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Travel Blogger Interview – Double Barreled Travel

Carmen and Dave are the founder and authors of Double Barreled Travel blog. They are two Aussies who moved to London together at the end of 2008, beginning an adventure with little expectations. You can follow their blog on Twitter, Facebook, Gmail or You Tube.

First of all give us a quick background of both of you….

I kissed Dave goodbye a week after we started dating and told him to have fun – he was off to travel the world for a year and I wasn’t about to stop him.

Dave and I met when I was 18 and he was 23 but we didn’t start dating until three years later. When this happened, I was a year out of university (where I studied journalism) and working at a local newspaper. He’d just finished a five year stint as a TV reporter, working for stations including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He left for his trip but returned six months early. We decided to move to London to live and three months later packed our bags, hugged our families goodbye and have been living outside of Australia ever since (this was in 2008). But we did return to Perth briefly to get married in 2012.

In London, Dave worked for Al Jazeera, Sky News and then the BBC as a Senior Broadcast Journalist. I worked for an online magazine, a finance magazine and then as a deputy editor for a number of B2B publications before becoming an account manager at a creative content agency.

But we were getting bored in our day jobs and felt we weren’t challenged enough. So we quit and began traveling the world full time. That was one year ago!

What inspired you to start a blog?

It was when we were living in London and Dave was working at the BBC and I was at the creative content agency. We had good jobs, people even told us so, but deep down we weren’t satisfied.

We often read the posts our friend Natasha published on Glampacker.com and when she told us about going to a blogging conference in Manchester, and how great it was, we decided to head to TBU in Porto.

When we were there, Dave and Deb from The Planet D spoke about how they used to work in Hollywood and even though they had jobs people admired, they weren’t satisfied. Their true passion was travelling and they felt as though they were missing out.

When they were speaking, Dave and I turned to each other and it was like we each had light bulbs going off above our heads. Without even saying a word, we both new we had to change our lives, because just like Dave and Deb we were living lives that we didn’t love.

Dave and Deb inspired us with their talk and seven months later we quit our day jobs for good to travel indefinitely.

Why name your blog after your Surname?

A lot of people don’t get the ‘Double-Barrelled’ aspect to our blog. Sometimes they think it’s something to do with shotguns!
We decided to call it Double-Barrelled Travel because when we got married we both double-barrelled our names, each taking the name of the other.
Because we started our blog shortly after we tied the knot, we thought it was fitting because it was all about the adventures we were undertaking as a couple.

What was your experience Carmen working as a shoe shiner?

These days I look back on that experience with a smile but at the time I can honestly say I hated it!

It was a necessity though – Dave and I arrived in London in 2008, in the beginning of the worldwide recession. As the plane landed, it was broadcast on the news that the BBC that day had laid off 800 people.

Dave’s goal was to work for the BBC so we were a little disheartened!

We really struggled to find work and to pay our rent Dave worked on a street corner selling The Sun newspaper and I became a shoe shiner.

I was put to work shining shoes in all the stockbroking firms and my boss was very paranoid that word would get out I was a journalist and they’d think I was working undercover to listen in on their banking conversations. I had to promise I wouldn’t report on anything I heard and I didn’t.

It was a very good introduction to the class system in the UK though and although I hated it at the time, I’m glad I did it because it made me appreciate where I am now in my career working for myself.

Sometime Dave jokes ‘I got on my knees for the bankers when times were tough’… I guess it helps to put a humorous spin on things.

I notice you have a company called Red Platypus. What’s that all about?

Red Platypus is our bread and butter. When we began travelling indefinitely a year ago, we had a vague idea that we’d start to work at some point and we officially launched Red Platypus to support our lifestyle around two months ago.

We’ve actually been super lucky and haven’t had to market ourselves for work as of yet. One of our main clients we met after staying in her house through Airbnb in San Francisco, and another main client is an old school friend of Dave’s.

Red Platypus focuses on social media marketing, copywriting, editing and video production for small businesses around the world. Basically we are helping small businesses, with all the skills we’ve learnt as journalists, to produce creative content that grabs attention.

If you had to give one piece of advice for couples looking to travel on a budget what would it be

Keep track of your budget! Most people want to travel cheaply but then run out of money sooner than they thought they would and are left thinking, ‘Where the hell did I spend it?’

