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First, and most importantly, it was great to attend Frequent Traveler University hear all of the positive feedback about the blog. Scott has really created excitement over his creative oneway awards and expert routing knowlege. It’s a lot of fun to part of something special like this. I just hope to contribute a small fraction to MileValue now and in the future.

As I posted early Saturday morning, I didn’t really know what to expect in attending Frequent Traveler University. Scott was kind enough to invite me to Los Angeles, and I was excited to meet some of the folks I had regularly been communicating with to pick up a few new tricks. I certainly had some concrete goals I wanted to meet as well.

Let’s go to the report card and see how I fared in meeting all goals for the weekend:

Put faces to names. Solid B, though this grade should probably be a B-minus. Due to a work commitment, I was only able to hang out late Friday night and all of Saturday. Missing the Sunday sessions and conversations was frustrating, so hopefully I can attend all of Frequent Traveler University when it moves to Tysons Corner, Virginia next April. It was great to finally meet up with Scott and Tahsir in person. I was also able to briefly chat with Gary from View from the Wing and George from Travel Blogger Buzz. The next event should provide even better networking opportunities.

Learn from the masters. A-minus! Scott walked me through his impressive routing from South America to Europe via Africa. Tashir was able to give me some tips on booking a tricky award ticket for a family member to Trieste, Italy in April. I kept the pestering to a minimum, but their award travel advice was invaluable to me.

Pick up some tips on airline elite status. A-plus! The thought of losing Medallion status with Delta was terrifying, so I was determined to find a way to requalify. On the way to our great dinner at In-N-Out Burger on Saturday night, I picked the brain of the Frequent Miler. Along with his Saturday presentation on earning 5X points everywhere, he also offered some tips on amassing MQMs quickly in 2013. I can’t thank him enough for our chat. [Scott: I don’t know the exact tips, but here is a FM post on Mileage Running from Home.]

Master the ins and outs of hotel programs. Respectable C-plus. My goal was to brush up on Hyatt’s program, so it was good that there was a special session hosted by Todd Tomlin, who works at Hyatt. He was a former manager in their Gold Passport frequent guest program, so I made sure not to miss his session. His speech was more marketing-oriented than anything, but he surprisingly delivered quite a few laughs. The fact that he took two (!) mileage runs to Shanghai, China over Thanksgiving week proves that he truly belongs with all of us mileage nuts.

He also showcased some of the soon to be opening Park Hyatts in China, India, and even New York City. Those slides drew some oohs and ahhs from the crowd.

Eat some In-N-Out Burger. A-Plus. The walk from the hotel was a bit rainy, but I had great company along the way. It was pretty amusing to see the horror on all the In-N-Out cashiers’ faces when we descended en masse on their registers. I ordered a Double-Double burger (Animal Style, of course) and my coveted root beer float. The food was incredible, but the plane-watching was even better. We missed out on the A380s which arrived earlier in the day, but the landings made a nice backdrop to the whole meal.

On a side note, it was remarkable to see the aviation enthusiasts easily identify each landing plane within seconds of spotting it. [Scott: I can spot three planes–747s, A380s, and 737s (if painted in Southwest livery), so he isn’t referring to me.]

Swap Travel Stories. Scott is right on the mark. The best icebreaker with anyone at FTU is to ask, “Do you have any upcoming trips you’re excited about?” I just got back from a week in Kauai, and nearly every person I met had been there. It was pretty easy to carry out a lengthy conversation. I picked up some ideas and tips for my next big trip (debating on China or the Maldives) as well.

Again, I’m disappointed that I could only spend 36 hours in LA and had to miss all of the Sunday sessions, including Scott’s own about free oneways. Going for the entire weekend will be critical for the next FTU in April and the Chicago Seminars in October.

The burst pipe and lack of water on Saturday was actually pretty amusing. Someone remarked to me that they wouldn’t want to be in the hotel general manager’s position: staring at a hotel with no running water and 400 frequent travelers who know a thing or two about demanding politely requesting compensation.

Thanks again for the positive feedback that everyone shared about MileValue. It was great meeting every single one of you, and I look forward to doing more of that in April and October.

[Scott: Thanks, Bill, for the write up from the perspective of a first timer. I hope it helps anyone on the fence decide whether to attend a meet up like this for the first time. Once you do attend once, I think you’ll be hooked.]

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