Update: As of 8/31/2017, Zach is assuming the role of Editor-at-Large at TPG.
I hope all of you enjoyed reading the first installment of Musings on Travel. If you haven’t, check it out here!
This week I’m pumped to have Zach Honig, Editor-in-Chief of ThePointsGuy.com, here to answer a few questions for us. Zach is a newly-minted Million Mile flier with United and his Instagram photos are some of the best I’ve come across. Zach is calculated in his posts and the way he runs TPG’s content — and it shows. The site’s content is relevant and beneficial for everyone from “travel hackers” to business/leisure travelers like myself. All of these are why I was excited to bring you this interview. Enjoy!
1. Tell us a little bit about your career and how it led to ThePointsGuy.com. Were you always into travel?
It’s definitely been a journey! I studied journalism in college and have always worked as a writer or editor, beginning with the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Prior to TPG, I was a deputy managing editor at the tech blog Engadget, where I was responsible for all of the site’s live coverage, including product launches and trade shows. I was often on the road as a result, which eventually led me to connect with TPG.
2. What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you while traveling?
Probably (almost) falling for a gem scam in Bangkok. I won’t detail it here (it’s a common scam), but as a result, I’m now far less trusting of locals that seem exceptionally outgoing or generous. Also, there’s no such thing as a half-day tuk tuk tour for a dollar anywhere in the world, so if someone makes that offer, you’re probably in for an entirely different kind of ride.
3. Name one item that costs less than $100 that you couldn’t leave for a trip without (My Tim Ferriss fans know where I got this question!).
My Google Project Fi SIM card. I can pop it in my iPhone and browse the web at LTE speeds in many countries around the world for just $10 per gigabyte of data.
2. For those of us following your social media accounts, we know you just hit 1 Million Miles on United (congrats!). If you had to assign a % split to how often you use Cash / Points to fund your travel, what would you say?
Thank you! Recently, I’ve been booking flights using my Amex points, since I’m able to redeem points for 2 cents each thanks to my Business Platinum card. I just got a new one in April, so even though that promo has been discontinued, I’m eligible through April 2018. Earning Premier 1K is still a priority for me, and Amex’s lucrative redemption option brings the $12,000 PQD target within reach. I really only redeem miles for long-haul business and first-class flights, with a 40,000-mile Thai first class flight from Sydney to Bangkok being my most notable redemption this year.
3. As Editor-in-Chief of TPG, you obviously have a huge responsibility. Do you have a mantra or way of thinking that you stick to when it comes to producing content for your readers?
We’ve been working to grow the audience, which means expanding into other content areas. In the process, it’s been very important to me that we work hard to produce just as much of the “core” points and miles content, with lifestyle and general travel coverage serving as a supplement.
4. How do you separate TPG from the crowded travel blog space?
Focusing on loyalty programs is key, as is the expertise of our staff and contributors. Points and miles have become tremendously popular recently, and I still think we cover the space best.
5. How do you replenish your stockpile of points and miles? Mainly through credit cards or through butt-in-seat miles paid for with cash?
It’s a mix – primarily through credit card sign-up bonuses, but we also buy miles and earn points through purchases. Butt-in-seat miles are harder for leisure travelers to earn these days, but every mile helps.
6. Do you foresee brand loyalty programs expanding or tightening in 5-10 years?
I think we’ll see a bit of both. Obviously last year was huge with a gigantic offer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and we’ve seen other issuers offer similarly appealing offers in 2017. Airlines have been cutting back on earning rates and other perks, though, and this year Hyatt made top-tier elite status more difficult to earn. Loyalty programs are still critically important to brands, though, and I don’t anticipate seeing any earth-shattering devaluations within the next couple years. 5-10 years out is a different story, since it’s very difficult to predict where we’ll be at that point. I’m hoping for the best!
7. Seventh inning stretch — how is Tuna the Cat doing?
Ha, thanks for asking! She’s great. Just about 10 years old now, but (for the most part) she’s almost as active as when I brought her home in 2009!
8. What’s your favorite place in the world to visit and why?
If we’re talking destinations, it’s probably a tie between Bermuda, Zermatt and Tokyo. Getting a bit more specific, my all-around favorite spot is Vommuli Island in the Maldives, home to the brand-new (and outstanding) St. Regis!
9. I know that you are a photography / tech expert. What’s your current setup?
I use an iPhone 7 Plus more often than you might expect, but most of my review photos are shot with the Sony RX100 M3, an incredible little point-and-shoot. For the higher-priority shoots, I use an Olympus E-M5 Mark II with a 7-14mm wide-angle lens. Oh, and a MacBook Pro and the aforementioned Google Project Fi SIM.
10. Last but not least. What is your strategy if you can’t get premium class seats? Any particular type of Economy seat/hacks to make the ride more comfortable?
I’ll fly another day! Ha… No, but seriously, I do whatever I possibly can to fly business or first class. Fortunately, I’ve had great success with my United upgrade certificates… if the flight I’ve booked ends up not having availability, I’ll use my 1K same-day change benefit to move to another flight for free.
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