Ever since I spent my first year away from home on a student exchange to Paris at the age of 15, I’ve been obsessive about tracking my expenses. I used to write everything down but these days I’ve thankfully got an iPhone to help.

I use the Trail Wallet app that allows you to track everything you spend and will let you know when you go over your budget.

Are there any budget travel lessons that you learned the hard way?

Try not to make rush decisions and if you need help with something you’re unsure about, don’t be afraid to ask.

These tips would’ve come in handy before buying our van in Canada at the beginning of our six month road trip around North America. We bought it in a rush and didn’t bother to get a mechanic to look over it.

As a result, the van broke down the next day and we ended up spending nearly $5,000 fixing it.

Which brings me to another tip – have money in reserve for emergencies like that!

(And also get travel insurance so you don’t have to worry about health emergencies.)

Of all the places you traveled to, what was your favorite?

Probably the island of Dominica in the Caribbean (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). It’s an absolutely beautiful place, full of waterfalls, jungle and interesting wildlife.

It’s hardly been touched by tourism so it’s a little hidden slice of paradise.

We lived there for two months at the end of last year and had the time of our lives.

What is one place that you regret going to?

We kind of regret going to Las Vegas. We weren’t really prepared because we didn’t have much money at the time, and ended up staying in the world’s seediest motel where we witnessed crack dealings in the car park.

We didn’t really enjoy the city either – everything is so fake and we couldn’t get why you’d want to take a photo of a fake Eiffel Tower when the real thing was so much better.

But we’re willing to give it another try – in a better ‘party’ frame of mind perhaps.

What places are still on your bucket list?

Antarctica! We’d love to cruise up there and see the wildlife. We’ve been to the other six continents so it’s only a matter of time…

Aside from traveling, what’s the best general advice you want to pass to people?

Stop living a life people expect you to live if it doesn’t make you happy. Think outside the box and don’t just take the safe and easy route – that’s boring.

There’s so much emphasis these days on buying a house and having a fancy car but sometimes it’s good to step back and evaluate if these are the things that really make you happy.

The longer we’re on the road, the more we realise material possessions just don’t mean much to us and it’s the experiences we’re having that are creating a feeling deep inside – and that’s something money can’t buy.

Live a remarkable life.

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Airline Credit Card You Use and Why?

In this series we’ll be asking some of our favorite bloggers their opinion or advice on a specific question. This way instead of just getting our thoughts on the topic, you can read a diverse range of views from some great bloggers.

If you’re a travel blogger and would like to take part in this series in the future, please contact us.

This week the question we asked bloggers was:

Which airline credit card do you use and why?

Stephen Lioy at MonkBoughtLunch

My favorite credit card that is properly an ‘airline card’ is the United Explorer. I get some occasional value out of the early boarding and free checked bags, and United miles are still one of my favorite points even post-devaluation. More than that, though, I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for my airline purchases. Especially for international flights where the bags are free anyways, the 2.14 points per dollar + bonus for booking through the Ultimate Rewards mall/ partner sites make it a better value proposition for booking. Add in the really good lost and delayed baggage insurance and other perks they offer, and its a no-brainer. Even now that I’m paying the annual fee for it, the CSP keeps a place of honor in my spending patterns.

John Schmoll at Frugal Rules

My favorite Airline credit card would be a tie between the Southwest credit card and the Frontier Airlines credit card. Who doesn’t like Southwest? We love to fly Southwest as their rates are reasonable and they don’t charge any baggage fees. Both my wife and I have churned the Southwest cards and have earned several free flights out of it. The Frontier card is a great one as well because it has a ridiculously easy minimum spend to hit. We’ve churned that card as well to get free flights.

Norbert Figueroa at Globo Treks

My favorite is the Chase Sapphire because I get double miles for any travel purchase and it doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.

Auston Matta at Two Bad Tourists

One of our favorite cards is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express. Though not strictly an airline card, its flexibility lets you transfer your points to more than 30 different airlines. We use this option to top off our mileage accounts when necessary or to book rooms at Starwood properties. We recently stayed the Sheraton Hotel Santa Maria de El Paular in Rascarifa Spain, a great day trip from Madrid.

Jan Ross at Wanderlust Wonder

The Venture Capitol One Visa card. We use this to accumulate points for travel or even just to purchase gift cards.

