#FTULAX Review – New Friends and New Digs
It was my first ever Frequent Traveler University, and like everyone else, I am bummed that it was over so quickly.
If you’re someone who reads the blogs thoroughly and wonders if FTU is for you — it’s not. But if you’re someone who wants to get to know people in the community and learn some tricks that will never make it to blogs, then by all means, FTU is not enough!
On Friday, after checking in to the Radisson to earn my free stay credit for a more expensive hotel night later, I met the infamous TravelBloggerBuzz (or George, or @FlyerTalkerinA2), who somehow got a better suite than me and breakfast certificates! Whaaat? Right there and then, I knew I had lots to learn! During the cocktail hour, I met loads of other bloggers, tweeters, and miles enthusiasts, and found it easier to just put my @PointsToPointB handle on my nametag. Apparently, people read what I write! Who knew?!
Friday was a pure social session with free drinks, and I eventually headed out to dinner in Culver City with FrequentFlyerUniversity, TravelSummary, JustAnotherPointsTraveler, and @HouseOfV, who taught me a lot about combining points and paid fares for future mileage runs. We later caught up in Santa Monica with GiddyForPoints and MileCollector, who talked to me more about his methods of points-earning.
Saturday’s sessions were somewhat informative, but what I was excited about was crossing off an item on my bucket list by having lunch with TheMrPickles, who explained some of his creative points-earning techniques to me. The sessions ended a bit early, so I ended up being found by MileValue, whom I met in L.A. earlier this year, and was invited to his “standard room suite” for a get-together before dinner, where we talked about the best premium cabin redemptions (although I ended up speaking about the Emirates A380 First Class shower for a while).
We headed out to dinner at the Westchester In’n'Out, quite possibly my favorite fast food location in the world due to its location next to the northern LAX arrivals runway. I got to talk to FrequentMiler for a while about where the reload game was going, and met loads of others to talk about schemes and tactics. I don’t even think we ever sat down in the In’n'Out, we all just stood up and used the decorative ledges as tables while eating and talking points!
Sunday started off with a session all about the secrets that you won’t find on blogs. Depending on your travel habits and risk aversion, just this one session could save you hundreds of dollars. I won’t go into it because we would certainly kill the deals by posting on a concrete and lasting thing like the internet. We followed that up with some sessions to close the day, including two by beaubo from Flyertalk, who told some of the amazing entrepreneurial experiences he used to earn millions of miles at a time (I recommend listening to Steve’s Baht Run story at 14m:52s in this video).
The big guys like Daraius, Gary, and Lucky were quite busy and I wasn’t able to talk to them for a while, but there are future events for that (although I was surprised when Lucky came up to me to say he recognized my handle on my name-tag and thought my stuff was interesting … am I allowed to blush? Do you read this, Lucky? Comment, dude!). Although I did get to speak to Emily from Million Mile Secrets, and it somehow came out that I was the creator of the infamous “THE VANILLA RELOADS ARE GONE” video that Emily is apparently a huge fan of (phew, dodged a bullet there!). I’m so famous, she requested a picture, though I asked if we could use some props for it:
Sunday came to a sad end, and those who came from out of town had to make their way to the airport. I hung out near the bar and talked to those who had red-eyes or late flights. On Saturday, the hotel’s water was closed off due to a burst pipe, and those who stayed at the hotel got compensated as little as 4000 points to as much as 7000 points and a free room. However, it happened during the day, so it affected all of us at the seminars. Someone told me to go ask for compensation and I ended up getting 4,000 SPG points … without even being a guest! At 2.3 cents each, that almost pays for the seminar fee! Score!
I ended up heading out to get Korean BBQ with The Wandering Aramean, Just Another Points Traveler, and others, which was again, loads of fun with tidbits of information that can’t be gleaned from a blog post.
What all am I trying to say from this? It’s that despite subscribing to so many blogs about miles and points, there’s only so much you can learn from words on a screen. Getting to an FTU or Seminar or DO or Meetup really helps you learn things that you didn’t think would be possible. I’m not yet sure if I’ll be able to go to FTU DC in April, but I sure hope I can.
One blogger whose work I’ve read since he started blogging is Scottrick at Hack My Trip. We met this weekend and had a genuine mutual appreciation for the unique ideas we had, especially since they seem to complement each other (with Scottrick having his ideas on maximizing fares and me having ideas on maximizing points). Starting today, I’ve decided to publish a few guest posts on Hack My Trip. You can read about my conversation with the founder of the Wallaby Card, who had a 5-minute spiel at FTU this past weekend. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing more ideas to Hack My Trip’s site, and we’ll see where it goes from there. I’ll still have this blog for other points-related things, and will definitely keep my Twitter going, but I want some of my ideas to capture a larger audience.
It was great meeting so many others at FTU — can’t wait until the next one!