My trip to Frequent Traveler University (FTU)

FTU is is an event similar to the recent Chicago Seminars in which hundreds of frequent flyer addicts attend presentations, get drunk network, and learn from each other.  Last weekend, FTU was held in Los Angeles at the LAX Sheraton Gateway hotel.  Here are some miscellaneous take-aways from the weekend…

TSA PRE (Still) Rocks

I qualified for TSA PRE both going to and returning from FTU.  No line, shoes stay on, liquids and laptop stay in the bag. I love it.  In Detroit I was not surprised to hear the familiar three beeps indicating that I was selected for TSA PRE.  Since they began TSA PRE in Detroit over a year ago, I’ve been lucky enough to be selected every single time through.  I think I’m 12 for 12 or so.  LAX was even more fun.  The regular line for security was huge.  The line snaked back and forth, around pillars and walls.  If stretched out I would estimate that the line would have reached China (which would have been convenient for those travelling to China).  The elite line, though, was completely empty.  I walked and walked past one traveler after another who stared at me with jealousy and rage.  It was great.  Then, three beeps later, I was making my way to the Sky Club.  Travel life is good thanks to elite status, TSA PRE, and free lounge access thanks to my credit card (Delta Reserve)…

Face to face meet-ups are awesome

It was great meeting readers, fellow bloggers, and others that I had previously known only by their online handle.  I won’t mention specific people here because I would inevitably forget a few key ones.  More importantly, I don’t think it would make a very interesting blog post.

98% of the population has both an Ink and a Bluebird

This is from a scientific study conducted during my “5X everywhere” talk in which I asked attendees to raise both hands if they owned both cards.  It seems reasonable to assume that this was an unbiased sample of the U.S. population, so we can extrapolate to the whole country….

Above photo copied without permission from Frequently Flying
Approximately 98% of attendees claimed to have both a Chase Ink business card and a Bluebird prepaid card.

In-N-Out Burger is just OK

What?!  Let me explain.  Fellow blogger, MileValue, led a big group over to a nearby In-N-Out burger on Saturday night.  I had a great time meeting and talking with many awesome people.  MileValue bought me dinner (thanks!), but for some reason didn’t buy dinner for the rest of the gang.  Come on MileValue, there were only about 40 of us there.  What gives?  Anyway, this was my first ever trip to In-N-Out Burger and I got a milkshake, a burger “animal style”, and fries.  The milkshake was very good, but not as good as at Great Plains Burger Company in Ann Arbor.  The burger was quite good, but in my opinion not as good as burgers with “the works” from Five Guys.  And, the fries weren’t nearly as good as at Five Guys.  I know many will disagree with me here and that’s OK.  Don’t people say something like “There’s no accounting for taste”?

image   image
My In-N-Out burger looked something like this one   This photo resembles a Five Guys burger I ate once.  I like the mushrooms.


The Sheraton Gateway was nice, but…

I wouldn’t call it an awesome hotel, but the Sheraton was quite nice.  The bed was comfortable and everything seemed to be clean and in good condition.  The breakfast in the club lounge was a bit lacking (no hot dishes, if I remember correctly), but they had a very decent evening spread.  The breakfast buffet in the restaurant was much better.  Wi-Fi was painfully slow, but then I plugged in my travel router and all was OK again.  One night I returned to my room to find that housekeeping had put up a hand towel with a brown streak running down the middle of it.  Ewww.

I resemble a movie star

As the seminar was coming to a close, a new friend with apparently impaired vision told me that I look like Christian Bale.  I laughed and thanked her.  I have never been told that before, but I am often mistaken for the guy who played Richard on the TV show “Lost.”  Take a look at the images below and let me know who you think I look like most:

image   image   image

Christian Bale


Frequent Miler


Richard, from Lost


I ought to sue Hyatt

Todd Tomlin, from Hyatt, gave a very interesting presentation about Hyatt’s past and planned future.  What I found most interesting was that Hyatt has blatantly stolen my best ideas.  Todd talked openly about the “Hyatt Lab” as if we wouldn’t know that it was a complete rip off of the Frequent Miler Laboratory!  Amazingly, he didn’t stop there.  Todd has clearly learned from me about gift card churning as he has recently moved from their Gold Passport department to their gift card department!  He said he was looking for volunteers to help them understand what gift card features were most needed.  Yeah, I have a suggestion.  Make it loadable to Bluebird….

