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I have to say, the journey to Frequent Traveler University has been a long strange one. I first “discovered” this hobby about five years ago. A small finance blog (now long defunct) casually mentioned the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card as a great addition to anyone’s wallet, and the ball rolled from there. I then accidentally tripped over FlyerTalk and was initially overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge and expertise it contained.

After perusing FlyerTalk, I started following one travel blog (incidentally, the Frugal Travel Guy). One travel blog in Google Reader became three which eventually ballooned to ten. You get the idea. What was once a casual hobby and talking point became a full time passion.

When I really got serious and began banking miles through flying, promos like the US Airways Grand Slam, and credit card sign ups, I starting hearing about the Chicago Seminars. The blogs I followed posted about how great they were, but didn’t offer much as to what was discussed at the conference.  At the time, it seemed like an exclusive club where the “elites” of the point collecting world met up to swap old war stories and share new tricks & tips.

As time passed, I realized Chicago and other similar events (Mega-DOs and Frequent Traveler University) were much simpler. They were excellent places for both rookies and veterans alike to congregate. Everyone, even those who had been at this for decades, stood to learn something new and meet someone new.

I’m extremely excited for Frequent Traveler University in Los Angeles this weekend. I will be cramming quite a bit of learning and networking into 36 short hours. That’s fine; I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thought it would be good to chronicle my expectations going into the weekend and see how they fared after wrapping up at Frequent Traveler University. Here are my main goals:

Put faces to names. I’ve communicated many times with Scott via email, Skype, and phone, but this is the first time we have met face to face.  It will be good to discuss the long term goals of the blog and new ideas we can implement in 2013.  I’m pretty excited.

It will also be good to meet Gary from View from the Wing and Ben from One Mile at a Time. We have swapped many emails over the past five years, but they were the two who got me going in this, so it will be nice to finally give a proper thank you. Their advice has been truly invaluable.

Learn from the masters. Scott is giving a talk on free oneways on Sunday morning. I unfortunately have to leave early, but I would be foolish not to take advantage of his and Tashir’s knowledge. I know these guys run the best award booking service on the internet. They know the most obscure routing rules on almost every carrier and can turn an ordinary vacation into a dream trip. Booking award tickets is something I need to get better at…..I plan on asking lots of questions!

Pick up some tips on airline elite status. I’m a Delta Gold Medallion, but starting in 2013, I will have no status at all. This proposition is pretty painful, so I’m looking to get status back quickly with very limited time to mileage run. Hopefully I can pick up some tips on quickly becoming a Medallion member once again.

Master the ins and outs of hotel programs. I will begin writing the valuations for hotel points in the near future, but want to really fine tune my knowledge of the ins and outs of each program before I delve in. Hyatt’s Gold Passport program is not an area I am as well versed in as the others, but there will be plenty of fiercely loyal Hyatt experts who can catch me up to speed.

Eat some In & Out Burger. As Scott mentioned earlier this week, we will be walking or cabbing to the nearest In & Out Burger for a casual meet up with fellow Frequent Travelers. Living on the East Coast can be difficult when you love their food as much as I do. The fact that the location offers a great vantage point for plane watching is just icing on the cake. I plan on ordering a Double Double “Animal Style” with a root beer float. God bless their secret menu!

Most importantly, though, I can’t wait to swap travel stories. Points and miles, remember, are simply means to an end. Flying first class and staying in luxury hotels is great, but it’s what you do outside of that that defines your vacation. As a huge fan of Spain and Argentina, I’m looking forward to hearing others impressions and gathering some tips for myself. I am also planning a big vacation to Asia (never been!) next year. Who’s going to steer me in the right direction?

After Frequent Traveler University wraps up, I plan on posting about how my expectations differed from the reality of the event. Hopefully that post will help you decide whether to come to a similar conference if you’re on the fence.

I’m sure it will be a great time and incredible learning experience. Be sure to check back here next week for my conclusions.

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