Jacob and Vanessa at Tightwad Travelers

We have many, but right now the best deal in airline cards is the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card. It offers 110,000 American Airlines miles after spending $10,000 in 3 months. If you really get creative, you can meet the minimum spend requirement before the first statement cuts, receive the miles, and then cancel the card within 30 days after the statement cuts to have the $450 annual fee refunded. This is all legal per the terms and conditions, but it’s sort of a moral grey area. Better yet, you can get multiple cards because Citi is handing them out like candy. Between my wife and I, we have six.
110,000 AA miles is enough for a nice Business/First Class International flight, or 2-3 international flights in economy, or 4.5 domestic flights in economy. Great deal!

Susan Shain at Travel Junkette

My favorite is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I’m always moving around and don’t have a home airport, so I love the flexibility it offers. I can cash in my Ultimate Rewards points to fly on pretty much any airline, which is just amazing. Plus, I love that I get two points per dollar on travel and dining. Not to mention it is a snazzy-looking card!

Annette at Bucket List Journey

I use the United MileagePlus Explorer card because it coincides with the StarAlliance program and gives me perks like access to the business lounge, no fees on foreign transactions, priority boarding and the miles don’t expire. I pair this card up with the HiltonHonors card for discounts on my hotel stays.

Which is your favorite airline? Why is it your choice? Share with us in comment box below.

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First Rule of Borrowing: Keep Your Word

The following is a guest post. If interested in submitting a guest post please read my guest post policy and then contact me.

Once you qualify for a loan with 800LoanMart, it is important to use your money wisely and pay it back on time. Although many borrowers do not see this as a major means of establishing a credit record, dishonoring your commitment could have negative repercussions. Those who borrow often do so because their options of borrowing from traditional financial institutions is limited. They either have negative credit incidents in their personal history or have no record of revolving credit for lenders to approve. This can be quite limiting, and non-traditional loan firms help to give borrowers with these type of credit histories some more options.

It is important to use the loan for the purpose you tell the lender you are borrowing money. This not only helps to establish you as creditworthy, but it also ensures you are trustworthy in a lender’s eyes. If you do not honor what you say, it becomes difficult to do business with you in the future. Honest can lead to bigger lending opportunities in the future, but this is where you begin to lay the groundwork for those opportunities.

Paying back the money you borrow when you say you are going to pay it is equally important. It, too, builds trustworthiness. Even is something comes up like the loss of a job, it is important to stay in communication with your lenders and let them know your situation. Even if you cannot pay the entire amount when it is due, if you can pay something, it lets the lender know you are making a good faith effort to keep your word.

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Travel Blogger Interview – Happy Flier

Bob is the founder and the author of Happy Flier. He love to travel to distant locations, fly in the front of the airplane, and stay in the best hotels. Through creative use of mileage and mattress runs, He’s able to do this at greatly discounted rates. You can also follow Happy Flier Blog on
Twitter
.

First of all tell us the short version of your story.

I’ve always enjoyed traveling, but while I found trips to the Texas Gulf Coast to be affordable, trips to more exotic distant locations were not. Many years ago a friend sent me a link to sign up for Citi’s American AAdvantage MasterCard. Once we got that card my wife and I used it for all our purchases and, before too long, had enough miles for a trip to Hawaii. It may have been in coach, but it was still Hawaii. That was when I first learned the power of building up my miles and points.

A few years later we used Hilton points to spend 10 days at the Hilton Waikola on the Big Island, something we could not have paid for without the points. I was in the swimming pool and overheard two men talking about using miles to travel around the world and one said, “I look at FlyerTalk.com every day and have learned so much from it.” FlyerTalk.com? Never heard of it, but knew I had to check it out. I visited the site that night and that was my introduction to mileage runs, credit card churning, affinity programs, etc. Fabulous vacations were suddenly possible for me. In the past few years we have visited Ireland, Germany, Italy, Hawaii (several times), Hong Kong, Thailand, and Indonesia

What motivated you to start your blog?

I had never given it any thought, but every time I got home from a trip I sent a friend long emails about where I had gone, what I had done, etc. He suggested I start a blog – I said I had no idea what to write about. He replied, “Just write what you are putting in the emails to me!” And that is how Happy Flier began. I never realized where it would go, I even ended up on an episode of Nightline!

