JS 51: The Savvy Traveler with Rudy Maxa of the Travel Channel’s ‘Rudy Maxa’s World’ & Editor of ‘National Geographic Traveler’May 8th, 2013 by Jason | Comments Off on JS 51: The Savvy Traveler with Rudy Maxa of the Travel Channel’s ‘Rudy Maxa’s World’ & Editor of ‘National Geographic Traveler’
Rudy Maxa, one of America’s premier consumer travel experts currently hosts the Emmy-award winning “Rudy Maxa’s World” featuring unique travel destinations around the world.
Many things have changed in the world of frequent flyer miles. These days most points come not from travel but by applying for credit cards.
Certain websites, such as www.milevalue.com, help travelers locate and book tickets in a way that lets them get the most out of their miles.
Flightfox: crowdsourcing the best airline deals starting at $24
Seasonal deals can be found by traveling and staying in hotels and resorts on off-days.
Deals on rental cars are available for travelers heading north from Florida following snowbird season.
HotelTonight app allows travelers to search last minute hotel deals in a variety of cities
An overwhelming quantity of information can make traveling seem complicated; remember to enjoy yourself.
Mr. Maxa is well known as public radio’s “Savvy Traveler” and an award-winning contributing editor with National Geographic Traveler magazine. He is a contributing editor to Delta Air Lines’ SKY magazine and Artful Living, the Twin Cities’ lifestyle magazine. The voice of National Geographic Traveler’s “Walks of a Lifetime” podcasts, he also hosts America’s most widely-syndicated, weekend travel radio show, also called “Rudy Maxa’s World,” that airs on 110+ mostly news/talk stations and XM Radio in North America.
As a writer for Traveler, Mr. Maxa’s articles have earned him two Lowell Thomas Bronze Awards for excellence in travel writing from the Society of American Travel Writers. He has contributed travel articles to GQ, Worth, Forbes, Modern Maturity, USA Today, the Washington Post, Town & Country Travel, the Los Angeles Times as well as USAToday.com, MSNBC.com and ABC.com. He’s a frequent guest on national television networks and shows, including CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and “The View.” And he speaks frequently to both public as well as industry groups.
The most recent topics Mr. Maxa has covered include: –MileValue.com –ThePointsGuy.com –LoyaltyLobby.com –ITASoftware.com that is now owned by Google –A la carte pricing for travel through sites that have you identify yourself before you look for a fare quote so they can “customize” what you see an what you are offered depending on their algorithms.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the JetSetter Show, where we explore lifestyle-friendly destinations worldwide. Enjoy and learn from a variety of experts on topics ranging from upscale travel at wholesale prices, to retiring overseas, to global real estate and business opportunities, to tax havens and expatriate opportunities. You’ll get great ideas on unique cultures, causes, and cruise vacations. Whether you’re wealthy or just want to live a wealthy lifestyle, the JetSetter Show is for you. Here’s your host, Jason Hartman.
JASON HARTMAN: Welcome to the JetSetter Show! This is Jason Hartman, your host, where we explore lifestyle-friendly destinations worldwide. I think you’ll enjoy the interview we have for you today, and we will be back with that, in less than 60 seconds, here on the JetSetter Show.
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JASON HARTMAN: It’s my pleasure to welcome Rudy Maxa to the show! He’s one of America’s premier consumer travel experts, and is host and executive producer of Rudy Maxa’s World, the Emmy Award-winning 20-episode public television travel series, featuring destinations as diverse as Korea and Argentina. Rudy, welcome. How are you?
RUDY MAXA: Well, nice to be here with you, Jason. I’m happy to report I’m so old that those 20 episodes are now 91. I think you probably found an old bio online.
JASON HARTMAN: Well. I am looking at an old bio, that’s absolutely true. So, fantastic. Well, I want to talk to you about a bunch of things, Rudy, but you recently just finished a speech talking about the misconceptions so many of us carry around about travel. And we think we know what’s right, and how to do it, and how to beat the system, if you will, but you’ve shown that a lot of people are wrong about that, right?
RUDY MAXA: Well, I think, yeah, I did a speech the other day at the Kansas City Public Library, called Everything You Think You Know About Travel Is Wrong. That’s a slight exaggeration, but as you know, when we do titles of books and speeches sometimes you do that to catch your audience’s attention.
JASON HARTMAN: You gotta make it interesting. Yeah.
