Explore the World with Your Family Without Breaking the Bank

MOMMY TALKS PODCAST Episode 18
  • MOMMY TALKS PODCAST

My name is Katie, I live in the western suburbs of Chicago with my husband, and we have two eight-year-olds, who are not twins; they're three months apart. My son was adopted from the Philippines, which is why they are so close in age.

I have lived in the Midwest most of my life, but we also really love to travel and spend a lot of time and energy figuring out ways we can travel more for less money, because we don't have a whole lot of discretionary income.

When Did You First Become Interested In What You do? Why?

One of the main reasons that I started my site and my Instagram is because the biggest voices of people I noticed talking in the blog world about miles and points were these single guys, who were taking certain kinds of vacations. I wanted to talk to other moms.

I wanted other moms to realize that this is for them too, since it is different when you're looking to travel with three or four or five people at a time.

I really love being a guide on this topic. Banks have all this money and power and if you're not paying your credit card off each month, they are winning because you’re paying them this crazy amount of interest.

When you earn miles and points, you're winning and that has been so satisfying to me because I really don't like a lot of the predatory lending and stuff that banks and finance companies do.

I've actually been interested in traveling for a really long time. When I was little we took a lot of road trips. I think flights were just more expensive 30 years ago, so we drove across the country a lot of times because we lived in Chicago and my extended family lived in California.

I was 17 when I took my first international trip to Costa Rica for the summer with a friend to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. I learned a lot and that set off this spark of interest, which is why I've continued to find ways to travel by making it more affordable for myself and other people as well. Especially other moms who are looking to provide their family with the experience that traveling provides for them because it's easier for one mom to be able to relate to other moms sometimes.

What Did You Struggle With When You First Got Started Going After Your Interest/Passion?

The first thing you want to overcome is how to stretch your dollars. We've always incorporated a pretty tight budget for our family, which was instilled in each of us from our upbringing. My husband is a nurse, so he makes a comfortable salary but not one where we can just do whatever we want.

We have always been pretty frugal in a lot of ways and we have always tried to figure out different ways to travel without spending money that we may not have had to do so, which is how we started using miles and points.

What’s Your Current Status? Single? Married?

a. Any children? If so, how many?

b. Do you feel that your status has had an impact on your decisions in life? If so, how?

Married

Yes two, they are both eight.

Once we realized that we could access more deals by using credit card signup bonuses to earn free travel for our family, we were definitely fortunate that although we were not making huge amounts of money we entered into adulthood with good credit scores and good job prospects. So, I do think that the basic financial security that we had made a big difference for us.

What Were Your Family’s First Thoughts About What You Wanted To Pursue?

a. Were they supportive?

b. Are they currently supportive?

Generally, they're pretty supportive. My side of the family has even gotten into some of the deals that we use. Initially, everybody was kind of skeptical, like what's going on? Is this a scam? Are you guys getting scammed? Or is this for real?

And then, the more that we were traveling, everybody already knew how we were living our super frugal lifestyle, so I think that’s when people in our family started being curious about what it was that we were doing exactly. Since they have hopped on board, it’s been fun.

I think about four years ago I asked, "Can everybody please just get these two Hyatt credit cards, and then can we all go to this all-inclusive Hyatt in Cancun together as a family?” My parents got the cards, my sister got the card, my brother got the card, and we were able to plan this vacation together because they were supportive of it. And we were able to go to a place where we may not have been able to go together if it weren’t for the miles and points system that we used to do so.

Now, my husband's family on the other hand, who are also pretty frugal, just has no interest in opening a credit card to earn free travel. Therefore, we've come to realize some people just aren't interested in doing it, but nobody has criticized us for what we do.

c. What challenges have you faced together?

There's everything from logistics of planning, especially when you're using miles and points. It's not as easy as calling a travel agent on the phone and just saying this is where I want to go and having them do all the work. It does take a lot of time and research.

