Five Travel Blogs You Should Be Reading

During the Seattle Meetup last weekend, I was asked which blogs I follow. It was a friendly question, but the implication was that as someone who’s job it is to stay current on the latest points- and miles-related news, I should probably have a better idea than most where to find quality content.

One consequence of trying to stay updated is that I actually read very few blogs regularly. There is so much out there that repeats or duplicates something I already know or a promotion that everyone is sharing (and I can only read it so many times before going mad). I click through the entries in my RSS reader and sometimes never read past the headline. So even though I subscribe to dozens, I follow very few, and it’s usually because the author tends to offer something unique or is especially good in a particular niche.

Here are five blogs that I think are worth reading. All of them are already popular. What I think might be interesting is that I’ve also heard a lot of complaints about some of them, or perhaps I enjoy them for different reasons than you might think.

#1 — The Wandering Aramean

Seth’s blog is probably my favorite because he eschews the hotel loyalty programs and credit cards while taking a more technical approach than most to figuring out how travel works. Not many people could talk for an hour about the ETOPS rating system, but I bet Seth could. He also visits places I normally wouldn’t consider and has created several useful tools like his list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Star Alliance Award Search, and SPG Cash + Points Award Search. Basically, every time I visit his blog I know I’m going to get something new and different.

#2 — View from the Wing

Gary’s blog ties with One Mile at a Time, but I give it a bump up because I think Gary takes a little more time to provide his own analysis and commentary on the travel industry. It’s something you don’t see many places, or at least not of the same quality. (Gary’s skewered me more than once for building a weak argument, but I enjoy my armchair philosophy nonetheless.) Plus, he’s usually quick to pick up new stories and provide all the same credit card and trip report commentary that you find elsewhere.

#3 — One Mile at a Time

Ben’s blog is great at maximizing loyalty programs and using those points and miles to create elaborate trip reports. Not many people can do this as a full-time gig, and do it quite so well. Ben is someone who can tell you which of 12 different carriers has the best business class seat and include a point-by-point summary that includes everything from the pajamas to the fruit in his Diet Coke. I would still trust him over most people if I ever broke down and was willing to pay for an award booking service.

#4 — The Points Guy

Brian’s blog does an excellent job at bringing this obsession with miles and points to the average person who isn’t very familiar with travel schemes and hacks. Is that a problem? No. People on FlyerTalk who are already experts and whine about the bloggers shouldn’t be reading the blogs in the first place. They have their forum already. Blogs are meant to supplement that, not replace it. Brian does an very good job of covering just about everything and keeping it updated. Of course, he has a staff to help him, but nothing is stopping others from taking a similar approach.

#5 — Loyalty Traveler

Ric’s blog is great because it focuses on one thing and does it well. If I ever have a question about a hotel loyalty program, or if I forget the terms for a recent promotion, I know exactly where I want to go to look for it. (Sadly, BoardingArea does not have the best system for organizing its archives). He covers everything from Hyatt and Starwood to the lowly Wyndham Rewards, providing a very balanced analysis backed by hard numbers. Considering hotel loyalty programs are often easier to break into than those of airlines, his is a valuable service. Ric is the only guy on this list I haven’t met, and even Gary was just for 15 seconds in an elevator, but I hope we get a chance to talk soon.

Honorable Mention — Frequent Miler

You’ll notice an obvious omission form this list: Frequent Miler. This blog is very popular, yet I try not to rely too heavily on manufactured spend or credit card bonuses. Credit cards are only one part of my toolkit, and I earn more miles (in terms of value) each year from paid travel than I do from credit card spend or bonuses. I just don’t see his techniques as a sustainable long-term strategy by themselves, and most of the techniques aren’t as easy to pull off in Seattle as they are elsewhere. Some of them make me downright uncomfortable: I will never seek to earn 1,000,000 miles in a single month. If you are interested in these kinds of tricks, then you should definitely read his blog. Frequent Miler takes more care than most to test his ideas and calculate the risk/reward ratios before publishing his thoughts. But it isn’t one I actively follow.

What about your opinion? Do you have a favorite blog I haven’t mentioned? Chime in with a comment and I’ll be sure to take a look to decide if it deserves a spot in my RSS reader.

Scott created Hack My Trip after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • http://twitter.com/LoyaltyTraveler Ric Garrido

    Thanks for the mention Scott. We should get a chance to meet up in Colorado Springs in May. Ric Garrido – Loyalty Traveler.

