A value-luxury adventure traveler at heart, Dr. Cacinda Maloney shares her experiences through her highly successful travel blog, PointsandTravel.com. As someone who has traveled every six weeks of her life for the last 18 years, while owning her business, she travels the world and shares her tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the most amazing places the world has to offer. She gets the most from her travel dollars by using frequent flyer miles and loyalty program points to travel for less at luxury properties. She calls this “value luxury”. She is Phoenix, Arizona based, but maintains an apartment in Santiago, Chile. She is also an established travel blogger and photographer.
I love to travel. That is one thing people need to know about me, it is my passion! There are so many amazing places in the world and cultures to experience, that I don’t think anyone should go back to the same place year after year. A few return trips are OK, but remember it is a great big world out there.
I learned about frequent flyer miles by traveling and then wondering what to do with all those “orphan” miles. You know the ones, they are just sitting there in some obscure airline account or loyalty program and are doing nothing or are unusable. To answer that and other questions I had about frequent flyer miles and loyalty programs, I started to read “points” blogs. I read these for about three years, daily reading Flyertalk and Boarding Area before starting PointsandTravel.com. Yet by then, the “points world”, as I call it, were inundated with points bloggers, especially ones who take photographs of their business class food on an airplane! I wanted my blog to be a different, as I am ALL about the destinations and less about the points. The points were just a tool I used in order to get more trips or better value out of trips. The destination is my goal. I write about amazing places in the world, whether or not miles and points can be used to get there. But, I always find a great value, so I call my kind of travel “value luxury”.
–For those who are less than familiar, what exactly is a frequent flyer program and how did they come to be?
They are miles or points you accrue in a loyalty program for a company, usually related to airlines and hotels. But they can also be from credit cards and other brands, like Coke or Chase’s Ultimate Rewards. I don’t collect all miles and points, just ones that work for me and that I have time for. I don’t consider myself cheap, it’s just that each thing in the world has a good price point or value point and that is the price I want to pay for my travel adventures. I also love the flexibility that miles and points give me for last minute flights/hotel stays. There have been so many travel adventures I have been on and that I would not have been able to go if I didn’t have the miles in my account.
–What are the basics to getting the most miles for the least amount of work? Plus, on the flip side of things, what’s routes can an individual who is unable to spend a lot of money on credit cards, do the most work, for the biggest return?
It really depends on each person’s home airport, free time and spending habits. This would take way too long to answer in an interview like this, but I can say there are sweet spots to certain airline programs… like 35,000 award miles for roundtrip to Europe from the USA during off season on US Airways would be an example. Those type of things are good to know when you need them. You can also check out my beginner’s series on my blog about collecting miles and points, as it can get pretty complicated.
–You’ve been a blogger for around a year now, and it’s obvious that you enjoy your work… For people who are interested in becoming professional bloggers, like me, what would you suggest as being the biggest game-changer? Or perhaps, the most important aspect to start with, and to begin by getting it right the first time around?
Well, all new travel bloggers should just start out on Wordpress right from the beginning and get a company to host your blog, those two things make it easier. Blog migration can be a pain with photos, from what I hear. The game changer for me was getting out and meeting the travel blogging and PR world, that has made the most impact on my blog.
–Should a traveler looking to cash in on frequent flyer miles be loyal to one particular program, or should they try to play the field a bit, by trying to cash in on every available opportunity?
Again, it depends. It depends on what a traveler wants the most from a program. If you want status, which includes lounges, upgrades, early boarding, etc, then you will need to be loyal to one particular airline, unless you travel a ton and can spread out your flights to multiple programs (I know people with status in 3 airlines!). But if you just want free award tickets and don’t mind “slepping it” in economy, then you can easily play the field. Also for some airlines, it is easier to get the bottom status, than it is in other airlines, and remember airlines are in the alliance business, so be sure and know what airline is in your main airline’s alliance.
–Okay, enough about miles, points, and airline trickery… I’m curious, what was your favorite travel experience to date? Can you tell us a little story about one of the biggest life changing travel moments of your life?
Wow! That’s a tough one. Favorite travel experience – it is too hard to just have one. But let’s see, I loved a week on Castaway Island, Fiji. It was diving and relaxing, which are two things I love to do! Then there is Petra and Machu Picchu! Those are both trips of a lifetime. I also love European cities, like London, Rome, Paris, Oslo and Vienna. But I must mention other regions of Italy, like Liguria, Emilia Romagna and Campania. They are all wonderful. Also, got to spend my birthday this year at James Bond Island in Thailand and had a fish pedicure at a luxury wellness spa and resort in ipoh, Malaysia, so that was pretty cool! Last, but certainly not least is my love for Mexico, especially Puerto Vallarta area and San Miguel de Allende. I also love cenote diving. Plus Chile is in my heart! Whew! I don’t think I answered that with just one!
One of the most memorable events I had this year was meeting a wood maker in Italy that shapes wood by hand into violins; my “violin maker “ experience was awesome. It truly is the people that I meet that makes traveling so much fun. Also, I once met and had lunch with the most famous Chilean sculptor Sergillo Castillo. It was such an honor to meet him and see his work throughout his house in Santiago, Chile.
–Lastly, thank you very much, again, for your time. It’s been quite a pleasure – and hopefully a great learning experience for everyone out there reading this interview. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I am a scuba diver with over 150 dives, which really turns one into the world traveler just by doing that. Still have some dive dreams I would like to fulfill, like Wakitobi, Jelly fish lake in Palau, diving with big sea animals in Galapagos, and the night dive with manta rays in Kona, Hawaii. They are all on THE LIST.
Also, I have a doctorate degree in Chiropractic and currently own a Chiropractic Rehabilitation Clinic, but want to blog full time eventually, hopefully sooner, than later.