Haley B may not be familiar to most of my readers, but she is very active in this community. No, she doesn’t have her own miles and points blog (she is too smart for that!) But she does presentations on “hacking” Disney at various conferences, including FT4RL (“family travel for real life” seminars). I’m amazed at the depth of her knowledge. Manufactured spending, reselling, Disney… she is an expert on all of them.
Just look at her rocking that tiara! Haley is the one on the right, I think?
So, I was thrilled when she agreed to let me pick her brain (though not literally). It’s a fun read!
Without further ado:
1) So, Haley, how and when did you come across miles and points hobby?
I have been collecting miles and points in various programs since the 90’s. I had an Ultimate Rewards earning debit card and realized how easy it was to churn points on my own. I also utilized cash back credit cards as an extreme couponer back in the early 2000’s. I had no idea that there were other people doing the same thing! So after about 20 years of collecting points and miles I discovered the points and miles community on FlyerTalk.
I was planing a month-long trip to mainland Greece and was trying to get help redeeming miles since it was my first international redemption. I didn’t really get sucked into the community until about 4 or 5 years ago, which was when I really started to MS (manufactured spending) big.
2) You have kids, you MS, you resell, you are active in this community. How do you find time for everything? Are you a superwoman?
You should see my laundry pile, lol. One huge thing is my kids are older. You still spend a ton of time worrying about older kids, but there is much less direct time consumption. Also reselling has replaced a ton of my MS activity, since I can generate enough points and miles reselling to keep up with about 75% of my points and miles needs (wants).
I also have a very supportive spouse and three kids old enough to have AU cards. My kids even know how to buy MO’s to complete the circle so I have started to have them each generate their own miles.
I have recently also launched a tee shirt line on Amazon, because I didn’t have enough going on already, lol. It is tied to my husbands Hedgehog blog (www.Princesspricklepants.com) and if anyone wants to see the shirts they can be found by searching for “Urchin Wear” on Amazon. This has been a huge time sink.
I had graphic design experience, but from over 20 years ago, so I had to teach myself how to use Photoshop and Illustrator again. However, the royalties are going straight into our travel budget, and we paid for our family trip to Disney in January with royalties (and redeemed miles for the flights, of course).
3) Obviously, you feel that ROI on reselling is worth it, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it. But can you share some blunders as a warning to those who are thinking about getting into this “hot” sub-category of the hobby?
I would caution people to think of reselling as a primary activity and the points and miles as a fringe benefit. There is a ton of money to be made if you take the time to learn to resell but there is also more risk. The biggest mistake I made early on was trying to scale up before I really understood how everything worked. I bought a toy wholesale, so I had to buy in wholesale quantities of 144 units.
I split the order with another person so we each had 72. By the time the shipment arrived, the price had already started to tank. If I would have only needed to sell 5 or 6 units I would have gotten them sold before the price hit break even but I had 72 units. I ended up pulling my inventory and storing them in my dining room for 7 months waiting for the price to recover. I was about ready to donate them when it started to rebound.
So I ended up doing okay but I tied up a big chunk of money for 9 months and irritated the heck out of my family by turning our dining room into my warehouse. So my advice to anyone thinking about reselling is do wide instead of deep. You want 5 of 10 products instead of 50 of 1. My other warning is to price in returns. That applies especially to electronics and high dollar items.
You will get open box returns and you will not be able to sell them again as “new” or even “like new.” That is why you need to be very careful about thinking about reselling as a form of MS. It doesn’t really work to think of it that way, you need to sell at a profit or you will end up taking a loss.
4) What are some of your favorite trips that were made possible only via miles and points?
All of them. I have the travel bug bad. I tend to use miles to get me places but more often than not I avoid staying in hotels. I have been to Paris many times, but it was when I stayed in an Airbnb in a real neighborhood that I fell in love with Paris. I think that month-long trip to mainland Greece was my favorite trip ever.
It was the first time I got to go deep like that since my early 20’s (I did the backpack through Europe thing twice, loved those trips too). Really getting to know the country and its people. There is a little town a few hours outside of Athens called Nafplio and it is wonderful. I highly recommend going for a few days if you get the chance.
5) What have been some of your biggest challenges when trying to redeem miles and points for family travel?
