An Interview with Travel Rewards Expert Jason Steele
It’s time for another installment of Travel Insiders, where we share the real life advice of renowned travel bloggers to help you achieve your travel dreams. Today we’re featuring Jason Steele: pilot, journalist, and keeper of all the travel rewards knowledge you could ever want. He shares his myriad of travel wisdom on his website, at The Points Guy, and more. Having met him in person and quizzed him on travel rewards, I can attest that if there were ever a travel reward Jeopardy, he would win!
Are you interested in travel rewards or learning about how one man became the living expert on the topic? Check out Jason’s story below!
Where or when did your interest in traveling begin?
My family moved to Atlanta when we were young, which is a day’s drive from anywhere. Thankfully, we had two things going for us. First, the new Atlanta airport had just been completed, which eventually became the busiest in the world. So we, like most Atlantans, would fly everywhere, rather than drive. In addition, my father had a pilot’s licence and we could just load the family up in our own little plane and take a trip that way. (Later, I got my commercial pilot’s license and considered a career in the airlines.)
How do you make it work financially?
I love to travel, but can’t possibly afford to pay for it all. That is how I got started learning about credit cards and travel rewards. Today, I spend all day learning about rewards as research for my writing career, and I certainly accumulate as many points and miles as possible through credit cards and other promotions.
How your life has changed since you got into traveling?
I have always traveled regularly, but since I discovered reward travel, I now feel like there are no boundaries to my travel other than my time. I visit my family around the country, and even internationally, as often as I feel like; and I even take day trips to different cities for fun. Living in Denver, it’s really no big deal anymore for me to pop into LA for an afternoon or do an overnight trip to New York for one event. And as an expert in award travel, it doesn’t cost me anything either. Throw in one or two major international trips each year, often with my family, and that keeps me very happy.
What are some of your best practices?
First, I can’t imagine traveling without Pre-Check and Global Entry, as that shaves tons of time off each trip, and I purchase memberships for our entire family. It’s not just how long security and customs will take without this, but how long it might take and how early we would have to plan on being at the airport if we didn’t have it. For most people, that leads to a lot of waiting in lines or at the gate that I rarely have to do. In addition, I like to have my boarding pass printed in hand rather than on my phone. I am also pretty obsessive about regularly checking my ticket numbers, seat assignments, and other documentation every month or two leading up to a big international trip. It’s amazing how easy it is to have your trip ruined when airlines change airplanes or schedules without notifying you.
What’s your most and least favorite trips so far?
My wife and I took our honeymoon in Brazil 10 years ago. We started on the island of Fernando de Narhonha, which is a true paradise on Earth. Then, we stayed in the rainforest and visited Iguazu Falls before finally touring Rio. The exchange rate was fantastic then, so we felt like “Brazilionaires” and could afford nearly anything. Looking back, the funny part was that we flew in coach and didn’t really mind. Now that I fly almost exclusively on award tickets, I never find myself leaving the country in coach anymore.
Want to hear more about Jason’s adventures or gather some of his advice? Follow his latest on Twitter!