As many of you know, the Chicago Seminars took place this past weekend in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. This is an annual gathering of points and miles hobbyists who congregate to learn about the hobby and meet like-minded people. I attended for the first time back in 2013, so I was looking forward to returning and seeing how the event was different. I have to say, I enjoyed this one more than the previous time. The presentations were much better (there was more advanced type stuff this year) and I met some really great people. Here are five highlights from the 2015 Chicago Seminars:
1. Missed Flights and a Travel Voucher. Most people wouldn’t include missed flights as a highlight of their trip, but it worked out that way for me. The weekend got off to a good start when I volunteered to get bumped from my flight: I received a $500 travel voucher and an arrival time well past rush hour. On the return, I had a 6:15 AM flight. The night before, I was up until 1 AM writing a post on the OfficeMax $500 Visa deal, packing my stuff, and responding to the dozens of tweets coming my way. I wondered whether to stay up until 3 AM watching Lost on Netflix or try to sleep for two hours and risk not waking up in time for my flight. I decided to stay awake but then fell asleep anyway.
My alarm, which I’d set in case this happened, didn’t ring and I woke up on my own, with my phone confirming my worst fears – it was 6:00 AM. Thankfully, Alaska Airlines let me do a same day confirmed flight change for just $25 and my next flight was at 8 AM. Since I was right by the airport and ready to go, I figured I had plenty of time. I made it to O’Hare by 6:45 AM and the place was a zoo. Security lines were long and the only movement of any sort was a man near the exit who was throwing a massive fit. His shouting was so garbled and angry that for a second I couldn’t tell whether it was a person yelling or a dog barking. He threw his backpack around and screamed on the phone about a wheelchair for his father. As far as I could tell, no one did a thing about it. If he had fit a certain profile, the bomb squad would have been called and he would have been tackled faster than he could throw that backpack around.
I checked my bag, hoping I’d get bumped and wouldn’t have to drag it back to the hotel with me. A security rep announced that the next checkpoint was practically deserted and directed the heard there. Apparently that’s what every other security agent did because the line at this place was longer than the previous one! With 45 minutes left before my flight, I asked the agent if I could move to the front of the line since my flight was leaving soon. He said no but if I went to checkpoint 6, the woman there would let me go to the front. Except when I got there, she refused to let me cut the line. With 20 minutes to go before departure I called Alaska again and switched to the 3:25 PM flight (which, thankfully, I ended up not missing). With a few hours to spare, I went back to the Holiday Inn Elk Grove Village and am glad I did because it allowed me to catch up with a few people I’d missed the previous day.
2. The Presentations. There were some really good presentations this year and the attendees seemed much more savvy than the last time I was there. For the most part, I bounced around between sessions but I especially enjoyed Drew’s presentation on stopovers as well as Ben’s tips on how to find cheap premium airfare. If you missed it, I’m sure at some point both of them will post their presentations online.
3. Meeting Fellow Hobbyists. The real highlight of this event (especially if you’re not a newbie) is meeting fellow hobbyists, whether they’re bloggers, readers, or anything in between. I met some interesting people, including a reader who was already mileage running after being fairly new to the game, and Spencer, who came to the event just two months after learning about this stuff.
One man told me about trekking the Hippie Trail through Afghanistan in 1973 after reading an article in the Whole Earth Catalog on how to do it for just $50. I guess those hippies were the original travel hackers. He told me how guest houses could be booked for as little as $0.50 cents per night, food was cheap, and the region was safe to travel through. I’m always intrigued (and slightly envious) when I hear from people who traveled to Afghanistan during that time period, especially since my parents are always talking about the 70’s and what life was like back then.
I was only at the event for a day and a half, but it was nice catching up with the Frugal Travel Guy crew: Rick, Howie and Christine, who is a total sweetheart and a great writer. I was also glad to get a chance to meet Drew in person after working with him at FTG. He is one of the most grounded people and very knowledgeable. And of course, it’s always nice to chat with Greg, who is a huge hit at these events.
4. Manufactured Spending Inspiration. One of the most impressive manufactured spenders I met at the Chicago Seminars was probably @Gbplesh. This guy is doing numbers that put my weekly manufactured spending series to shame. His approach has inspired me to aim for bigger numbers and slightly change the way I do things. Yes, despite my constant complaining and penchant for melodrama, I will continue manufacture spending. Before the $500 Visa gift card news broke, I kept telling anyone who asked that I was taking a break from manufactured spending through the end of this year. Needless to say, that has changed.
5. Chicago. My time in Chicago was cut short due to my late arrival, but I did get to spend the day in the city and greatly enjoyed it. Plus, I got to try out the new Hyatt Centric The Loop, which opened back in April. A review of that hotel is coming up. If you’re attending the Chicago Seminars next year, be sure to set some time aside to see the city.
Those were some of my favorite things about this year’s Chicago Seminars. If you attended the event, I’d love to hear from you: What was your favorite part and will you be back next year?
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