn’t care less! 🙂
Most seem to think it’s too much work (it really isn’t), but occasionally I make a breakthrough and one of them asks my advice and gets a great trip out of it. I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of that.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
The best ”trick” was the one that allowed me to book 7 consecutive nights at the InterContinental Bora Bora…but that’s unfortunately dead now so…I’ll go with the ITA Matrix flight search facility as my favorite tool.
It doesn’t work as well as it should because Google (who now owns the site) doesn’t really maintain the site well… But I’ve found (and published) some stunning Business Class and coach fares that I’ve found using the Matrix search.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I recently got an unexpected 10,000 American Airlines miles after telling American Airlines how incompetent and rude one of their agents was. I wasn’t expecting miles, I was just letting the airline know how far the standards on the Executive Platinum line have dropped.
I also recently earned 15,000 Marriott points thanks to a promotion I forgot I’d signed up for. I love when that happens!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
When I realized just how much fun (and easy) collecting miles & points can be, I did so much reading in the first 6 months that I think I was up to speed pretty fast (and you guys were a big part of that too…so thank you!).
But I really, really wish I’d known about this hobby 5 to 8 years earlier. Things were so much easier (although the credit card bonuses weren’t nearly as lucrative), and so few of us (comparatively speaking) were there to make the most of it.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m a qualified Dive Master (technically a professional diver), but I don’t work in that industry. One of my biggest passions is diving and snorkeling with sharks. I’ve been in the water with most well known species of shark and I just can’t get enough of them.
Any parting words?
An award redemption is always a good one if it’s for something you truly want. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Yes, those of us who collect miles & points by the hundreds of thousands may believe that a coach award between Dallas and London is a poor use of American Airlines miles. But, if it’s saving you money you’d rather not spend, then what we think doesn’t count for anything. Enjoy it.
Ziggy – 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!