RUDY MAXA: But I think that there have been changes, that even frequent travelers haven’t really keyed into yet. For example, for years, I and fellow travelers, flew on airlines, or you know, used credit cards, to charge things to get miles, so we could get free tickets. And so the conventional wisdom these days is, oh, you can’t get any free tickets anymore, all the airlines—the seats are all gone, you can’t get to Europe this summer—well, first of all, the paradigm has shifted. You can fly to get miles, sure. But the way you get miles these days is by applying for credit cards. And then maybe giving them up in six or eight months, and then waiting another six months and applying for more. And there is a—I call them idiot savants lovingly—there’s a cluster of experts on frequent flyer miles and hotel points, that have figured this system out. One of them just the other day applied for five credit cards in one fell swoop, which you know credit agencies don’t even report, because it all comes in at the same time, so nobody else sees it—and he picked up 350,000 miles in one afternoon.
JASON HARTMAN: Wow. Yeah, were they 350,000 miles on one airline? I mean, they couldn’t have been on one airline, because they were different airline cards.
RUDY MAXA: Exactly. Or no, there are, you know, any number of generic cards like the Barclay MasterCard that I just got, that you can apply American Express membership points. All of these cards give you 35, 40, 50, 60, sometimes 100,000 points or miles to sign up, and you can just transfer them in the case of the Barclay card, you can just buy a ticket on any airline at any time with no blackout dates, based on the price of the ticket and how many points you have. So, you’re right—if it’s an airline affiliated card, it’ll go to the airline that’s affiliated with the card. But there are hundreds of cards that aren’t affiliated with specific airlines, which you can apply those points or miles, whatever they call them—usually points—to any airline, and transfer them into your favorite airline’s account, in which case they become miles instantly. For example, one of my favorite sites is called www.milevalue.com. It’s run by an American guy who lives in Buenos Aires. And this guy sends out seven days a week, bulletins about opportunities for gaining miles, and how to really get business class seats for less miles. And he is one of the few that actually—well, all these guys will send you a free, if you sign up for it, a free daily newsletter at least five days a week. Let me mention another one while we’re at it. www.milevalue.com, and www.thepointsguy.com, are two to begin with. And while they’ll all send you free email bulletins, which are just mind boggling to me, what these guys know, one of them, Scott at Mile Value, will actually for $99, work to get you reward tickets. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I was one of the first members of American Airlines and United Airlines frequent flyer mileage programs, because I alone thought they were going to last. Everyone around me thought they were like the CB craze, the, you know, that they’d be citizens band radio craze, that they’d go away in a year. But I put them to the test. I had to get a friend of mine from Washington, D.C. to the south of France late in May coming back out of London in early June.
JASON HARTMAN: That’s prime time. Yeah.
RUDY MAXA: Prime time. I did my best, and all I could find was 200,000, 260,000 mileage rewards.
JASON HARTMAN: You mean that’s what they wanted to charge for the ticket?
RUDY MAXA: Exactly. As a reward ticket. The ticket, when I had bought one matching, it was $1200. But by the time I went looking for hers, it was $2400, and I was averse to paying that. So I found these outrageous numbers of miles you’d have to cash in, so I wrote Scott in Argentina, I said okay, I’m gonna pay your $99 fee. Here are the airlines. You don’t tell them your code words. He doesn’t actually go into your frequent flyer program. You say, here are the airlines that I have frequent flyer miles on, and here’s how many I have approximately, whether it’s 85,000, 400,000, whatever. So I gave him four airlines, and hundreds of thousands of miles to work with, and he wrote back a day later, apologizing that he’d accomplished the task, but it took 85,000 miles. He thought he could get it for 50. Not only that, but before my friend leaves late in May for this trip, he thinks he can get her upgraded to business going over, and that’ll only be charged 80,000 instead of 85,000 miles. And not only that, when she goes back from London, she still has the right, on the reward ticket, to go to one other place, anywhere in the 48 contiguous states, for no more miles, or he said I could get her to like Buenos Aires or Santiago for 10,000 more miles. I said, well, get her to go to LA. We’ll go to LA at some point. And you just pick a date in the future, and you can change that date for no cost if you do it 30 days ahead of the day you want to fly. So we just picked a date at random later in the summer for an LA ticket. So, 85,000 miles, she’s flying maybe business class all the way to Nice from Washington, D.C., and then coach—this is on United, by the way—and coming back on United non-stop from London to Washington, and then at her leisure, taking a trip out to LA. Now, I was astounded. Plus he gave me three other options, depending on time of arrival and departure. I was just boggled. And I gotta tell you, the next time I’m looking for a frequent flyer mileage ticket, I’m gonna go to Scott at www.milevalue.com. The $99 was well spent. It cost me $221 in fees and taxes, I believe, on top of that.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, yeah. Hey, I’ve gotta ask you a question. That’s amazing. Another really interesting website I’ve noticed lately is Flightfox. Are you familiar with this one?
