Interview with Scott Grimmer – founder of milevalue.com

I first met Scott a last years FTU in Los Angeles. milevalue.com invented the term of the "free oneways" – a technique that allows to add extra flights to a regular award.

How, why and when did you get started to blog your thoughts on travel?

I started my blog in March 2012 by sketching out an equation for the value of my frequent flyer miles at a gate at LAX at 5:30 AM.

There were already a lot of blogs about frequent flyer miles, but I thought they weren't very rigorous in their thinking about the value of miles, which has profound implications for how to use miles and when to buy a cash ticket instead.

What is your blog all about?

I quickly ran out of posts on the value of miles (though I still reference all the original posts), so I started writing about creative ways to redeem miles.

When I started my blog, I also started an award booking service, so I was personally redeeming millions of miles a month on others' behalf in every frequent flyer program imaginable. That experience taught me a number of tricks, like adding "free oneways" to United awards.

I consider sharing tricks to maximize award redemptions to still be the heart of my blog. While other blogs focus mainly on earning miles-the easy part in my opinion-MileValue is best known as the leading blog about redeeming frequent flyer miles.

What do you think has been your most popular post so far?

Master Thread: Free Oneways on United Awards

Who wouldn't want half the flights for their next vacation for zero extra miles? The post discusses how to add a free oneway to Hawaii, Canada, your parents' houses, wherever onto a United award for zero extra miles.

What's your favorite country/place you have traveled to and why?

My favorite country scared me when I first stepped off the plane in 2006. I thought, "Why did I decide to do this study abroad in Lima, Peru?" But Peru grew on me fast because it has enough to blow you away for three months or more.

Start in Lima, a throbbing mega-city of 8.5 million with food and entertainment options galore. Don't miss the quieter side either, with a string of parks set atop cliffs looking out at the Pacific.

Head to Cuzco, a city steeped in Inca tradition with a sneaky nightlife scene to go with its overwhelming cultural options.

Cuzco is the gateway to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. I've been to Machu Picchu three times, and my number one tip is to arrive at dawn to beat the tourists. Machu Picchu is one of the most hyped destinations in the world, and yet I don't know anyone who's been disappointed. The stone city ruins in the mountains are stunning.

Large tracts of Peru are in the Amazon Rainforest. Start an Amazon tour in Iquitos, the largest city in the world not accessible by road (air or river only.) Nothing in the world compares to experiencing the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest.

Head to Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake where you can sleep on the natural islands of Amantani and Taquile and be invited to cultural dances. Even better, spend the night on the man-made Uros floating islands, which Uros people have to constantly regenerate with the lake's reed grasses.

For outdoorsy folks, don't miss Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, where you can spot wild condors, visit villages that just got electricity in the 90s, and hike to the bottom where mules bring in the supplies.

You're not done yet because you still haven't dune-buggied or sand-boarded in the desert, flown over the mysterious Nazca Lines, checked out the aquatic wildlife in Islas Ballestas, gone to a vineyard to taste wine and pisco, headed to the incredible white sand beaches of Mancora in the north, or climbed the volcanoes near Arequipa.

See my Top Ten Things to Do, Eat, and See in Peru: http://milevalue.com/top-ten-things-to-do-see-and-eat-in-peru-prologue/

How many countries have you been to?

42. I wish I didn't know the number because there are far more interesting goals than counting countries in my opinion. I do not have a goal number, and the travel I am most looking forward to in 2014 would be returns to several of my old favorite countries.

What's currently in your TOP 5 list to go to?

World Cup 2014 in Brazil
North Korea
Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Return to the Croatian coast for more cliff jumping
Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

What was the most complicated flight itinerary you have ever booked?

For myself, I booked a standard US Airways award that included stops in South America, Africa, Europe, and North America. It had 40 hours of business class beds for only 100k miles.

Because US Airways only allows one stopover OR one open jaw, I had to include throwaway legs from Chicago to Buenos Aires that I never intended to fly but including them saved me a few hundred thousand miles.

The full story of the award planning and booking is here: http://milevalue.com/anatomy-of-an-award-south-america-africa-europe-and-north-america-in-biz-for-100k/

What is your favorite airline product you experienced and why?

Emirates First Class on the A380 by far. The shower was refreshing, the suite was comfortable and private, and every detail of the plane was over the top. But it all paled in comparison to the service.

I remember walking back to the back of the upper deck to the fully-stocked bar shared by First Class and Business Class, and a flight attendant rushed back from First Class: "Sir, if you know what you'd like to drink, I can bring back the special First Class spirits."

The bartender saw me taking a lot of pictures, so he suggested standing behind the bar for one.

On most flights, I feel like the flight attendants are counting down to the end of the flight. On Emirates, I felt like every employee's goal was for me to have the best flight of my life.

What airline are you dying to try?

I really want to fly Cathay Pacific First Class, Singapore Suites Class, and Lufthansa First Class out of Frankfurt to experience the First Class Terminal. I have all three booked for 2014! 🙂

Where do you earn the majority of your miles? Credit Cards, Online Shopping Malls?

Credit card sign up bonuses, and it's not even close.

With a lot of time and energy and money, you can earn a lot of miles through buying gift cards, flying mileage runs, and using online portals. With very little effort and very little money, you can rack up hundreds of thousands of miles per year from credit cards.

For me, the choice is simple.

Do you have a simple advice for a beginner – how to collect and use miles easiest?

Pick a blog whose writer's style matches your thinking style. Get two rewards cards he recommends that earn the same type of miles (or transferable points). As you meet the cards' minimum spending requirements, start fantasizing about the nearly free trip you'll take with the miles. Then start playing around on an award search engine like united.com to find award space. By the time you book your trip, you'll already have effortlessly learned a lot about miles from reading the blog you've been reading the whole time and doing all the dummy award searches.

You are now addicted to miles and points and have the tools to sustain your addiction!

What is your biggest learning from earning so many miles and points?

The best use of miles is often to give them away.

In 2013, I traveled nine months outside the US to 20+ countries. And yet I had more miles than I could use. I booked four trips for friends that they otherwise couldn't have taken, in all cases either flying them to visit me or to accompany me on a trip.

The happiness I got from those redemptions exceeded the happiness I got from my Emirates First Class redemption.