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Stan, (Travelkid) is a self-dependent globetrotter involved in the legal industry, and a self-proclaimed epicurean. His background involves extensive international background for NATO, EU and UN in combat zones including humanitarian work in areas like rural Afghanistan, working with a fixed price on his head. Stan tends to go all-in when he gets focused. In addition to extensive travel RTW for a long time involving miles and points in the sense of flights and hotels, he has as well driven multiple street rallies all around the world. The interest for cars is as high as for planes and he has also a big interest in collectible cars. Stan, thank you for sharing your perspectives and experiences with us all. We’re thrilled to you be a part of “Faces of FlyerTalk”.
When did you find FlyerTalk and how did you find it?
Probably heard about it a few times, from my amazing TA, for a couple of years before dropping by the site for a year reading some, and then eventually signing up 3 years ago. But first year was basically without posting IIRC. Then the last 2 years I’ve become a rather active member. Btw, one of my first posts was finding out what to post as I had discovered a great way to maximize US miles, but being afraid already back then that posting would kill it. It lasted for quite some time still and I could fly LX/LH and the Asian carriers from EU to Asia return for 40K each in first. Did a whole bunch of those. Trick is partly still alive, and I still use it, albeit with more positioning.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
I guess addicted is an understatement I probably spend more time on this than most people do for regular work, at least for me! But I have managed to control my addiction so that I don’t use handheld devices. Self-control hmmm.
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
Present Modus operandi is keeping FT open in a window about 16 hours a day, as well as other related forums, when I’m online – which is most of the time unless there is travel involved. I refresh my subscribed threads several times daily. New threads are added either when I do the more infrequent forum crawl to look for news, or when I’m tipped off about something from friends or blogs. I follow several airline forums and most hotel forums, including hotel deals. In addition I watch TB topics, CC and then there’s all the random stuff like community buzz, travel specific forums depending on my next or past travel, and rental cars. At times its hard to keep up, and I have to set aside time to read through monster threads like RGN-fares, 4-miler, Grand Slam and US awards. Once I updated on US award thread reading 50+ pages (after weeks on travel that is so I was way behind!) laying in the back of an ambulance between Trabzon and Ankara, Turkey! Obviously no WiFi aboard, but each page had been downloaded before departure.
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
After I passed 20 I’ve never had a job with more than a 6 month horizon. I’ve done lots of projects and consulting, and contracts have been extended for months at a time only. It has been a fair bit of work related travel, and that’s why I got so late into the mileage game, because I always had access to, at least at the time ,what looked like great leisure deals too. Especially if combining business and pleasure, which is my mantra anyway. I try not to differ between the two. These days, or years I pay all myself as self-employed. I love my freedom and I always include leisure in business, as well as I try to include business in leisure. And naturally I’ve become mileage savvy. Time is my most important asset, so by principle I don’t fly Y; not even on a free flight, and that’s why I don’t follow MR forum. Its been like 50+ longhauls in first class last few years, and that includes GF for the most part. I’m even avoiding C like the plague Intra flight in one zone/continent, typically EU/US I different, then its often Y unless its connected to long-hauls.
With business what parameters do you have on booking? Do you get to keep the miles and points?
Not really applicable anymore, but I remember my first *A gold card years ago. I survived a brutal armed and violent robbery in a former war-zone, and after being let out of hospital I was escorted home by a nurse on a *A flight, just days before my silver expired. Took a few months to mostly recover before heading to carnival in Salvador de Bahia, Brasil – while the robberers were imprisoned for years in terrible conditions. I felt I won – they lost!
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
I have 10+ cards but not really for points purposes. I do have Amex ICC $ black/centurion which does have some benefits of course.