What advice do you have for someone looking to apply for an airline miles credit card?

The person needs to be able to answer the question “Why are you applying for this specific card as opposed to any other card?” If they can’t answer that question, they don’t need to be applying for the card. I no longer apply for cards so that I can charge items; I apply to get the specific benefits (usually airline miles or hotel points) that the card offers. Some cards are better than others, offering a larger bonus or greater flexibility. The two cards we use the most are the Starwood American Express and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

What are your views on the churn and burn tactic where people are mass-applying for credit cards to get the bonuses?

It’s appropriate that “churn and burn” contains the word “burn.” This tactic is like fire which does wonderful things for you like providing light, helping to heat your home, cooking your food etc. But if you abuse it, it can destroy your home and everything you own. This is not something that one should casually do.

Unless you have a high credit rating and are able to pay off all of your purchases at the end of the month, stay away from churn and burn. There are several blogs, such as The Frugal Travel Guy and Million Mile Secrets that offer great suggestions on how to do this the right way such as when you should apply, which cards to apply for, the benefits you will receive, and the affect it can have on your credit rating. If someone does their research, knows what they are doing, and use their cards responsibly, churn and burn can be a great tool.

With many airlines struggling financially, do you think that they will eventually scale back their rewards card offerings?

As the airlines reduce the number of flights, increase their passenger load per flight, benefit from a reduction in fuel costs, and start to use more fuel-efficient aircraft, the bottom lines have improved greatly. Delta Airlines had a net profit of $281 million for the 1st Qtr FY 2014. American Airlines earned over $400 million for the same period. So, the industry is looking much better than it did a few short years ago. The airlines are paid a huge sum of money for the miles they sell to the credit card companies, so they will continue to milk that cash cow as long as they can. The problem is fewer flights result in fewer award seats for the card holders, while the airlines are, at the same time; making it more challenging to earn status (United now includes revenue as part of its elite status requirements instead of just miles). This makes it more difficult for the customer to take advantage of their miles. It used to be easy to get an award seat, but that is no longer the case. See my article on what I went through to get award seats for an upcoming trip to Bali. People will still be able to get their reward card offerings, my concern is whether or not they will be able to use them.

Do you feel that airline credit cards offer superior rewards compared to cash back or other rewards credit cards?

That all depends on the individual and what kind of rewards they want. Some are happy with cash back, I prefer miles and points.

Do you have any tips regarding earning more airline miles?

I believe you need to have a target number of miles in mind and not be earning miles just for the sake of earning them. Some people earn them to acquire airline status; I earn them so that my wife and I can fly in the front of the plane to exotic locations that we would otherwise never visit. Once you have that target in mind it becomes easier to figure out what you need to do to reach it. Maybe you need a few mileage runs or an additional credit card bonus. With its many forums, Flyertalk.com offers many suggestions for people to earn those miles.

How does it feel to fly around the country without ever leaving the terminal?

I just look at it as part of the process and something I need to do to reach my target number of miles. I’ve made connections several times in New York and Boston and really wished that I had had enough time to go into town, but the schedules would not allow it. On the other hand, I have visited Seattle so many times and gone into town (A Mariners game, the Boeing plant) that if I have to sit at SeaTac for a few hours it’s not a problem for me. I already know which airport restaurant to visit for great seafood. I am Admirals Club member, so can relax at the Club if need be. I bring my iPhone and tablet so I always have a way to stay busy (reading books, listening to music, playing games, etc.). It’s just not a big deal to me.

I made a recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa. I know people who flew all the way there, never left the airport, and flew back later that day. That’s a 22,000 mile trip without leaving the airport and that just didn’t make any sense to me, how many chances would I have to visit that area? So I scheduled it as an overnight trip, giving us enough time to relax, see the area, and take advantage of being in an area that is so different from where I live in Central Texas. I am very glad we did that!. On the next trip we had a long enough layover in London that we were able to go into town

Of all the places you traveled to, what was your favorite?

That’s easy, Bali, Indonesia. We went there two years ago, and will go back for a few weeks later this year. We liked it so much that we actually talked about moving there permanently once I retire. It’s a beautiful area, the dollar is strong against the Rupiah, we never faced a language barrier, and appreciated the less-hectic lifestyle. My only suggestions for visitors from North America are;

  • DON’T drink the water (I learned that the hard way after I drank a Coke with ice cubes in it) and
  • DON’Tt even think of driving a car there, get a cab.

