Good morning everyone, I hope you all had a great weekend. Myself and approximately 200 other miles and points “collectors” gathered at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay in San Diego this past weekend. We had several speakers from Boarding Area (Greg @ Frequent Miler, Ben/Lucky @ One Mile at a Time, Gary @ View from the Wing, Scott @ Travel Codex, and Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai) along with Mathew @ Upgrd. The event began Friday night with a cocktail reception out on the lawn and it was my first chance to meet the other attendees. I must confess, I had appetizers in the Regency Club before the reception and went back afterwards for some dessert. The food in the Regency Club was very fresh and the desserts were delicious.
The following morning, we had breakfast at the restaurant (compliments of FTU) which consisted of a standard buffet style arrangement. The Fruit Loops and orange juice were very good. Then we met up for the introduction from Ben and Gary. After the intro, the group divided into 2 rooms depending on the topics that interested them the most. Here is the full FTU San Diego schedule:
These are the presentations I went to:
- Manufactured Spend (Greg @ Frequent Miler) – since I don’t use ExpertFlyer, I listened to Greg’s presentation. He covered Redbird along with some lesser published MS tricks. All I can say is that I wish I had a Visa Buxx Debit Card.
- AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Frequent Miler – a continuation of his MS talk but less structured and informal. Nothing surprising there, but a few good questions were asked by the audience.
- Lunch – boxed lunch with sandwich, apple, cookie, chips, potato salad, and water.
- Advanced Credit Card Strategies (Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai) – most people who read RTC probably have no idea how much credit card expertise Stefan has. He rarely talks about credit card sign up bonuses, spending categories, or churning, but he knows quite a bit. In this session, he showed his credit card strategy and shared PedroNY’s credit card churning strategy, which is very extreme and not for beginners.
- Hacking United Airlines (Mathew @ Upgrd) – I’ve listened to Mathew’s presentation a few times, but it is always good to have a refresher. Great tips if you have United Airlines miles and need help finding award space on Star Alliance airlines.
- AMA with Rapid Travel Chai – Stefan shared some of his exotic (does not mean tropical) travel plans and trips. If you want to travel to third world countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkmenistan, talk to Stefan, he is the expert. He also shared some more tips about advanced credit card strategies.
After Saturday’s sessions were over, we went up to the Regency Club for more appetizers and watched as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful view from the 17th floor.
I then went down to the Hyatt Regency lobby to meet up with everyone interested in my San Diego Meetup at Tacos El Gordo. After a few minutes, we had a group of 14-15 people. Luckily, there were a few local attendees who offered rides to everyone, so we weren’t stuck with a $35-$50 Uber charge during a 2.1x surge.
After a short drive to Chula Vista, we arrived at the very popular and busy Tacos El Gordo. The line was literally out the door when we arrived. The menu at Tacos El Gordo is quite simple. Most tacos cost $2 and you can purchase a few other Mexican dishes and soft drinks. The ordering process is a little strange. There are 3 different lines, where you can only order certain things. Since we wanted to try almost everything on the menu, we had to order tacos in 3 different lines.
After waiting in line for 45+ minutes, we finally had out tacos. On the left, is the famous Tacos De Adobada (spicy pork) and on the right is the less famous Tacos De Asada (steak). It was a family feast with close to 40-50 tacos ordered for our group. We ate a few, passed the plate to someone else and tried a few other tacos. I talked to almost everyone and the general consensus was that the Tacos De Adobada was well worth the 45+ minute wait.
After dinner, we all headed to Stone Brewery which is very close to the airport. You can hear airplanes taking off overhead well before you see them fly over. After a few beers, we headed back to the Hyatt Regency with full bellies. That was the end of Day 1.
Day 2 began with an early start due to Daylight Savings and everyone looked very tired at breakfast and during the first few sessions of Day 2, myself included.
These are the presentations I went to:
- Future of Miles & Points (Ben and
JerryGary) – the audience asked them several questions about award space, elite status, manufactured spending, and just about anything else to do with travel. Since they have 20+ years of combined experience in the industry, they have a wealth of knowledge that they shared.
- Leveraging Miles for Exotic Travel (Mathew @ Upgrd) – we learned how to add a stop over at Kabul, Afghanistan on an award ticket to India (I’m never going to do that, but it is good to know that it is possible). He also shared some tips on how to get to exotic/tropical places too.
- Lunch – same as Saturday.
- Hidden City Ticketing and Fuel Dumps (Scott @ Travel Codex) – no secrets were given, but he showed us how to search for fuel dump routes on our own. Very interesting concept that takes a bit of time to discover. I added my warning about hidden city ticketing, which you can read about here: US Bank FlexPoints to the Rescue when Throw Away / Hidden City Tickets Backfire
- 101 Tips to be an Expert Traveler (Stefan) – he shared more than 120 short tips and tricks to get the most out of travel. Some of these tricks are very obvious and some are very easy to pull off (use a local shopping bag and carry a local paper when you travel so you look like a local). Great advice!
- Event Wrap-Up (Ben and Gary) – they thanked everyone for coming and told us that a surprise was going to be announced at the next FTU DFW next month.
After the event ended, most of us headed to Ballast Point Brewery which was a few minutes away from the airport. It was my last chance to get a drink and talk to everyone before we began to depart for the airport. It was a great weekend and I hope to see you all sometime soon, whether at a local meetup, travel conference, at an airport lounge, or travelling the world. Safe travels everyone!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Have a great day everyone!