Travel Tips – How do you maximize travel points? With Upgraded Points!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored collaboration with Upgraded Points. As always all opinions (and Santa stories) are my own.

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I absolutely love my corporate career! It has brought me so many experiences in my life including lots and lots of travel. But just like anything in life, I have a few regrets. One of them is not learning how to maximize my travel points. Whether it was frequent flyer miles or frequent flyer points, hotel points or hotel stays that I earned along the way, I did not use them to gain the most out of them as I could. (And don't get me started on rental car rewards!) This time around, I am getting educated and Upgraded Points is where I am UPping my game!

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But first a story.

I became a corporate citizen at 19. I was going to school plus working 20 hours a week at the district sales and service office for a computer services and document management company. I quickly fell in love and have never looked back.

Andi Business Travel_Travel Tips - Upgraded Points - How do you maximize travel points

Actually, the story of how I got my start is kind of funny. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it so I’m gonna do it now (my blog my rules). My previous part-time jobs were mainly retail. Even in my first year at college, I worked at a department store. Right after that, I got a seasonal job as a Santa's elf for the Santa photo booth at a mall. I’m 5-foot tall and sort of pixie so I had the look but there is a reason I don’t have kids and that job sealed the deal for me!

When I applied to the micrographics company I knew I didn’t have a lot of experience and I wanted to stand out so I pasted my pathetic little resume into a purple file folder. When the hiring manager opened her mail she saw the purple folder and looked inside. She read it and thought to herself, “anyone who admits she’s worked for Santa is someone I need to meet!” Unfortunately, she had already made a hiring decision so she set my folder aside. A few days later her candidate of choice failed their drug test (it was the 80’s) so she picked up that purple folder and gave me a call.

I was so nervous to interview but I wanted the job, I was tired of retail and didn’t want to work in the food industry (if I’d known better I might have tried to get into hospitality!). The hiring manager and I hit it off. When she asked me if I’d ever taken on more responsibility than asked to, I told her yes and proceeded to tell her about the time Santa showed up to work totally high (sorry kids) and that there was no way he could function as Santa.

I grabbed the suit and put it on. I picked it up so I could walk and headed out to the Santa studio and for the next 5 hours used the deepest voice I could muster to ask kids what they wanted for Christmas. [I sincerely apologize to any kid who got their picture taken that day in 1988 in Southland Mall in Hayward California! You should ask for your money back!]

I’m sure if it was the naïveté I demonstrated by telling that story or the determination in which I explained the details but I was hired there and then (contingent on a drug test which I passed with flying colors!)

Awkward is my Specialty
Awkward is my specialty and may have got me my first corporate job!

That started my career in corporate America and that’s where I met my work rabbi. I learned so much from my first real boss. She was a powerhouse organizer and extremely detail-oriented, she was very professional when it mattered and absolutely hilarious the rest of the time. When I turned 21 she took me drinking and let me have whatever I wanted to drink (it was a disaster) on a work night. She also dropped me off at my apartment door at an unreasonable hour and she had absolutely zero sympathy for me when I tried to call in “sick” the next day. Everything I am foundationally as an employee today she ingrained in me.

One of the best things she taught me was how to earn and use travel points. Even when planning meetings she would work deals for points. She was one smart cookie.

Each time she moved onto to a new company my phone would ring, and as she took on roles with increasingly more responsibilities so did I. I took on global roles with global projects and I traveled and I collected points.

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When I met my hubby I had been married, divorced, and throwing myself into my work. I never really used my points but after dating my hubby who also traveled a lot for work, we began traveling as a couple. We used our airline and hotel points for 17 days in Italy, 14 days in French Polynesia, and multiple trips to Paris. Over the years we also spent 2 weeks in Japan and took a lot of smaller trips. All on points.

The one thing we didn’t do was learn how to actually maximize our points. How to get more, get better deals, leverage opportunities and promotions.

At the end of 2015, we quit our jobs, bought an RV, and hit the road for 18 months. At the end of the line, we settled in Phoenix and I got a job back in corporate America, although it had very little travel. After 2 years, I have a fabulous new job with travel and this time I’m going to do it right.

Upgraded Points does one thing and one thing only. Its mission is to show travelers the value of points and miles. It is a one-stop-shop for all things points related and I don't have to surf around looking for resources on 5 or 10 different sites! They create the ultimate guides to every topic they blog about. They do while providing free, highly researched, in-depth and intuitive content that aims to give people like me everything they’re looking for and more.

Their experts spend anywhere between 5-20+ hours researching and crafting a single piece of content (as a blogger who writes long-form content, I am guessing it is more than 20 hours!). Their website includes guides to earning points, redeeming points for the most value, speeding through the airport, and guidance on rewards credit cards. They specialize in helping people earn the most out of their points, miles, and travel.

Andi Happy Traveler_Travel Tips - Upgraded Points - How do you maximize travel points
I'm going to be a HAPPIER traveler maximizing ALL the points!

That is why they are my new go-to place. I've got a decent amount of travel coming up over the next 12 months and I want to see the return of those wonderful 1-to-2-week-don't-pay-for-anything-but-food trips! I had been a long-time member of the Starwood SPG program and have been a little leery about the Marriott Bonvoy program, but since I fly to Paris a lot and my new company headquarters that I will be heading to once a quarter has 2 Marriott properties as their preferred hotels, I am boning up on how to maximize these points.

