Judging Stage 3 of Flying by the Seat of our Points…and determining a winner!

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Stephen and I have been acting as judges for the incredibly fun and fast-paced Flying by the seat of our Points Challenge, which just wrapped up tonight! If you’d like a refresher of how we scored Stage 1, check out this post, or check out this post for a refresher on Stage 2.

You can watch the full livestream below or read this post for a quick summary about how our final judging session went. As a reminder, this time all contestants were trying to reach Kuala Lumpur!

Our 2024 team challenge Flying by the Seat of our Points tested our last minute award booking skills with a series of last minute travel challenges assigned and judged by Stephen and Carrie. Over the span of a week, Greg, Nick, and Tim used their knowledge, points, elite standings, and even upgrade instruments to tackle each challenge with the best combination of frugality and luxury they could, all before the next assignments were given. Final Scores: Tim won this challenge by the seat of his points! Calculations
Check out our contestant journals, recap videos, and more here. And follow us on Instagram, YouTube, and this blog to find out about our future challenges!

Greg’s Stage 3 trip summary

Greg Stage 3 Final Total

Greg had another fun and comfortable travel day, and paid:

  • 75K Qatar Avios + $195.33 EUR ($210.97) for Qatar Business Class ZAG to DOH, and Malaysia Airlines Business Class A350 DOH to KUL
  • 5K Hyatt points for the Hyatt Regency in Doha
  • $27.71 after $200 FHR rebate for Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur and he’ll get a $100 property credit.

For the above itinerary, Greg got 3 points for flight value as well as 3 points for flight experience. Then, he also got 3 points for hotel value and 3 points for hotel experience as well.

Greg’s exploration challenge was:

  • This is a vacation, you’re supposed to be relaxing! (Find an activity that helps you all restore some energy.)

Greg chose a fish spa which was hilariously un-relaxing because the fish were huge and everyone was ticklish, (not to mention Nick hates fish.) He earned 2 points out of a possible 3 because the activity didn’t look relaxing at all…but he gained 1 bonus point for how hilarious the footage of this visit was. He then also gained 1 bonus point for a hilarious miles-and-points-themed guided meditation he led at the top of the Batu Caves.

Greg’s Total for Stage 3: 16 points

Nick’s Stage 3 trip summary

Nick Stage 2 Final Total

Nick  arrived just by the skin of his teeth yet agin. He paid:

  • 20K Aeroplan + $78.30 for RAK-FRA Discover business
  • 78K LifeMiles + ? in taxes (not a ton, but it was his wife’s account so he hasn’t gotten the specifics yet) for FRA-BKK. This was 68K Amex + 15% transfer bonus
  • $127.07 for cash ticket BKK-KUL.
  • 23,000 IHG points for the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur. Since he has InterContinental ambassador status, he got guaranteed 4:00 p.m. late checkout as well as a food and beverage credit of up to $20, though it is apparently only good for $10 at that location.

For the above itinerary, Nick got 1 point for flight value and 1 point for flight experience. He then got 3 points for hotel value and 2 points for hotel experience. 

His trip was noteworthy in a few ways:

  • Because his wife helped him so generously with so many calls for his flight bookings, he earned 1 bonus point.

Nick’s exploration challenge was:

  • This is a vacation, you’re not supposed to be relaxing! (Find an activity that gets everyone’s blood pumping.)

Nick took everyone to the world famous Batu Caves which requires a lot of physical exertion just to climb the many many stairs up to the caves. He earned 3 points out of a possible 3 for this activity.

Nick’s Total for Stage 3: 11 points

Tim’s Stage 3 trip summary

Tim Stage 2 Final Total

Tim had a mostly enjoyable day of travel, and paid:

  • 80,000 Aeroplan points + $175 for ZRH – VIE – BKK in Austrian Business class and
    BKK – KUL – in Thai Airways economy
  • ~$37.71 after $200 FHR rebate for Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur and he’ll get a $100 property credit.

For the above itinerary, Tim got 2 points for flight value and 2 points for flight experience. He scored 3 points for hotel value. His very posh experience at the Mandarin Oriental won him 3 points for hotel experience. 

Tim’s exploration challenge was:

  •  This isn’t JUST a vacation! (Find an activity that makes use of your brains!)

He took everyone to a durian tasting. Not only did this highlight a local delicacy in an informational way, he also had some fun interactions with locals, earning him 1 bonus point in addition to his 3 points out of 3 possible points for the activity itself.

Tim’s Total for Stage 3: 14 points

Tim wins Flying by the Seat of our Points…by the seat of his points! (One single point to be exact.)

Congratulations Tim! Even though you’ve never lost a Frequent Miler Annual Challenge before, this is also your first win as well! You did a fabulous job highlighting each destination you visited and traveling in style without breaking the bank.

Tim wins!

For more thorough recaps from each journey, read the individual journal posts here!