I failed to convince Daraius to take off his bow tie

In the last session of the seminars, Daraius (Million Mile Secrets) and I debated the merits of bow ties.  Despite my best arguments I was unable to convince him to take his off.

Daraius (left) explains how bow ties can be used to gain admission to airport lounges.  Frequent Miler (right) hangs his head in frustration, having failed to make his dissenting view clear.  Photo borrowed without permission from  I promise I’ll return it when I’m done.
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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Very simply, In-n-out is overrated. I’ll take 5 guys or a bunch of local shops over them any day. I don’t think they are bad, but they just aren’t the best.

  2. that bowtie is so signature, I think Million Mil Secrets should always wear it. maybe wear a bigger one next time. Frequent Miler looks cute in the back too! haha

  3. The In-N-Out Burger was the first burger & fries I had in over a few months! I actually went back for seconds! I felt so guilty eating this stuff I was in the gym next morning at 6 am! I thought you were going to blog about how we managed to get lost walking back to the hotel and almost became roadkill in the highway:-)

  4. Forgot to vote on picture. Based on the posted pictures–Richard from Lost is a clear doppelgänger. If you are going with the cartoon version of you–then Mr. Magoo–would be the most likely comparison 🙂

  5. That guy from lost was the mayor in the Dark Knight Trilogy (not to mention Die Fledermaus in the live-action version of The Tick). Maybe it’s the Batman connection. In-N-Out is good, but how can you pick just one favorite? Have In-N-Out when available, Five Guys when you can, but Shake Shack when in NYC! 🙂 I’ve been considering adopting bow ties for a while, what’s the theory on lounge access?

    • Roaddog: Great trivia about the guy from lost / Batman connection. Maybe its a sign that I should become a super hero. I just need to find some radio active sludge…

      Grant: I’m glad you enjoyed the clapping exercise. It was really just my way to force the audience to give me a standing ovation. Worked like a charm 🙂

  6. You missed the Kodak moment when you made everyone (ok, 98%) stand up with 2 hands above their head and start clapping. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged…

  7. FM You got it just right – as usual. 5 guys wins over In and Out Burger. Ambiance neither has but In and out leans to the preferred sit down spot.

  8. In-n-Out is overrated. It isn’t bad, but Shake Shack is quite a few times better. Yes, I just opened a can of worms.

    Note: my opinion can be a bit biased since I live in NY 😛

  9. I am sorry but have any of you burger eaters ever been to a slaughter house? Have you seen the pain and suffering even before their violent death? Probably not because big money is hiding it from you.

    Are you aware of the damage to your health by eating dead animals? Do you know that there is no need to be cruel to other animals? Are you aware that we are brainwashed by big corporations to eat things that are extremely unhealthy to us?

    I am a big fan of your blog!

  10. @Jeffrey C, +1 on the Whataburger. Possibly one of the most underrated burgers in America.

    @frequentmiler, thank you for maintaining your sense of humor about the whole mileage game. Too many people take themselves too seriously.

  11. I am on your side. Five Guys is the best by far. Only people that have lived in CA for a long time would argue that and that is because they were eating InandOut since they were born and do not know how great a burger and fresh fries are!!!

  12. FM: You definitely look like Richard from Lost. You have options…you could consider a career in acting if the mileage game turns boring for you(we’d miss you greatly)! And as usual, great blog!

  13. You guys missed out on the Habit Grill, they have the best burgers! In-n-out is great, and Fiveguys is overrated and expensive IMHO. FM – if you’re ever in the LAX area I’ll take you to Habit Grill.. I work 1 mile from LAX.

  14. In N Out is great, but back in the 90s i used to travel to Dearborn quite a bit and loved the burgers at Miller’s Bar on Michigan Avenue. Don’t know if it is still there, but still my favorite burger.

  15. Great to meet you and to listen to your talks.

    I would vote for Richard from Lost but you would have to start wearing guyliner.

