By Jacllyn Tersigni of The Toronto Star April.5/2012
Record-holder aims to visit 30 major-league parks in 20 days — with help from his rewards program
In 2009, baseball aficionado Douglas “Chuck” Booth set a Guinness World Record when he toured all 30 major league baseball parks in only 24 days. On Thursday, he is setting out to break his own record. And he’s doing it with the help of Air Miles.
Baseball fan Douglas “Chuck” Booth of B.C. has amassed roughly 100,000 Air Miles in 20 years of collecting. He says he gathers 500 to 600 a month with basic spending.
“I’m trying to make it in 20 days,” says Booth, a courier and baseball blogger based in White Rock, B.C. “And I’m using Air Miles for a lot of my hotels and car rentals.”
During his 2009 streak, Air Miles earned him 10 one-night stays at Best Western and 15 car rentals.
“Air Miles is (something) that people should get more accustomed to using because for travelling, it’s a lifesaver,” Booth says. “It’s one of the better rewards.”
Booth puts the total estimate of the 20-day trip at $10,000. He predicts Air Miles will cover up to $2,500 of that.
For those who prefer to travel by land more than air, rewards programs still offer great benefits.
“Usually the rules are for any sort of travel,” says Patrick Sojka, founder of Rewardscanada.ca. “You can book a hotel and redeem your points against that charge. You can book car rentals. And you can go beyond — you can book a tour or a cruise, [and] redeem points against it.
“(With) programs like Air Miles, you can redeem your points for gift cards for Shell. Or you have your Esso Extra, your Petro Points, the gas programs which definitely favour . . . the people on the road a lot.
“I’m going to save about $1,000 in car rentals and I’m going to save about $1,000 in lodging because I have the Best Western gift cards (purchased with Air Miles),” Booth says.
He amassed roughly 100,000 Air Miles in 20 years of collecting before he made his first attempt at the record in 2008. He narrowly missed the record that year, when he saw 30 games in 29 days.
“I’ve never quite gotten back up to 10,000 again,” he says. “As of right now, I do still collect about 500 or 600 a month with basic spending.”
Recognizing good deals is key to making the most out of your Air Miles, Booth says. “It’s knowing what an Air Mile is worth when you’re going to shop.” It’s also knowing the best offers for redemption. Booth looks at car rentals in each state to find the best deals, and calls Air Miles operators to hear the one-night rates at Best Westerns in each city. Best Western is one of many hotels that also offer loyalty program cards. “If you are a huge road warrior — on the road a lot and in hotels — look at hotel reward programs because they are flexible, they’re very rewarding and very easy to use,” Sojka advises.
Beyond redeeming Air Miles for hotel stays and car rentals, Booth has figured out a way to turn his miles into cash. When the Jays were on a hot streak in 2008, Booth redeemed points for ticket vouchers, which start at about 50 Air Miles for 500 level seats at the Rogers Centre. He then sold them on ebay, though for less than face value, a stipulation of Canadian law.
He used the profits to pay for all his lodging during his world record attempt that year.
“(Those) Air Miles helped me get about $3,000 in ticket sales,” Booth says. “You can really make them work to your advantage.”
Air Miles collectors no longer have to sell their reward items to get cash. The program now allows a choice of rewards as cash back or as miles to redeem, or a combination of both.
Booth leaves for his 2012 baseball road trip on Thursday. He will aim to see 30 games in 20 days.
“It’s kind of nice chasing your own record because you still win even if you don’t win,” Booth says. “I’m putting my travel expertise to the test in this one, for sure.”