RUDY MAXA: I’m not, I’ll look at it right now.
JASON HARTMAN: It’s interesting. It’s basically crowdsourcing like the best airline deals. Not travel agents, just people around the world that want to earn a fee, like the 99designs concept, if you want to have a logo made, you hold a contest. Anyway, check it out. And maybe we’ll have you back on—
RUDY MAXA: I’m on it now. It says, for only $24, work with an army of experts to find the best flights. Wow.
JASON HARTMAN: It’s a neat idea. It’s a neat idea, but if you’re doing some complex international travel, they say you gotta do the higher amount of I think $79 to get any real participation. Anyway.
RUDY MAXA: Yeah. And the other—along the lines of what we used to think about travel, or what we might not know now—this creeping move a foot begun by Delta, which will start January of 2014, that reaching lead status—it’s not going to be enough that you fly x number or miles or x number of segments. You have to spend x number of dollars on Delta. And what a lot of people don’t realize is, they’re—Delta’s not going to include your fees and taxes, which you know can be 20-30% of an airline ticket these days, as money you’ve spent on an airline ticket! They’re only going to charge what you gave Delta! And the most extreme example—this January, you could fly round trip between New York and London for about $900. The airline that flew you got 121 of those dollars. So you think, I’m building up to that silver, gold, or platinum status on that airline. I just put 900 points in my money account. No, you put 121 in. Because the taxes and fees are so high to fly in and out of the UK. So that—and I’m sure the other airlines are gonna start following. Because it’s a way of rewarding the customers who spend the most money, not the customers who fly the most, or those of us who used to do mileage runs, and I’m sure you probably have, Jason, where you took that unnecessary trip, or that complicated trip, that only cost you $380, and somehow you gained 15,000 miles.
JASON HARTMAN: Right. No, I haven’t done that. This is all just too much brain damage! It’s too darn complicated! These systems are so complex! I just cannot believe it.
RUDY MAXA: Well, that’s why I’m leaving it to the pros now, as I mentioned.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, no, you gave some good referrals, and I like that. I went to the website, I saw a picture of Scott kissing a giraffe there in Nairobi. I’m gonna use that. I’m gonna take advantage of that; I think that’s fantastic.
RUDY MAXA: I’ve told all my friends; I’m flabbergasted at what he did.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Okay, give us some other great tips.
RUDY MAXA: Well, you know, there’s the standard tips as we come into summer, of you know, go to cities on weekends to get hotel deals, because the business travelers aren’t there, and the rates drop, and go to resorts on the weekdays, when business travelers aren’t lounging around the resorts on the weekends. And of course, we just passed April 15th, so that means the Caribbean is on sale. You’ll find the airfare’s much cheaper than they were this time last month. And hotel rates, you know, 40% or more off on resorts in the Caribbean. So it’s a good time to do that.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, fantastic. What else do you see going on out there?
RUDY MAXA: Rental cars, you know—this is the season where Hertz, and all the big—Hertz, Avis, and National, all the big rental car companies, have to get their—their rolling stock, as it were, from Florida back up north.
JASON HARTMAN: Oh, that’s interesting.
RUDY MAXA: And from—and from out west, further up north there as well. So, they’ll charge you like $7.50 a day for a rental car, if you’re willing to go against the grain and drive it back from Florida where all the snowbirds were using it. And then of course, every spring, which we’re in now, I don’t know when it stops. I think the end of May. Enterprise Rent-a-Car offers these incredible weekend deals of like $9.95 a day, if you pick them up Thursday or Friday and you get returned on Sunday or Monday. Keep in mind that that’s mainly for their neighborhood offices, and their offices are often closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday, so keep that into consideration when you’re doing it, but you can return the car on Sunday and drop the keys in. So, rental cars are on sale right now, just as the Caribbean’s on sale, and rental cars that need to get back to their home bases are on sale. Cruise lines’ prices are down. I’ve notice a lot of deals coming in on that. And the cruise industry has admitted, at least in their trade publications, that the recent black eye of the Carnival ship that was stranded, etcetera, has—it’s really hurt the cruise industry a bit. So, if you look around, I think you’ll find some deals on cruises. Particularly last minute ones.
