60 Seconds with Harlan Vaughn, Out and Out blog

60 Seconds with Harlan Vaughn, Out and Out blog

Harlan Vaughn is a points and miles enthusiast who loves to travel. His interests include personal finance, the power of positive thinking and the extraordinary journeys that make life worth living. His blog, Out and Out, is intended to be a commentary for those attuned to the points and miles world, although it offers plenty of information for newcomers as well. Out and Out brings a unique LGBT perspective to the world of travel.

InsideFlyer
What inspired you to start your blog?
Harlan Vaughn
I started the blog as a place to work out my ideas about the various mileage programs, airline routes and my own award redemptions. I’d been reading BoardingArea blogs and wanted to dig into certain niches a little more. The best way to learn about something is to start talking about it. I thought perhaps someone might read the posts and add something about how a certain point of interest worked (or didn’t!). It’s been almost three years now and I’m still learning new things about this hobby.

IF
How long have you been collecting miles and points? What has been your most memorable award redemption?
Vaughn
I started getting into points and miles pretty heavily in 2012. My favorite redemption by far has been the round-the-world trip I cobbled together using miles from American, United and British Airways. It taught me a lot about the individual programs and how to strategize for big award bookings.

IF
Tell us about the LGBT perspective of your blog and what are some other unique aspects of your blog?
Vaughn
So far, I have been keeping the LGBT perspective subtle. It’s there, but it’s not the main focus of the blog. The same applies for the slant about positivity: I try to keep everything very positive and express my gratitude for my travels with the tone of the posts. The most important thing about the blog, to me, is the tone. That is what gives it cohesiveness. Occasionally I will throw in a cool service, website or app, or a thought about something not related to travel that I find interesting. The main thread running through the entirety of the blog is definitely the love of travel.

IF
Do you have a favorite airline or hotel loyalty program? Do you think overall your favorite programs are improving or going downhill?
Vaughn
I really want to explore ANA and Singapore’s programs more in 2015. Right now, I have a huge soft spot for British Airways and Avios. The miles are just so easy to earn. I’m also getting interested in Alaska. They are doing some really cool things with Mileage Plan. All that being said, American Airlines is my domestic go-to. I think AAdvantage, on the whole, is improving right now. So is ANA, with the pending changes to their program. I’m a bit disappointed about all the changes to Avianca’s LifeMiles program this past year. I wanted to get into it more, but can’t feel confident enough to bank serious miles with them. For hotels, I love Club Carlson and Hyatt. They are my favorites. I never got into SPG. The points are too difficult to earn outside of hotel stays. The wonderful thing about all of this is how many options there are. Whatever your travel style is, there is a program that will be appealing to you.

IF
What are your thoughts on the future of frequent travel programs?
Vaughn
Things are improving as quickly as they are declining, which keeps everything level across the board. For now, I am going to stay a free agent. I will stick with a program for as long as it’s worth it. Though I’m relatively new to points and miles, I feel like I’ve already rolled with so many punches. The instant one program changes for the worse, another comes up with something great–and vice versa. I do think now, more than ever, is the time to earn and burn. Set a travel goal, work toward it, then book it. I like to keep my balances as close to zero as possible–unless it’s Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards. You can never have too many of those!

IF
Do you have a positive thought or piece of advice you’d like to share with our readers?
Vaughn
Flying business or first class is nice. I’ve definitely been spoiled by premium cabins. But take the flight that only has economy available if it will fulfill one of your travel goals. If the experience is worth having, it doesn’t always matter how you get there. Just go. There will always be more chances to experience the different products, so don’t put your goals on hold for them. Unless of course that is your goal! Always take a moment to feel thankful for the experience of travel. Gratitude is a powerful feeling, and it attracts even more meaningful travel experiences to you.

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