During the Seattle Meetup last weekend, I was asked which blogs I follow. It was a friendly question, but the implication was that as someone who’s job it is to stay current on the latest points- and miles-related news, I should probably have a better idea than most where to find quality content.
One consequence of trying to stay updated is that I actually read very few blogs regularly. There is so much out there that repeats or duplicates something I already know or a promotion that everyone is sharing (and I can only read it so many times before going mad). I click through the entries in my RSS reader and sometimes never read past the headline. So even though I subscribe to dozens, I follow very few, and it’s usually because the author tends to offer something unique or is especially good in a particular niche.
Here are five blogs that I think are worth reading. All of them are already popular. What I think might be interesting is that I’ve also heard a lot of complaints about some of them, or perhaps I enjoy them for different reasons than you might think.
#1 — The Wandering Aramean
Seth’s blog is probably my favorite because he eschews the hotel loyalty programs and credit cards while taking a more technical approach than most to figuring out how travel works. Not many people could talk for an hour about the ETOPS rating system, but I bet Seth could. He also visits places I normally wouldn’t consider and has created several useful tools like his list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Star Alliance Award Search, and SPG Cash + Points Award Search. Basically, every time I visit his blog I know I’m going to get something new and different.
#2 — View from the Wing
Gary’s blog ties with One Mile at a Time, but I give it a bump up because I think Gary takes a little more time to provide his own analysis and commentary on the travel industry. It’s something you don’t see many places, or at least not of the same quality. (Gary’s skewered me more than once for building a weak argument, but I enjoy my armchair philosophy nonetheless.) Plus, he’s usually quick to pick up new stories and provide all the same credit card and trip report commentary that you find elsewhere.
#3 — One Mile at a Time
Ben’s blog is great at maximizing loyalty programs and using those points and miles to create elaborate trip reports. Not many people can do this as a full-time gig, and do it quite so well. Ben is someone who can tell you which of 12 different carriers has the best business class seat and include a point-by-point summary that includes everything from the pajamas to the fruit in his Diet Coke. I would still trust him over most people if I ever broke down and was willing to pay for an award booking service.
#4 — The Points Guy
Brian’s blog does an excellent job at bringing this obsession with miles and points to the average person who isn’t very familiar with travel schemes and hacks. Is that a problem? No. People on FlyerTalk who are already experts and whine about the bloggers shouldn’t be reading the blogs in the first place. They have their forum already. Blogs are meant to supplement that, not replace it. Brian does an very good job of covering just about everything and keeping it updated. Of course, he has a staff to help him, but nothing is stopping others from taking a similar approach.
#5 — Loyalty Traveler
Ric’s blog is great because it focuses on one thing and does it well. If I ever have a question about a hotel loyalty program, or if I forget the terms for a recent promotion, I know exactly where I want to go to look for it. (Sadly, BoardingArea does not have the best system for organizing its archives). He covers everything from Hyatt and Starwood to the lowly Wyndham Rewards, providing a very balanced analysis backed by hard numbers. Considering hotel loyalty programs are often easier to break into than those of airlines, his is a valuable service. Ric is the only guy on this list I haven’t met, and even Gary was just for 15 seconds in an elevator, but I hope we get a chance to talk soon.
Honorable Mention — Frequent Miler
You’ll notice an obvious omission form this list: Frequent Miler. This blog is very popular, yet I try not to rely too heavily on manufactured spend or credit card bonuses. Credit cards are only one part of my toolkit, and I earn more miles (in terms of value) each year from paid travel than I do from credit card spend or bonuses. I just don’t see his techniques as a sustainable long-term strategy by themselves, and most of the techniques aren’t as easy to pull off in Seattle as they are elsewhere. Some of them make me downright uncomfortable: I will never seek to earn 1,000,000 miles in a single month. If you are interested in these kinds of tricks, then you should definitely read his blog. Frequent Miler takes more care than most to test his ideas and calculate the risk/reward ratios before publishing his thoughts. But it isn’t one I actively follow.
What about your opinion? Do you have a favorite blog I haven’t mentioned? Chime in with a comment and I’ll be sure to take a look to decide if it deserves a spot in my RSS reader.