I’m Randy Petersen and This Is How I Travel

Randy Petersen is THE man. And when I say man, I don’t mean God, though he probably did singlehandedly start the whole points-and-miles thing. So maybe it’s not a terribly inaccurate description.

Though he is best known for being the founder of Milepoint, FlyerTalk, BoardingArea, and InsideFlyer—perhaps the Bible for anyone in the airline industry—Petersen is actually a bit more the everyday traveler’s man. So, maybe he travels a quarter of a million miles, which a lot of us don’t do. But he doesn’t know a Boeing from an Airbus and “planning” isn’t really part of his vocabulary. (It’s not in mine, either. I don’t consider myself a points-and-miles gal; I can only attest to the fact that when I don’t have the answer, these are the places I turn to. I like looking for other ways to make the system work for me.)

For a guy that seems to inspire people to hack their way to a gluttonous ride in Singapore’s suites, Randy actually doesn’t seem to care. And that’s perhaps in keeping with the real spirit of travel: the freedom to be anywhere you want, the freedom to do anything you choose and the freedom to be who you ultimately are.

But if you’re not going to take anything else away from Randy’s arsenal of tricks, at least remember this tidbit from a Wendy Perrin interview published a year ago:

It’s simple math: Earn miles at about one to two cents per mile. Spend them at two to three cents per mile. A mile is worth slightly more than two cents…if you are breaking the piggy bank.

Cause that’s what he said.

(Courtesy of Randy Petersen)
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(Courtesy of Randy Petersen)

Current Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Current Gig: Building the first global (local language) network for road warriors / frequent flyers.
Annual Mileage: (in season for business) 250,000
Preferred Alliance: Star Alliance
Frequent Flyer Program: I have miles with them all but United works best for me.

First, are you a suitcase or backpack kind of person?

Ah, the traveler equivalent of briefs or boxers, nice start. I’m the backpack guy and have been from day one. Pack too much and my shoulder reminds me to pack lighter — perfect reminder.

Laptops aside, are there pieces of travel gear/software/mobile app you can’t live without?

It’s just me and my Twitter app. Not too much social, not too much reliance on technology and as a guy … I never get lost. [Ed note: Really.]

Are you always going to the same places or going somewhere new? Do you go to the same places a lot?

I’m a well-balanced traveler: 50% of my travel is back to the same place, whether it’s visiting American Airlines in Dallas, Etihad in Abu Dhabi, Thai Airways in Bangkok or the Star Alliance in Frankfurt. The other 50% is travel-related. Visiting Lufthansa in Frankfurt lets me take a few days to train on over to the Rhine region and indulge in my favorite Riesling. Visiting South African Airways in Jo’berg? Then let me explore the Namid desert, the coastal desert in southern Africa.

Where I go a lot? Same as everyone else, I can’t get enough of the BBQ Trail that extends from Austin, TX. and they always have a margarita ready for me at Rancho Pescadero, just south of Todos Santos, Mexico.

Are there things you will absolutely not go on a long-haul flight (8+ hours) without? Do you have any routines for them?

I’m well-read. Whether it be picking up books at the airport or thumbing through the 400+ books I have on my iPad mini, I never travel without reading as my escape from the realities of a flight that I did not get upgraded on!

Speaking of, is there a favorite airline? Is there an airline you wouldn’t touch with a 30,000-foot pole?

If there truly was a Tale of Two Cities (airlines), I’d easily be able to boast having the best of times and the worst of times with every airline I’ve ever flown. Of course “favorite” typically means which airline upgraded you last. I’d have to say I’ve never been disappointed with the experiences from both Virgin Atlantic and Southwest Airlines. Maybe my expectations aren’t high enough? Fact is, these are the only two airlines I’ve never muttered … “I’m never flying them again.”

And for that proverbial 30,000-pole? Did I ever tell you the story about my flight with …. Seriously, my most memorable flight was a late night flight on American Airlines many years ago into St. Louis where it seemed every single flight attendant did their job perfectly for me and all the passengers around them. It was like watching ballet.

How far do you usually plan lodging ahead? Hotels, hostels, Airbnb?

I’m not familiar with the term “ahead.” Hours and single days is more me in the planning department.

Is there a tip or service you’d recommend for other travelers?

I’ve learned to moderate my travel time with the concept that ‘I will return.’ This has always prevented me from doing what most people do and that is trying to cram too much into a single visit. So tip: go away from the table (travel destination) hungry.

How do you beat jet lag?

Exercise. Nothing like a long walk to right the wrongs of a time zone. But really, it’s always mind over matter and as I always have the greatest experiences when traveling, my head keeps me in the right zone.

What’s one phrase you try to learn in every country? Do you use any language apps or tools while on the road?

I’m 98% proficient in 100 countries with the phrase: Thank you. No apps, no Rosetta Stone, no Google. I learned to say ‘thank you’ locally by participating in the ritual of being thankful for someone’s assistance to me whether it be at the local airport upon landing, the Uber driver, the bellhop or even the bathroom attendant at the rail station in Brussels.

How do you get around the places that you visit? What modes of transport do you usually use?

I’m a born again Uber fan and that’s my ride most every where I go since much of my travel is business-related. Outside of that, I trust my own two legs to get around and a good sense of knowing north, east, west and south.

How do you stay connected on the road? Is there a particular mobile carrier you use?

Wi-Fi is the greatest communication vehicle of all and I’m a champ at sniffing out open bands. I’m a Verizon guy currently (can you hear me now?) but lean on wi-fi for the real conversation. As well, I’m mobile all the way and haven’t carried a laptop for years when traveling with my trusty iPad mini. I actually don’t feel the need to be connected 24/7 when on the road; it harks back to my ‘old-school’ days before iPhones and cellular service.

What places are left on your bucket list?

I’ve finished all the ‘places’ on my bucket list and am now down to just a few experiences: running with the bulls in Pamploma; surf camp along the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica and across Canada by train.

Is there an ideal vacation waiting for you in the works then?

I haven’t found it yet. The positive thing about travel and my time is that I’m always in the mindset that there may be something else that catches my enjoyment and attention and for all the wonderful vacations I’ve had around the globe … I’m still thinking another ‘ideal vacation’ is behind door #2.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see Chris Holdren, Senior Vice President for Starwood Preferred Guest & Digital at Starwood Hotels answer these questions.

I’m Randy Petersen and This Is How I Travel via @maphappy
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