It’s on: you have until Sunday evening 10pm ET to vote for the winner of the 40K to Far Away competition. Win, lose, or draw I think I speak for all three of us when I say that this competition and the engagement with readers has been a blast. I find myself actively excited to read each comment that comes in — be it compliment, constructive criticism, or contrary viewpoint. For those who have enjoyed the exercise, rest assured that we will surely conjure up future challenges. This one has been a whirlwind that led us to uncover some sweet spots and learn a lot. I think each of us feels like a winner in some regard — but now it’s up to you to determine which of us is the champion of Challenge #1: 40K to Far Away.
On this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, Greg and I discuss highlights, lowlights, lessons learned, and what we wished we could have done during our 40K to Far Away journeys.
FM on the Air Podcast
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On to our weekend recap of the week’s top stories:
Greg’s trip was amazing. From stretching his points to the absolute limit by seeing what was possible through his chosen portal to his sunrise breakfast in Johannesburg, Greg maximized every minute of his trip. While some folks sell a 50K credit card offer as being enough for “two round trip tickets within the US”, Greg took 10K fewer points and just $400 and put together a trip where he saw stuff in DC, Madrid, Senegal, multiple cities in South Africa, and ended up in the Seychelles. And he made the kind of real connections along the way that travel is all about. Hats off to a job well done.
If you have trouble understanding why Greg started out by flying to West Virginia, you need read this post: Maximizing (and understanding) United Excursionist Perks. It can be a little tough to wrap your mind around this one, but it’s well worth the exercise since it can be so darn valuable.
If you haven’t yet read Stephen’s explanation as to why he should win the challenge, stop reading this review post right now and read his post here outlining 15 reasons why you should vote for him. He makes a compelling case for himself.
Let me veer off of my usual summary path for a moment and digress: I’ve really enjoyed the spirited debate over who should win this thing. I love that some people have passionate opinions and I enjoy the controversy and debate — whether compliments or contrarian opinion. That said, one perspective that hasn’t made much sense to me is the perspective that the challenge should have been round trip in order to be realistic and applicable in reality. I think that perspective misses the point: nobody reading this is limited to one credit card bonus or 40K points and $400. The truth is that most people reading this could probably open three credit cards tomorrow and replicate all of our trips by early 2020. Simply double the budget and retrace your steps if you can’t find a cheaper way back — the idea in this challenge was to see how much travel we could get out of a fixed amount, hopefully unearthing some hidden gems in the process. I don’t think Greg or I ever had any intention to create a trip that a reader would replicate but rather I think we wanted to show how much more you could get than what you might expect from 40K points and $400. I doubt that many (any?) readers will actually limit themselves to just 40K points and $400 to plan a true vacation.
And yet Stephen Pepper did use that budget to create a trip that a reader might replicate and made it a complete round trip journey — stretching a tiny budget to travel for two weeks and do some awesome stuff. Further, he put so much thought into finding local food experiences and multiple modes of transport within pretty limited means. He showed how you could take a smaller-than-average vacation budget and turn it into an extraordinary trip. Of course you’re not going to sleep in 3 different airports on your trip — that’s what you have credit card free night certificates for. Or a slightly larger budget. The fact that Stephen did so much for so little impresses me.
One of the points that Stephen’s trip makes plainly clear is that if you’re an economy class traveler, a strategy heavy on cash back likely makes the most sense. Read his post for more on why you should choose #TeamStephen.
Disappointingly, I broke the budget. I had intentions to keep myself under with a deal that fell through because I waited too long. Since I couldn’t possibly be crowned the 40K to Far Away champ based on an itinerary that flew so far beyond the bounds, I instead appealed to readers to consider my trip to Honolulu, Tokyo, and Brisbane — which altogether came in at less than $400 and just 24,000 points — far fewer than the points used by Greg or Stephen. I think I put together a pretty cool trip that got awfully far away from the starting point for fewer points than what you’d typically need for a domestic round trip ticket and fewer dollars than what many people would pay for a rental car for the week. In terms of distance-per-point, I take the lead over Stephen or Greg — and that’s got to be worth something.
|A note from Greg: When voting, please consider how amazing this is. With his first 24,000 points, Nick traveled all the way to Brisbane, Australia! When measured as the crow flies (an extremely hearty crow), Brisbane is farther away from DC than any place that I or Stephen journeyed to. When we first conceived of this challenge, that is how we interpreted “far away”. That was literally the original goal: to see who could end up farthest from our starting location. It was only after we considered possibilities such as “what if someone flies around the globe?” that we decided to make the goal less clear. Regardless of who wins the vote, there’s no denying that Nick got farthest away for the fewest miles.|
And if you need a little more reading material because you still can’t decide, see: