Today's interview features 'The Guy' who refuses to be named in public but writes a great blog at flightsandfrustration.com. He offers a more British perspective on the travel world.
How, why and when did you get started to blog your thoughts on travel?
I began the blog http://flightsandfrustration.com in September 2012. I suppose that I'd often had the idea to start the blog much sooner but this is when I finally made a conscious effort to begin.
What is your blog all about?
Flights And Frustration is a personal travel blog. It initially started with me aspiring to let off steam about all the frustrations I encounter whilst travelling. To be honest I've held back a bit so far on those and the site has developed to relaying my travel experiences with mostly a focus on flights. I've been flying almost every month since May 2000 so I've taken a lot of flights! Fortunately most of my flights are Business Class (I fly for work) so I offer a lot of independent reviews of these experiences. There are also some location specific articles such as places of interest to visit or what I think of a local hotel.
Are you a full-time blogger? If so, do you live a rich lifestyle? 🙂
I'm far from a full-time blogger although it feels like it sometimes. I have a full time job which involves me travelling to 6 continents around the world. The blog is a hobby which I find to be great fun to express myself. To be honest though the blog can be very time consuming, composing articles, sorting out pictures, promoting and social interaction with readers and fellow bloggers. If I can connect with people and receive feedback that they share my experiences then I feel as though the effort has been worthwhile.
I'm certainly not rich by Western standards. When I fly long haul work do grant me the privilege of flying Business Class – which is probably the closest I'll get to the rich lifestyle. Once at the destination I tend to stay in mid-range hotels so nothing overly glamorous.
What has been your most popular post so far?
There is little doubt that my most popular post was when I used my frequent flyer points to upgrade to First Class on the Emirates A380. I always wanted to try the experience and thought that by doing so it might make an interesting read for people who visit my blog. It is true luxury in the sky. It is still very popular and generates a lot of visitors every day from Google.
What's your favorite country/place you have traveled to and why?
People often ask me this and I struggle some times. I've always been a big fan of almost anywhere in Queensland, Australia. The place is so beautiful, tropical and also a modern standard of living so you can have comfort in a stunning location. I will always remember one time when I was waiting for luggage at Mackay airport in Queensland, I looked around and everyone in the airport (staff and passengers) all had a smile on their face. Where else would you see that? It re-affirmed that I was in a great place.
I also immediately fell in love with the city of Prague in 1993. I do however feel that this is no longer such a secret and indulgent favourite location for me anymore. It has become exceedingly popular now and that tends to put me off.
Where would you want to live if you'd have to settle on one place?
That is a tricky one. I love the privacy and quietness of being in the countryside whilst also loving the warmer climates and beach lifestyle. I suppose somewhere on or close to the coast in North Queensland would appeal to me.
If I would be looking for beaches, mountains, city life, nightlife – where would you send me?
Beaches – well moving away from Queensland I felt that the beaches and resorts in Langkawi, Malaysia were fabulous.
Mountains – coming from Yorkshire I suppose I would have to say the Yorkshire Dales.
City Life – Melbourne has won numerous awards as the most livable city in the world and I can see why. The city centre is so well structured with a wide range of activities, sporting events and facilities. It has a humungous amount of high quality restaurants, great bars and surely the fashion capital of Australia. I also find it to be a fairly safe place to be with a nearby beach at St Kilda. It ticks all the boxes for me.
Night life – I've kind of grown away from the age of night life now. I know it changes quickly so I'm probably not the best person to advise on this.
What's currently in your TOP 5 list to go to?
My top priority would be to go to the South Pole. I could then say that I've been to all 7 continents, not many people can say that. I could also sit for hours watching the penguins on ice so that would be an amazing experience for me.
I've never made it to New Zealand yet. I've heard so many wonderful things about the place and met many Kiwis who are great company. I know that I'd enjoy it there so hope to make it happen soon.
Croatia seems to be rejuvenated after the horrendous war there in the 1990s. I see stunning pictures of coastal cities and wonderful architecture that I love the place already.
Whilst I visit Italy quite often I've yet to make the opportunity to visit Pompeii. I'm fascinated by history and to see an ancient town preserved in the way this has would mesmerize me. I also want to get there soon just in case the volcano erupts again!
I'll probably never be able to afford to do this properly but Japan seems as though it is a fascinating culture and so different to what I've experienced.
What is your most embarrassing travel pet peeve?
I'm thinking of writing an article for my blog on pet peeves, I have so many of them. We are thrown into a situation where we are in a confined space for hours with complete strangers. We have to make the situation as tolerable for everyone as possible, so inconsiderate behavior by anyone is going to rock the boat. The thing I hate the most is people who continuously sniff. Just get a hanky or tissue for goodness sake, blow your nose and get it over with!
