Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Mauck.
Laura, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in a typical middle-class family where both of my parents worked full time and had limited time off. Our vacations mostly consisted of summers and holidays at the beach, mountains, or visiting the grandparents, all in the States. Before graduating from college, my international travels consisted of cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico, which are beautiful destinations, but always left me wanting more.
From a very early age, I was taught to make wise economical decisions. I remember being in Disney World and my dad looking at admission costs and doing math to figure out how many rides we needed to squeeze in to keep the cost per ride under a certain amount. I’m pretty sure he was joking, but that stuck with me. My dad has always been practical and frugal and I’m really thankful to have inherited that gene. To this day, I never redeem miles before doing some math to make sure I’m getting a good redemption value.
After I graduated from LSU with a nursing degree, I moved to Dallas for my very first job as an RN in the surgical ICU at UT Southwestern. I met my now-husband, Ryan, very soon after. While we were dating, he invited me on a life-changing trip to Brazil. From the beaches of Ipanema to the journey up the mountain to see the magnificent Christ the Redeemer statue to the distinctive cuisine, that trip sparked my desire to travel more.
I now have a poster in my office with the words of the late, great chef/author, Anthony Bourdain. It says, “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” One of the takeaways for me is how travel changes you and leaves an indelible mark on your soul. You realize that the world is a huge place, but is full of interesting people that are basically the same as us in many ways. It’s chock full of breathtaking places and wide-eyed moments that push you out of your comfort zone and provide life-changing experiences. I enjoy the journey as much as the destination. It starts with the devil’s-in-the-details kind of planning I like to do, to the actual day of travel, to the unique culinary experiences. I love stepping out of my comfort zone and being open-minded, willing and in the moment once I’m there. I can even say I love the journey home when we usually start discussing the next fabulous destination.
I decided I had to figure out how to travel more but in an affordable way. Fortunately, Ryan holds the same philosophy and outlook on travel as I do and is a willing and supportive partner.
Soon after Brazil, someone had mentioned something in passing about booking a long international flight with miles earned from just one credit card sign up bonus. It wasn’t too good to be true because shortly after, Ryan and I took our first trip on miles and points to Whistler, Canada. This led me down a rabbit hole from which I still have not emerged! My knowledge about earning and redeeming miles and points grew and we were able to travel more and more. After a few years, friends and family started asking questions, and they wanted guidance.
By that time, Ryan and I were married and starting our family. Our son was just under 3 when we found out we were having twins. I sidelined my career as a nurse when our twin girls were born, but I yearned for an outlet to stimulate some adult conversation and to help others in a productive way.
I’ve always been upfront about my award travel hobby, but it was overwhelming to some folks when I would try to explain. I’m a visual learner and I thought that others may benefit from seeing everything “on paper”. I flirted with the idea of starting a website/blog for a while. I wrote a few articles and then I asked my mom, who is a great writer, to help me edit. I really just wanted her to correct any technical and grammatical errors, but she ended up helping in an even bigger way. She provided and continues to provide valuable feedback about the ease of understanding the content. I want to provide information that anyone can understand, even those who are brand new to award travel.
After a couple of glasses of wine one night, I made up my mind that I was going to buy a domain and self-publish my articles. At the time, many of my days were spent playing and watching one of the twins’ favorite cartoons, Shimmer and Shine, which personifies the lives of twin genies. I decided The Miles Genie was the perfect name and I launched my blog and website in early 2017.
I had no idea how friends and family would receive this endeavor, but I was blown away by their enthusiasm… Shortly after launching, I learned a lot about search engine optimization, and it eventually paid off in the form of increased website traffic. About a year later, my passion project turned into a business when I started landing affiliate partnerships.
Has it been a smooth road?
I wouldn’t say it has been a smooth road as I have put in an enormous amount of work to turn this into a sustainable business, but I feel really blessed. I feel like I found something that I truly enjoy doing, and now I never dread a Monday (or any work day).
I have a really good support system. Ryan is like a “stage mom” and tells anyone who will listen about the website. He also acts as my non-salaried chief technical officer. Though our families live in another state, we are fortunate to have them step in when we have trips that aren’t kid-friendly. Because we’ve done it for so long, our kids are just as comfortable with their grandparents as they are with us, which helps to ease our minds when we’re in a foreign land. As our children get older, we hope to inspire and educate them about the world by bringing them along on more of our travels.
As with all working parents, the main challenge I had was finding a good work/family balance in the beginning. Finding the time to produce interesting and sustainable content plus maintaining the site while trying to support Ryan, a busy physician, and raising our three children meant late nights and early mornings.
I spent a lot of time writing in the beginning, but the amount of time spent on the front-end is finally paying off. While I have to update some details (redemption prices, credit card bonus offers, etc.) on a regular basis to keep all of the information current, the basic principles of award travel largely remain the same: earn more, redeem less. I’m now finding more time to write more time-sensitive posts about things such as limited time offers and deals.
Everyone has different budgets, spending habits, and travel goals, so being able to give advice on an individual basis is important. Connecting with readers has always been a priority. I try to answer every email that comes my way. In the beginning, this was a struggle. I found myself typing out really detailed responses and it was time-consuming. I realized that with just a little bit of editing, I could incorporate many of my responses into posts I was already working on. Now that we have a large collection of blog posts, answering emails is a lot easier as I can answer briefly and then refer the reader to relevant posts for more details and further explanation.
Please tell us about The Miles Genie.
The Miles Genie is a website and blog that strives to educate readers on how to book free or extremely discounted travel, mostly with reward points and miles earned from credit cards. The goal is to earn more miles and points but to redeem as little as possible. Credit cards are a big part of this, so responsible credit card use is a prerequisite.
While the main focus of the site is credit card rewards, we also chronicle our trips and hope to inspire others to get out and see the world or to visit some of the places we have loved.
We found that while many of our friends were already using credit cards, they were not using the most lucrative card for their travel goals. Almost every post reiterates how important it is to use the credit card that best aligns with any given travel goal. The site provides information to help readers make the best decision based on their individual situations, but we almost always encourage people to earn transferable bank points. These are points that can be transferred to several airline frequent flyer programs.
Redeeming is the other part of the equation. We see a lot of misunderstanding here, and this is where we focus a lot of our efforts. We’re always excited when we hear that someone is earning the valuable bank points that we recommend, but then we cringe when we hear the redemption story. Hint: Redeeming miles and points for electronics or gift cards is almost always a bad move
Furthermore, a majority of folks do not understand how useful certain foreign airline programs can be. The bank points that we encourage people to accumulate can be transferred to several airline programs. Most people write off a majority of these airlines. Who needs British Airways points when you’re trying to get to Mexico, right? Wrong (though logically that makes sense, so we understand why this is confusing). British Airways points are actually redeemable for flights operated by several partner airlines, including American Airlines. We have learned how to utilize unlikely airline programs to maximize the value of our miles and points.
I take pride in the fact that I have helped friends, family, and even strangers take dream vacations without the financial burdens that may otherwise make these trips impossible.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Earning more and redeeming less will always be the goal. Bank policies, airline redemption prices, and several other variables change over time and therefore the best miles and points to collect are constantly evolving. I do not think the opportunity to travel on miles and points will ever go away, but in this industry, we have to constantly adapt to these changes. This constant change is what makes it hard for most travelers to stay up to date with the best ways to take advantage of these rewards, and why we play a vital role in simplifying the details. We strive to always keep readers informed of the best methods to reach their goals year after year.
- Website: themilesgenie.com
- Email: email@example.com
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