Pretty Proud of My Award Booking Partner!

Many of you know that I offer an award booking service. It grew too big to handle on my own, and I was fortunate enough to be able to partner with one of the real veterans and gurus in the frequent flyer game, Steve Belkin (known in online forums as ‘beaubo’).

Steve is most famous for exploiting loopholes in frequent flyer programs like Aeroplan and United’s MileagePlus in a truly big way, scaling opportunities to earn millions instead of thousands of miles. And in that pursuit he has hired disable Thai rice farmers to fly in and out of the Golden Triangle area of Thailand, and New Zealand college students to fly to Europe for the summer.

One of the really fun projects he’s had is called Competitours. For 12 days every summer, Steve disappears from work to run what the Chicago Tribune calls “The Amazing Race for Regular People.”

COMPETITOURS is a 10 day team travel competition, with 12 pairs of teams traversing a mystery itinerary of Western Europe and earning points by accomplishing a daily dose of surprise challenges in pursuit of a $7200 cash prize divvied up by the top three teams.

Challenges are structured to test teams creativity, resourcefulness and spontaneity (NOT speed or fitness – hah!). Here’s some of the challenges. Each day’s destination and challenges are revealed with a mere 24-36 hours notice. Unlike the ‘Amazing Race’ TV show, Competitours steers clear of weird food, exhausting tasks and manufactured conflict and drama.

So the proud part — I get my share of media coverage, but Steve’s efforts on this have been covered a good bit in the past seeral days as well here, here, here, and here.

It’s a great project, reports are that the trips are great fun. I just need extra help for those 12 days…

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. what’s not enough for you now? you beg for referrals, you now promote rip off award booking services, you have been promoting united devaluations

  2. Not the same Steve Belkin who used to own the Atlanta Hawks.

    Took me a while to figure that one out.

  3. @Jim L – I seriously laughed out loud at that. You’ve got to be at least 40 to get that one though.

    Glad to see Steve Belkin getting some good press for his adventure race.

  4. @jim – I don’t understand why you consider my award booking service a ‘rip off’? This has been a project since 2009 and while I haven’t gone back and counted I bet that in five years I haven’t mentioned it more than a dozen times. I have hundreds of satisfied customers each year. We only charge our fee when we’re successful. It isn’t for the do it yourselfer of course but we’ve gotten many people award tickets that they’d never have gotten on their own. Most of our clients consider it to be about the best money they’ve ever spent.

  5. Gary,
    Congrats! I’ve been trying to find the partner award booking code for cx (using BA/AA miles). Do you know where I could find the code for first and business award tickets?

  6. @Jim, I paid Steve to book 3 business class awards using three separate accounts to Thailand. My parents are still talking about it as a trip of a lifetime. Thanks Gary and Steve! Money well spent.

  7. first of all, if you apply for cards, waste inquiries on bonuses and take trip for MS and,,,,, why can’t you book any international award travel by yourself? It is super easy. you just need to learn a bit.

    2nd, If you still don’t know how to do it, I will book for you for $10 round trip including any stop overs and open jaws.

  8. @jim – glad you’re such an expert! sounds like you should start a competing booking service, since you place a pretty low value on your time.

    Most of the people using my booking service aren’t generating their points from credit card signups and manufactured spend. Most are business travelers, or executives with significant spend, maybe they’ve earned hundreds of thousands of Amex points. And the last thing they know about is the ins and outs of airline partnerships, routing rules, etc. They call up Amex, or the airline, and are always frustrated. I help them.

  9. Jim. You don’t get it. We are thankful to have experts like Steven and Gary. We go for experts to do our taxes and do our legal stuff. It frees our time to do what we do best, and maybe gives us some time to play. I don’t think that I will use your $10 service. Somehow, what Steve and Gary do has a much greater value to us.

  10. I worked with Gary & Steve to setup a couple of SkyPesos awards getting me to HKT that at the time I couldn’t have done myself (I know because I spent hours trying). I was happy to pay their fee because it got me the trip I wanted.

    Now after learning a ton from blogs such as this and many others I’m starting to book awards for my friends who don’t want to bother with it and pay me to do it instead.

    No one is forcing anyone else to use Gary’s service or any other so why get mad if it’s mentioned on GARY’S blog?

    Better to pay a reasonable price to get an award than not being able to go because the actual ticket (even in steerage) is cost prohibitive.

    I could go for a few less credit card referral links on these blogs overall, but for the knowledge I’ve gained, if I have to see about the credit cards, I’ll live with it.

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