  16. I don’t like any of the fast food burgers. In and Out, Five Guys, Whataburger etc. But I do love the burger and fries at the Hollywood Casino Toledo’s sports bar Scene. If you go there get your burger with giardenaria on it. YUM!

  17. @romsdeals seconded for the Habit. Their onion rings are also great!
    I still like In-n-out though; it’s pretty consistent wherever you go in California. There’s a Five Guys that opened recently near my place in Orange County, and their burgers were mediocre and overpriced. The cheese wasn’t even melted onto the patty! Maybe Five Guys is better in other parts of the country..

  18. I have in-n-out and 5 guys where I live. I would take in n out over five guys pretty much any time. 5 guys is nice to completely gorge on the toppings but I find the actual burger and bun better at in n out. I also have decided in n outs frys are better. I know this is hard to believe but over the years they have grown on me. When I first started going to in n out I would sometimes pass on fries even as they are just so different from anywhere else but I now am a huge fan of them. Perfect amount and ratio of crispy potato goodness.

  19. Stupid question: How do you know which line to go to if you have TSA Pre and what happens if you are rejected? Do you have to go to the end of the line?

    • LAM: You need to have access to the premium security line. When they check your ID, you go one direction if you’re selected for TSA PRE and the other direction if not. The other direction is the same way you would have gone if there was no TSA PRE

  20. LAX Sheraton Gateway used to be the best value hotel for a last class traveller ( those on sign up points); Before it was upgraded I booked 12 weekend nights for 3K SPG points each

  21. LAX Sheraton Gateway used to be the best value hotel for a last class traveller ( those on sign up points); Before it was upgraded I booked 12 weekend nights for 3K SPG points each.

  22. Apple pan is the best retro burger/pie joint in LA period! Recipies are like 100 years old and staff are, too! Innout is extremely overrated.

  23. I missed the trip to In-n-out on Saturday, but walked over there on Sunday evening. The burgers were good, but nothing spectacular. To me the location was the highlight rather than the food.

    @LAM There are dedicated lines for TSA Pre. You go there and scan your boarding pass. If you’re selected you enter the special lane with a pre-9/11 style security and you get to miss out on a massage :). If you get rejected, you back to the regular security line.

  24. Nice post, especially the Yellow Arrow. However I must say you forgot the RED circle to point out where Emily was seated!! You can clearly her in the left hand corner, actually in your line of sight apparently. Were you fixated at her Reload card stash?

    Kidding aside, never posted in your blog before, but I wanted to say I like yours the best, and actually do not care for the majority of them unless it is good trip reports with pictures. Credit card affiliate link whores are damaging the dynamics of the camaraderie we once used to have. I prefer them to be successful and enjoy the travel around the world, but not at the expense of selling out due to myopic views of the grand scheme of things. But, oh well.

  25. This is the most heretical post ever. AND all of the 5 guy loving commenters are tragically confused.
    1. Innout is the best
    2. Other burgers are not
    3. Bow ties are nice
    4. Great post, as usual
    It was good to meet you last weekend. Hopefully I’ll see you at the next LA event

  26. In ‘n out is the best burger for the dollar. How much is a 5 Guy’s burger vs how much for an in ‘n out burger? I think price alone could easily justify in ‘n out. Having said that, their fries are just bad. Though if you get them well done they’re not quite as bad. But it definitely can’t compare to 5 guy’s fries.

  27. I am anxiously waiting for the FTU in DC, I missed the LAX because of work. I am new to this bonus and CC churning world, and I’m one big sponge wanting to learn it all. Having been reading your blog,MMS and Mommy Points, I have the basic’s down and will do my first CC app-o-rama in a week.

    Now as someone who grew up in SoCal(Sandy Eggo) I have to defend my beloved it In-n-Out. It is more then just a burger joint, it is a cult following, granted there are better places, Smash Burger for one, but for the total SoCal environment no one does it better than In-n-Out, and as someone has pointed out, price. For the price, I’ll take In-n-Out over all the rest. Going to 5 Guys and spending $8 bucks for a burger, fries and a drink is steep, when going to In-n-out for around $5.50 you get a double double animal style, fries animal style and drink.. No contest…

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