Guys, today I’m incredibly honored to interview Summer from MommyPoints She has been blogging about miles and points for almost seven years now, and is quite possibly an even bigger “junkie” than I am!
Summer has a real gift when it comes to storytelling, and her voice is unique in the miles and points community. Her passsion for travel is contagious, and her sharp analysis is always spot on. She is also a mom of two young kids, something I can certainly relate to.
In short, Mommy Points is more than just a “mommy” blog.
Let’s dive in:
1) Many people have this misconception that blogging is super easy. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In your case, you faced a tough set of challenges. You started when your first child was a toddler and you had a full-time job on top of it. So, for a period of time you basically had to juggle all three. What helped you get through it and not go crazy from exhaustion?
You know, I think at first blogging was truly just for fun, so it was my escape of sorts from my 8 – 5 job and first little toddler. There wasn’t any business behind it, just fun storytelling and deal sharing, so it kept it very stress-free. Of course, there was a transition at some point in that first year where it did unexpectedly take on a business element to it, and there did become some (largely self-imposed) stress to juggle a fulltime job, a young family, and daily posting.
Back then my toddler went to bed early, so I would blog after she went to sleep and on my lunch breaks, but it became apparent in that first year I would have to make a choice, and I was fortunate to be able to choose to blog full time about a year into it.
2) It’s no secret that miles and points community primarily consists of males. That goes for bloggers, too. I could be wrong, but I believe you were the first female voice in the industry. What helped you successfully navigate the “sea” of testosterone without losing that feminine touch Mommy Points site is known for?
I don’t know if I was the first female voice or not, but I do believe I was the first mom, and one of the first parents talking about traveling with miles and points. Honestly, that was part of why I started – no one was really saying anything that directly related to families so I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to fill that void.
I think what helped was that it was just naturally different, but at the same time, it wasn’t anti-anyone, simply a different alternative way to look at things. I’m great friends with many of the male voices in the space and I think we all offer something a little unique.
3) Internet can be a hostile place at times. I’ve seen people call you names, dissect your marriage and question the way you are raising your children. At the end of the day, what keeps you from feeling jaded and deciding that the juice is simply not worth the squeeze?
I don’t go looking for ugly comments about my family, myself, or my site, so that helps. However, I do of course still see some of them and over the years it has gotten easier to simply delete unnecessarily ugly commentary and move on. Naturally the ugly sticks out, but it is by far the small minority of feedback online so I try to just avoid it, ignore it, and move on when it truly is just ugly for the sake of ugly as opposed to constructive feedback.
4) As writers, we tend to live in our heads for a good portion of the day. Due to fast-paced nature of miles and points blogging, we also have to stay connected and available to our readership. This isn’t a 8-5 job by any means. As a result, it can be difficult to snap out of it and focus on the real life: spouse, kids, making dinners etc. So I’m very curious as to how you personally de-blog your mind?
Ha, well Josh may tell you I never truly do. That is a tough part and it is a reality of this ‘job’. When I went from one kid to two this happened naturally to some extent as the needs of two kids, one being an infant, necessitated detaching from the online world at times.
I think I’m pretty good about limiting the online world in the evenings and on the weekends after an hour or two online most weekend mornings, but the flexibility this ‘job’ affords does have the downside of needing to stay somewhat attached to the online world most days, especially if you don’t utilize other writers as I don’t (other than the occasional Grandpa post).
5) I’ve mentioned this before and I know you agree that internet likes to pigeon hole travel bloggers. You are sort of expected to pick one way of doing things and stick to it indefinitely or risk losing readers. With that in mind, how would you describe your travel style?
I’d describe our travel style as flexible. You are right that some folks get upset when they are used to see you flying coach to Kansas and then you are flying lie-flat to the Maldives. You get accused of changing or selling out, but the reality is that both types of trips can coexist. Our travel style is flexible based on the trip and available resources. We still use miles to fly to Kansas to see grandparents, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also fly international upfront using our miles from time to time.
