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Welcome to the Award Travel 101 Podcast Sponsored by Thrifty Traveler


Founded in 2013, the Award Travel 101 Facebook group teaches members how to travel the world using points and miles. Today, our community of over 50,000 people from around the world share, teach and learn how to travel anywhere on any budget. More than just a recap on award travel news and strategy, the Award Travel 101 Podcast offers a glimpse into the stories and lives of our Award Travel 101 community members. Each week we will update this page with the latest episode information and show notes.

  • Episode 0 – Intro to the Award Travel 101 Podcast
  • Episode 1 – How To Win Your Battle With Points and Miles
  • Episode 2 – Marriott Bonvoy And The Struggle Bus
  • Episode 3 – Meet A Points and Miles Addict Who's Afraid of Flying
  • Episode 4 – Can I Redeem Miles for Ambulance Rides?
  • Episode 5 – Marriott May Bonvoy You But Still Get The Points
  • Episode 6 – Never Pay Full Price For Gas
  • Episode 7 – What Happens to Points After Death?
  • Episode 8 – Life Behind the Keyboard
  • Episode 9 – Do We Know How Many Miles an Award Ticket is Going to Cost?
  • Episode 10 – Christmas in May
  • Episode 11 – What It's Like to Marry A Points Nerd

 

Episode 0 – Intro to the Award Travel 101 Podcast

For our very first episode, you'll get to learn more about Award Travel 101 founder Richard Kerr. From falling in love with travel after moving overseas as a teenager, to joining the Navy. Find out how starting a family lead to learning how to maximize award travel redemptions and eventually running a Facebook group as his full-time job!

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 1:03 — Richard's introduction to travel
  • 2:30 — Richard takes off to the US Navy
  • 3:45 — Points and miles enter the picture
  • 5:20 — The founding of Award Travel 101
  • 7:28 — Richard moves to points and miles as a full-time job
  • 8:50 — The Award Travel 101 podcast is born

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Episode 1 – How To Win Your Battle With Points and Miles

“Three days after you leave the hospital with a broken back, and chemo, and serious multiple myeloma, you decide you're going on this around-the-world trip?” 

The Award Travel 101 community is built around sharing and learning knowledge on how to travel the world with points and miles. A side effect of the community has been the stories of people that meet and interact every day and their stories made possible by a Facebook group. This week we introduce you to Mr. Ike Stanfield of Texas who is currently battling aggressive multiple myeloma cancer. In February 2019, Ike posted to Award Travel 101 that he was cashing in his points and miles and taking a solo trip around the world to Singapore, Delhi, and Doha in first and business classes.

During the show, Ike walks us through some of his daily battles that might delay his determination to see his bucket list destinations. Despite the fact that Ike broke his back just one week before he was supposed to leave for his trip, he persevered through pain and surgery and still completed his around the world points and miles trip. Make sure to listen to his inspiration and words of wisdom as he walks us through each part of his two week adventure.


Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 3:30 — Meet Ike
  • 8:45 — Ike's health diagnosis
  • 12:30 — Ike's around the world itinerary
  • 17:00 — Getting treated well at the Hilton Singapore
  • 19:30 — “What did you reflect on while you were there?”
  • 22:30 — Ike's advice for those facing challenges
  • 28:30 — Ike's words of wisdom

Today's Guest


Ike Stanfield is a retired American Airlines employee from Corpus Christie, Texas. In 2017, he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and has undergone and continues to undergo multiple forms of treatment to battle his disease.

 

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Episode 2 – Marriott Bonvoy And The Struggle Bus

“The blogs are being told policies before Marriott reservation agents even know whats going on and certainly before front desk agents.  No one knows what’s going on.” 

The Marriott and Starwood merger has been anything but smooth and leadership of the combined portfolio continues to display tone deaf responses to loyal customers. This week Richard and Ed Pizzarello discuss the continuing struggles of the new Marriott Bonvoy program, how it got to where it is, the current state of trying to be a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist and what Marriott can do to right the ship.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 1:12 — Happy Travel Day
  • 2:21 — Bonvoy Merger Disaster
  • 3:51 — Problems attaching award certificate for an award night? Points advance bookings and more
  • 5:19 — Marriott is broken master thread
  • 6:55 — New Bonvoy Co-branded card discussion
  • 7:34 — Marriott's tone deaf responses
  • 10:33 — Has anyone never needed a passport to make a hotel reservation? Probably not
  • 18:07  — What could Bonvoy and Lolo Jones have in common?
  • 20:18  — “Bonvoyed”
  • 24:00 — Is there hope? What Marriott needs to do to improve

Today's Guest

Ed Pizzarello founded the Pizza In Motion blog on the Boarding Area network. He's considered one of the preeminent voices in the loyalty program space and is a successful entrepreneur.