  • smitty06

    I used one of Seth’s search tools to plan my vacation. It worked great.

  • Bill n DC

    Following/Reading then all & All very good! Thanks to All

  • http://twitter.com/WeeklyFlyer Pointsmiles&martinis

    I agree, and read all BA blogs. Especially that Points, Miles & Martinis one :)

    • Tocqueville

      Yea, why didn’t Points Miles & Martinis make this list?

      • http://twitter.com/sastaSaman Bargain Hunter

        Because PMM has very little original content. it is simply a wrapper for CC links… lot of BA blogs are this way and I don’t understand why everyone needs to talk about the same promotion (e.g. the current mediocre Hilton promo). It reduces signal to noise ratio and my links will definitely not go to blogs who only pimp links.

        I don’t mind clicking through the blogs Scott mentioned because they offer valuable content.

  • Grant Thomas

    I would also say Mile Value is one of the more advanced blogs out there. Great tips for booking complicated award tickets.

  • Muerl

    I have of late become a big fan of Rapid Travel Chai. Of the blogs you mentioned, more in line with Wandering Armenian than anyone else. It has the same level of being more about the trip, and less about the points.

    http://boardingarea.com/blogs/rapidtravelchai/

  • Mark

    Interesting that a blogger named “Hack My Trip – Sharing the Tricks and Tools of Better Travel” doesn’t approve of Frequent Miler’s tricks and tools methods.

    • Scottrick

      I didn’t say I disapproved; I said I find some of them uncomfortable or just not something I want to do. I also don’t think credit card bonuses and manufactured spend by themselves qualify as travel hacking. Like I said: not a “sustainable long-term strategy by themselves.” Just look at the evolution of Vanilla Reloads over the past year. I included him because I still think he does a good job at what he does, but it is not a blog I regularly follow.

      Most of my tickets are paid for. If I budget $5,000 to book 100,000 miles and earn 1K, then my cost is about $5,000. Earning miles through some of the tricks Frequent Miler uses involve buying and reselling large amounts of merchandise or applying for many more cards than I think I could manage wisely. Even if he ends up spending less money, there’s more risk involved.

      • Mark

        Fair enough. It’s just ironic that your blog title and tag line makes a new user think you are all about the tricks involved with accumulating points and miles – when really you are more a traditionalist in earning miles and points. With that being said I think you were spot on with the list above. I would add MileValue and MillionMileSecrets to the list above as well if you went beyond five. I keep a list of favorite RSS blog posts to reference later and MV has been dominating the list lately. There are a few from HMT in there as well.

        • Scottrick

          I would hardly call my travel “traditional.” The average person books what he or she sees on Orbitz and complains that they paid $200 to get a view of the air conditioning unit or a middle seat in the last row. They may not even belong to a loyalty program at all.

          I talk about BRGs, status matches, PointsHound’s Double Dip, fare construction, and why mileage runs make financial sense. These and other things are “tips and tricks” that make my travel more comfortable and affordable.

          • Ray

            im also a bit confused. you posted a link to his website, but clearly went out of your way to express your opinion about him instead of probably 100 other possible bloggers. you also referenced the other 5 bloggers by their actual names, but not “his.” and now you don’t “disapprove” of his actions but you’re suffiiciently uncomfortable to not do what he does? u are a self-proclaimed hacker (which by definition is criminally and civilly illegal) but uncomfortable with credit-card signups and manufactured spend (which is not criminal and very, very unlikely to be tortious)?

            finally, you’re a talented blogger… but my head is spinning

          • Scottrick

            First, the name: Some bloggers are sensitive about their real names being shared publicly. All the others have shared their real names. I’m not aware that Frequent Miler has, so I am respecting his privacy.

            Second, the definition of the term “hacker”: If you search Google, the first definition is: “An enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user.” I don’t really need a computer, but the spirit is the same. I don’t think anything I do is illegal, although some stuff I’ve described (and don’t do) may skirt the line. I don’t think much of what Frequent Miler does is illegal either, but many illegal activities, such as money laundering, could easily use the same methods.

            Third, the approval/disapproval: I said that I don’t find his blog very useful to me. That’s still true. The post wasn’t about which blogs are good or bad. The post was about which blogs I admire and respect and find useful. I admire and respect Frequent Miler, which is why he got an Honorable Mention. His is not the most useful blog to me, which is why it didn’t make the top five. I am more likely to use the information shared by the other bloggers.

