“From the Caviar Service to the Personal Meet and Greet at the Aircraft With a Buggy Ride to Immigration, I Felt Like a Celebrity!”
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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: Turning Left for Less
Michele writes Turning Left for Less to share all the best tips for luxury travel bargains. You can connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I first started collecting miles when there was a great credit card in the UK for the now defunct BMI Diamond Club. This allowed you to collect a large number of miles very easily due to the high earning rates on the card.
There was also a fantastic feature of BMI Diamond Club where you could use half miles plus a cash fee, which allowed you to travel in First Class very cheaply on Star Alliance airlines. This gave me my first taste of luxury travel, and I have been hooked since.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog at the end of 2016. I had left my previous job, as I needed a kidney transplant and wanted to do something different that I was truly passionate about. Shortly after the transplant I was getting bored. So decided I would do something based on my greatest love – travel.
I had read a variety of blogs for many years, but there wasn’t really anyone covering everything I wanted to read. I wanted something that covered the key points of miles and points, but mainly focused on luxury travel with plenty of reviews and pictures. Since there was nothing like that in the UK, I thought I would start my own! Turning Left for Less is focused on traveling in luxury for less with a strong dose of humor. And a bit of a oneworld bias as that is the most popular program in the UK.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The easiest way is to use airline shopping portals. You don’t need to have an airline credit card, you just shop as normal and earn miles on your everyday purchases. If you do have an airline credit card, you can earn miles twice on the same purchase. This is particularly useful for hotels that can be booked through the portals as you still get your status benefits and hotel points too.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
In terms of flying, it was the first time I flew First Class on miles with Thai Airways. Although comparing it now to the likes of the Etihad First Apartment, it seems rather pedestrian.
But it was a truly luxurious experience. From the caviar service to the personal meet and greet at the aircraft with a buggy ride to immigration, I felt like a celebrity!
That is what really kicked my miles collecting into a serious hobby, rather than just something I did through a credit card alone.
For the destination itself, it was when I first visited Japan. It was the first time I had traveled with my now best friend and kidney donor.
We got along famously! And had an amazing time appreciating the weird and wonderful country that is Japan. From the fantastic people to the mad cat and robot cafes it was a holiday memory I will treasure.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Almost all my friends are miles collectors, too. I have made a huge amount of friends through my traveling with travel meet ups and mileage runs. Part of the reason for starting the blog was because everyone was always asking me for travel advice!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
There are 2 tools I use a lot. The first is Google Flights/ITA Matrix for finding the best fares and fare rules for getting my elite status miles. The second one is a fairly new tool for British Airways redemptions which is produced by a third party.
BA Redemption Finder allows you to search an entire year almost instantly for British Airways award availability in any class and then set up alerts for any changes in availability for free. This is a great resource for anyone wanting to use British Airways Avios points.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Probably the most unexpected way I’ve earned miles was when a certain UK airline forgot to take the points for a phone booking I had made. They noticed and gave me a call, but said I could keep the 45,000 miles anyway. I have been a big fan of the brand since then!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had done more research and been aware of all the different ways to collect miles, and how to best use them. When I think of all the miles opportunities I have missed before I became more educated about the multitude of ways to collect miles, I get frustrated!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Some of them may be surprised to find out I have had several previous careers, including a theatrical make-up artist, and I was an air traffic controller for 20 years.
Any parting words?
Well, apart from read my blog, I would urge people to research as much as possible if they want to take miles and points seriously. Make sure you know what you are collecting for.
So many people save miles for coach flights on British Airways, and then discover that with the taxes and fees it is only marginally cheaper than buying a ticket! Whereas using them for an upgrade, or to fly Business Class, is a much better use of miles.
Michele – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
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