Doing My Best, and Trying to Do Better With This Blog (or Why it’s Not 2002 Anymore)

When I first started blogging in May 2002 it was just sort of a way of chronicling my thoughts as I came across deals, learned more about frequent flyer miles, and wanted to share my enthusiasm with a small group of friends.

I used to write something and get 30 hits a day. My ‘big break’ that led to a few HUNDRED views a day was when I started producing IMPEACH NORM MINETA bumper stickers back when he ran the Transportation department (which then had control over airport security).

It was my ‘personal blog’ and I still think of it that way. And I often have the sort of filter that one expects from a blog that isn’t actually being read by anyone.

Back in 2006 a New York Times piece covered me (with a really bad picture of me working in a diner) about how blogs were ‘beginning to feel the power’ and had influence in business travel. Back then I think I had perhaps just 1000 visitors a day or so.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate. More so than I could have ever imagined. I’m not wealthy, I probably never will come even close. Growing up I used to fly a lot, my parents lived on opposite coasts. And I would board the plane, look towards the first class cabin, and wonder who those people were… knowing I would never be one of them. I wouldn’t afford it, and didn’t understand who would pay such a premium to have it.

And here I not only find myself in the forward cabin on domestic hops most of the time, I travel the world in international first class, nearly for free using miles. I stay in high-end villas, looking out at the ocean, with my own pool.

I’ve even gotten to help start a frequent flyer community, and take on a special trust in managing the nominations and voting for the loyalty industry’s most important awards (vote on by the world’s frequent flyers).

And my friends and I charter planes for crazy frequent flyer trips. Get real flight simulator time in airline training centers. Pop a slide and make a water evacuation.

And these are all in my extracurricular time.

All around just live an extraordinary life, that I never would have imagined, for which I’m both humbled and extremely grateful.

Along the way, folks here have along come for the ride, some have even benefited along with me, the tips and suggestions I’ve made have proven useful to many readers if the emails I receive are to be believed.

But an interesting thing happened yesterday morning. I wrote a post about using Delta miles on Saudia and as a bit of a throwaway I described how I value other miles more than Skymiles — not just United, US Airways, American, and Alaska miles but also Air Baltic BalticMiles and Ukraine International Panorama Club miles. It was meant as a joke, ‘who wants Ukraine International miles?’ but without any actual analysis of that program (which does have some value). “And yet even that’s better than Skypesos.”

Gee, I’m such a geek, obscure frequent flyer humor, BalticMiles are better than Skypesos! But when the best deal of the week came to us through the Icelandair Saga Club I suppose maybe it’s not that obscure after all.

On a Saturday morning I had a throwaway line about BalticMiles in a post on Delta redemptions. And I get a comment back from the head of… the Air Baltic BalticMiles program.

So on the one hand that’s kinda cool. On the other i actually feel bad for my snarky aside because the BalticMiles program is one that’s actually really popular with its members.

That struck me a whole lot more than when my recent post about confusing breakfast policies at the Andaz Wall Street brought a comment from that hotel’s GM, or when my post a few weeks back about housekeeping and other issues at the Intercontinental Boston last month led a manager there to weigh in as well.

I realize it’s playing on a different stage than when I first started writing under the blog title “More Room Throughout Coach” during my first 7 months or so.

I’m not sure whether that does or should change my approach to posting. For the most part it probably doesn’t. Sometimes I get comments on my blog about what I should or shouldn’t share, what I should or shouldn’t post on (some people love trip reports, enjoy photos of first class cabins, others find it annoying or view it as ‘filler’). I’ve always written what’s interested me at the moment I decided to write. I’ve shared what I think, for better or worse. And taken the attitude that if folks find it useful they’ll read. That I do hope what I have to say is interesting or helpful to some folks. The feedback I do get is really really positive and tremendously appreciated, it’s kept me going for over 10 years when I hear about people earning miles and then redeeming them for honeymoons that they never thought possible, or how much their business travel lives are made easier by things I’ve written about.

But it’s still a good reminder that I also have a responsibility to be fair and accurate, not to get over-excited by the outrage of the moment, that there are consequences to what I post. I do my best already, but I’ll redouble those efforts, and hope that I live up to the trust that readers place in me by continuing to visit.

In the meantime, I appreciate what a great ride it’s been here these past 10 years. And if you do enjoy reading or find value in the postings, you can follow me on twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog at, subscribe to emails (just enter your emails in the box on the left hand side of this page), or Like or Subscribe to me on Facebook.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hi Gary,

    Sure, be fair and accurate, but, keep on writing as you do – that’s part of the “charm”.