            I actually have a post going up on Friday to discuss this in more detail, but I just don’t understand why people read so much negativity into this. I didn’t say anything mean or hateful.

  • Guest

    I really enjoy milevale.com

  • thetravelplaybook

    Big fan of Hack My Trip, One Mile at a Time, Hotel Chatter, Ken Jenning’s Blog on Conde Naste’s website, and of course my own- thetravelplaybook.com :)

    • ugghh

      Pimping your own blog. How low can you go?

    • chico escuela

      wow you are desperate for attention TPB

  • Ann

    Some of them are just becoming one big credit card infomerical…(cough, cough, view from the wing, cough cough).

    • DanS

      And also a “right” wing infomercial.

  • Scottrick

    I like MileValue, Rapid Travel Chai, and Points Miles & Martinis, too ;) But I wanted to stick to five. This is my “desert island list”

    It’s interesting to note that the the site that has gotten the most outbound clicks so far is TPG. Really? You never heard of The Points Guy? Just goes to show that you shouldn’t assume everyone reads the same blogs — one reason for writing this post.

  • Seth

    One Mile at A Time is by far the best blog in my opinion. I also enjoy reading Leff and Loyalty Traveler. The only other ones (which you didn’t mention) are Matthew at upgrd and travelisfree.com who has some awesome post on stopovers with United and BA.
    But again, lucky makes the biggest contributions to the community.

  • progapanda

    read most of those pretty regularly, including Hackmytrip, but I too find that the stuff Seth and Stefan post on The Wandering Aramean and Rapid Travel Chai, respectively, is really fascinating!

  • Um

    The Points Guy….really?

    • Scottrick

      Really. I think he’s the most comprehensive source out there. Like I said, he has a staff, but that helps make sure he covers every deal.

      • http://twitter.com/sastaSaman Bargain Hunter

        I agree with Scott. I go to TPG when I’m completely new to a program or credit card or destination. Nicely compiled info in one place..

  • Um

    I’ll forever love Wandering Aramean for his ripping apart FTG on the age discrimination claim

  • hansmast

    You should have done a top ten list instead:
    The Flight Deal
    Loyalty Lobby
    MileValue
    Matthew Klint
    PM&M

  • Aptraveler

    Good choices, do read them plus I follow Rapid Travel Chai, Mile Value, and the Noob traveler. I enjoy how well Ed Graham complements his travel writing with photography at The Polar Route, and appreciate how ingenuous The Frequent Miler can be in his quest for miles. I certainly will look at the Loyalty Traveler, so thanks Scott.

  • harvson3

    I don’t care about first and business seat gripes because at the end of the day you’re still trapped in a metal tube. I’m interested in deals and tricks, and most of those spread across the blogs and forums very quickly. There’s thus no need to follow many blogs. Another vote for FM and secondarily MV.

  • http://twitter.com/miffSC miffSC

    You should meet them in COS, yes?

    • Scottrick

      I expect to, yes. But FTU will be before that (I know Gary is going; I’m guessing Ric is not).

  • JB

    Milevalue. granular and up to date award booking info.

    • chico escuela

      does not always give best credit card deal just his credit card deal, MMS always says when there is a better deal than his affiliate. Milevalue has great info but isnot the best source for the best ccard link out there.

  • blog critic

    Scott I think your picks are spot-on and though Frequent Miler is interesting, I share your wariness of his techniques. PP&M is truly a terrible blog and I’m disappointed Boarding Area still hosts it. It is frequently inaccurate, but mostly just hype labeling obvious information as “secret” such as his recent post about how Delta Platinum elites can snare first class upgrades. If you’re Platinum elite and you don’t know about upgrades, well, there’s really no hope for you. PP&M is either writing posts like that because he’s got someone at DL he’s trying to please or he has nothing useful or original to say.

  • http://twitter.com/myeggnoodles Chris Osborne

    Some great blogs here Scott. thanks for sharing.

  • Pat

    Personally I think the Frequent Miler does heck of a jb in trying and reporting different avenues. I also want to recommend the Million Miles Secrets for the best disclosures and info…his format is good even though the “veterans comlain about the details he shows.

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  • Alan

    Would highly recommend http://www.headforpoints.com for a good UK take on FFPs, hotel loyalty programmes and credit card programmes.

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