There's a big learning curve as far as what kinds of points to earn, how to earn the points, how to redeem the points. Sometimes you have to be flexible with your arrangements, similar to when you're buying a flight, there can be certain days that are cheaper.

There's also the challenge of traveling with my kids. My daughter is autistic, so she doesn't always want to go on a trip. She usually has fun when we're there, but we have to do a lot to figure out how we can support her and how to make it a positive experience for her as well. We want to make sure it’s a good trip for everybody, so those are the main challenges we experience.

What Was Your No. 1 Goal When You Started?

a. Are you currently in line with achieving that goal or have you already achieved that goal?

b. If not, what do you feel is preventing you from doing so?

I'm still figuring it out and figuring out what it can be. I do feel that I am on track because I did a thing recently and actually started tracking my goals, which is the first step to knowing if you're on track.

When I first started collecting miles and points I think I was doing it just to cut down on our travel expenses and then the first big trip on a personal level that we wanted to pay for was when we were adopting my son from the Philippines. With adoption you're paying for social worker visits, you're paying for government fees, and all these other things, so we knew that travel would be a big chunk of the cost, so I that's when I really dug in and tried to do a lot more to figure out how we could get that covered. Because we wanted to go, and we wanted to bring my daughter, my mom, and we wanted to stay two or three weeks. That was one of our first big personal goals.

After that I realized that the information that I'd been acquiring could be helpful to other people, which is when I decided to start my blog and my Instagram. When I first started, I don't think I had any specific business goals because I was honestly just trying to save myself some time. By that point I would have friends emailing me asking, “Hey how come you guys are traveling so much? Can you tell me how to do that?”

And I'd send these super long emails and then I thought maybe it would be easier if I just made a website then I could just tell people where they could find the information on my website and they could reach out to me if they had any more questions.

Within this past year, specifically the last six months, I've been intentional and focused more on setting business goals, starting with Instagram. I have committed to spending more time on Instagram learning about how the algorithm works to figure out how I can have my posts reach more people, but not just anyone—the right people. And how to write valuable content for them. I have implemented a content planner to assist in the creation of that value content.

I have invested a lot of time and effort into learning about it and trying to figure out how to make it more into a business now, so I have had to figure out how I can make money off of this knowledge.

It's always weird for me when I start talking about business like that because I want to share the knowledge to help others figure out how they can save money. I don't want it to cost a lot of money because that wouldn’t help them.

Are You Earning Any Income From Your Interest?

Yes, I have a couple different ways to earn income/points from what I’m doing. There are certain banks that offer incentives for referring their credit cards to people using an affiliate link they provide you.

It's always nice when there’s a really good offer and it's a card where I get some bonus points for referring people. But I really make a point to not take that into account when I'm recommending cards because I always want to make sure that I'm recommending the best card for somebody's situation.

a. Are you able to focus on your interest full-time or only part-time?

Part-time, most of my time is spent homeschooling and everything else that entails taking care of my family, so definitely just part-time for me currently.

b. If part-time, are you currently working a full-time job?

No.

What Are The Biggest Challenges You Face Pursing This While Juggling Managing A Family/Working?

a. Have you been able to figure out a plan to make it less challenging? ​

There are some days that are better than others.

I think the challenge is the same for every mom, which is there are only 24 hours in the day.

Lately one of my goals for this year is to get more sleep. If I'm sleeping eight hours a night there's even fewer hours in the day to get stuff done but then the sleep is helping in other ways so it's really just finding time to work on building it.

The growth of the business is dependent on how much time I can spend in it which is frustrating because sometimes I don’t have any time or it's hard to make time.

So, to me, one of the biggest things is just navigating the time and figuring out what time I have to spend doing it because everything else is important too, like spending time with my kids. My kids are growing up, they're eight and I'm trying to cherish the time I have with them. Cooking my family a healthy dinner is also important. Something always has to give, right? Our house is usually kind of messy because that's usually what gives. Sure, I could give other stuff up but I'm trying to just to be okay with a slower rate knowing that that's just the stage that I'm at.