    I for one don’t very much care for pics of meals, cabins, hotel rooms – but hey man, it’s your blog! I can use my PgDown key anytime 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Funny you should post this now; as I was just thinking how out of all the points and miles blogs and sites I read that yours is one of best written and most substantive of the bunch.

    I expect you will make the adjustments you see fit, according to how the airspace changes for your blog and readership. That seems normal, but if you can keep your independence and enjoyment of what you’re doing and writing about, then we’ll all be getting that first class ride to the suite with the pool.

    For me it’s a hobby, so my interest level waxes and wanes, but my love of travel never goes away.

    keep on flyin thanks walter

  3. I remember the days when you used to ridicule people that tried to profit from the knowledge they got for free from sources like flyertalk. Those posts are still there.

    Funny how you don’t really mention that change as part of the metamorphosis.

    It is your blog after all.

  4. Do you still have a lot of your original readers and commenters?

    And don’t tell my Dad’s closet it’s not 2002 anymore (or 1982.)

  5. all good Gary, it’s great you can enjoy your passion, and keep others up to date with opportunities and info

  6. All true…..however just because your AirBaltic comparison was ill-judged, it still doesn’t improve the value of Skypesos 🙂

  7. Gary,

    I still remember your milepost 1000 , 2000, 3000, etc review. Now about rincing your blade under cold water tip….


  8. Hey Gary, Blogging is all about the writer’s personality and opinions. Without those flavors you become a bland journalist or a writer who now is in it for the money and/or glory. I have not seen you even begin to cross that line, thankfully. My RSS feed is full of travel bloggers but yours is one that I never miss because your content is very valuable to me (and to all your readers, I dare say). Thanks for all your work. It may be a labor of love but it is time consuming and work regardless. I appreciate it a great deal.

  9. @MileValue – my original commenters? Hah… nobody commented back then! I’ve thought a lot about comments actually. Sometimes it seems like I get a decent amount of comments but I get relatively few compared to the traffic of this site, other blogs with far less traffic get a good bit more in comments. My guess is that’s because most of my posts are less personal, more cold and analytical, so not really as welcoming of comment or as controversial. At least that’s my theory.

  10. Good morning Gary,
    Although I don’t use Rss or Twitter, I do look forward to reading your website. It is certainly one of the best I’ve come across.
    I enjoy your writing style and appreciate your logical thought process. I guess that is what keeps me tuning in for more, so keep up the good work. Thanks for your time and efforts. From a neighbor across the river.

  11. I personally wish you’d stop publicizing deals you know would get killed if made public but survive if kept under the radar of your massive following. What ever happened to you being part of the FT/Milepoint community?

  12. Thanks, Gary, you do a really great job. I think of you as the Walter Cronkite of FF blogging. Fair and balanced, old school style.

  13. I just wanted to say, “Thank you.” You’ve helped me make my life better, writing just as you do.

  14. Gary, man…don’t change a thing! I’ve been lucky enough to come along this ride probably from day one and it’s been amazing. Of course there are times when I think that “I would do things differently,” but if I didn’t love what you do I wouldn’t have been following it for so long! Congrats on 10 years and looking forward to many more.

  15. Gary, it is simple. What has made you successful is being and writing who you are. Anyone with any element of success has critics – the more critics, the more successful. I’ll bet if you keep writing as though you are writing for no audience, success will continue to find you.

    As a long-time reader of your blog, the only notable difference that I see is the increase in pitches for credit cards. I’m not a fan, but there is so much other useful information – and, if this is a way that you can make a couple of bucks (can’t imagine that it is making you “rich,” as per your post), then God bless.

    Cheers to another 10 successful years.

  16. I don’t see why a comment from some executive should really matter. Are these people paying for your advertising? Are they going to ban you from their businesses? And as much as you like the Andaz hotels (though perhaps the Wall St location is not as great as 5th Ave), if a hotel GM is going to take it out on you for something you said in your blog, then you either deserve it or it’s probably not a hotel you want to stay at anyway.

    Some corporate types have jobs that prevent them from taking a joke or criticism as it is. I don’t think you’ve stepped out of line.

  17. Thanks for all the amazing info and insight you share. May your next 10 years be even greater than the last!

  18. You write one of the two or three travel blogs I check every day. You do a great job. Please continue to post amazing deals that others want hidden from the world. These deals shouldn’t be limited to those in secret FT or email groups. Just keep doing what you are doing.

    Oh, and I hate pictures of food. I would consider myself Lucky to not see those pics any longer. I don’t care what food looks like.

