I survived the #chicagoseminars 2012

I spent this past weekend at the Chicago Seminars where 500 or so frequent flyer addicts got together to learn insider travel tips, to network, and to have fun.  I had a fantastic time meeting and talking with many great people and attending great sessions.  Here’s a quick rundown of some of my experiences:

Friday

 

(Un)Lucky Field Trip

I was lucky enough to have Lucky (One Mile at a Time) and several other new friends with me on the hotel shuttle from the airport.  When we arrived we couldn’t help but notice a shiny Office Depot across the road from the hotel.  After we all checked in, we field tripped to Office Depot to check for Vanilla Reload cards.  They were out of stock.  According to reports, a few Vanilla Reload cards somehow appeared on Saturday, and then a huge stack appeared on Sunday.  Did someone intentionally hide them until the seminar was over?

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Hotel Restaurant & Bar, and Bootcamp

Back at the hotel, I got the chance to meet and greet many people.  René (Delta Points) offered me a ride to to the Hancock tower where he was leading a mini field trip of his own, but I declined because I wanted to get work done.  Instead of doing much work, though, I found myself spending most of the day in the hotel restaurant/bar.  First, was a late lunch with Frugal Travel Guy and friends.  A few hours later I was back for an early dinner with Mommy Points, Mile Value and others.  Mommy Points and I both made the same mistake: fish tacos.  Not good.  Not good at all.

We took a break from the restaurant to see Bikeguy kick-off the seminar with his Rookie Bootcamp presentation.  As usual, Bikeguy got newbies and old-hats alike pumped up about how far you can go with just a little effort and a lot of networking.  This year, he threw in a couple of slides I particularly liked:

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That was a sweet moment!  Did I blush?

Back at the bar, the drinks were flowing quickly thanks to the FourSquare special of the day: beers for one penny!

2012-10-12 21.02.09

 

Saturday

Saturday was packed with presentations. 

  • I learned some helpful tips on how to make better use of Expert Flyer (a paid service) and ITA Matrix (free). 
  • I listened to Captain Denny talk about the many ways he enriches the lives of the people around him.  I was blown away by his presentation and truly inspired.  I can’t wait to hear him talk again at a future event.
  • Even though I rarely mileage run in the traditional sense (see “Mileage running, from home“), I still very much enjoyed Lucky’s mileage running presentation.  He showed us step by step how to construct a good mileage run.  Maybe I’ll even remember a step or two if I ever want to do one again…
  • Later in the afternoon, Lucky and Steve Belkin hosted a very entertaining Q & A.  Neither answered the question of which presidential candidate would be better for mileage runners.

 

Sunday

 

Hotel Breakout

On Sunday morning I attended the hotel breakout session where we divided into groups depending on each person’s hotel chain of interest.  I went with Marriott since I’m still in the middle of a Marriott Platinum Challenge (see “Pursuing Platinum @ Marriott“).  While I already knew a lot of what was discussed, I still learned a few things.  For example, I had no idea they had a “refer a friend” program where both you and your referred friend can earn extra points (see this page for details).  I also learned that there’s a nice category 4 Marriott not too far from where I live (the Dearborn Inn).  Since I’ve been collecting free category 4 nights, that might make for a nice little weekend stay-cation.

Gift Card Churning

After lunch, I presented “The Art of Gift Card Churning”.  Thank you, everyone who attended!  You laughed at the appropriate points and at least appeared to be interested and engaged.  Well done!  I’ll follow up shortly with a blog post summarizing my talk.  I found this unflattering photo of my presentation on Twitter (thanks, Scott, for posting this…  I think):

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During the presentation, I was psyched to see The Points Guy sneak into the room.  He was supposed to be in the “Bloggers Questions and Answers” session next door.  I guess he didn’t have any questions for them.

Shopping Mall Bonanzas and Tornados

After my talk, HansGolden began his presentation showing how to earn a quadrillion miles or so by buying stuff from shopping portals and then reselling.  Early in the presentation, Tornado sirens rudely interrupted the’ talk.  We were then told to leave the meeting room and squeeze into a smaller room.  Given that both were interior rooms, it didn’t make sense to me, but it made for some cozy chatting.  After the All Clear, Hans re-started his presentation and did a fantastic job.  Hans will likely write a guest post or two on my blog for those who couldn’t attend.

