Willie (Sweet Willie) was born, raised, and has spent his life in Chicagoland. A true wholesome midwesterner Willie loves the Windy City and what it has to offer. You can see below in a few pictures of recent trips he’s taken that he loves the backwoods and the peace it provides, but he’s a self-proclaimed urbanite that loves all the city has to offer. Willie spends his days as a healthcare consultant and in his spare time you might just find him and his wife at a theatre enjoying the latest show to either come from or visit Chicago.
Willie, thank you again for your continuing contributions to FlyerTalk, both as a moderator and reader. We’re thrilled to you be a part of “Faces of FlyerTalk”.
When did you find FlyerTalk and how did you find it?
I found Flyertalk in the fall of 2000; the URL was posted in a travel magazine I was reading.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
I’m a regular reader, I log on at least a few times per day.
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
I log on at least 4 times per day. My most visited forums are Community Buzz and Coupon Connection.
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
Now almost all my travel is leisure travel. My hat’s off to those road warriors who are married, as when I did my stint, the intense travel almost cost me my marriage.
The little business travel I do is fully controlled by me & of course I get to keep the miles/points. I’ve been employed by some large corporations who required use of their in-house booking service or website. Even with those companies I was still able to generally fly the airline I wanted as well as stay at my preferred hotel chain. Thankfully with every employer I’ve been able to keep the miles & points. One of the in-house travel agents I used became my primary agent as the others didn’t want to deal with the itineraries I was putting together, we became friends and still see each other to this day. She’s actually met and knows other Flyertalkers!
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
SPG Amex is the primary card I use, I’ve also have a couple of mileage cards & other hotel loyalty cards that I use to top off accounts or when I’m flying/staying with that particular partner. Of course I have a zero foreign transaction card for when I travel abroad.
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
At the start of my road warrior stint, my manager at the time was very aware of the benefits of staying with only a few travel providers, he urged me to focus on certain travel partners to maximize benefits. I stayed loyal to United for nearly 2 decades & that paid big dividends for me (& for United), same goes for a variety of hotel loyalty programs.
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
Last year was not a focused year for me as the hotel promos were very poor so I’ve let (or will be letting) 4 top tier hotel programs go by the status wayside. I also did minimal flying. To answer the first part of your question, I’d say ~25k United, ~25k AA, ~40k US (Thank you Grand Slam program), 30k Hyatt, 200k PriorityClub, 50k SPG, 150k Hilton. My lifetime accruals for DL 600k, UA 3M, AA 600k, US 400k, CO 400k, Hilton 2M, Hyatt 400k, Priority Club 2M, Marriott 800k, SPG 800k, Club Carlson 200k.
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
I create my own spreadsheet only if there is a promo going on such as 2X or 3X miles. Other than that, I simply wait until I see the miles/points credited before I toss my boarding passes or folios. ALWAYS hang onto your boarding passes or folios until after a promo is over with, even if they stay/flight posted!!
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
Spouse – She loves the travel that has come about from our points/miles, she is fully aware that we would not have seen/done a tenth of the travel we have w/o points/miles.
Family – Used to look at me skeptically but they have come to appreciate my efforts as they’ve benefitted from the perks. When my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary was approaching, to celebrate, I flew them 1st class RT to Hawaii, all their interisland air was included as well. The hotel points covered their lodging on 4 of the islands. I even flew my brother’s entire family out, but they flew in coach and of course my wife & I had to fly out to join my parents on at least two of the islands.
When my nephews & nieces were having their honeymoons, I also helped out with miles to either upgrade their flights or fly them to their destinations.
Friends – I’ve also used miles/points for friends.
So all in all, most everyone is a fan.
What’s your most memorable trip?
That is truly impossible to answer but I’ll give a few memorable examples.
When I was ~10, my grandparents took me up into Canada on a fishing trip; I had the back of their big Caddy all to myself. We drove to N Minnesota, and then took a seaplane to the remote lodge/lake in Canada. As a kid, that was about the only flying I did. Our family always drove everywhere. My grandparents & I caught plenty of fish & had lakeside lunches prepared by the guide.
My honeymoon we spent on the island of Sint Maarten/St Martin. We stayed at the Dawn Beach resort. The island at that time was VERY easy to get around. We went back ~15 years later, sadly the island held little charm for us.