One of the goals I have for my site is to show families that you can do more than you think with miles. That may mean an extra trip in coach to see family, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii, or even around the world trips in business or first class. They are all realistic and doable goals and I hope to encourage folks to dream big, whatever that looks like for them.
I know some people thought I had gone head first into the world of premium cabin travel and abandoned economy domestic travel in the first half of 2014 when I had multiple big, “fancy”, international trips hit back to back to back. However, the reason they all hit in quick succession was largely because we knew we were hoping to add a second kiddo to our family in the very near future and our window to take some of those trips for a while was very narrow so I traveled to some far flung (for me) places with a friend, then with my daughter and mom, and then with Josh for his 40th.
Our then four year old wasn’t too much work for Grandma so we could do the better trips and be gone more than a day or two, and I wasn’t yet pregnant or caring for a newborn. Of course we knew about the intention to expand our family in the near term and the reason for doing a lot in a short time period, but nobody else knew that, so I get how it might have looked like a step function change from the outside. However, I was pregnant by the later half of 2014, we welcomed Baby S in the summer of 2015, and we went back to our normal travel patterns after she arrived.
6) Maldives (the destination) and Hyatt Vendome Paris (the hotel) became the ultimate clichés in the miles and points hobby. And with good reason, they represent an excellent redemption value. I know you’ve been to both and enjoyed the experience. What would you say to someone who can afford to go (with the help of miles and points, of course!), but is on the fence? Aside from an excellent redemption opportunity, what makes Maldives and Hyatt Vendome special?
Like I mentioned, everyone has their own travel goals and none are better than others. I had never heard of the Maldives or the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome before I started blogging, but as I learned more about them, I gave them a try using points, of course. I don’t think either is the right place for everyone, but I’m so glad I did both when I did.
The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome needs a refresh I think, but my favorite thing about it was honestly the room service breakfast. It was as good as they say it is and it all just felt very Parisian, fun, and special.
The Maldives was in a league of its own. I mean, it is a private island with water and villas that look like they are out of a movie. I never had dreams that big until I got into miles and points. We went for Josh’s 40th birthday and met some friends there and it was truly an experience I will never forget. If you go, I don’t recommend spending extra for the over water villa. Frankly, it was hotter, didn’t have the outdoor shower, and we moved back to land after one night on the water.
I don’t need to go to the Maldives every year, but we do hope to return one day.
7) Most people in America only get two weeks off for vacations. So obviouly, it’s important to use them wisely. What US and Caribbean resorts do you consider to be an excellent value for families?
I’m assuming you mean on points, and while everyone is different, I rarely hear disappointed stories from the Grand Hyatt Kauai, the Hyatt all-inclusive properties in Cancun, Hyatt Lost Pines near Austin, or the Andaz Papagayo Costa Rica.
Spending quality time with the husband in Andaz Papagayo
I think the new Hyatt Baha Mar is going to also be a gem. From a location perspective, the Westin Snowmass, Westin Whistler, and Westin Grand Cayman can also be great values at 9.6k SPG points per night for five nights.
8) The world is a crazy place and things are only getting worse. Between economic pressures and all the negative news items, many families are feeling depressed and overwhelmed. While miles and points hobby (and resulting travel) certainly won’t provide a long-term solution, I think it can alleviate some of these pressures. Your thoughts?
Amen. The more we travel, the more we get out of our bubbles, and the more we see that we are all connected, the better. The fresh lenses you get when you leave your own neighborhood and experience somewhere else are invaluable, and I’m so grateful that my children have the chance to grow up living in a grounded community, but knowing there is more out there waiting for them.
9) What type of posts are most fun to put together?
I think my favorite posts to write are the ones that are just stories about my family. They aren’t the ones that pay the bills, but when I get to just capture a moment in time that is hopefully relatable, but also something I know I can look back on in the years to come, those are my favorites.
Thanks to Summer for stopping by! Make sure to check out MommyPoints for more tips on maximizing your miles for family travel. Readers, feel free to ask your own burning questions in the comments section. Just a reminder: Summer is a guest here and I want her to feel welcome. Please, keep things civil.
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.