As much as I know about travel from my personal travels, researching award programs, and reading other blogs, you still can’t know everything. So, a couple times a year I attend travel conferences to shares tips and tricks with other miles and points travel enthusiasts. Last year, I attended the First2Board Seattle Sessions and signed up for this year’s event in Phoenix.
The host hotel – The Phoenician, an SPG property
This year’s event was hosted at The Phoenician, a BEAUTIFUL resort located in a Phoenix suburb called Scottsdale. It was an amazing resort… and it was HUGE. Literally, there were golf carts that escorted us around between sessions and the tasty restaurants located throughout the property.
Search below if you’d like to make a reservation at The Phoenician or any other hotel.
The Phoenix Sessions with First2Board
First2Board is a group of bloggers that talk about their travels and the latest deals. This is the 3rd year that this event has been held… in Charleston in 2013, Seattle last year, and Phoenix this year.
I had the pleasure of attending the Seattle Sessions last year while staying at our Worldmark Camlin timeshare. I met some great people and learned a lot, so I signed up for this year’s event on the spot.
This year’s event was sponsored by Award Wallet (an awesome site that helps you track your award programs), my good friend Angelina at Just Another Points Traveler, and new friend Jamie at The Forward Cabin.
A group of bloggers met on Friday to discuss the best tactics and methods to improve the information we provide to our loyal readers. We shared a nice dinner at RELISH, then had a few drinks at the cocktail party welcoming all of the conference’s guests.
The top 5 travel tricks I learned at the Phoenix Sessions
The conference itself was relatively intimate. I would say there were about 30-40 of us. Which was big enough to meet new people, yet small enough where there was an opportunity get your personal questions answered and have one-on-one time with the speakers. There were many great speakers, and there were plenty more travel tricks that they shared, but here are my top 5.
- Jamie at The Forward Cabin talked about traveling with Amtrak. I commute regularly with Amtrak for work and have been eyeing a ride up the West Coast in one of their sleeper cars in 2016. Jamie mentioned that there are special routes where one-way tickets are only 1,500 Amtrak points in coach (and 2,000 in business)! Of particular interest to me is the Amtrak Surfliner route, which travels from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. It would be fun to travel along the coast to the Santa Barbara and SLO wine country.
- Caroline from Point Princess did a presentation about chasing the fare, not the destination. Essentially, being open to the destination and focusing on finding great deals. Her tip was to book immediately when you find an awesome deal (ie: mistake or “attack” fares) because most airlines allow you to cancel your itinerary within 24 hours. American Airlines allows you to place an itinerary on hold for 24 hours instead.
- Jon from Wanderlusty offered the opposite view and suggested that we should focus on the destination, rather than taking Plan B just because it was a better deal. His photos were pretty amazing. For those of you who have flexibility with your schedule, he recommended Loco2, which is a European rail booking agency that offers great deals, but the times available may not be the best.
- Angelina from Just Another Points Traveler talked about surviving the points Armageddon. The miles and points world is ever-evolving, and you need to stay on your toes because today’s strategies to maximize your points may no longer be valid in the future. Her suggestion is to milk your top-tier status (whether you earned it through flights or hotel stays, or if you’ve earned it through co-branded credit cards) because most loyalty programs will offer some sort of status matching in an effort to steal your loyalty from a competing program.
- Bonus tip — if you’re active duty military, American Express will waive the annual fees on your credit cards.
- At the end of today’s session, several bloggers held a panel answering questions from the audience. The best tip from the session was to use social media (like Twitter) and review sites (like TripAdvisor) to your advantage when trying to address a problem. The social media teams often wield great power to resolve your issues. However, be sure to be objective and don’t just trash the airline or hotel property. They won’t be as willing to bend rules to help you out if you’re being a jerk… and they often link your social media and loyalty accounts, and the last thing you want them to do is put a negative marker on your account so future people won’t be as helpful and you could lose out on future upgrade opportunities.
No matter how much you think you know, it pays to network with your peers to learn even more tips and tricks. Consider attending a travel conference in the future to learn tips like the 5 above and many others. In the meantime, follow this blog for more travel advice.