Welcome to a new Sunday series that will be a bit like a fireside chat. I count it a privilege to be a part of an amazing group of Travel bloggers here at BoardingArea.com. But just how well do you know “your” BoardingArea writers? Are you reading all the blogs you should be each day? This series will help you get to know them one by one. Now on to this weeks chat.
Rapid Travel Chai is one of the best blogs on BoardingArea. If you have not seen RTC yet you are missing out. Stefan, who writes RTC, travels more miles per year than most do in many years and all over the globe. He is an expert on Asian travel and is not only a Delta Diamond Medallion but also has 1K or top tier status with United. He gets to the point in his posts and I really respect that. Let’s get to know all about Rapid Travel Chai!
Rene – Hi Stefan thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me. As I already said, your blog is amazing to me. To the point and so much great info. I understand you travel a ton for work. So why blogging and why did you find your home at BoardingArea?
Stefan – I moved back to the US after 8 years in China, had traveled all around Asia and accumulated nagging from family and friends led me to blog. I attended the first FTU in New York, which was my introduction to the miles and points world, and in attendance was Randy Petersen and several BoardingArea bloggers that I got to know.
Rene – Smile, I think I am seeing a growing theme here about others telling a blogger they must do it and then they later find out how much they love it. OK so that is some background. Rapid Travel Chai – where did the name come from and for a reader who has yet to read your blog what should we look for from Stefan?
Stefan – I travel fast and in brainstorming with a friend he kept pushing for an Asia connection. Chai is an invigorating cup of tea, and I later learned that it is also the Hebrew word for life.
Someday I dream to have unlimited time to cover all the travel topics that interest me. As long as life and work interferes I cover an eclectic mix of offbeat destinations, practical travel tips, and, yes, occasionally miles and points. You can see some presentations I have done at Slideshare.
Rene – (giggle) I love it. You are to the point. I see you do have a bunch of speaking experience at many of the frequent flyer events and it is clear how much you know about programs.
Stefan – I enjoy the events because I get a chance to try to be interesting and push people beyond their comfort zones, like how to use their miles and points to contribute to Haiti’s recovery. At the Chicago Seminars next week I will present an International Bootcamp, co-present How to Book Rental Cars for less, and also present on Hotwire and Priceline. I like exploring all the angles of travel, not just the flashy flight.
Rene – I know you currently have top status with both Delta and United. You ARE a road warrier! What about hotels. Do you focus on one chain or?
Stefan – My airline and hotel program knowledge is a bit different from many miles and points addicts. I always start with the destination and work out how to get there, rather than focusing on an airline seat or bed to achieve. For business I stay at the big chains and enjoy using those points for trips with my wife. On my own I book mom and pop guest houses, my favorite hotel experiences are when the elderly owners treat me like a grandson.
The value in hotel programs is premised on either you or an employer paying a lot to receive those benefits whereas with air the options are much fewer. I don’t value the benefits so my go-tos are Priceline, Hotels.com and Booking.com. I do love the Club Carlson award last night free benefit tied to their credit card, I just booked a stay in St. Petersburg, Russia with that, and I am also a fan of IHG Rewards. PointBreaks in Vilnius, Lithuania coming up! Both have good properties in a lot of regions where Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott/SPG are exorbitant.
Rene – That is great. This is why I hope readers can see from these chats how much ALL the BoardingArea bloggers can bring to the table. Even looking at a trip and then the overall picture can so impact the trip. So let’s get back to Asia. I see by your blog and world map you have covered 41% of the countries in the world including most of Asia. Wow. Delta has a ton of Asian partners. Can we reach out to you for help in that regard?
Stefan – Delta and SkyTeam should dominate East Asia, if only they could set aside their egos. I recently had a business trip to China that could only price as Delta + Star Alliance carrier Asiana, not with their alliance partner Korean. SkyTeam has China Eastern and China Southern which have great regional networks, for instance China Southern’s flights throughout Russia and Central Asia from its Urumqi, Xinjiang hub. Those airlines as well as Korean can open up possibilities from Australia to Africa for destinations that are otherwise very expensive. I am furious that Delta slashed earning on these partners, it is terribly short-sighted to throw away this advantage in Asia and double-down on old world Europe instead. I just had a China Southern flight that earned 0 miles.
Rene – Again, I see the need to add RTC to our daily BA blog reads. So much to learn. What is next for Stefan? I know you a;ready mentioned that you will be speaking at the Chicago Seminars soon but what else can we look forward to on the blog this year and next?
Stefan – I am gearing up for Russia-Belarus-Ukraine-Baltics-Poland after Chicago. It is really hard to keep up during trips however I love posting quick, offbeat items from the road. I have some ideas in store for RTC to become a more consistent practical resource while keeping the fun and quirkiness, I just need to hunker down and get off the road a while to get rolling.
Rene – that sounds great and I can not wait to read all about it all. Thank you so much for sitting down by the fireplace with us this week Stefan and for all your work here on BoardingArea with your blog!
Stefan – My honor, thank you. See you in a Sky Club!
You can follow Rapid Travel Chai on his blog, as well as add his RSS feed, Twitter and Facebook as well as Flickr and Pinterest and via e-mail also. Be sure to check back next week as we continue to find out more about another unique and amazing BoardingArea blogger!
PS – I will have a drawing for a FREE ticket to the
Chicago Seminars OCT 11-13, 2013
later today so be sure to check back! – Rene