 

Resources

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Episode 3 – Meet A Points and Miles Addict Who's Afraid of Flying

“I was a few rows behind anyone with my kids and I just jumped up and ditched my kids and ran to the nearest person and sat down and said “Can I please hold your hand?! I'm just so afraid!”

Do you get nervous flying? Or, even worse, do you let that fear keep you from traveling?  This week Richard chats with Toni Southam, a long time Award Travel 101 moderator and Paul Borish, a licensed counselor who specializes in helping those with a fear of flying. In the episode Paul and Toni offer some different ways to tackle this fear and other resources to help find what can work best for you. Tune in to hear Toni share what it’s like to be both a points and miles addict and afraid of flying.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 2:20 — Meet Toni, mother of four and points and miles pro.
  • 4:54 — Meet Paul, a licensed counselor who specializes in travel anxieties.
  • 7:43 — What's a typical flight like for Toni?
  • 11:52 — How can you separate rational and irrational fears?
  • 15:30 — How did Toni's first flight after working with Paul go?
  • 19:43 — Paul describes a typical timeline for recovery.
  • 22:30 — Tactical Breathing
  • 24:35 — What kind of emotional support animal is Paul?

Today’s Guests


Paul Borish, MA, is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and long time travel hacker in PA.  In his private practice, he specializes in treating fear of flying (aviophobia) and other travel related anxieties. Utilizing a combination of tele-counseling and in person services, Paul works with clients all over the globe.

Utilizing the motto, “Whatever it Takes,” Paul works with each client to assess and then treat their specific fears, phobias, and anxiety. Those who have not succeeded through traditional counseling, weekend workshops, self-help books, and DVDs have found success and met their goals working with Paul. To learn more about his services, or to schedule a free 20 minute consultation, check out his website travelerspsych.com or reach him by email at paul@travelerspsych.com

Toni Southam is a moderator for the Award Travel 101 community and travels internationally with a family of six using points and miles. Despite her love for travel and points, her biggest fear is heading to the airport and taking a flight. Paul has been coaching her to help her anxiety.

 

Resources

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Episode 4 – Can I Redeem Miles for Ambulance Rides?

“Your child strapped to an ambulance gurney is a sight no parent wants to see.”

This week is a special episode where Richard, as promised, shares a glimpse of what life is like when you run a Facebook group for a living. Tune in to hear the recap of a day which included a surprise ambulance trip to the hospital for his two year old. More than just the fear of the unknown (diagnosis), there’s a fear of finances. Richard highlights the importance of not only having a financial plan, but a support network you can turn to when you find yourself in need.

Today's episode timestamps:

  • 3:00 — Signs of concussions
  • 7:05 — A sight no parent wants to see
  • 10:15 — The cost of health insurance
  • 14:15 — The power of community and a support system
  • 16:30 — Wrapping Mary up in bubble wrap & Recap

Resources

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Episode 5 – Marriott May Bonvoy You But Still Get The Points

“We have one complaint came from a member who had over 1,300 nights with Marriott…That's an average of $266,000 they have spent with this company and due to tech glitches they lose lifetime status and benefits? It's a bait and switch.”

If you've said or heard the phrase “I've/You've been Bonvoyed”, chances are high you've been burned by Marriott's problem-plagued SPG merger and new program rollout. The stories of former Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton members missing nights, points, waiting for hours on hold, and more are endless. This week Richard is joined by Mister M, Shubhayan Mukherjee, co-founder of Bonvoyed.com! Yes folks. You know that there are more than just a few customers on the fringes that are upset when a website launches dedicated to helping members get the support they aren't receiving.