JASON HARTMAN: What about hotels? Do you have a great hotel recommendation? I like Hotwire, personally.
RUDY MAXA: Well, you know, I think there’s a variety of places to look for hotels, and I think Hotwire’s a good place. It’s owned by Expedia, so I don’t know that it’s gonna give you huge bargains, but I have an—there’s an app for both Android and iOS phones, you know, iPhones, called HotelTonight, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, Jason. Are you—
JASON HARTMAN: I am familiar with it. I’ve looked at it, I’ve checked out a hotel or two, but I’ve never used it.
RUDY MAXA: I’ve used it three times. In fact, I used it in New York just last week. I arrived at the Waldorf Astoria for a meeting, and I thought I had a reservation for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Turns out I only had one for Monday and Tuesday. And I said, well, what can you do for me? I was standing in there Sunday afternoon at 3:30. They said well, we’ll give you this special rate, because you’re attending this meeting, it’s a convention. $339 a night. Well, while he was looking that up, I had gone on HotelTonight, and I wound up at the Library Hotel, which is a perfectly charming hotel at 41st and Madison, for $199 a night with free wifi. So, let’s maybe explain to our listeners; HotelTonight is an app, that in major cities—not only in the United States, they’ve now gone abroad—they have a group—they check with good hotels, to see—they go from budget up to four and five star hotels—to check and see if they have any empty beds. Any empty rooms. And of course, the clock’s ticking for those hotels. And so, they say, okay, we’ve got five rooms, or one room, or twelve rooms, or twenty rooms, whatever, we’ll give it to you at this rate. Now, you’ll only see that rate after 12 noon in the city you’re looking for a hotel in. Sometimes you can extend that rate for a day or two beyond, but maybe not. But I certainly have now used it three times when I’ve been stuck. In Kennedy I couldn’t get to Bermuda, because of weather, there I was in New York with no hotel room at six o’ clock at night, and I got a fabulous room at the Carlton for $215. And when I went to the desk without telling them who I was, I said, I need a room, what would it be tonight? They said oh, $440, we have a room for you.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah right.
RUDY MAXA: I said well, fortunately, I have one at $215, here’s my name. So, I find HotelTonight very handy. I also find, if you’re gonna stay a long time, negotiating with the hotel. And that—or just go to Vegas, where unless there’s a big convention in town, they nearly pay you to take the room.
JASON HARTMAN: Right, right. Yeah. Fantastic. Well, good stuff. Rudy, this has been great. Any final things you want to wrap up? Any great tips—give out your website, of course, and tell people where they can learn more about you, too.
RUDY MAXA: Well, my television show—I have 91 shows on the great—91 episodes on the great destinations of the world, and those DVDs are for sale, and there’s other travel information, at www.maxa.tv. And then I host a syndicated radio show that’s on 170 news talk stations and XM radio every weekend; you can hear podcasts, and read my travel minutes that I do five days a week for them, at www.rudymaxa.com. And like me at Facebook. I’m trying to get to 3,000 likes, Jason, and I’m almost there. RudyMaxaTravel/Leisure on Facebook.
JASON HARTMAN: I’m sure you will be there in no time. Final thoughts, Rudy?
RUDY MAXA: No, that’s about all the plugs I could get in, Jason. Jeez, I thought I did pretty well there. No, you know, let me give a final thought, Jason.
JASON HARTMAN: Sure.
RUDY MAXA: You know, I talk about all these ways of getting frequent flyer miles, and running up—and you know, you and I talk about websites, and it’s work, and you gotta compare and contrast—I don’t want to make travel sound like work. You know, the Internet has been the biggest boon for all of us as travelers, because so much information is available. The problem is, there’s so much information available!
JASON HARTMAN: It’s too much, yeah.
RUDY MAXA: And now we have to figure out how to find the best of it, and that’s our particular cross to bear as travelers. But you know, at the end of the day, you’re still going somewhere, and that’s never bad.
JASON HARTMAN: Yep. That’s true, that’s true. Good stuff. Well, Rudy Maxa, thank you so much for joining us today. Appreciate it!
RUDY MAXA: Thank you for having me on, Jason. My pleasure.
ANNOUNCER: This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company. All rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com, or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate, or business professional for any individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively.
Transcribed by David