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
Well this one is tricky. I’m always looking for scaling and synergy options. All the best deals are either partly alive thus kill-able or will definitely alert the ever present moral police. I will have to go below top ten to report a great deal through chain reaction Initially I did 2 EU-BKK runs on AA, that is via US so about double the shortest length probably. Tickets booked in Y during double EQM promos. Meaning these 2 trips more or less gave me EXP. The strange routing sent me once to secondary in US in what reminded me of 3rd world holding cell while waiting. Also on one of the returns I showed up one day early at BKK being totally jet-lagged and disoriented! Anyway I borrowed eVIPs so most of it was flying C, and great use of eVIPs too, as you only need one to upgrade something like LHR-ORD-NRT. Netted me plenty of RDMs, EXP status, incl 8 eVIPs (making it 4 eVIPs net). And tickets were in area of 1800$each IIRC. Also bigger baggage allowance via US, so did heavy shopping as well in Asia.
Then I status-matched to BMI gold, and booked one of the famous ex-CMB F fares. Flew MLE-CMB-SIN-HKG-BKK-NRT-SFO-YVR return using TG/SQ/NH&UA (9 F segments IIRC) for something around 2500$. With gold status on BD they gave 325% RDMs and I believe it pushed me above their internal gold+ threshold to give 625% for a chunk of it. Redeeming creative routing with BD of course, and then when BA bought BD later get matched to BA gold for 2 years before a later soft landing.
BA gold or even AA EXP is great for BA F lounge at T5 for those short hops. Bring your date and the value of the bar is more than the price of your flight!
For hotels let me add the glitch one of the local hotel booking sites had where I had a coupon which mistakenly was attached to every hotel night I booked through the site. Decent free hotels most places actually. Of course consecutive single nights, mostly for friends, as I rather have my suite upgrades, free minibar etc so booking 5* through other means made more sense.
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
Several millions last year, and well into the 8-digit lifetime (10m+).
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
Obviously I need to, and I was so happy the day I found Awardwallet. Probably the most useful tool I ever found! Paying for premium version to give back also. Would be doomsday if the site goes down, so I do download backups to excel.
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
GF couldn’t be happier during travel, but dislikes the amount of spare time devoted at home. Helped a bit that I took her parents and sister with us in F suites on a 77W from EU to HKG. We had 5 suites and the rest of the cabin was empty. Private chef, and 2 private stewardesses+ greeted by the captain. Fun to see parents in law bring lunch boxes, as we hadn’t warned them; hehe. Been several trips for her and my family in such style. Pushed a few friends into it as well, although most don’t get it, as it takes time, and still has a cost unless you go hardcore like me. My 25 year old cousin just returned from his honeymoon. Retail for RTW in F + all the suites at hotels would have been close to 100k USD, while they spent more like 5-6000 USD. He and a few are really getting into it, and he is now managing my scaling team 😉
What’s your most memorable trip?
Tough one. Been so many and close to 100 countries, half pre-FT though. Harder and harder to fill the gaps. Even though most is tried in terms of flights and hotels, a few of the roadtrips have probably been among the most memorable. The one week RTW street rally Gumball3000 in 2006 was amazing. We had a private jet for the drivers, and a few of the biggest cargo planes (Antonovs) for the cars bridging the gaps between EU/Asia and Asia/US.
Different kind of driving a few months ago, going 14000 km in a few weeks from EU through Iran on the way to Central Asia. Snagging plenty of Club Carlson points along the way during the 44/50k bonanza. You just cant imagine the amount of visa problems, hickups, bribes, technical issues etc.
I guess road trips is my thing. Last year we hired a driver recommended on FT (Abdul, great guy) for a trip around Lebanon, Syria and down to Amman, Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, Petra and Aqaba for pointbreaks incl a side trip to Israel. Was pretty heavy when the riots started in Syria, and they closed all land borders, so we needed to evacuate by air. No problem with OW status flying RJ. Just missed some local sightseeing.
Awesome trip from the profile pic too. Riding Ayrton Sennas private helicopter from the in town airport in Sao Paulo out to a ranch for caipirinhas & paulistas Needed to go a bit high to not disturb the shantytowns and being shot at. I had enough of those incoming in other theaters.
Ah, and cant forget flying the Sukhoi-27, NATO nicknamed Flanker doing loops, rollovers, birdtails etc. We had 7.5 G so I’m happy we had G-suits. Flying out of Zhukovsky airbase near Moscow way back.