Posts like 33 Best Ways To Earn Lots of Marriott Bonvoy Points go a long way to show me how to get more, more, more! Also, I was completely unaware of the Marriott Bonvoy's Marriott Hotel + Air Travel Packages deals, something I will be keeping my eye on from now on.

For me, this is very useful information and I am thankful that Upgraded Points creates content like this in one place! I've already shared the site with a fellow new employee at my job. He is young and has a position that requires him to travel 75% of the time, I sent him over the link for the UP site and told him to get informed. Some of the best trips I've had in my life have been absolutely free and his wife and family will be a little more accommodating about his schedule if he is treating them to awesome vacations!

How about you? Are you skilled in maximizing your travel points? Do you have any tips to share? Have you heard of Upgraded Points? Do share!

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  1. I love your story of starting in corporate America. What a great first boss! And thanks for the tips on upgrades

  2. Wow it sounds like you’ve had quite the wild ride but I’m glad to hear you’ve settled into a life that allows you to travel so much! I definitely need to learn how to maximize my points more.

  3. I love this! It’s awesome that you got your foot into that corporate door via an elf costume and a stint at being santa!

    We do collect points, but it is very likely that we’re not making the most of them. I figured getting one free flight a year was pretty good, but i’ll take a peek and see if I could be doing better. Thank you for the heads up! 😀

  4. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says:

    I am happy that you found a job that aligns with your passion. I always dreamed of a job that would “require” me to travel. You sure found a good mentor in your career. We don’t travel often but my brother does. He could use these tips to up his travel points.

  5. What a fun way to get into your field. I think miles and points can be intimidating but I’m definitely jealous of people who know how to work the system.

  6. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    UPgraded points seems like a great tool. I am always losing track of all the points that people seem to give you from everywhere. I could totally see you as an elf too. I have to introduce you to my daughter. She worked as an elf one Christmas for her mom at the mall. You two would really hit it off. Actually, we might have had dinner together in Tucson with her at Saffron.

  7. Thanks for sharing the Santa story 🙂 I’m not surprised they hired you, actually! And I love your laptop decal!

  8. This is awesome! I loved reading about your career path and how it’s helped you get to where you are now. I always find people’s paths in life/career so fascinating! Thanks for posting about Upgraded Points, too – I’ve just recently gotten into the world of credit card points and am trying to learn all I can!!

  9. I love hearing a bit about people’s trajectories. Yours is such a cool story. Upgrade points sound awesome

  10. Omg I really loved reading your story of how you began your corporate career! Honestly the santa’s elf… the drug tests… filling in for santa… this is prime material for a sitcom I think!! Also in regards to the whole points & miles thing… I’m also trying to figure that out myself. I got my first two travel rewards credit cards this year and have been able to get two roundtrip long distance flights just from the sign on bonuses. I will definitely check out upgraded points because I’m trying to learn more about this whole subject!

  11. Lori Bosworth says:

    Love the story of the beginning of your career! How cute that you actually played Santa one day! I definitely have to learn how to maximize my travel points.

  12. I definitely haven’t been making the most of my travel points and rewards. It’s hurts my head to think about trying, so I’m sure I’m going to find Upgraded Points to be a big help.

  13. Shayla Marie says:

    I love this post and reading more about your history! We haven’t had a family vacation in many years because we are a big family, I cannot imagine even trying to fly with our family size but I might look for a card that builds points we could use at restaurants and hotels for when we are able to go on a vacation. I would really like to aim for next summer. You’ve inspired me!

  14. It really sounds like you have had a great wonderful career that includes many adventures. Loved reading about it!

  15. What an incredible path and journey! Amazing that you can travel so much!

  16. We collect a ton of points through Marriott while traveling!

  17. I agree with others here… You’ve got one amazing story about your career. And I like how you told it… It’s pretty inspiring. Your fellow new employee’s lucky!.. And Upgraded Points seems a helpful resource. Gotta keep on eye on it. Thank you for sharing about it!

  18. Such an amazing story girl, I loved reading this.

  19. A couple things – I can TOTALLY see you as Santa’s elf – you DO have that adorable pixie look. Second – that mug is perfect and I need one. And third, I also regret not getting into points sooner and also screwing up my credit at a young age. Now, that I’m cleaning that up, I look forward to utilizing all the great aspects of travel hacking and points/miles.

  20. Sandra Papas says:

    Some great tips here! I clicked through to the Upgraded Points site and went on to read their ‘How to earn points with Qantas’ article as thats our carrier of choice. I did indeed find a couple of things I did not know about so super useful.

  21. Yukti Agrawal says:

    I loved reading your milestones in life and good to know that you have accumulated so many points due to you and your travel job. My husband too accumulated many points in some hotel rewards and airlines gold card for which we enjoy a lot during traveling. These upgraded points are really worth.

  22. Nancy Williams says:

    Stories like yours is what keeps me motivated blogging and working to leave the corporate world. Congrats!

  23. Tara Pittman says:

    Great tips. I remember when I traveled with a 6 week old and a 18 month old and it was tough.