I was trying to set up an interview with Faith for quite some time. Finally I had an opportunity with Faith aka the 'Miles Momma' to catch up.
How, why and when did you get started to blog your thoughts on travel? What is your blog all about?
I began blogging back in 2010 because of my desire to share my miles and point knowledge with friends and family. I wanted to show them how they too could afford to travel the world like our family was. In 2011, I decided to go public with my blog which was on Blogger at the time. After receiving much interest, I had an idea and made the decision to expand my blog into a complete resource website with the blog as just a part of the site. After months and months of work, I launched the Miles Momma Mile & Point Resource site in April of 2012. My readers loved it and I've receive very good reviews. The Miles Momma site is meant to be a resource site for mile and point collectors and travelers. The Miles Momma site is a resource you can use on a daily/weekly basis to help you find mile/point deals, program information, travel specials, and stay up on promotions. I am continually expanding the site and adding new content as well as updating information. The Miles Momma blog adds daily deals, credit card promotions, secret earning strategies, and travel industry news for readers.
The Miles Momma site is unique because it is not just a blog but a resource site. Geared towards the leisure non-business traveler, the Miles Momma blog stands out from the majority of mile & point bloggers that focus on traveling to earn miles and points. As a leisure traveler myself, I look for ways to earn miles/points without actually flying, staying in a hotel or renting a car. When I travel is always "free" very low cost. The typical business traveler earns their balances in a much different ways than the leisure traveler. Thus, these are the deals I write about. I don't write about Mommy stuff. I keep it straight to the topic of earning & burning miles and points. I'm a hard core mile & point hound and I love to write strictly on this subject. I think there are plenty of other Mommy bloggers talking about traveling with children. I do feature my cute kids and hubby in our family adventures but don't get too much into all the practicality of the actual traveling with children. I think this topic is covered so widely on many other great blogs. My niche is leisure non-business travelers who want to travel FREE or close to it! So if you are just an "average joe" like me you won't have to sift through other mile and point blogs to find the deals that you can actually do. You can subscribed to the Miles Momma blog and you'll have deals feed to you daily that you can do from the comfort of your own home or local area.
Are you a full-time blogger?If so, do you live a rich lifestyle? 🙂
I am a full time Momma who is also a part-time travel blogger, basketball coach, teacher (homeschool my children) and full-time executive home manager, aka homemaker! I juggle many hats and love them all! Busy days with the kids and busy nights blogging and keeping the Miles Momma site going strong!
We are your average middle class, single income family with two kids. The only thing that makes us stand out in the crowd is maybe the amount of countries our kids have visited and the extensive traveling we are able to do only because of the miles and points I earn. Our family's lives have been so enriched by being able to travel and share many wonderful adventures together. We have had many incredible moments with our boys that I will cherish forever in my heart! I love to travel and everyone who knows me would tell you that. I've had the "travel bug" since I really started traveling after graduation high school. I was 18 years old when I first became open frequent flyer accounts and learning about the various programs and ways to get a "free flight". The programs have changed over the years and so have my earning strategies. I have a passion for sharing my hobby and " travel secrets" with others. I'm just an average gal who always dreamed of traveling the world but never thought it would actually be possible. Now only because of the "travel bank" I've accumulated over the years am I living the dream! I want people to know travel is not just for the "rich and famous", "well-to-do families" or "business travelers". I know many families who make a substantially higher gross annual income than our family who aren't able to afford to travel extensively like we do. Miles and points are the key! You can learn the hobby of mile and point collecting and travel the world too! I still pinch myself when I book tickets for our family that would cost $10,000+ and I simply pay with miles and $20 in taxes. Just did this for our flights to France in February. I'm living the dream and so can you!
What's your favorite country/place you have traveled to and why?
I have to say Italy! The food and the culture is just so rich.
Where would you want to live if you'd have to settle on one place?
I would settle right where I am, the beautiful central coast of California. I've traveled to many parts of the world but never found a place I'd rather live than where I grew up. I love living in San Luis Obispo, CA. I grew up in the small town of Los Osos which is on the coast, 15 minutes from SLO (as the locals call it). My high school was actually right on the beach in Morro Bay, CA. Didn't realize how lucky I was until I was older. San Luis Obispo is a small college town of about 40,000 population. It's full of life, low crime, beautiful beaches, parks, restaurants, and happy people. Oprah called my town, "America's Happiest City" and you know Oprah knows!
What places/countries are the most overrated?
Paris. I put off going to Paris for years because I felt like all I had seen and read didn't look as romantic as it was hyped to be. I finally went last month so I could judge for myself. My take away was it's nice but not worth all the "romantic" buzz. I think Prague is far more of a "romantic" city. I loved Prague and would recommend it over Paris as one of the "Most Romantic European Cities" in the world.
What's currently in your TOP 5 list to go to?
Japan, the Holy Land, Iceland, Alaska, Greece. We are planning to visit Alaska for two weeks this summer and explore several regions and I can't wait!
What was the most embarrassing travel situation you ever faced?
