Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Blogging (page 1 of 2)

Big Changes! Points, Miles and Life is Moving On!

I started this blog a few years ago with the idea that I would document the adventures my wife and I were having, focusing on how we were able to travel so cheaply thank to this amazing award travel hobby. Along the way I learned much about writing and blogging, far more than I expected.

While my blog traffic has never been anything to boast about, keeping up with a site landed me other opportunities. Many (most?) of my relatively few readers know that I write not just here, but also for Points With a Crew, a BoardingArea blog. In all honesty, I’ve written far more for PWaC than here over the past years. Dan actually pays me for my efforts, while this site is entirely a labor of love.

But now it is time to move on and step into other opportunities.

Travel Update and The Points Guy Family

If you’d have told me three years ago that I would one day be contributing to the largest points and miles website on the inter-webs, I would have laughed. Me? Write for The Points Guy?

But that is exactly what is happening! I’ve actually already been on-boarded and submitted my first three posts to them, and two have already run. My first details why I consider the Hilton Aspire card to be a great choice for families, and my second was a guide to using points and miles for international adoption travel. I’m *so* excited to be able to contribute, not to mention it is a major step up in terms of freelance writing gigs.

Along with writing at The Points Guy Family, I’m launching on Travel Update, a channel of bloggers on the Boarding Area network. This is the same network that Points with a Crew belongs to. The difference is that I will have my own channel and “brand”, yet still not as a standalone blog. It’s a sort of middle ground between being a contributor to another blog and running your own independent blog.

For Travel Update, I’ll be writing as Family Flys Free. Name changes are hard, and it was painful trying to brainstorm for this one, but thanks to Randy, Heather and the Boarding Area crew, I’m happy with it.

 

Future of the blog

I have a small number of posts that I still consider a better fit for this blog, so I still plan to try write a bit until those are exhausted. There may be an occasional post about life after that, but expect all the points and miles goodness, trip reports, and family travel thoughts to come overwhelmingly from my Travel Update channel.

Important note: my social media accounts are changing. I will not be keeping up under multiple names. That’s just too crazy. Instead, the Points, Miles and Life Facebook page, Twitter handle and Instagram will all be converted to Family Flys Free. This is already in the works.

Conclusion

I’m so excited about this next chapter. Becoming a part of the Travel Update BoardingArea channel is huge move for me. I have only gratitude to Randy and Boarding Area for being willing to bring me on in this capacity. Dan deserves a shout-out as well for all his coaching and support during my time contributing to his site.

Thank you to my readers here as well. Keep earning all those points and miles, and fly your family for free!

Getting My First Business Credit Card

One of the only downsides to selling my previous business is that I was no longer eligible to apply for any business credit cards. It has been almost two years since I sold my pickup and landscaping tools to my brother-in-law, and I haven’t really looked back. Starting in December 2016, though, I have a new businesses that allowed me to apply for my first business credit card.

No, it’s not my blog. I started Points, Miles & Life just over a year ago. I thought I might be able to develop it into a business, but I honestly haven’t put in the labor to make anything of it yet. It may happen. We’ll see. The travel blogging market is a competitive place, and there are plenty of good blogs out there with great information these days. I simply don’t have the time to keep up with the competition.

But the blog did come through for me in one big way: it played a role in being on-boarded as a contributor to Points with a Crew. Dan Miller, who started the Points with a Crew site, has a readership that far surpasses mine, and I am excited to be writing several pieces weekly for PWAC.

In the same month that I applied for the position with PWAC, I also jumped into the world of gift card reselling. I had been interested in this for a while as a way of accruing extra miles and points, as well as a small profit. Wait…profit? This is a legitimate business!

Since I’m also paid to write for Dan, my PWAC contributor position is also technically a side-hustle. But the gift card reselling gig is a bit more conducive for the spending volume I need to justify a business credit card.

Either way, in just one month I now have two new business ventures. Awesome.

Applying for my First Business Credit Card

So I decided to go ahead and apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest Business American Express card. With the future of the card unknown due to Marriott’s purchase of Starwood, I figured I could get some use out of it before the product is no longer available. Plus, it is a great card, and Starpoints are one of my favorite points currencies.

First Business Credit Card - SPG AMEX

Landing page for the SPG Business AMEX

Because I am operating my business (businesses? not sure if/how to split yet for tax time) as a sole proprietorship, the credit card application required only my social security number and not a tax ID. The application is not unlike one for a personal credit card, but it has a few extra fields for business info, including expected monthly revenue.

I filled out everything, reviewed the application, and clicked submit. As has been the case with literally every Amex app I have submitted in the past two years, I was instantly approved.

A few minutes later, and I had my new Starwood card linked up to my American Express online account. The process was as painless as it always has been.

I received the card just a few days later. It was shipped two day express by Amex. Since then I have been racking up some serious points.

Where to Go Next

Now I that I have my first business credit card in my wallet, I have my sights set on a couple others. We’ll see what I end up with in 2017. My wife and I are going to ease of the credit card applications a bit, and I want to be a bit more selective about what I apply for. Still, there are some great business cards out there, and I might try to get a couple more in my wallet.