On top of those challenges, we are currently experiencing a pandemic, which has not only been a challenge for my family, but every other family. What we once considered to be “normal” has changed drastically. We used to have a rec center in our town that we could just drop the kids at for two hours every day and that's gone. We no longer have babysitters.

Honestly, I just had to bend. I gave my kids some screen time so that I can get time to focus. Although this is not the way I would wish things to be, I wish they could be doing something else besides playing Minecraft, but I don't mind Minecraft. I think Minecraft is fine, but for now, during the pandemic that has been the plan: let the kids play Minecraft every day, so that I can try to get a little bit of work done.

b. Does your spouse/family assist with creating a plan to make things less challenging for you to focus on your interest/passion?​

I think he does when I have the presence of mind to ask in advance. He is a nurse and there's been a nursing shortage, so he has been working overtime a lot which has made this season a little more challenging.

Earlier this year, we were able to spend a month in Mexico and I actually was able to get a lot more work done then because my husband wasn't working. And we didn't have any of the additional things that I have to focus on at home while staying in a rental house because there's always something else to do when you’re in your own place, which is another reason I love being able to travel with my family.

How Has Your Current Situation Assisted You In Reaching This Achievement Of Improving Your Life?

Yes, but I would like to think that if life had been different that I would have found a way, but it has definitely contributed to where we are currently.

I am really grateful for mine and my husband’s parents. I feel like they gave us a really good foundation because of the frugal lifestyle they ingrained in us that has really set our family into a solid position.

By not having a lot of debt we were able to get so much accomplished in our early 20s, which has definitely made a big difference as to where our family is now that we're in our mid to late 30s. We have a lot more freedom now.

Simply by virtue of the families that we were born into, so yes, I do think it has helped.

What Would You Say To Any Other Mother Who Is On The Fence About Pursuing Her Passion Due To Life Circumstances?

I think it's really important to spend some time evaluating and discerning if this is a good fit for me because I definitely don't think people should just be signing up for every course and every kind of coach there is. I think it's such an important thing for women and especially moms, if they have something that's really sparking an interest.

There are very intense periods at each stage in your child's life, so I have found now with my eight year olds, when I find something that is life-giving to me I want to find a way to pursue that.

And if getting a coach, buying a course, or simply finding a community of people involved in it gives you that spark then I say, go for it.

What’s Next In Your Journey?

As far as my business, I am hoping to just continue to grow it. On one level, the number of followers you have doesn't matter but at the same time, it symbolizes how many people you're currently reaching.

My goal is to reach more people as well as to develop a course for moms who want to get started, whether that's a series of videos or something. I haven’t really figured out how I want to provide them that as of yet. I actually wrote most of an eBook, just needing to finalize the last few steps.

And then our family, we're hoping to maybe take a road trip to North Carolina in May of 2021, because we've never been to the Carolinas. My husband got his first dose of his vaccine and I am currently awaiting my turn.

When we're able to start traveling again, we are hoping to try out a new system for our family, where my husband takes 8 to 13 week contracts and then we take a trip somewhere for a month, and then he takes another contract, and we take a trip somewhere for a month. Mostly paying for those trips with our points and to resume our international travels once international traveling has become safe for us.

Are You Open To Collaborations?

If so, in what ways?

Yes, I am open to the following:

Conclusion

If you are interested in connecting with this Mom Blogger, feel free to reach out to her on her website at katiestraveltricks.com or simply insert your name and email in the pop-up on this page and I will get her information sent right over to you.

My goal is to spend as much time offline as humanly possible. I have two little guys that demand my attention outside of work and am aware that you have little ones that are just as demanding as mine are. If we're not connected on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, be sure to find me there. I'm always down to connect and answer any questions, feel free to reach out to me and my team at support@expandingwithasha.com!

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Hi! I'm Asha.

Born and raised in South Carolina, I’m a country girl who’s passionate about making a difference in the world. I’m an obsessive learner who spends time reading, creating, and selling online educational programs for mothers.

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