Do you have any major travel regrets?

I wish I had started collecting miles years earlier. Years ago I made several trips to Germany for work and never bothered to join the airline frequent flyer club. Dumb on my part. I also worked in retail for many years and remember people paying for their purchase with an airline credit card and bragging about the miles they were earning – I wish I had listened to them.

Aside from traveling, what’s the best general advice you want to pass to people?

YOLO! You Only Live Once! Make the most of it. Today will never come again, life offers so many opportunities. Travel. Go back to school. Volunteer to help a charity. Learn to cook Italian food the right way. Open your life to the many opportunities around you; you’ll be glad you did.

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Airline You Prefer to Travel With and Why?

In this series we’ll be asking some of our favorite bloggers their opinion or advice on a specific question. This way instead of just getting our thoughts on the topic, you can read a diverse range of views from some great bloggers.

If you’re a travel blogger and would like to take part in this series in the future, please contact us.

This week the question we asked bloggers was:

Which airline do you prefer to travel with and why?

Audrey Bergner at That Back Packer

I had the chance to visit Istanbul several times this year, and many of those flights were aboard Turkish Airlines. Their service was excellent! I like that even though I was flying economy class, they still made an effort to provide the best service possible. This included handing out hot towels to freshen up, providing a menu before the meal was served, and even treating passengers to sweet treats in the form of Turkish delight. It’s the little things that count!

Stephen Lioy at MonkBoughtLunch

Turkish Airlines is one of my favorites. Part of this is just convenience. I spent much of my time these days based at a somewhat our of the way airport (FRU), so Turkish has by far the most connections from here. They’re also a Star Alliance carrier, though, so my United miles can take me far. Add to that the comfy seats, decent in-flight entertainment, and pretty tasty food and I’m always happy to be boarding flights with them instead of the other options I have to choose from.

Norbert Figueroa at Globo Treks

I prefer to fly American Airlines, not because I think it is a great airline, but because I have the most frequent flyer miles with them. But, two airlines that I truly like because of their service are Asiana and Etihad. Would fly with them any day.

Auston Matta at Two Bad Tourists

Our favorite airline to date has been Singapore Airlines because they really make service a priority. We flew economy class from Tokyo to Los Angeles and didn’t even mind the 10 hour flight. The highlight was receiving complimentary champagne within 5 minutes of boarding, even in economy. But since we don’t travel to Asia often, we more regularly fly US and Europe airlines. Of those companies, we most prefer Lufthansa because they also focus on service and really go the extra mile to please their customers. The Lufthansa airport lounges also happen to be some of the best in Europe.

Jan Ross at Wanderlust Wonder

Our favorite airline so far has been Air France. The seats were much more comfortable and roomier than domestic airlines, we were actually served meals, and the service was impeccable.

Savi and Vid at Bruised Passports

Even though we have had our encounters, good and bad, with airlines ranging from budget to the top-rated over the last six years, Emirates has to be our favourite. Since we fly out of London, Emirates offers excellent connectivity to pretty much any corner of the world on extremely comfortable aircraft and usually at very competitive prices. Vid is an aviation geek so he loves flying on the Airbus A380. The seats, personal entertainment, food, and the service have always been top notch whenever we have flown with Emirates. What’s more, the connection times are usually small and if someone is interested in exploring Dubai, Emirates makes getting the 96 hour UAE visa quite easy. We have flown with them quite a few times now and have had only good experiences.

Susan Shain at Travel Junkette

Since I live in Alaska during the summer, I fly with Alaska Airlines a lot. And they’re just the best. They have amazing customer service and are always on time.

Lauren Juliff at Never Ending Footsteps

Virgin America. I love the super-friendly staff, the colourful cabin lights and the fact that they allow me to keep the window shade down during take-off and landing (which prevents me from having a panic attack)!

Annette at Bucket List Journey

Whenever flying internationally, AirFrance is my preferred airline. They have comfortable foot rests, personal entertainment monitors so I can control my own movie schedule during the flight, free wine and pretty good meals. I even had a delicious vegetable orzo salad on my last trip. I have never used the words delicious and airline food together before this.

Which is your favorite airline? Why is it your choice? Share with us in comment box below.

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