Marathon Man: “Manufactured Spending is like Card Counting” and my #WestCoastDo Thoughts
Don’t worry Marathon Man, your secrets are safe. The one thing you said that I will share is, “manufactured spending is like card counting.” That is such a great analogy that fits perfectly. Just like card counting, MS is not illegal, but it is definitely frowned upon. The comparison to MS is wonderful. After catching up on some sleep, I have a few points I want to share about the #WestCoastDo and the other travel conferences I have attended.
1 – First off, great job to Matt @ Saverocity for putting together and pulling off a great travel conference. I am sure those in attendance would agree. The lunch was fabulous and the extended happy hour was much appreciated. Thanks for all the hard work, time, and money you spent on this conference. You da’ man!
2 – Uber is great in Phoenix/Scottsdale. I used Uber a few times to get to/from my Holiday Inn Express hotel (please don’t screw me over Into the Nights) as well as to get to the airport. There are lots of drivers at all hours of the day and night.
3 – George @ Travel Blogger Buzz is much nicer in person. I have been a long time reader and friend of George, but this was the first time meeting him in person. He is very nice, funny, and just fun to hang out with. He shared his thought on #WestCoastDo here.
#WestCoastDO Most often heard expression to me: ‘You are nowhere as angry in person as you appear on your blog’. I agree :)
— George (@FlyerTalkerinA2) November 9, 2014
4 – I am a MS noob compared to everyone in attendance. I spoke with people who do more MS in one month than I do all year. If you want to learn from the masters, this is the place to go. In a matter of hours, it felt like I had read the entire MS forum on FlyerTalk without blinking. My head was spinning and I couldn’t make it stop.
5 – 99% of the conversations revolved around MS. This is a trend I have noticed from Frequent Traveler University, Chicago Seminars, and #WestCoastDo. Almost all conversations eventually drift into MS tricks, success stories, or new opportunities. I like MS, but I love travel. Let’s not forget why we all got into this game because we all love to travel!
6 – Ethics is such a gray area. This is a continuation of the previous point. The more you hear and learn about MS tricks and techniques, the more gray area you get into in terms of ethics. What is right? What is wrong? If I only do it once or a few times, it’s ok, right? I promised not to discuss anything new I learned about MS, but there is a heck of a lot of gray area in the MS world. I don’t condemn MS, since I would be a big hypocrite, but just do what feels right to you.
7 – Short term gain or long term profit? I will act as the Devil’s Advocate now. Before I go on, I was glad I got to speak with Julian who writes as the Devil’s Advocate on Travel Codex and Frequent Miler. We shared some interesting stories and I offered a few suggestions for future topics (Julian, don’t forget to hat tip me *at the top*). Anyway, back to my question, what is better, short term gain or long term profit? I am turning 25 later this month and I would guess that I have 50+ more years of credit card use in my future. I want to play the MS game, but I don’t want to get banned by any of the credit card companies in the process. I find is extremely difficult to imagine that I could earn more in a few years with MS than I could over the next 50+ years with credit card sign up bonuses and new MS techniques. With that in mind, I don’t want to burn any bridges with credit card companies. You have no idea what the travel space will look like next year, or the year after that, or even 5 years in the future. Why jeopardize your future self to please your current self? As you can probably guess, my outlook on MS is much different than the majority of those in attendance. The message I heard many times was, “it’s going to die soon and I want to get ever last point I possibly can.” Good for you guys, I hope it works out.
8 – These people really care about me! I am honestly surprised that so many people in attendance read my blog. People were asking me about my credit card affiliate links (gone as of 10am this morning) and about my job search. My readers are more tuned into my life than my friends on Facebook. It’s funny. I have a lot more in common with you guys than I do with the people I grew up with. They just don’t seem to care about miles and points like we do. It’s probably for the best anyway. We have more fun!
9 – Wasting miles and points is good for us. Stay with me on this for a second. We all have that friend / family member / coworker who travels a lot and is really good at wasting miles and points. They don’t track their balances with Award Wallet and let their miles and points expire. They don’t redeem their points for award seats, but rather shiny new toasters. They don’t sign up for frequent flyer accounts, even though they travel several times a month for work. Why is this good, you ask? Think about it for a minute, if everyone earned miles and redeemed miles for award tickets, the airlines would drastically jack up the number of miles needed for awards. If no one ever let their miles expire, there would be way to many miles in circulation, causing award charts to inflate. So the next time you hear someone waste their miles or points, you should thank them for making it easier for you to redeem your miles for an award ticket. If you really care about them, you will tell them about Travel with Grant :)
10 – Is #WestCoastDo worth $115? Great question. I have been to many travel conferences over the last few months and feel like I can adequately answer that question. First, let’s compare the price to other travel conferences:
- Frequent Traveler University – Basic ($149)
- Frequent Traveler University – Advanced ($249)
- Chicago Seminars ($99)
- #WestCoastDo ($115)
The Chicago Seminars is definitely a great value with tons of travel advice, award booking advice, MS advice, and open discussions. The Chicago Seminars starts Friday afternoon, goes for a few hours, then is all day Saturday, and most of the day on Sunday. You definitely get your money’s worth. The location is not great (always at the Holiday Inn in Elk Grove, Illinois) but with airport shuttles that is not an issue.
Before I discuss Frequent Traveler University events, I want to make it clear that even though I am a part of Prior2Boarding / Boarding Area, I pay all expenses to get to/from FTU events. All FTU events are run by Boarding Area. Anyway, hopefully Randy won’t be upset with me for sharing my thoughts. As you probably know, the FTU price has climbed up to $249 per person. In comparison, the host hotels are usually very nice and close to major airports, making it easy to get to/from the airport. The event starts Friday night with complimentary happy hour, goes from 9am – 5pm on Saturday, and 9am – 4pm on Sunday. Lunch is provided on Saturday and Sunday. FTU events often have many travel sponsors, so the price seems unnecessarily high. With all that said, I am still planning on attending FTU Advanced in Washington, DC (December 2014) and FTU Advanced in San Diego (March 2015).
Lastly, let’s discuss #WestCoastDo. The host hotel (Kimpton FireSky) was beautiful, but I did not stay in the host hotel, so I am not sure what the hotel rooms looked like. The conference was in a large room with several large round tables and many chairs surrounding them. The lunch was excellent, much better than other lunches at FTU events or the Chicago Seminars. The hotel-provided happy hour was great, followed by a #WestCoastDo happy hour afterwards. Clearly there was enough alcohol to support twice as many people. The conference was only 1 day, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday. No formal events on Friday or Sunday. I wish there were, but we made due by eating lunch and talking more about MS in the lobby/bar area.
11 – To summarize… #WestCoastDo is best if you want to learn MS tricks and share MS tricks with others. Chicago Seminars is best if you want to get your money’s worth, don’t mind going to Chicago in October, and want a great variety of speakers and topics. FTU Events are great for beginners and intermediate miles and points readers. If you enjoy reading the Boarding Area blogs, you might not learn very much from the presentations, but you can interact directly with some of your favorite Boarding Area bloggers. An interesting fact, Frequent Miler speaks at all 3 travel conferences, he is the only one.
As a blogger, I enjoy going to all the events and meeting blog readers and other travel bloggers. It is all about socializing with others (not much socializing goes on in my bedroom). If you have never gone to a travel conference, I highly recommend going to at least one. They tend to be all over the country, so one should be close by. Buy your tickets as soon as they go on sale. You can always transfer/sell them if you decide you cannot make it. If you need more encouragement, please read Why you Should go to Travel Conferences by Yourself #Rant.
If you were at #WestCoastDo, what did you think of the conference? If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.