Reflecting on our 2016 Travels

As I sit here on the 20th floor of the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, watching the snow gently swirling lazily down to the street below, I find myself reflecting on our 2016 travels. What a wonderful year of travel my wife and I have enjoyed. It has truly been amazing. So many experiences in so many place. And for so little out of pocket.

We started things off with a wonderful winter trip to Quebec City, Montreal, and New York City. Quebec City is about as European as you can get without traveling to Europe, and we had a lovely four days in a tiny apartment we rented. It was our first experience using AirBnb, and also our first experience of negative Fahrenheit temperatures. Additionally, I realized that my wife absolutely loves ice skating, but is terrified of skiing.

Spring included a couple trips to visit family and friends. Summer then brought our biggest adventure. We were able to spend 30 days in Europe, enjoying the balmy French Riviera, the art and history of Italy, and the exquisitely beautiful Emerald Isle. I already long to go back to Ireland.

During autumn we surprised my in-laws in Portland for a few days in the rainy Pacific Northwest. And now we are on our final adventure of the year, one that will bridge 2016 and 2017, here in Vancouver. We enjoyed Granville Public Market today, and plan to have an easygoing New Years Eve. Tomorrow will be spent in Stanley Park, and Monday is yet unplanned.

All Thanks to Travel Hacking

Through the miles and points we accrued in 2015 and 2016, we were able to enjoy these experiences at a fraction of what they normally would have cost. The flights for nearly all of our trips have been on miles we’ve earned, and much of our hotel has been on points. For our summer trip to Europe, we paid for a total of 4 nights of hotel, plus minimal amounts in taxes for many of the other nights. Flights for the two of us cost a mere $350 total.

I absolutely love helping others interested in the world of “travel hacking”. This is one of the biggest reasons I was so thrilled to be on-boarded with Points with a Crew as a contributor this month. It has allowed me to write for a larger, more established audience (sadly, I’ve written less here).

For my local friends and family, I hope to hold a “Travel Hacking 101” session in late January 2017. I am still thinking about the venue and format, but I would like to set up a time for both a presentation and some Q&A afterwards. If you’re reading this and live in Humboldt, send me a message via email or Facebook if you’re interested and want a spot before I release the invite to the world.

Reflecting on our 2016 travels

Looking forward now to 2017

Looking Forward

Things are mostly unknown looking into 2017. I wrote about 3 trips I look forward to over at Points with a Crew, but these only carry us through January (as we are currently on one of the 3 I wrote about!). We know that 2017 will likely bring a large amount of change to our lives.

Actually….our lives will probably be turned upside down. It is almost certain that 2017 will be the year we finally adopt our children. My wife and I recently had to do a home study update (since it has been so long since we completed the initial one), and from the communication we have had with our agency, they are very hopeful that we will have a referral soon. We are so excited.

This does mean we have to keep the travel plans to a minimum, since we will need to drop everything and be ready to travel about 6 weeks after we say yes to our kids. But I am completely fine with that. Starting our family will be our new adventure. 🙂

My Crazy Weekend Adventure

Sometimes I spend months planning a trip. Other times I throw one together in a matter of hours. Such was the case when I planned a quick weekend adventure.

I had three fairly weak reasons: get myself home from the Bay Area after our California company holiday party, use the Centurion lounge pass I won in MommyPoints’ giveaway, and hopefully be able to volunteer to get bumped from a flight so that I would receive another voucher. Did I need to use the voucher? No, not quite yet. Could I have used the voucher to simply fly home? Sure. Or I could have driven.

But booking a ticket from SFO-DEN on Saturday and a return DEN-SFO-ACV on Sunday sounded like much more fun. And it cost like $12 more than the single leg to Arcata, so why not.

As it turned out, I was selected as a contributing writer to Points with a Crew before the trip rolled around, so the time at SFO airport all day Saturday allowed me to kick out my first posts.

Starting My Crazy Weekend Adventure

I arrived at the airport fairly early via BART (SEE: 4 Reasons to consider BART while visiting the Bay Area) and made it through security is only a few minutes. I was incredibly glad I did not have to check any bags, as the United ticket counter lines were ridiculously long. This is one of the main reasons I prefer to travel with only a carry on when traveling solo.

Entrance to the Centurion SFO

Entrance to the Centurion SFO

The Centurion lounge was easy enough to find in Terminal 3. It’s also fairly close to International Terminal G.

I had no issue using the pass, presenting my new SPG business Amex card along with it (access to the Centurion requires you to be an American Express client). I have heard that lounges sometimes refuse to take one-time passes during busy times.

Breakfast at the Centurion SFO

Breakfast at the Centurion SFO

The Centurion SFO was insanely busy when I arrived, which made me all the more grateful that they took my one-time pass. I found a place at a large table, grabbed breakfast, pulled out my laptop, and started writing.