  19. Thanks for writing that Gary. I’m one of those struggling newer bloggers still finding her way. I started seven months ago and I rejoice to see my alexa standing go from 2.7 million to 1.6 million. still its difficult, not only in finding a direction and niche for my writing, but also in being unique, and feeling like there is a purpose. I am pleasently surpised, as you mentioned, when people take notice of something I’ve written. Sometimes I have 200 readers in a day, sometimes more. My best day was one when you referenced a post of mine – and I got over 1,000 hits – just like that. I’ve been doing this far shorter than you have, but I must agree that it is a journey, and a positive one at that. thank you.

  20. I wonder if an AA executive would respond if you reported on the apparent policy change whereby non-elites are being offered paid upgrades during OLCI while elites are by-passed.

  21. Gary,

    Don’t change a thing. I happen to like posts with style, which is a main reason I read your competition over at onemileatatime.

    I read your blog for a lot of reasons. I like your analysis on the utility of various deals and promotions, and well, even your take on the politics of hotel per diem rates. I like your updates on the latest credit card happenings, because it’s the *only* way I get miles and points these days. And, well, I like your occasional aspirational trip reports, because it gives me a good idea on where I might want to spend my points for my next trip.

    So keep it up.

  22. “…with a really bad picture of me working in a diner…”

    Really hoped to see you with a chef hat on.

    Gary, count me as one of the many who love what you do. If I’m not interested in what you had to write that day, I’ll move on. But I really like what you do. Please keep it up.

  23. Gary,

    Loyalty program/Hotel brass shouldn’t affect your content. I understand why you feel the way you do about the Air Baltic comment — I don’t think you expected anybody over there to have heard about your blog, much less actually read it.

    OTOH, stateside (or hotel chains with stateside corporate HQ) play it straight the way you do. When hotels have service failures or are otherwise not up to snuff, your readers deserve to know. It’s our hard earn $ and points at work too, and we deserve the ability to choose where to spend them with full disclosure… and not obscured by the hotel’s corporate message machine.

    And why do *your* reviews matter? Simple: Context. I don’t like reading most hotel reviews at FT — on the *W forum, for example, the posts are dominated by platinums, who are pretty much only concerned about whether or not they got their almighty upgrade. As a gold (or non status) I could care a lot less about that. On TA, well, I have no idea what the back story is on my reviews — hotels will get a 1* for botching a single thing.

    Your posts provide depth and balance. Over time, we get to understand what your expectations and desires are. We know that you won’t ding a hotel too much for a single trivial thing. We know that you will provide a level of depth that makes your reviews useful to those without the most highest status.

  24. Gary, your blog is supposed to be about YOUR experiences shared through YOUR views. If you weren’t real I (and assume a host of others) wouldn’t keep coming back daily to see what you have to say. Keep reporting your opinions. You’ll never please everyone. And those like the GM in Boston probably got heat from his superiors b/c of his lack of oversight. That’s his problem…which was only pointed out b/c you shared your honest experience while staying there. Keep up the great work!

  25. As an actual passenger of Ukraine International and Air Baltic I guess I have a higher opinion of them than you. Ukraine International has comped me first class upgrades between Kiev and Tbilisi and Air Baltic did a great job taking me between Moscow and Rija. I recommend them both.

  26. Gary, I enjoy all elements of your blog, especially the trip reports. It is the ONLY travel blog I read regularly. I’m the founder of a very popular travel site — not a blog, and not focused on the same areas of travel you cover — so I know what it is like to deal with all the various constituencies, from travel providers and writers to regular readers and even the occasional hater. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s great.

  27. Only thing I wonder as your blog becomes more popular, that most chain hotels will ear mark your stay for special treatment above/beyond whatever elite programs offer you in the hopes of a good review. An experience thats unlikely to be repeatable by someone with the same status but without a blog. I don’t have a specific instance of this – more of an observation.

  28. @Will — and yet from most of the stays I’ve had that’s clearly not happening – hah! Just see most of my reviews… 🙂

  29. I found it very interesting to read what your motivation was for getting into all this. I too have an “aspirational” motivation as you describe it. I reckon this is true for many somewhere in the middle class. After all, why would Bill Gates bother with points? But I am far from that level of income or net worth.

  30. Gary,
    I enjoy reading your blog, whether I agree with you or not. Your blog is informative and you have a particular point of view. If people disagree with you or your methods, CONGRATULATIONS!! The important thing is to raise the issue, have/start the conversation. We don’t all agree. Agreeing isn’t the point. For me, it’s all about the learning. That is something that I continually get from your blog. Keep it up please. and thanks

  31. Let me add my 2 cents. Keep them on there toes. I read you almost daily. Looking forward to saying hi at the shearton in Nov.

  32. I agree with what many others are saying–it’s a great blog and I think your current strategy/approach is working well. Keep it up.

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