Five seats. Getting us all on one plane has been an issue a few times. Five beds. When the kids were younger, we could squeeze into a normal hotel room but those days are long gone. This is another reason why we prefer non-hotel stays. Lately our biggest issue is finding a time that works for everyone. I almost never get to plan anything a year out or even 6 months out, so I have to be very flexible about where I go.
6) You are a huge lover of Disney. Some of us are not so into it (not naming any names). What can you say to those individuals to convince them to focus on the “magical” and not the “greedy”?
Travel is expensive. Disney is tough because a big chunk of the cost is really hard to cover with points and miles so it definitely isn’t a cheap destination. However, flights are very inexpensive from most places and an easy redemption on Jet Blue or Southwest.
Hotel or lodging can be covered with points, although Orlando is the last place I will use points instead of cash (I will if I have points I don’t have a better use for, but that is almost never the case) because rooms are cheap. I think of a Disney trip as a major city trip. I know I spent more per person/per day in Chicago than I spend in Disney. Museum and attraction costs add up fast.
Transportation can be very expensive in a city. Food costs in Disney and in large cities are pretty comparable, if anything, you get a better deal in Disney for nicer sit-down meals. So part one of my answer is make sure you compare apples to apples when thinking about Disney costs.
Part two of my answer is go deep. Stroll around a Disney park. Take in the beautiful landscaping and notice how clean everything is. Slow down and look around. Disney has a lot to offer beyond rides and attractions. In part, the magic of Disney is everything you don’t notice.
Their use of music in the parks is exceptional. The lack of intrusions is masterful. Even at Disneyland in California, which is surrounded by a city that grew up around it, you don’t often notice the outside world.
7) Do you have any other hobbies? If so, what are they?
I play with hot glass. Actually, it is considered warm glass, or kiln formed glass, because I stay under 1800 degrees. I have a kiln and a bunch of power tools in my garage/studio. Sometimes I post photos on Twitter when I am doing a vitrograph session.
It involves letting molten glass drip out of a hole in an elevated kiln and manipulating it by hand. I have many scars on my hands from this hobby. I have been badly neglecting my glass work lately but I love glass. It is a mix of science and art that I find really enjoyable.
8) What is one piece of advice you can give to beginners?
Start with a reasonable goal and work towards it. Pick a destination and figure out what points and miles you need to make it happen and then do it. Jump in, there is plenty of help and support if you need it, but keep good records and remember the golden rule: never carry a balance.
Editor’s note: Haley also runs Disney planning service and I offered to highlight the details in this interview in case someone is interested. I don’t receive any commission if you decide to hire her:
Disney Itinerary Services: I’m not currently accepting clients. I have three openings for trips starting in July through October. I have one opening left for next Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. I limit the number of trips I plan so that each one gets the attention it deserves.
I am not a Travel Agent. I highly recommend booking with a good agency, it costs nothing and your TA will apply discount codes for you as they are released (yes, after you book they keep looking for better deals for you). I use FTM Travel: Krista Miller email@example.com
I offer two levels of service for Itinerary Planning:
My Most Inclusive Service:
We start with a consultation, ideally before you book your trip. I require that we get started no less than 90 days from your travel dates for this service.
- Personalized daily itineraries based on which park will be the least crowded on your specific travel dates. Detailed ride and attraction itinerary designed to reduce your wait time. Avoiding long waits is my top priority.
- Dining Reservations that work well with your touring plans, Disney World is huge
- Quick Service recommendations for meals you will not be doing a sit down meal for
- Pre-arranging all of your Fast Passes according to your families priorities including consideration of height, fears, and any mobility or other special needs issues your group has
- Explanations of the bus system, Disney Dining Plans and Parent Swap Passes
- Parade and Evening Entertainment Viewing Advice including the very important Exit strategy for each park
- Help with my Magic Band strategy as found on Saverocity Forums
My fee for this service is based on the number of days you will visit a park. It is $350 for up to 4 park days and $35 a day for each additional park day. I do not charge you for days you don’t go to one of the 4 major parks.
Do-it-yourself Disney Itinerary Planning:
- I provide Personalized daily itineraries based on which park will be the least crowded on your specific travel dates
- Fast Pass recommendations
- A generalized one day touring plan for each park plus a two-day alternate plan for the Magic Kingdom as a starting place for you to customize.
- Help with my Magic Band strategy as found on Saverocity Forums
Flat Fee of $150
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.