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.
Who does not like travel “nuts”. I know I do. In person, in the air – you name it I love talking points and miles. One very enthusiastic and points savvy blogger is Travis from Extra Pack of Peanuts. He is one of the “featured” bloggers at BA but he does not blog about every single news bit that comes along, no, his posts are instructive and step by step when it comes to a topic to cover. Oh that plus podcasts and more. Let’s sit down and get to know Travis!
Rene – Hi Travis, so fun to get to know you. When we first sat down next to each other at BAcon (a PVT BA only conference) I could not help but smile. When I think of travel and energy I think of Travis. What got you from that point to blogging?
Travis – Well, I’ve always been someone who is a) very energetic and enthusiastic and b) very obsessed with things. I know most people don’t usually equate blogging with enthusiasm and energy, but that’s one of the things I try to do to make my site unique. Show my personality, and really, just let people know how excited I am about the whole idea of travel, and about showing them how to do it for cheap.
Once I started learning about miles and points, I was hooked, and I was going to tell the world about it. Hence, the blog!
PS- Not knowing anyone else at the conference, I was super fortunate to be seated next to Rene, one of the nicest guys in the world (and he even was giving out Swedish chocolate)!
Rene – I think those who have a gift to share their travel knowledge tend to get started just the same way, but few can articulate it well. That is one thing I love about your blog. But clearly yours looks a little different than the standard BA blog. Why is that and how did you end up at BA?
Travis – I think I’m the posterchild for anyone who doesn’t know how to start a blog but wants to. I knew NOTHING when I first started, and the original version of Extra Pack of Peanuts was, to put it gently, ugly!
But the point was that I had content that I wanted to get out, and regardless of the look, people started reading it. After about 5-6 months, when I knew that I really wanted to keep doing it, I had my college roommate help me re-design it. He dabbles in web design, so he was able to make something much better than I could.
Of course, that was over a year ago, and I’m totally sick of the look, so now I’ve actually hired a real designer to go through and completely restructure it to make it much easier to navigate and just more pleasing to the eye in general.
As far as ending up at BA, Randy had contacted me probably 6-7 months after I first started my blog and asked if I was interested. I loved how passionate he was, and I loved reading other BA blogs, but the main thing was, I wanted to be able to keep my original design and my domain name. I wanted it to look and feel unique. When we worked out a way to do that AND be part of BA, I was in!
Rene – I think this is just one more brilliant move by Randy as BA expands and grows. Your site really has it all including things like a podcast. For some readers they may have no idea what that is. Can you tell us what it is and when you started the “The EPoP Travel Show”?
Travis – One of the things I am most proud of is the podcast. A podcast is simply an audio show that can be downloaded to a device (like a smartphone or iPod) and listened to at any time or it can be listened to directly from my website, without having to download it.
The best way I describe it to people is that a podcast is to live radio what a DVR’d TV show is to live TV. I record the podcast, edit it, and then post it to my site. It then goes to all the directories, like iTunes, and can be listened to at any time. That’s the advantage of a podcast vs. a live radio show. You can always listen to it, whenever you want, and it’s totally free.
I really got in to podcasts when I lived in Japan and rode my bike to school. Instead of listening to music, I’d download my favorite sports podcasts and listen to them. It kept me current.
I really wanted to listen to a travel podcast, but there was none out there really. The only ones focused on specific destinations, like “Here’s what to do in Rome.” I wanted one that interviewed interesting and unique travel personalities and had them tell their stories.
So, like the blog, I had no clue what I was doing at first, but I figured it out, and started one. And now, it’s the top rated travel podcast on iTunes and we get over 10,000 downloads per month. It really is an amazing medium to get even more travel information and advice. I personally love to listen to podcasts when I’m driving and doing the dishes, as it keeps my mind occupied!