A number of years ago I planned a Seoul Korea Do. I only really knew one of the Flyertalkers who intended on going, the other 3 turned out to be fantastic people and for not knowing a thing about Seoul, it turned into a really great trip. You can read the trip report here: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/742504-seoul-food-dmz-trip-report-korea-do-2007-a.html
The best loyalty hotel upgrade my wife & I ever experienced was when we were in Venice. We were upgraded to a suite that had one of the two outdoor balconies on the Grand Canal at the Westin Europa & Regina.
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
As with everything in life, there are pros & cons, make sure you are aware of both when considering what program(s) to participate with. Sometimes what may seem like the obvious program isn’t the best.
I’d also urge folks to attend a Do, as there is something great and fun about meeting like minded people. Perhaps a multi-day Do is too much for a first time, but there are plenty of one-time dinner or drink Dos. I do not know of another website that has such an active community.
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
None in particular, when I’m focusing on a topic I like to read everyone’s input as it helps me get all the pros/cons.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
Not much, I’ve heard that there is a “snarky” attitude to Flyertalk, I’ve never really felt or experienced this much at all.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
Ha Ha, big Yes & Yes. We are fortunate to have a very active Flyertalk group in Chicago. I’ve planned Dos when in other cities which has always been fun.
A couple of years ago I was going to be in both Tucson & Phoenix so simply posted dinners in both cities, turnout was good & we had a lot of fun at them, here is the thread from Community Buzz: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/communitybuzz/1048058-arizona-phoenix-area-dinner-friday-april-16-tucson-area-dinner-saturday-april-17-a.html
And here is one from a more recent SoCal dinner Do: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/communitybuzz/1280439-los-angeles-dinner-saturday-jan-28th-2012-a.html
Any other comments / questions / suggestions / advice?
Do not get hung up on getting the absolute best bang for your buck when redeeming miles or points, waiting until that ‘just perfect’ moment sometimes doesn’t happen.
Personally I’ve reduced the amount of points/miles I keep on hand, just too much change/risk in my opinion to be heavy in any one program.
Be aware of “the market”. For instance if flying somewhere, make sure you’re airline of choice isn’t out of whack price-wise with the competition. Sure I’d like to fly my preferred airline but financially it might not make sense. Same with hotels, sometimes a hotel (or condo) outside my loyalty program works as it is better located, has the amenities, or price point I want.
I’ve also found myself renting more condos while on week-long vacations (I like the site www.vrbo.com), in fact just this past March we rented a condo down on Siesta Key where we spent the week with my parents who celebrated their 50th anniversary & my wife & I celebrated our 20th.
As Willie is also a moderator at FlyerTalk we’ve put together a couple of moderator specific questions just for him:
When did you become a moderator at FlyerTalk?
In October of 2011, I became one of four moderators in the Community Buzz forum. Just recently I also became a mod for the OMNI forums, sharing mod duties with two others.
What do you see as a benefit of being a moderator?
Allows me to give back to a community that has given me so much.
If you weren’t a moderator, would you still spend as much time as you do on the forums? More?
I’d spend the same amount of time on FT even if I wasn’t a Mod.
Do you have a favorite post or discussion?
Yes, a few, but for the sake of remaining politically correct, I’ll refrain from quoting any.
If you could make one rule on FlyerTalk that everyone would always abide by, what would it be?
Does it have to be one rule? How about a few:
- When posting a new thread, try & make the title descriptive as possible. This will help other FlyerTalkers who are searching for info. Posting a title of “a few questions” does little good.
- Take a deep breath if you are angry or offended. Many times the limitations/nuances of written word have let you down, not “the other guy”.
- Have fun when you travel, life is too short.
- Try new experiences, one is often well rewarded going outside one’s comfort zone.
- Happy Wife Happy Life, while not really a Travel or FlyerTalker rule, it has always worked for me.
Willie, thanks again for taking the time to spend some time with us. Hopefully we’ll be able to see you at the Chicago Seminars in October this year. Normally as a “Faces of FlyerTalk” we’d change your membership to premium service … we’ve come up with a little something special for you though :). In addition your avatar will now show you, as one of the Faces of FlyerTalk for years to come.
Here are some pictures Willie has shared with us:
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day AutoSlash is donating a $50 Hertz Gift Certificate for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (make sure to include your first name, last inital, and home airport) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.