When I forgot a pull-up for my toddler son who wet the entire seat while he was sleeping on an 11 hour night flight to Italy. I had to put my tee shirt on him to walk off the plane. He looked so cute though walking in the long t-shirt and wasn't bothered by the fact he had no underwear or pull-up on. I was so embarrassed!
What is your favorite hotel you stayed at?
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. I stayed with my husband for his 40th's birthday for a trip. I planned and payed for his birthday trip 100% on miles and points. It included a fab hotel, helicopter ride, renting a Ferrari for the day, cruise to Catalina island, and much more! Read more about this fabulous adventure here.
What airline/hotel are you craving to try?
Fairmont. I just got the Fairmont Visa last year and have two "free" nights book for my husband & my anniversary at The Fairmont San Francisco Hotel. It looks so elegant! Definitely a place a wouldn't waste these nights with the kiddos. Holiday Inn is right up there alley! All they need to be happy is a good pool and waffle or pancake maker! Boys are easy!
What are your favorite travel websites and why?
Rick Steves. I love to read and dream about my next adventure. He is my favorite travel writer and I've been following him for years! I love his style of budget travel and exploring off the beaten path. I love fancy hotels and first class but I'd much rather have a small little cozy B&B and a little hole in the wall restaurant that serves amazing food. You can take Frommers & Lonely Planet and every other travel guide, I'm sold out to Rick Steves! You'll find that "little blue book" in my bag in every country I've traveled.
Where do you earn the majority of your miles? Credit Cards, Online Shopping Malls?
Hands down, rewards credit cards. If you have excellent/good credit you really should get involved with credit card sign up bonuses. I'm sure you've read that before because it is what every hard core collector is doing. Even if you aren't hard core (yet!), you can really have so many free trips and fun adventures from the piles of miles/points you can earn through these bonuses. You can check out my "Best Credit Card Bonuses of 2014" spreadsheet for some ideas. If you are concerned about ruining your credit, just dabble a little and see for yourself the effect. This is how I started years ago. I proceeded cautiously and when I saw the positive effect on my credit I continued full steam ahead with piles of miles/points adding up in my "travel bank". My scores have remained excellent for years and even in the last 7 years since I've been extremely aggressive. I currently have scores of 794, 779, 812 with 20+ open cards at the moment . They all have no balances on them. I have no debit except a mortgage. Something I am very proud to say. This helps huge. I always pay cards in full each week.
If you don't have stellar credit, there are still options for you. I would get into every checking account bonus offer available. There are been offers in the past years from Chase, Citibank, Suntrust and Bank Direct. I hope we will see more still to come in 2014. You can also earn miles from Perk Street Financial checking account or UFB Direct.
I keep a very detailed excel spreadsheet of all the credit cards I've applied for, the ones I'm considering, and the ones I've currently got open. I have detailed information on the sign up bonus, min. spends, fees, when to close, etc. I'm always updating this spreadsheet throughout the year when I have activity or a new offer comes out that I want to consider. I highly suggest this type of record keeping for those involved in credit card bonuses. Honestly, I keep spreadsheets on everything. I have detailed budgets on trips I'm currently planning, the points/miles required for each expense, points/miles earned, etc. I update the spreadsheet as I'm earning, planning and budgeting for a trip. This many not be possible for those not as computer savvy though. In that case I recommend just keeping all your notes for all the promotions and every mile/point deal in a file folder. Always keep hard copies & screen prints of offers especially large ones. I have a huge file folder and go through it now and then to toss old stuff. Keeping good records is so very important in this hobby. If you would like a copy of any of my spreadsheets for an example feel free to email me. I use to be a business financial gal years ago so this stuff is second nature for me.
I've found AwardWallet to be a great program to track and organize all your loyalty programs. I can't imagine life before AwardWallet.
I also recommend UsingMiles. What really makes UsingMiles unique is that you can see all the bonuses offered by loyalty programs too and you can search for award seats if you have the premium membership. I currently have a partnership relationship with UsingMiles in which I am able to offer all my readers the Premium Membership ($29.99/year) for FREE! You can join for free through my special link ! FYI, I don't receive any commission on this deal. Just a mutually beneficial relationship where I promote their service and they promote my resource site. Anyway, I would recommend entering all your programs into either AwardWallet or UsingMiles system. Then as you add programs be sure to add them there.
My last tip is to read a variety of mile & point bloggers. No one blogger always covers every single mile/point deal out there. Use a reader and add subscriptions to all your favorites. ( I hope you'll consider adding me – www.milesmomma.com )This is a great way for you to daily scan for the deals that you can do and things that interest you without having to visit each individual blog or site. After scanning, you can then click to visit the sites with the information that interested you for that day.
What is your biggest learning from earning so many miles and points?
Don't be greedy! Be smart! Diversify, diversify, diversify! Loyalty to any brand or program doesn't equal "free travel". It gets you stuck without a "free flight" or "free hotel". Go where the miles/points take you. Every hot deal will end and another will come. It's just a matter of time. Loyalty programs will change, increase, decrease; just roll with the changes and make your own game strategy changes. Remember there is always another sweet deal coming down the pipe!