I would have taken more pictures, except that I feel really awkward snapping photos with people all around. It feels like an invasion of their privacy. So….I hope you’re content with the shot of the exterior and one of breakfast. There are plenty of other great reviews of the various Centurion lounges on other blogs. Overall, I thought it was certainly the nicest lounge I have visited (out of my extremely limited experience).

Over the next several hours I did nothing except write and eat and chat with people on the PWAC Slack channel. Finally, around 6:00 I packed up my laptop and headed down to the gate.

My flight was (of course) delayed. The inbound aircraft was a little overdue, and they they had to pull the one sitting at the gate away and bring in ours.

Due to weather in Denver (I would assume), one of the earlier flights from SFO had been canceled, causing some cascading overbooking. I went up to the counter to discuss volunteering to get bumped, but the next departure wasn’t until 10:40. That didn’t sounds like fun, as I would get less than 3 hours of sleep if I took it.

My Mistake Heading Into the Flight

Instead of thinking on my feet, though, I simply said thank you and left. Looking back, I should have tried to bargain my seat in exchange for both a United voucher and a hotel voucher, as long as United could keep  me booked on just the SFO-ACV leg on Sunday. Probably a long shot, but I lost the opportunity to even ask. You never know what might happen. They did need 7 seats.

We then boarded, and the flight went smoothly. I did a little more writing on my post about little-known BA routes with low fuel surcharges.

Things got interesting after landing at DEN. The jetway wouldn’t attach to the aircraft. It turned out we were parked wrong, and the plane had to be repositioned. It wasn’t exactly fun to spend an extra 45 minutes on a plane, watching the clock tick past midnight.

But I was finally off and headed to the hotel. The only miserable part was the time spent standing in -4°F weather outside the terminal. Hey, I guess it was a reminder of our trip to Canada. Soon I was at the Marriott Denver Airport Gateway (for crazy cheap via a BRG!) and fast asleep.

The Return

Morning came too soon with the 1 hour time difference, and I was one my way back to the airport in no time. Security was quick. The United terminal was fairly empty, but I am sure the Frontier one was in much worse shape after their weekend meltdown.

My flight was delayed by an hour due to operations and an aircraft swap, so I decided to burn another United one-time lounge pass to grab breakfast. The sun came up while I was sitting in the lounge, and it was a gloriously beautiful day.

Denver Airport Morning - Lounge View

A lovely crisp morning at DIA

About 8:30 I headed down to the gate. Boarding went extremely quickly as there were only about 70-80 people and we were on a wide-body! Our original aircraft had been replaced by a Boeing 777, and it was set up for a long-haul flight. Pillows and all!

Empty Boeing 777

A very empty Boeing 777!

I am simply happy that United ran the flight at all, rather than rebooking us on later flights.

I loved the snow covered airport and the Front Range in the distance. It made me want to visit Colorado again soon.

Snowy United Terminal at DIA

Snowy United Terminal at DIA

There was a decent amount of turbulence after takeoff, but things mellowed out as we hit cruising altitude. I snapped a shot of Boulder and the Front Range as we started over the Rockies.

Two hours later we were landing again in San Francisco. It was a crazy quick back-and-forth, but thoroughly enjoyable for me.

Wrapping Up My Crazy Weekend Adventure

Since my flight from SFO back to Arcata was seriously delayed, I spent some time being an avgeek, snapping photos of the the 747s I saw.

United Boeing 747 - SFO Terminal G

United Boeing 747 – SFO Terminal G

Unfortunately, due to the time of boarding, I missed the Lufthansa A380 in Terminal G. I saw it out the Terminal 3 windows just minutes before we were to board.

The final leg to Arcata was quick and uneventful. A good friend of mine picked me up at the airport, and I was soon home to my wife.  🙂

I’ve Been Accepted as a Points-with-a-Crew Contributor!

A few weeks ago, Dan Miller over at Points with a Crew (PWAC) started taking applications for writer positions for his blog. His site is part of the collection of Boarding Area blogs and has decent readership.

Dan has written many good pieces on family travel, detailing his own experiences from the unique perspective of a father of 6. He also regularly posts on credit card and reselling deals, interesting travel stories, and general tips on how to make cheap travel happen with a large family.

When he announced that he would be taking on contributors, I was eager to apply. I figured that I might actually have a shot at the position, having been developing my own blog over the past year, albeit I have nowhere near his readership. I jumped at the opportunity to write for a larger audience.

After writing up my “travel hacking resume” and sending it in along with some links to my work here, I soon got an email from Dan. We cleared up a few things about my interest in the position via email, and he then informed me I had made the second round of picks.

The final round of “interview” required me to write a few sample pieces. I submitted the final of my three samples last Sunday, and anxiously waited for an email. In my head I gave myself a 10-20% chance of actually being selected.

Thus I was floored when I received Dan’s email congratulating me on my selection!

I’ll now be writing multiple articles per week for PWAC, mainly focusing on  travel deals and news. My first one went live today!

« Older posts