Wrap Up

Here are some miscellaneous take-aways:

  • It was fantastic meeting readers this past weekend!  It was awesome hearing how you’ve used techniques you learned here (or similar techniques you learned elsewhere) to rake in the miles!  I just wish I had more time to spend with each of you.  As we rushed off from one event to another, many conversations ended with something like “Greg, I have a great scheme to tell you about.  I’ll let you know next time I bump into you.”  But then we didn’t bump into each other again!  If this was you, please email me to finish the story!
  • If you’re into points & miles, attending events like these is a great thing to do regardless of whether you are a beginner or expert.  Just meeting others with similar interests alone makes the whole event worthwhile.
  • An hour isn’t long enough to present gift card churning.  Next time, if I’m invited back, I hope I can get a full two hour slot.  There also seems to be a lot of interest in Kiva loans and I’d love to present something about that as well.
  • I’ll be speaking at the Los Angeles Frequent Traveler University (FTU), but I don’t yet have any details about what or when I’ll present.  Overall, the event is similar to the Chicago Seminars. You can read more about it here and even see my name listed (at the bottom) here.

To everyone I met this past weekend, it was great meeting you!  To everyone else, I hope to meet you soon.  Maybe at FTU?

-FM


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Comments

  1. My three local Office Depot (NC) used to have plenty of vanilla reload cards. All of a sudden they were all gone at all three places (on the dame day). I believe the security issue around these cards will make it hard to get access to them in the future.

    • As Jack L said in the comments, the 250K deal is actually the “One card to rule them all” trick. With the Ink Bold or Ink Plus you are allowed to earn 5X on $50K spend per year so it’s possible to earn 250K points per year.

      Austin: buying/reselling is not straightforward. There are lots of tricks worth learning and gotchas to avoid. Hopefully a post from Hans will help!

  2. I so wanted to come into your session as well, but didn’t to abandon the panel! Look forward to seeing it next time…and the fish tacos were terrible!

  3. Congrats on winning some award for the One Card to Rule Them All post. I had never seen what you looked like before, but you have a slight resemblance to Jerry Seinfield. Will be great seeing you at FTU in November :)

  4. I would definitely like to learn some more about buying/reselling shopping portal items. Is it as straightforward as it sounds?

  5. @mikeef I too would like to hear about the “250K United or Hyatt or Amtrak a year for an hour a month…” I looked on your blog but could not find it. Please briefly explain more. Thanks and congrats….you do deserve it…and more.

  6. Martin, mikeef, and chuck…
    I, too was puzzled by the 250K reference on the slide. I now think it means you can use the “one card to rule them all” method to get 5 x 50K UR points (250K), which can then be transferred to United or Hyatt or Amtrak, or used for something else.

  7. I’ve walked to the exact Office Depot you have pictured once a week for the past four weeks and they have only had them once. My suggestion is driving to an office depot in a wealthy suburb that is insolated by other wealthy suburbs.

  8. It was a pleasure to meet you for drinks Friday night. Thanks for buying me a one cent beer !
    I returned home from the Chicago seminars/Ireland with a ton of laundry/mail/bills/groceries to deal with, but my first order of the day was to hit 2 Office Depots, immediately. I have been vary fortunate that my local stores always seem to have ample supplies. They also had a big clearance sale, with small calculators going for 25 cents. I bought 30 to take with me to Southeast Asia in a few weeks.
    Thanks for all of your valuable information. Love your blog !
    P.S. I was in Chicago in July and picked some up at the Lombard Office Depot (Westin Lombard shuttle will take you there and it is a great hotel). When I checked the State Street store, they said they didn’t carry them.

  9. Never knew they had seminars like this. Is this an exclusive thing or could anybody attend.

    Also, do you all get free flights using your points to Chicago? ;)

  10. @Chuck: Thanks for the kind note! A couple of people listed the link here. You wouldn’t find it on my blog, since I cover exclusively non-travel point opportunities. Frequent Miler outdoes anything I, or most ordinary mortals, could do with the travel stuff! :)

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