Today's episode timestamps:

  • 1:30 – Starting out on a positive note with some of the good parts of Marriott Bonvoy
  • 12:00 – Three ways to use those Marriott Bonvoy Points
  • 13:50 – The Mysterious Mister M
  • 16:22 – Bonvoy'd goes viral
  • 18:00 – The problems are everywhere
  • 25:00 – Is there an entitlement issue?

Resources

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Episode 6 – Never Pay Full Price for Gas

“Let me show you how I make a profit when I head to the pump a lot of the time these days.”

This week Richard has got a jam packed episode with more information than you'd ever think you'd want to know about buying gas. To start things off, he's got his list of the top programs, stacks and apps that not only get you super cheap gas, but could actually pay you for filling up! He's also joined by Daniel LittleGeneral Manager & Head of MarketingNorth America for Shell. The both get to chat about the history of fuel loyalty programs, the differences between programs in different countries and some previews of what's to come from the Fuel Rewards program.

Today's episode timestamps:

  • 2:03 – How Richard makes a profit filling up his tank
  • 5:13 – A new type of gas payment
  • 11:40 – The gas app no one knows about
  • 18:35 – What's unique about Fuel Rewards
  • 23:50 – Technological updates for Fuel Rewards
  • 26:55 – Is it worth driving out of our way to save a few cents a gallon?

Today's Guest

Dan Little, General Manager and Head of Marketing North America, for the Retail Division of Shell Oil Products US (SOP US) is responsible for overseeing Shell’s retail marketing programs in North America, including the development and implementation of Shell’s branded fuels product portfolio, consumer loyalty and payment programs, retail technology platforms, including the mobile payment and connected car initiatives, and the supporting brand advertising, communications and digital marketing activities

Resources

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Episode 7 – What Happens to Points After Death?

“My husband and I were saving up for a big trip for our family. Over half of the points we were planning to use would be from his accounts. Due to his unexpected passing, are all those points gone or can we still use them?”

What happens to our points and miles after we die? On Feb 6th, Greta Anderson posted that very question in our Award Travel 101 Facebook group. Her husband passed unexpectedly at the age of 43, just days before leaving for one of two trips they were planning with points and miles. Greta so graciously shares her experience with Richard on how to secure not only your loved one's points and miles but also how to protect their identity.


Today's episode timestamps:

  • 1:10 – New features at AwardWallet
  • 3:45 – What's AwardTravel Advanced?
  • 9:05 – What happens to points and miles after you die?
  • 14:30 – A hotel program going above and beyond vs. one doing the bare minimum
  • 20:20 – Protecting your credit and identity of those who have passed
  • 27:00 – The importance of passwords and wills

Resources

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Episode 8 – Life Behind the Keyboard

“So I told my wife and son: ‘Hey I'm gonna be a blogger!' and they were both scared out of their minds by the idea…”

You might think that a full time job writing a travel blog, or perhaps managing a Facebook group dedicated to points and miles, involves all fun and no pain. Besides the illusion that these folks are just swimming in free points and miles, there's a lot that goes into interacting with people from behind a keyboard. One of Richard's very own heroes in the points and miles world, Greg Davis-Kean of Frequent Miler, joins him this week to chat about the real life of those who blog about travel for a living.

Today's Episode Timestamps

  • 1:00 – How Richard was first inspired to start Award Travel 101
  • 6:20 – Getting hooked on points and miles
  • 9:30 – What led Richard to leave the Navy and start managing a Facebook group
  • 16:45 – What does it take to keep blogging year after year
  • 22:45 – When you meet an online troll in person
  • 29:25 – The newest member of Award Travel Advance
  • 35:00 – Geekiest thing Greg has done to earn points and miles

Today's Guest

Greg Davis-Kean

After business travel opened his eyes to the perks of frequent travel, Greg turned to online travel forums and blogs to find ways to keep his elite status with less travel. After getting hooked to the world of points and miles, and developing techniques to maximize earnings with every dollar spent, within six months, Frequent Miler was born and he had a new full time career.

Resources

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Episode 9 – Do We Know How Many Miles an Award Ticket Is Going to Cost?

“It's exciting times in the world of miles and points…but I'm not terribly excited…more so nervous as a cat in a room of rocking chairs…”

In this world of made up currencies where the points don't matter, there have typically been published award charts, especially for airlines. This meant that there'd be standard rates for how many miles it would cost to go from A to B. Planning a trip, you'd have (in theory) a specific goal for how many miles and points it would take to fly in the cabin of your choice. Now? That's not so much the case.

