I’m a little bit late, but the new year is only a few days old. I wanted to review my travels of the past year and how I did with collecting frequent flyer miles.
In 2011, I probably traveled the most distance-wise that I ever have (although I don’t think it’s the most new places I’ve visited). The year started out pretty routinely (my memory of it is not completely clear) and not too heavy on travel. I started out living in southern California, and had a couple of business trips to the east coast. I also made several trips to visit my parents at the beginning of the year.
Everything was routine until I had to make a week long business trip to Afghanistan over the summer. That trip was actually my first time out of the country in a few years, and it was probably one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, to say the least. Also I made that trip via Germany, which marked the first time I’ve ever set foot in Europe (albeit only a day on the way in and another day on the way back). I found it a bit hard to believe that it’d been so long since I made an international trip, since I’d enjoyed my first long international trip a few years prior, but hopefully I don’t repeat that dry spell any time soon.
Later in the summer, I ended up accepting a new job on the east coast and moved at the end of the summer. Before moving, I went on a family vacation to Banff, Alberta, Canada, in the Canadian Rockies. It was pretty nice to get out to an outdoorsy place, and to see the mountains and glaciers there.
After moving, I seemed to travel quite a bit over weekends…one of the highlights was attending the 2011 Flyertalk Chicago Seminars. Attending this event put the icing on the cake for the mile collecting hobby that I started over the last year. I met a lot of other people interested in this hobby (including all the bloggers that I’d begun to follow), heard many great stories, and found out about more bloggers to follow. It’s been pretty motivating to see so many people interested in this.
While we’re on the topic of Chicago Seminars, Rick of Frugral Travel Guy announced today announced in a blog post the dates and hotel for the 2012 Chicago Seminars. I highly recommend that everyone attend this event. You will meet many people with their own interesting stories, and undoubtedly learn a thing or two (or more) that you didn’t know. I am a bit disappointed that the event is still at the Holiday Inn, as it did not seem quite large enough to handle the crowd we had back in October (and my guess is this event is only going to get larger this year).
Anyway, the information I learned from the Seminars gave me more ideas to gain elite status in various programs, as well as showed me new ways to use the status I already had…
Elite Status Progress
The large majority of my travel this year was on United. Most of my work trips were on United, which motivated me to use United (or other Star Alliance carriers like Continental and US Airways) as much as possible for personal trips. By the end of the year, I was able to make Premier Executive status on United, which is the 2nd/mid-level tier in the Mileage Plus program, requiring 50,000 EQM.
Note that to earn that status, I didn’t actually fly 50,000 miles. I previously had Premier status (25k level) on United, and because of that, I earned bonus miles whenever I flew. On a full fare coach (Y class ticket), those bonus miles are all elite qualifying, and it just so happens the trips I made for work were generally all on Y class fares…so that definitely helped a lot.
In addition, I managed to get to Gold Medallion status on Delta. I pretty much lucked out on this one, and it involved only one flight on Delta. I earned a large chunk of my miles through signing up for the American Express Platinum card (link is courtesy of The Points Guy, and does pay him a commission if you apply through it). Earlier this year, AMEX was running a 50k Membership Rewards (MR) points signup bonus, which some were able to bump to 100k by simply asking, including yours truly. I converted the initial 50k that I received into Delta miles, and at the time, there was a 50% bonus on AMEX MR points converted to Delta miles, with up to 25k of those elite qualifying. Thus, I turned the 50k signup bonus into 75k Delta Medallion miles, with 25k MQM, giving me the lowest elite status on Delta.
A couple of months later, I received a mailing from Delta offering me Delta Gold Medallion status if I completed one international trip or two domestic trips on Delta. As luck would have it, I just happened to already have a trip booked to Canada on Delta a couple of weeks after I received the mailing. Thus, with a single DL flight, I was able to earn Gold Medallion 🙂
On the hotel front, I was able to earn Hilton Gold status through a 4 stays or 9 nights promotion (if that wasn’t easy enough, Hilton was/is also giving away Gold status these days. In addition to that, with some inspiration from Lucky from a Chicago Seminars talk on Starwood, I was motivated to secure Starwood Platinum status by doing mattress runs by paying for cheap stays near where I live. I had already stayed at Starwood a number of times last year, so I decided to go for Platinum. Hopefully, I am able to take advantage of that status this year (and requalify again).
That’s all for me this year! I hope to make a post about my credit card bonuses for the year, at least to the best of my memory and records, and I am also going to have one linking to various other bloggers’ posts regarding credit card strategies for the new year.