Did you encounter celebrities during your travels?
Yes I tend to stumble across them from time to time. A few years ago I was on the same flight as Ian Rush (former footballer for Liverpool FC). I've been a Liverpool fan and follower for many years so this was quite exciting and I was able to get an autograph.
I've also sat next to the Bishop of Liverpool on a flight to Atlanta as well as staying in the same hotels as the Perth Glory and Sampdoria football teams (not at the same time). I was also on the same flight as the Adelaide Crows AFL team.
More recently my wife and I were staying in a hotel in Leeds when we suddenly noticed the 3 Burgess brothers (Sam, George and Luke) from the England Rugby League team checking in. This was during the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and they'd played a match earlier that day.
What is your favorite airline product you experienced and why?
I really like the complimentary toiletry bags that you receive with airlines mainly flying Business Class. Depending on the airline you can get some real gems in there like high quality cologne and such like. The best ones I've seen so far are from Emirates and I wrote about the contents on my blog.
What is your favorite hotel you stayed at?
Whilst I was working and living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, my colleagues and I went for a weekend break to Dubai. We stayed at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort. This hotel was amazing, personal stereo systems in the bedroom, DVD players, personal waiters on your bedroom floor. Massage parlour, shops, private beach with dedicated sports facilities, amazing swimming pool with a pool bar. The list goes on. I know we have hotel ratings between 1-5 stars, well this one would score 6 for me without any doubt. I'd love to use the place again.
What airline/hotel are you craving to try?
Well I'd love to go back to Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach hotel as I mentioned above. As for airlines I think I'd like to try out Qatar and Thai Airways. I always find the Asian airlines to be of high service quality and I've heard good things about these two.
What are your favorite travel websites and why?
I'm very much into keeping track of the writings of fellow travel bloggers; they can be so inspirational and honest on places you plan to go to. I enjoy the writings on etramping.com and backpackingdiplomacy.com.
In terms of resource websites I like using the discount hotel booking websites such as hotels.com, expedia as well as providers such as Hoseasons. If you time it right you can find fabulous accommodation at a very reasonable price. I've had some great apartment style places to stay for very competitive rates, a few times cheaper than the big name discount hotels. I don't have specific loyalty to one web site I shop around for the best deal at the time.
What gadgets help you out on your travels?
I can't imagine travelling now without my kindle. To hold such a wide variety of reading material in one lightweight device which is thinner than a book is great. It also saves a lot of space on packing. I also love my iPod too. I'm very much into podcasts so it is great to catch up on the latest episodes whilst going long distance.
Being a blogger I guess I couldn't survive without my netbook and camera too. (I'm not very good at travelling light!)
Where do you earn the majority of your miles? Credit Cards, Online Shopping Malls?
Since I fly so much with work I earn the vast majority of my miles with work travel. I hold over a million miles with my preferred Skyteam airline (KLM) and as long as I fly with them at least once a year I can keep my miles which never expire. I also try to collect miles through hotel loyalty cards and so. I have far more miles than I have time to use!
Do you have a simple advice for a beginner – how to collect and use miles easiest?
If you don't fly/travel frequently then look out for things which offer miles and fit into your lifestyle. An airline may offer a credit card in your territory which allows you to earn miles and have a nice signing up bonus. If you are not good for credit then maybe consider a supermarket loyalty card which gives you a chance to redeem your points for miles. In the UK the loyalty cards offered by some of the big supermarkets allow you to do this. You can read more on my ideas for collecting and spending frequent flyer miles (even if you hate flying) in my new e-book.
Can you share a secret with mightytravels.com readers what's a less known way to earn miles?
Whilst you can opt to earn miles with hotel loyalty cards the Marriott Rewards Card is slightly different. With them you can earn both points towards a free night in a hotel and airline frequent flyer miles. Most hotels let you opt for one or the other whereas Marriott give you both.
What is your biggest learning from earning so many miles and points?
The thing I hate the most about earning the miles is that airlines constantly change the scheme rules. You can plan to save up so many points for a trip away or hotel break. Only once you've saved enough points the scheme has been re-based and you are not eligible anymore.
I've also suffered from not being awarded level miles since the airline claims the ticket was not made out with their specific flight number. Even though it was a partner airline that flies the route for them and I've used it before. This happened when I flew with Malaysia Airlines a few years ago with an intention to earn KLM miles. Since the ticket flight number began "MH" as opposed to "KL" I was not given the level miles credit I needed.
Airline frequent flyer schemes are like insurance policies, read the small print and be aware of sudden low profile changes which can have a big impact on your points.
I also hate points expiring so try to avoid that if I can.