Following Delta's lead, United has announced this fall they will switch to “dynamic” award pricing. Other airlines have begun to either do so as well or are rumored to be getting ready to announce similar news. So, the question is now: “Do we know how many miles an award ticket is going to cost?” Tune in this week to get some great insight from points and miles expert Ed Pizzarello and find out how to best plan your next trip even if it seems like programs keep on moving the finish line.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 4:48 – The shift to “variable redemption values”
  • 8:55 – The next airline rumored to drop their award chart
  • 14:30 – Why 2x miles on one card and 1x miles isn't a clear comparison
  • 21:40 – Why Richard is using a cash back card right now & how he's earning 3.75% back
  • 28:20 – Why Ed says not to burn off your balance right away

Today's Guest

Ed Pizzarello founded the Pizza In Motion blog on the Boarding Area network. He's considered one of the preeminent voices in the loyalty program space and is a successful entrepreneur.

 

Resources

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Episode 10 – Christmas in May! Time to Start Holiday Planning

“If you aren't looking to book those peak holiday dates way ahead of time, then you're gonna be the one who says ‘these miles are useless, I can't use them to go see Grandma'.”

Many out there work hard to save up points and miles only to be frustrated at a “lack” of availability when it comes time to redeem them during peak travel dates. Whether you're traveling with kids and just trying to get yourself home for the holidays, attempting to book award travel when the rest of the country (or the world) is traveling can be challenging. This week, Summer Hull AKA Mommy Points from TPG Family shares her best tips and tricks on how to maximize your award travel redemptions during holiday seasons.

Today’s episode timestamps:

3:25 – How can you plan travel a year (or more) in advance?

7:40 – Are there “off peak” destinations to travel to on holidays?

13:30 – Why you might want to start thinking about holiday 2020…not just 2019

19:20 – Researching how your vacation house rental codes & a new AwardWallet tool

22:25 – How to book award travel “speculatively”

 

Today's Guest

Summer Hull, aka, Mommy Points

While studying social work at NYU she started racking up frequent flyer miles flying on deals, often visiting friends and family back home in Texas on breaks and long weekends. By the time her two girls came along years later, she had a full-blown love and appreciation for what miles and points could do for families looking to experience the world on a budget. Summer launched the Mommy Points blog in 2011 to show families that miles, points, and loyalty programs weren’t just for the business travelers, but they were for families, too. In the summer of 2018, Mommy Points was acquired by The Points Guy where it lives on as a component of TPG Family. In addition to continuing the Mommy Points column, Summer now is the head of TPG Family content.

 

Resources

 

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Episode 11 – What It's Like to Marry A Points Nerd

“I can't count the number of times you've come into the room and you're like ‘I just found…' or ‘This is a once in a lifetime trip!' when you literally say that about everywhere…and just said that yesterday.”

For the miles and points obsessed, occasionally you'll find couples that are equally into maxing out their earnings and redemptions. More often than not however, there's typically one of the two that's more into it than the other. Less common is when that one who is obsessed decides to turn that obsession into a full time job via a Facebook group. Enter Richard & Emily Kerr. This episode is a one on one interview with Richard's “better half” where she answers some of the Award Travel 101 group's best questions about what it's like being married to a points nerd, how they met and her favorite trips they've taken using points and miles.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 3:30 – How Richard & Emily met
  • 10:04 – What's on Emily's Bucket List?
  • 13:00 – Their favorite trip as a couple
  • 19:15 – Tips for keeping young kids occupied on a plane
  • 23:20 – How to help your partner know which credit card to use where

Today's Guest

Mrs. Emily Kerr is the better half of Award Travel 101 founder Richard Kerr. Born and raised south of Atlanta, Georgia, she graduated from Georgia College & State University in 2008 with a Bachelors in Economics. Emily is not very enthused about points and miles but gladly puts up with and supports Richard's antics on a daily basis. She keeps busy raising the Kerr's two and four year old, teaching Yoga at the YMCA and serving in a variety of volunteer organizations in the Kerr's hometown.

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Welcome to the Award Travel 101 Podcast
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