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hanchicago

Congrats to Tim on the win. We already know how the third place finisher (Nick) is going home in first class style. I probably missed the details (as i did not have time to watch every minute of the KL livestream recording), but how are the first and second place finishers (Tim and Greg) getting back to the U.S.? Hopefully, not in some oddly perverse reverse order of finishing (like Greg in business and Tim in premium economy or lower).

LarryInNYC

Kudos to everyone for a fun and educational challenge event. Nick, sometimes you catch the fish, and sometimes the fish catches you. Given the size calibration issue, I’m just glad Greg didn’t take you all to a cat café.

Can’t really imagine the effort that Stephen and Carrie put into the planning for something like this. I think they referred to “months” of planning?

I also wanted to mention how much I think Carrie has come into her own as a podcast / videocast host and I hope she’ll do more of it — whether miles & points, rural living, or digital nomad related.

The formula for a successful “infotainment” product like the podcast is allowing the audience to spend time with two smart people having fun talking about an interesting subject. FM On The Air has that down, and these challenges extend the formula to the whole team. Thanks for being smart and for having so much together and for letting us participate in the fun, if only vicariously.

And congratulations to Greg for putting together such a great team of people. That doesn’t happen by accident. (Even if it is inexplicable how someone managed to get hired without having seen Raiders Of The Lost Ark)

Greg The Frequent Miler

Hahahahaha, love this

Dale

How fun and exciting and a great learning experience this challenge has been! Congrats to Tim and all the rest of the team!!

PeterSFO

Big kudos for the FM team to keep things fresh and entertaining! I initially found you guys through the “40K to far way” challenge which was fun and insightful. You could have just milked that winning formula every year (or maybe not due to points inflation) but instead chose to challenge yourselves and do something new every year.

One very early suggestion for your next challenge would be to have a head-start on booking but have the trip occur during “peak” travel period like Christmas break or kid’s spring break. As someone who no longer has the luxury or flexibility of zooming around the world on short notice, I would love to see how the FM point gurus tackle a challenge that a lot of us face and hopefully pick up a trick or two.

Joe Y

Another great FM challenge in the books! You guys are the best. Congrats to Tim and everybody else on the FM team!

Lindsey

This was (yet again) such a fun challenge to watch. Nick really had some terrible luck this time around, but – as Carrie mentioned – it was actually nice to see that even points gurus at the top of their game run into challenges and frustrations and it made it all the more interesting to see how those were handled. I do agree with Tim being the overall winner – he really added the element of “fun” (and unlike Stephen, I love a good Park Hyatt redemption – ha!)

Tejbir

This challenge was fantastic! I was so excited to catch up on where everyone was and how they were doing on instagram every night. Even P2 wanted to watch with me. Outstanding.

Ryan del mundo

Congrats on the awesome challenge! Last-minute is always a challenge, and always exciting. Poor Nick got the brunt of it, but also, somehow, we all knew he would! Sorry I’m not in KL to say hi, but I was there about a week ago. You guys always manage to find great spots but if you’re around a few more days don’t miss my two favorite restaurants: Indian Empire https://maps.app.goo.gl/z6syRHr2BJnCcS6F7 was the best meal I had, while Halal KL and their tender shishtawook wasn’t far behind.

Carlos

Excellent ideas and execution. The only thing I think is missing is self-written entries about each participant actions.
Tim has covered everything, Greg half of it and Nick is still in the US. There has been YT updates, but I don’t know if that’s going to be all (or am I missing it?).

Alejandro

I’ll give Nick a pass for being late given how hectic his travel has been haha

TSR

Love this challenge. Think this one is my fav! A lot of learnings. Question: Why not include their return trip back to their home airports as the final stage of the trip? Seems logical since it started there?

Last edited 13 days ago by TSR
Stephen Pepper

We weren’t going to do that initially as Greg wasn’t due to be returning to the US immediately. When his plans changed, we decided to add a Stage 4 which would include flights back to the US; this would then give them a chance to try to book a flight from their Stage 1 country to Malaysia and on to the US as one award to try to get even better value. However, we’d discussed that in a team meeting Tim wasn’t able to make it to and it turned out that he’d had plans which meant that he now wasn’t initially planning on returning to the US straight after the challenge.

TSR

OK, that makes sense. Thanks for the reply. Cheers

Carl S.

Congrats Tim

reyL

Going into the challenge, we knew all three would be exceptional in the use of points and miles. Greg was his usual efficient self. Nick was relentless in navigating through a string of bad luck and a more difficult itinerary. Tim’s thought process, however was more creative within the spirit of the challenge as he thought of more ways to make his voyage enjoyable and explore beyond his comfort zone. I agree with the judges final scores. ..

Leslie

Great decision guys. Tim was very clearly the winner.

Raghu N

This really kept me at the edge. Was like watching a thriller movie. FM is the best community out there. Glad to be part of this

Repeat Offender Captain Greg

Really cool challenge this year! I dare say that it was my second favorite (though I’m sure Nick’s least favorite) after 40k to far away (also probably one of Nick’s least favorite, lol). 3 cards 3 continents is the other one in this upper tier for me. So much fun to follow along! Thanks for doing these. As always, FM is the best!