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
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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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Poll : Best Frequent Flier Hotel Chains

In every frequent flier destination, thinking of a hotel to spend some few days is a major consideration. Just like the frequent flier miles points, hotels also offer some loyalty points to their frequent customers.

The capability of being able to redeem the loyalty points has made them even to be valuable.

Whether you are traveling for business or for leisure, comparing the loyalty points programs offered by different hotels can end up saving you some money as well as earning you redeemable points.

Therefore we have come up with a poll to let you vote for  your favorite hotel chains  recommendable for a frequent flier.

 

Do you feel like we have left something out ? Please leave your comments and suggestions in the comment box below.

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The 5 Joys Of Solo Travel

There is joy in solo travel. There is an unspoken pleasure in finding yourself again amidst a new culture. It teaches you something. You get back to your roots. To your essence. You don’t have your homely friends and family to rationalize it. You live it. You prepare for it, and you live each moment of it. Traveling with others certainly has its benefits. Solidifying family and friendship bonds for one, but there is also a case to be made for solo travel from time to time. Why you ask? I’ll give you 5 reasons why.

 

1) Painless Logistics

It’s just you on this journey. You only have to take what you require to survive and have fun on your journey. You can pack a tonne. You can also just pick up the essentials and go. You decide the time, place and nature of your travel. It’s pretty flexible. Whereas while traveling with others you have to keep their logistics and itineraries in mind and in your plans.

2) Flexible Itinerary

Ever wanted to take a detour to a place but couldn’t? Because you had it all planned out with family or your partner? Well, with solo travel you can take those plans and ignore them! Yes you can. You have the freedom to go wherever you want and follow what catches your imagination and fancy. Am not denying that it’s good to plan ahead of your trip, all am saying is that you can ignore those plans and still rock your travel time.

solo-travel-quote

3) Bucket List Item Crossed!

Take out your bucket list now and have a hard look at it. (If you don’t have one, it’s high time you made one 🙂 ) What do you see? A lot of places you want to travel to, right? What has been stopping you so far? Well, you will say you can’t go and leave your family behind, or your partner or your cute little dog. However, if you travel alone (from time to time), imagine all the places you’d cross off on that list. And let’s face it. Sometimes it’s difficult explaining to others why you need or have to go to a particular place. There is a good reason why that destination is on your bucket list. So take the time, travel alone.

4) The Maestro Global Citizen

Have you ever noticed how you stick together with your travel buddies on trips? Because they are known quantities. Because as humans we are tribal. Just look at the many pockets of “little nations” we have in America today. We just cocoon together! Solo travel changes all that! You don’t have anyone to cling to. You are forced to meet, greet and get to know folks in your host nation/destination. You make friends, you meet other interesting people on a similar journey. You learn about them, because you realize that your situation would be precarious without them. It’s a great way to meet new people, learn about different cultures and be a truly global citizen!

5) Get Lost

You are thinking, “Why in the world would I want to get lost in a strange place?” I’ll tell you why. So that you can find yourself. By “get lost” I mean two things:-

a) Get physically lost – which come to think of it, who ever gets lost these days with GPS enabled smart phones, right? Try it though, walk a day without your phone. Get lost. Meander into unknown places. I mean, what’s the joy in life if everything is known, right? Plus, while lost you get to ask for directions. Many a friendships have been started that way. (Yeah right, that argument is weak-ish, but try it anyway)

b) Get Spiritually lost. Am using the term “spiritually” very loose here. But I mean you get to pursue your passions while you solo travel. You can be anyone. You can re-invent yourself and your life on the road. It gives you a chance to nurture yourself, to “sharpen the saw” as Steve Covey puts it. To rediscover yourself and what stirs you.

Conclusion

It’s true. Happiness is real when shared. There is nothing stopping you from sharing that happiness with the people you meet on your travels. Solo travel affords you the opportunity to rediscover yourself, re-invent yourself, think deeply about stuff. And more often than not you come back re-energized, full of ideas and ready to tackle the world. So, don’t hesitate. Pack yourself a bag sometime soon and fly away or drive somewhere. You’ll be glad you did it!

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Weekly Roundup – Jobs That Allow You to Travel The World

You do want to explore this universe but you lacks the means and resources. Worry no more. There are plenty of employment opportunities that requires you to travel across the globe. I urge you to go out there and grab them. Here i share with you just a few of those jobs that allow you to travel the world and at the same time earning some good cash.

English Teacher

You are a native English speaker and probably you have a college degree. Then, this is your opportunity to travel the world. English being one of the world’s spoken language, almost everyone all over the world is in need to learn it. This is the best opportunity to go to a foreign country, teach, interact, explore and at the same time get paid. Why waste your time while you could be in Japan passing your skills to them and at the same time exploring her beautiful nature! Grab this opportunity.

Travel Writer

This another great opportunity for you to grab. There are several travel companies and magazines out there willing to pay as long as you can travel and write quality articles. The company may cater all travel expensive though you have to produce quality work. Travel writing needs dedication, hard work and of all being creative. So, are you a good writer, creative and ready to travel? Then, this is your opportunity

Travel Nurse

In the four corners of the world, we do need nurse services. That said , there is shortage of nurses thus high demand. The shortage can be the opportunity to travel the world while still pursuing your career. Nurses are now required to travel from point to the other, hospital to the other in caring for many people in different cities as well as different countries.

Tour Guide

If you love or you’d like to travel the world then Tour Guide is the career for you. Where else will you explore beautiful Paris or Athens and get paid for it?

To be a tour guide you need to relate well to people, have rich history of the place, its secrets and its amazing culture. If you’re a multilingual that’s an added advantage.

Pilot

Being a commercial airline pilot it’s another way to see and explore the world and you get a good salary on top of that. Here you get the chance to travel and see biggest cities of the world.

For you to become a commercial airline pilot you need to have the qualifications, that is, a degree in piloting and other requirements may be needed depending with Airline company.

Flight Attendant

You need to have a specialized degree to become a flight attendant while other airlines require customer service experience and certification.

Being a flight attendant you enjoy cruising across many and big cities of the globe.

Which other jobs you feel I’ve omitted and they should be included in this post? Feel free to add them in comment box below

Amazing Reads of The Week

Summer To-Do List – Travel Channel

The greatest retirement asset you’ll ever have – My Own Advisor

How passive investing is improving your mental toughness – Monevator

How to Fly on American Airlines for Free (or Close to it) – Your Personal Finance Pro

West Marin – Crisp Days, Cheese Trails & Wild Beauty – Woman Traveler

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