Rene – Sweet and now, plug for Delta, with gate to gate PEDs we can listen as soon as we board this way. Neat and congrats on the huge following. Speaking of following, some blogs seem to be geared ONLY to those who are already “masters of the game” of points. I so appreciate that someone new will not feel “dumb” on your blog. You have a guide available on the blog too. Would you say your blog is for newbies or who should follow EPoP?
Travis – Yep, all you Delta lovers have no reason not to listen to the podcast now. I expect a huge influx…haha!
First, thank you for the kind words Rene, and I think you hit the nail on the head. My blog is INTENTIONALLY made to be for anyone, not just “masters of the game”. The reason being is that I only started learning about this game myself three years ago, so I myself am a relative newbie. And when I started, there were no blogs out there that specifically targeted newbies. This meant I was stuck reading Flyertalk, and basically deciphering a new language, which took me 3-4 months.
After that, I thought “well why should someone have to spend the countless hours I did on Flyertalk?” Sure, it is a great resource, but I want to make the barriers to entry lower, and so I specifically write in an easy to understand manner (and I have a teaching background as well, so I think it’s my natural tendency).
However, there is a lot of information for miles and points, and so while I definitely focus on making it easy to understand, I definitely want to provide information on more complex issues as well, such as stopovers, open-jaws, fuel surcharges, etc. Very few people I know start learning about this hobby and then don’t want to know more. So what I try to do is provide an easy place for people to start AND also provide them with easy to follow info on the more complex topics as well.
So yes, I think my blog is definitely a great resource for newbies, but there are plenty of people who are veterans who also enjoy reading it when I do tackle the harder subjects. I think many people like the fact that I’m learning things as they are learning them too, instead of having years and years of knowledge.
Rene – Refreshing! OK a few more questions before you go. Most blogs are airline focused but you cover hotel points more than most and you don’t post each day. Can you tell us more about both?
Travis – Sure. I mainly focus on airline points, but I try to take a different view from other miles and points blog and am more of a broader based travel blog with a focus on miles and points. For example, I’m not a huge fan of hotels. Of course, I have hotel points, and I’ll gladly take free nights, but I rarely stay in chain hotels when I travel if I have to pay for them.
Instead, I prefer local, small hotels or guesthouses or renting apartments. Not only is this almost always much cheaper, but it gives a much more authentic experience. I’m able to meet local people, pick the brains of them about the best places to eat and things to see. And every place is unique and different, so you don’t know what you’re getting right away, which I like.
I’ve had absolutely amazing experiences with local guesthouses and more recently, with renting apartments. One of the major benefits is that you can find places in interesting parts of the cities, as opposed to just the tourist area where all the chain hotels are clustered.
In Venice, we just stayed in Cannaregio, the northwest district, where the locals live, in an absolutely fabulous 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. We were only a 10 minute walk from all the tourist stuff, but secluded and really got to see a different side of Venice than most other people. Plus, it was much cheaper than a hotel room, and much more comfortable.
I should also mention that my wife and I are big fans of the idea of house-sitting, where you stay in someone’s house for free and usually take care of their animals or their property. This can be an excellent way to score some amazing accommodations, especially if you plan on staying somewhere for a longer period of time.
As far as posting schedules, that’s another way I differ from other miles/points blogs. All the blogs out there do a great job posting about every deal that comes about, so there is no reason for me to do that and reinvent the wheel.
Instead, I focus on posting lengthier, more in-depth posts that teach people a certain skill usually or introduce a new topic to them. Currently, a new podcast comes out every Monday, and a new post comes out Wednesday or Thursday.
Rene – Great! Travis I want to thank you so much & for the chance to get to know you and EPoP. I can’t wait to see how the blog changes this year and what is next!
Travis – Thanks for the opportunity to sit down by the fire and chat with you Rene. I’ve got some pretty big plans for the coming year, especially with the redesign and a few projects, so I’m looking forward to it as well!
Be sure to follow Travis on his blog at Boarding Area, on Twitter and Facebook. Get his RSS feed and contact him via e-mail.Be sure to check back next week as we get to know another of your favorite BA bloggers by the fireplace! – René
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