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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: Milebucket
Katie writes milebucket to show everyone how to achieve an affordable family travel.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I first started collecting miles and points in July 2010. I had found Chris Guillebeau’s work online and read his Travel Hacking e-book. In it, he referenced a few websites, including Flyertalk, One Mile at a Time, and View From the Wing.
It only took one day of reading for me to be hooked. It was also that day for me to put something together: about a year prior, I had read an article online about a guy who took first class vacations all over the world using his hotel points and airline miles. I saved the article with aspirations of someday being like him.
In the article, websites were never mentioned, but had I googled Gary Leff, I would have been in the game a year sooner!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog for many reasons. One reason was I had family and friends that was curious as to how I was achieving trips. Another reason was I felt like family travel wasn’t covered well and I wanted to share what I was doing with others in my situation. Lastly, I was curious how blogs worked and starting one was a good way to learn how to do it.
What is special about my blog? Being honest, I am nothing extraordinary. I have no desire to compete with the larger blogs that post frequently.
I write more for people with families who want to travel. My husband and I have a 16 month old and I am due with little one number 2 in February. My focus is on sharing our experiences of family travel including what it takes to achieve the trips.
For me, I have to make things count with collecting miles and points as between the business my husband runs, my full time job, and raising a toddler, I don’t have the time to take every opportunity out there when it comes along to gain miles and points. I have to stay strategic and focused or risk dropping the ball on something (which usually means spending too much money on something).
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I know this is a bit of beating a dead horse, but I really do recommend credit cards. For someone who doesn’t travel a ton for work, it is where I get my biggest mile accumulations. I personally don’t play the credit card game nearly as hard as I could but I do love the shopping portals and the ability to double or triple dip for miles.
I love Frequent Miler and his posts on how to get a lot of miles out of specials or limited time offers. For instance, if you need to buy anything from Lowe’s or Home Depot, make sure you are at least double dipping for your points. To me, credit cards is not just about lots of applications, but also knowing how to use what you have to the best of its ability.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My most memorable travel experience is tough to name just one. I have two that really stand out. When I was 17, after 5 years of saving as a family, my family made a trip to Sweden to see extended family.
On the way there, weather caused our flight to be cancelled. After patiently waiting in the very long line to learn our fate, we got booked on flights the next day, which were in first class. This was back with seats that were just recliners, but the trip was amazing and one I thought was a one-time only experience.
The other memory standing out is the first trip Nick and I took with miles. I started collecting in June 2010 and by December 2010 I had enough US Airways miles (thank you Barclays and the Grand Slam promo) for us to book a trip on Lufthansa First Class to Sweden to see my cousin get married. It was the first long haul flight my husband had taken and I was so excited to see the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.
I will never forget us giggling like little school girls as we road in the Mercedes across the tarmac to out plane. It is such a different life than we normally lead and we had a ball. The whole trip was fantastic but the car ride still stands out.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Some of my friends/family get it, but most don’t. It really seems like most of them think I have some sort of magic trick I pull. Some question the legality of it all and are confident I “am going to get busted” no matter how many times and ways I explain it. I just smile.
My coworkers get into it more than anything. I have become the go-to gal at work to make sure work trips get maximized to their fullest potential these days.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
For me, the most helpful tool is just simple tracking using excel. I keep track of all credit cards I have ever had and all the accounts I have open (with miles and points in them). Just making a chart, even one printed, that I can refer to has been really helpful.
I do use online tools, but my excel charts are the ones I turn to the most often.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I think the now defunct Grand Slam promo is the most unexpected way I had ever earned miles. I missed out on the days of hair checks and things like that, but got in on the second year of Grand Slam. I was amazed at all the places you could earn miles. It was very eye opening!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Everything! My biggest wish is I would have found this wonderful online world about 5 years sooner. Also, don’t be afraid to jump in and do a bit of experimenting.
There are promotions I wish I would have done or gone bigger on, but I didn’t because I didn’t see the potential at the time. Now, I look at things much differently.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Probably that my husband doesn’t like to travel. I kind of have to bribe him to go on big trips with fancy seats up front.
For us, flying coach will never be an option because I know if he sits in a coach seat for 8+ hours intentionally, I will never get him to go again. Our days in first class are probably going to end with us becoming a family of 4, so business class is looking really good!
My world is a lot more than just miles and points too. We live on 5 acres in Idaho with a few chickens and plans to get more animals. We garden, ride dirt bikes, camp, and do a lot with motorcycles because of my husband’s business (www.canyonmotoparts.com).
Miles and points is my hobby, which he endearingly supports me in.
Any parting words?
You can never go wrong with kindness. I am very grateful to all those who answered my questions in the beginning and still today. I try to always repay that favor whenever I have the opportunity.
Katie – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!