To The Points Guy, the sky's the limit (but that doesn't mean pushing your credit into that stratosphere). Brian Kelly (aka The Points Guy) has made a name for himself (and gathered a 219k following on his personal Instagram account alone) by spilling the travel industry's worst-kept secrets while highlighting some handy shortcuts and clever saving options for frequent flyers.
If you've ever approached a ticket desk asking for a complimentary upgrade only to be left in economy beside the loo, then you more than anyone need to read this and heed his advice. Right now he's most likely seated in Singapore Airlines new A380 first-class suite, and where are we?
For those who don't know, what is the premise of The Points Guy?
The Points Guy is a website that helps people maximise their trip, save money, travel better and overall be educated on all things travel.
How does it work?
It's a free website that publishes multiple tip-laced articles a day. They may be tutorials on how to use air miles or credit card points or amazing deals that our team searches for and finds - flight deals and hotel deals predominantly. We review airlines and hotels too. On any given day you're going to get a bunch of travel inspiration or informative content that makes you a better traveller.
How did it come about?
I used to work at Morgan Stanley as a recruiter. Travelling all around the US and Canada, I wracked up quite a large amount of air miles and credit-card points from business travel. With those points I was able to travel the world in first class, and all my friends thought I had a trust fund. (I don't). I started my blog in 2010 just to share my tips - I never meant it for anything other than fun. Then it really started to take off and the New York Times covered it in spring of 2011. In the US we hit 10 million monthly readers in March of this year and now we're excited to be expanding globally, with the UK being our first international office.
Four travel tips no one should be without…
1. Earn miles for every flight you take - even if you haven't earned miles, you can request usually up to six months in the past, but not adding frequent flier numbers or frequent hotel programme is losing money.
2. Use a credit card that earns you points - but make sure to pay it off in full every month.
3. Choose your plane wisely, especially internationally. Old planes are much harder on jet lag and on your skin. Choosing newer planes is not only a better experience but they also break down less, so your odds being delayed are less.
4. Be flexible. The more flexible you are, the more money you can save, whether that's paying for flights or using your air miles. Try new destinations and (sometimes) even let your air miles dictate where you go.
Do you think we're in a Golden Age of travel?
Yes. Air travel is safer and cheaper than ever. The fact that you can go to the US from UK consistently for under £500 is amazing. Whether its low-cost carriers or flying on an Emirates A380 and taking a shower at 40,000ft, there's no better time to fly than now.
Where's your next adventure?
I'm going to Israel for 10 days with Nicky Kelvin, the director of content for The Points Guy UK. I've never been and we're touring Jerusalem, the countryside and then ending in Tel Aviv.
How often should we use up our air miles? What's the upside to saving?
The upside to saving is that you can redeem your points for flights that are really expensive; international and business or first-class seats are where you get the most bang for your points. However, saving too long has its downsides. The airlines devalue points over time (we've especially seen this in the US where they have now gone to a system of charging more for peak flights) so as airline programmes devalue, your airline points become less valuable too.
If there was one destination you could go back to immediately, which one would it be?
I am a huge fan of scuba diving and I love the Maldives. Plus, Emirates is now flying its new first class suite to Malé so it's a no brainer.
What would you do to improve airports?
Introduce more biometrics to make queues shorter. It's so archaic that we have humans looking at IDs to assess whether the person in front of us is the person in our ID. There are security concerns about giving out our biometrics, but I think, ultimately, it will make the travel process easier.
The best airport lounge is…
I think Virgin Atlantic does a really good job with its Clubhouses. It's really well designed, with good perks and amenities.
What are you reading at the moment?
Richard Branson's Losing My Virginity. He is a true icon, and also has a huge commitment to giving back. He's a big inspiration to me. I love his story; it's too wild to be true (almost).
The airline with the comfiest seats is…
Singapore Airlines new A380 first class suite is divine.
Best piece of travel advice you ever received…
Be nice to airline employees; people berate them all day long.
What are your travel essentials?
Bose QC35 headphones, my passport, pyjamas, Sweat Taylor tracksuit bottoms, Lululemon long-sleeved tops, my iPhone.
What podcasts do you listen to in-flight?
Funnily enough, I have the number one travel podcast in the US. It's called Talking Points.
And finally, what's in your SUITCASE?
I always joke that travel is my sport. You'll spot me running through airports dressed in Nikes and I pack with minimalism in mind. White and black t-shirts, a blazer, jeans and a pair of boots and I'm good to go.