As many of you may know, for the last five years I have nurtured a hobby of maximizing the use of travel and credit rewards to be able to see the world in exciting and extravagant ways, all, more or less, for free, opening up to me and my willing partner, Danielle, doors that would otherwise be well-beyond our means.
Most of my days start with a scouring of blogs and bulletin boards (my favorite is OMAAT) (even before the 6 AM emails). I study hacks, opportunities and new promotions like investors watch world markets. It’s part self-indulgent, part game. It’s super fun, super challenging, and it’s been super rewarding.
We were able to enjoy flights on our honeymoon that made airplanes as much a highlight as Thai beaches. We have a Southwest Companion Pass, status on many airlines and hotels, and have criss-crossed the country and the world at a pace which almost puts my grandparents to shame – an impossible feat to be clear! And I have been fortunate enough to share tips and ideas to friends and family along the way, helping them too to enjoy the perks of a generous system that most people fail to understand.
All this time, I was plotting how to pull off what would manifestly be the creme-de-la-creme of the travel/points world: flying First Class on Emirates, flying First Class on Etihad, and enjoying time at an extravagant vacation locale in between, all for free.
I had many questions to answer: How would I accumulate enough points across multiple reward programs (500,000+, and 3, respectively)? How would I find seats on both airlines (Emirates and Etihad), on the right airplanes (only A380s will do; at minimum one in each direction), through connected cities? How would I find the time to take off from work? Where would we vacation along the way? And would Danielle agree to the ride?
Last December, one day at 5 in the morning, compatible answers suddenly pieced together to each of these questions, and I woke Danielle up in bed to ask: “If I can piece it all together, will you go with me to who-knows-where for the experience of a lifetime?”
For the second time in as many years, she said yes, and I felt like the luckiest man alive. What followed was stress and a lot more work, but, in the end it all came together. We leave three weeks from today.
Last December is now a faded dream, and in two weeks these long-held plans will take off (literally). As we prepare to enjoy the fruits of my hobby (I never really had hobbies as a kid, except Nintendo. It feels so go that this one is actually productive!), I will document the steps along the way that got us here, and the out-of-this-world experiences we will enjoy thanks to an underutilized and often over-generous system, that often baffles users into misuse.
Stay tuned, Facebook world. You’re about to be #PointedOut.