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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: When I Travel The World
James writes when I travel the world to share his travel experiences and how he overcome his fear of flying.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I first started collecting in 2008 when I took an around the world trip on Qantas One world ticket. Someone told me to sign up for a British Airways executive account to collect the miles and I did. I didn’t really pay much attention to the account for the following year but the points had racked up.
It was in 2009 & 2010, I got really serious and learned the benefits of holding status and having points. My girlfriend (now wife) at the time lived in California and I was stuck in England for a few months. We were flying back and forth to see each other over the course of 6 months.
Virgin had the best fares at the time and within 3 months I already held silver status with them.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I decided to start my blog in June of 2013, so its really really fresh and I’m still learning how to work everything and make enjoyable content for my readers. I wish I had started in 2007 when I really started traveling a lot. I’ve been to over 50 countries and flown hundreds of flights.
I still have all the information from those trips so I’ve been adding throwback Thursday information to my site to bulk it up a bit. People think I’m crazy that I know every airline and flight number just from talking about the route.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Everything. I don’t think I have withdrawn cash from an ATM for about 4 years now. I try to use my mileage credit cards all the time and work out which card will get me the most miles. I’m a member of every dining program you could think of and airline online shopping reward sites.
I think a lot of people forget you can claim airlines when staying at certain brands of hotels. This is a great way to get more miles and also special deals for car hire when needed.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I once took part in the do-it-yourself version of the Paris-Dakar rally. I had a 1989 Peugeot 405 saloon MI16 and spent a while trying to improve it. Somewhere after crossing the mine field of no mans land, I found myself in the Sahara Desert for a few days with a guide we had picked up on the boarder.
I remember so well the first night we set up camp, he knew everything about the desert and told us everything. As the sun was setting, he asked if I was hungry, to which I replied yes. He then ventured off into the Atlantic ocean and came back about 30 minutes later with some fresh fish he had caught.
I helped him scale them and we wrapped them in foil and cooked them on a camp fire he had built for the evening. I loved the experience for many reasons. It made me feel alive and the view of the stars was simply amazing.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Most fellow bloggers think I’m a bit crazy when it comes to mileage runs and flying all over the place just for the weekend. Friends also think I’m strange, but they see the results when I get to travel to amazing destinations and pay a minimal amount to get there.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I spend a lot of time logged in to reward websites just coming up with the best ways I can spend my miles and pay the least amount of taxes. For example, I recently purchased a United reward ticket. I wanted to fly from London to Los Angeles in United Business on the 777-200 non-stop service.
It was 50,000 miles + tax, the taxes from London for the ticket were around $300. I was shocked, so I did a bit of searching around and found I could fly from Vienna to London and connected to the non stop united 777 service in London and I would only have to pay $48 in taxes for the ticket. This worked out great as it meant I had an excuse to visit Vienna for a few days before heading home.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Over the last two years, I have been doing surveys for E-rewards. It’s simple. You take surveys for E-credit amounts and then you can transfer those credits into airline reward points.
In the last two years, I’ve been able to earn around 15,000 united miles just from the surveys. I also topped up my Virgin Atlantic account to be able to purchase an upper class reward ticket.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
When I first started, I was just happy to be getting miles from any airline. I signed up for a bunch of cards and programs until I noticed, I could have had all of the points on one account if I had planned it smart enough. Also, I find planning the trips in advance to know which miles I need to collect really would have helped when I started.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Before I took my first around the world trip in 2008, I had a massive fear of flying. I did not leave the United kingdom at all from 1996 to 2002 because I was incredibly scared to get on a plane. My fear became something I needed to take hold of when in 2003 I had a trip to Spain booked and I got to the airport and could not get on the plane.
I decided my fear was not knowing enough, so I decided to learn everything I could about flying. I read up on as many models of planes as I could. I even took it as far to obtain my private pilot license (PPL) so I knew the ins and outs of flying. This really helped and in 2006, I stepped back on my first flight and got hooked on flying from that moment on.
Any parting words?
I feel that collecting airline miles is not just about the fancy upgrades to first class, its the experiences you can have with them. Now and then, I do splurge on some upgrades but a lot of my miles have been spent in economy class to visit places that have expensive ticket prices. I have had many fantastic moments in my life and flying economy has helped me reach most destinations.
James – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!