Obviously another never to forget flight experience is landing at the heavily mined Kabul airport some 10 years ago, seeing literally hundreds of plane wrecks scattered. So many that they were tried arranged in several layers!
Strangely enough no miles on these epic rides. MH (not Malaysian air..)-experiences censored!
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
My first recommendation would be to always keep your eyes open and think outside the box. Go to the less frequented forums and look for promos and other gems. Especially on hotels which are not so many forums. It depends on how much time you can invest, but its well worth it. Also take your time to do basic analysis to understand the concept of CPM across the brands, so you can estimate the value of anything and see that up against the time and money spent.
Check out milesbuzz and travelbuzz archives, and read interesting threads now and then, just to gather general info. It will build up your gut feeling to assess whatever you later come across. Obviously do follow main blogs, but remember you will need to do your own legwork if you want to get anywhere above average at best.
And please respect the culture or codes of contributing to not kill deals, like calling the airline etc. Rather ask experienced posters by PM. That way you will gradually earn respect as well.
Create accts in as many programs you can. Make sure to at least scale enough to include immediate family.
If I at present should recommend one airline and one hotel program to sign up for it would be Club Carlson and Lifemiles.
Also if you get overwhelmed by the amount of info, take a break and enjoy Trip Reports.
Most important; be curious!
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
One learn to recognize handles when one frequent forums often. But I will name only a few, which of a few have been on FT faces. HansGolden, Sagy, Beaubo, Rankourabu. Then I’m focused on miles&points. Its all different if you want to check out regions or hotel reviews where FT has many competitors like Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor. Basically you need to evaluate anything yourself anyway, and if you get to know someone in person from DOs etc its all more easier. Some of the forum lurkers are great, while a few are useless in my opinion.
Also do learn a few of the basic techniques like quote AND multiquote (took me a while…) and thread subscription for my Flyertalk, and of course key tools like award search engines (ExpertFlyer, ANA etc), Awardwallet etc. Awardwallet is a must, although there might be others. But AW is simply great.
Be flexible. Plan trips around mistake rates, pointbreaks, good deals. Be open minded.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
FT has grown huge and has in some ways become a victim of its own success. That’s from top to bottom. To start at the top it was originally a one man idea, while its now business owned and obviously business driven. That’s fine as most members wont notice too much, but this should mean that the main big asset, the members, should have more influence. There is far too little transparency, and its seems its now become a moderator driven forum. And by all means 99% of their work is great and so much appreciated, but the last 1% ruins so much for so many. There should be term limits, and a more balanced “power” structure, where the members directly (like in moderator feedback surveys) and Talkboard (TB) get more influence. This should be a win-win. Include more members.
I’d like to see proactive leadership inviting company lurkers at the right level. Not some “smiling I cant fix anything but at least I’m polite” junior representative.
More flexibility for new forums, but this has been far better in just recent years.
As a Candidate for TalkBoard I’d like to see more feedback allowed between members and Moderators as well as Talkboard and Community Director on all issues. I think moderators should be graded as a positive influence doing very important work, not a complaint driven grading to help in a good way with relationships. Reward moderator of the year. Focus on the positive. Let bad grades be unpublished and be up to Community Director to consider.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
I have been to a couple events in EU, great ones this year in Krakow and Hyatt London. Definitely would like to do more in the future. Maybe even help organize in EU. Hope to do some of the MegaDO s in the future.
Any other comments / questions / suggestions / advice?
If you spend enough time you will eventually find ways to get lots of freebies and really get more out of your travel. I have a handful of airline top statuses, and about the same with hotels. And that’s when I try to limit myself!! I know that most programs have status match only once, so I only match when I really need to, or when it doesn’t make sense not to. Like matching BD to BA. I also try getting status as part of settlements, agreements without being the regular status match. And of course you rotate the statuses with your +1 if you travel together. Some statuses from CCs, some from pure spend, but combining CC acct with others or even flat out buying status etc.
Stan, thank you again for sharing with us. We’ve got a couple of thank you gifts to get to you, and your avatar will now show you, as one of the Faces of FlyerTalk for years to come.
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