The Mileage Junkie’s Guide to Staying Healthy

[Nursing Editor's note: Cathy is one of our resident staff writers and also a travel junkie. She asked if she could write a series about travel. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. Enjoy!]

I love a great churn as much as the next gal. Points hoarding and free travel are not without their risks, however, so I put together this guide to help all of my fellow point lovers and airline fanatics stay healthy while pursuing this great hobby.

When I originally started this guide it was more about staying healthy when traveling, especially overseas. But as I was writing, I realized that even us stay at home miles collectors can face serious conditions that we need to be aware of. This post is aimed primarily at those who collect miles and points for fun and profit. If you earn most of your points and status from Butt in Seat mileage, then the next post, staying healthy while traveling, will be more up your alley.

The Miles and Points Junkie will have to deal with two major types of health issues: Mental Health, usually because of  stress, aggravation, addiction etc. You may also suffer from physical health issues relating to things like too much sitting in a chair on the computer, and Repetitive Stress Injuries from constantly filling out various credit cards offers.

Let’s start with the Mental health issues.

Recognize that you will become borderline obsessive

There’s no other way to say it. You need to know that you will spend way too much time learning about different programs, understanding the different tips and tricks, and figuring out which credit cards to apply for, and keeping track of them. Make sure to try and stay on the right side of obsessive hobbyist versus crazily addicted.

Watch out for the signs of Points Addiction:

It is extremely important that this new hobby obsession does not come at the expense of your work, family and other important things in your life. Some typical signs of a miles and points addiction are (with apologies to those with more serious addictions out there):

  • Extreme mood changes – happy about super cheap RGN fares, anxious about meeting spend, etc
  • Sleeping a lot less than usual, usually due to more reading and manipulating ITA Matrix to find mistake fares and mileage runs.
  • Weight loss or weight gain – usually weight loss from buying too much extra snacks at an office supply store to get some more ultimate rewards points
  • Secretiveness with a dash of paranoia – AlohaDaveKennedy will tell you that the cardinals are always watching.
  • Financially unpredictable – sometimes carrying large amount of balances on credit cards, only to suddenly pay them off.
  • Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, flying off on secret chartered MegaDOs.
  • Repeated unexplained outings to various stores, often with a sense of urgency (Where did my bean go?)
  • Airline paraphernalia such as post cards, pajamas, amenity kits, and ticket/boarding pass stubs.
  • Stashes of credit cards, frequent flier cards and bag tags surreptitiously stored in a sock drawer.

Make sure you tell a trusted family member about your new hobby. The only way to really get them to accept this hobby is to let them enjoy the fruits of your labor: We recommend international business or first on a Lufthansa or Singapore followed by a stay in a Park Hyatt somewhere. Beware, however, that like cocaine and heroin, once you give your “Sponsor” a hit, they will likely end up pushing you to churn more cards, do more mileage runs, and probably take out more cards themselves – be careful of turning your sponsor into an addict! I’ve seen it happen before!

Trading Logic for Points – Cognitive Dissonance

Another mental factor to be wary of is the complete and utter loss of critical thinking.

For example: You may start buying various electronic goods in order to resell them for a small loss so that you can take advantage of various shopping portal bonuses.

Or you might decide that it might make sense to partake in a “Mileage Run” just so you can reach various status levels on airlines.

Now, while some might argue that in certain situations these actions make some sort of sense, we would argue that this is a classic case of cognitive dissonance to watch out for.

Stress, Stress and More Stress

Gathering points can be stressful. While a fun hobby, any of the following can contribute to stress of the points hobbyist:

  • Losing sleep over how to  meet credit card spend
  • Fighting with reconsideration representatives
  • Trying to find available award space
  • Keeping track of all your programs and credit cards
  • Fretting over whether your latest flight out of RGN will be honored
  • Arguing needlessly about various bloggers
  • Talking to a representative on the phone from US Airways
  • Trying to use in a meaningful way
  • (We’re probably missing some – send us your thoughts!)

There are many  signs of stress. You might start constantly worrying, feeling anxious or getting sick more often. For a very good run down of stress related symptoms, check out this article.

Dealing with the Stress

Luckily, one of the best remedies for stress relief is built right into the hobby: Take a trip! Whether it’s just a short hop to Dublin using your devalued Avios or a spontaneous upgrade to Emirates first class, there are plenty of places to visit and luxurious ways to get there that will help you relax.

Of course, once you use your points to travel, you may find yourself without points again. In which case, maybe that trip wasn’t such a great form of relaxation after all.

Another way to relax is to vent. You could start a blog about other bloggers, for example.

Staying Physically Healthy

Whether you get most of your points in the air or on the ground, there’s no question that getting points is not really a physical activity.

Sitting in that chair in front of the computer all day  can become a real physical problem, leading to issues such as Back Pain, Repetitive Stress Injury and even carpal tunnel syndrome.

In another post I will go into more depth about these issues, mainly because it’s turned into a worldwide epidemic. However, the main ways to deal with these issues is as follows:

  • Ergonomics – sitting at the computer directly, using a good keyboard and a great chair are paramount
  • Taking breaks and exercise mitigate SOME issues from working on the computer, but being sedentary is not healthy no matter what.
  • Use tools like RoboForm or LastPass to minimize filling in forms.
  • If you don’t need to be in front of a computer, then try not to be.

If your butt in seat miles are mainly up front, there’s not to much too worry about. If you’re doing a mileage run in the back of the bus then here are some tips that might help (more in the next post):

  • Drink Lots of Water
  • Stretch a lot
  • Wear a face mask to prevent germs (I’m serious)
  • Eat properly, not airport food.
  • Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Wrap Up to Part 1

Wow! I bet you didn’t realize how dangerous collecting miles and points could be. Honestly, it’s a great hobby and I wouldn’t give it up – just make sure you keep yourself in check. If you need to find a support group, you can find other addicts frequent fliers on sites like FlyerTalk or MilePoint.