We had a chance to catch up with Dia Adams, aka “The Deal Mommy” for the next round of our Expert Interview series. Dia is a wife and mom to 2 kids, age 13 and 10. She grew up foreign service and her husband was in consulting, so she has lived all over the world from Australia to Beijing to Thailand to Ireland – where her son was born. After coming back home and starting her family, she felt like her travel life was coming to a halt. She wanted to find a way to get her family back into the travel groove. After a trip to Panama (see below), she started researching how to travel for free and has been doing it ever since. Hopefully our chat with Dia will help you and your family catch the travel bug!
Tell us about your blog. What’s the most interesting/helpful post there?
The Deal Mommy, is a blog that focuses on travel for “real” people. I’m known in the travel blogging community as the one that tells it like it is. I like to talk about things that real people can do: family travel, getting somewhere the cheapest way possible, saving money on everyday purchases. I don’t have a sales mentality. If I feel like something is a good deal or a good idea, I talk about it. If I don’t agree with something, you will not see me pitch it. I tend to be a blogger that other bloggers reference because I like to help people get out of that trap mentality that points should only be used on first class flights and 5 star experiences. For many people, those things are not feasible, so I don’t like to put the focus it.
One of the most helpful things I do is put on a conference called “Family Travel for Real Life” (FT4RL). This event is scheduled 2 times a year and it is meant to be a more intimate experience for attendees. I have been to the large travel hacking conferences and they are great to network, but they can be intimidating and repetitive. I try to focus my conferences on more intermediate and advanced topics and keep them very small. I feel that whatever you can do to connect with more people that are in your situation, your world will be easier.
I also am a full time blogger for Traveling Mom, which is a travel-focused blog for moms and families.
What’s your favorite thing about traveling?
When I was younger and didn’t have a family, and even now when I travel solo, I like to focus on exploration and discovering something new. But what is more important now is watching my kids travel. We are spending 6 weeks in Chile and Argentina next month. I love trips like these because I get to see the way that my kids interact with each other and different environments. There is nothing like being put into a situation where everything that you take for granted at home is different. Things as simple as going to the grocery store are an adventure while traveling.
How often do you travel internationally per year?
We like to take 2 to 3 international trips each year. My husband came up with an idea several years ago that he named “Camp Mom”. I don’t get presents anymore, but in even number years I get 2 weeks to solo travel and on odd number years, we take the kids somewhere big. For the even number years, my husband takes the kids to his parent’s and allows me to recharge. My first “Camp Mom” trip was to Panama and in subsequent years I’ve done Tenerife, Southern Italy, and the French Riviera.
Some big trips we have taken with the kids have been spending Bastille Day at the Hyatt Regency Etoile in Paris seeing the extravagant fireworks from the tallest hotel in Paris followed by a weeklong stay in a castle in Austria. We also went to Asia 2 years ago, which was a great adventure!
How did you first learn about using points? What was the first card you opened?
I traveled quite a bit when I was younger. My son was born in Ireland. I flew so many miles on British Airways when I was pregnant with him that if we could have gotten my son points, he would have status. We moved back home and took some time off from traveling, but when my daughter was about 4 years old I thought that we needed travel back in our lives. I knew about the reward travel world, but it didn’t start making sense until I upgraded my flights on my trip to Panama for my first Camp Mom trip. Once I saw how easy it was to earn points and I could do things like this, I was hooked. Then I attended the Chicago Seminars (large conference aimed at beginners learning to use reward points for travel) and it opened up a whole new level of thinking. I have had an Amex card since 1993 and we used it for some travel, but never thought of the possibilities until these events.
What’s the most amazing trip you’ve taken with points so far?
I would have to say the trip to Paris on Bastille Day to see the fireworks from the tallest hotel in Paris, the Hyatt Etoile. The French put on such a different level of firework shows than I have ever experienced. And I live in Washington, DC, so I have seen my fair share of fireworks. To see this from 20 stories up was awesome.
What do you say to people when they ask “how does this affect my credit”?
Well, it’s interesting that you asked this. My son is in 8th grade and is taking civics classes, one of which is economics. I found out that what they are teaching them about credit scores is completely wrong and the reason why so many people don’t understand what makes up their credit score. We are taught incorrect information from the start. My son came home and asked me how many credit cards I have and I started counting and by the time I got to 27 or so, he was convinced I had an awful credit score. I had to sit him down and teach him the truth about credit and how your score is calculated. How your utilization ratio is one of the main factors – the more credit you have and the least amount you use (by never carrying a balance) can drastically increase your credit score. Things like this are the reason most people don’t understand credit scores and get thrown off when talking about opening credit cards.
How many cards do you apply for a year?
It really varies. You caught me at a good time. We just did a home remodel, so I opened up 9 cards to hit minimum spending and get the bonus points. I would say on a typical year we open anywhere from 10-15 cards.
Is reward travel hard or do you think anyone can do it?
Both. It can be hard, but as long as you work up to your comfort level, anyone can do it. If your comfort level is to get your kids to Orlando to see Mickey Mouse, get a Southwest card and do it. As long as you set goals and work towards those goals, it is easy to do. If you just blindly earn points with no goals, it can be difficult.
Where can we find you on social?