Frequent Traveler University, Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Sept 27-29

Last weekend’s Frequent Traveler University in Northern Virginia was a whirlwind.

It was the biggest gathering of frequent flyers ever with about 650 people in attendance. I admit I was scared that the logistics would be a challenge with such a big group, and I didn’t get a chance to meet everyone or spend as much time with a lot of the people I did meet as I would have liked. But things worked out pretty well (with room for improvement) on the logistics — certainly the smoothest FTU so far.

Some of the feedback was that sessions were too basic, for others too advanced, not every session was pitch perfect for all 650 attendees — but we did have three concurrent sessions during much of the weekend, giving participants plenty of choice of what sessions work best for them. I need to get better written descriptions for the sessions, too, to help folks make their choices.

    USA Today’s Ben Mutzabaugh, Seth Miller of Wandering Aramean, Chris Lopinto of Expert Flyer, and Alexi Vereschaga from Award Wallet

The Points Guy posted the slides from his Delta presentation which was really great, some amazing tips that I didn’t know about including how to jump to the top of the upgrade queue.

Million Mile Secrets thought that Rapid Travel Chai‘s presentation was the best of the weekend, and the slides from that presentation are now online along with those from the talk’s Q&A on North Korea travel. (My other favorite was Chris Guillebeau’s talk on lessons learned having just completed his quest to visit every country in the world.)

    Mommy Points and Pizza in Motion offering an introductory session on miles and points

Lucky played a cruel belated April Fools’ joke at the start of the conference, and Points Summary has lots of photos of happy people. Mommy Points offers her 10 lessons from the event.

Some lessons learned for me in putting things together too and my goal is to make the next FTU even better — more networking opportunities, more informal time, more choices .. a return of some of the best speakers and some great new content as well.

The following speakers are confirmed so far:

Plus Randy Petersen and I’m waiting to get confirmation back from Brian Kelly, The Points Guy.

I’m also working to secure so new and really compelling speakers, I have an invitation out to someone who’ll be pretty famous to most of the attendees — who is local to Florida — who has said he’ll do it if he isnt’ traveling internationally. Lots of detail to nail down in the coming months!

And I’d like to squeeze in more on getting the best deals on travel, not just earning the most miles for the least cost and redeeming them (though there’ll be that, too!).

The event cost is $100 and includes a Friday evening cocktail and canapes reception, all Saturday and Sunday events, plus lunch on both weekend days. The event is priced to cover event costs, though if we’ve figured it right there will be some leftover funds which go to charity. The conference hotel rate is $119 per night.

The venue size won’t allow us to ‘break the record’ of 650 people set in DC, but that isn’t the point, it will be a fantastic opportunity to get together with like-minded frequent flyers, to make new friends, and to learn some of the things that don’t get shared in the online forums and get your own questions answered.

Note that the room block is almost full, we’re trying to wrangle some more rooms out of the hotel since I bet we can take it over completely the way we did the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner!

As Hack My Trip wrote, “Frequent Traveler University is where you want to be if you’re a fanatic about miles and points!

Key Frequent Traveler University Tampa Resources:

  • Tickets for Tampa are available here

  • The group rate at the Grand Hyatt Tampa can be booked here.

  • The Milepoint forum for FTU Tampa is here.

  1. Jamison @ Points Summary said,

    this is the best comprehensive list of all the FTUDC posts around the interwebs this week! your session with lucky on the Q&A portion was so packed that most of us had to stand in the back or sit on the floor! that was the best session imo

  2. Dia, The Deal Mommy said,

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks for all of your hard work putting together a fantastic group of people. Chris G. was especially inspiring and useful to me: his $10 rule went into my life right away.

    I mentioned this to Randy, and would like to put a bug in your ear as well: please add more sessions on family travel. I know miles and points travel is biased towards 20 something dudes and retirees due to flexibility, but we families do our thing as well!

    Mommy Points and Pizzaman did a informative and entertaining session, but “family” does not necessarily equal “baby” and the oldest kid represented on the panel was 6.

    I spoke to many at FTU who travel with teens/pre-teens/school kids who have specific needs besides lap baby rules- (IE booking at peak times, getting a 12 year old not to roll his eyes at the Mona Lisa). I know many of you probably have this knowledge in your back pocket from your own experience–please bring it out, or have more than one session on the subject. Thank you!

  3. Tyrone said,

    Thanks for a solid event, Gary. After reading your blog (and that of Ben, Brian and Seth) every day for the past couple years, I’d echo the lament about some of the content being too basic. Has there ever been an FTU or equivalent that covers just the more advanced stuff? Perhaps a smaller event that would provide more face time opportunities with the speakers, too? I’d be interested in that and willing to shell out more dough.

  4. Gary said,

    @Tyrone 0 I admit I’m trying to get better at these to satisfy more folks. There’s been talk of an ‘advanced’ seminar, some thinking about it. Not every session is for everybody and that’s cool. Not sure where the idea will go yet, but definitely kicking around.

  5. Gary said,

    @Dia – appreciate the feedback, family travel is something that’s outside of my wheelhouse. To me, once they’re a bit older, it’s like “give ‘em an iPad” :) I don’t know what the challenges are or how to address them, and am not sure I know who the expert on the subject is. Fortunately we’re able to do more concurrent sessions with these than we used to, though still they need to appeal to big enough sections of those attending to be useful. There’s supposed to be a survey going out, we’ll see what everyone says (I don’t control the survey so not sure details of what/when) and figure out how to best match content to interest!

  6. Tyrone said,

    @Gary Your (and the other speakers’) passion was evident, and that makes for great talks. I agree with Jamison that your Q&A with Ben was the best. The problem with that format is that you open yourself up to repetitive questions or call on the same person multiple times while neglecting others (unintentionally of course). It might be helpful in the future to reserve some of the time for pre-submitted participant questions and then open up the floor.

  7. Matt Wald said,

    Sounds like you have caught most of the feedback, but you might want to follow the conversation here anyway: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/external-miles-points-resources/1462176-anyone-fairfax-virginia-ftu-how.html

    Of course that is all free advice, so take it for what it’s worth. ;)

  8. Gary said,

    @Matt Wald – now who’s pimping their links, koko? ;)

  9. Matt Wald said,

    IB gives me .00000000000000000000000000001 cents for each unique visitor to that forum and daddy needs a new pair of shoes!!! :D

  10. Papa Smurf said,

    @Gary This was my second FTU and I really enjoyed hanging out with all the people that share the same passion for travel. Looking forward to the next one.

    One feedback on the scheduling. I understand that sometimes things come up that force schedule changes ( e.g. SPG session). However because of the change couple of other sessions got shifted around and these change were not clearly communicated. I think it might be beneficial to perhaps email schedule changes and updated schedules if they change.

  11. Marshall Jackson said,

    Ticket purchased and hotel booked. Just watching airfares now. Host hotel really looks good. Looking forward to attending. I appreciate the time that you and the other organizers invest in making these events a success.

  12. Necessary Indulgences said,

    Just booked tickets and hotel for 2 of us. Really looking forward to a great weekend of learning!

  13. MrWho said,

    How much does each speaker get paid? There were 650 people the last time and $100/person fee? That’s $65,000/10 speakers = $6,500 without administrative fees (for free lunch or reserving conference room, etc.).

    I think it’s a bit too much for the information readily available on the internet (other than little tips & tricks here and there). Well, people are eager to pay for the ‘canned goods’, so I shouldn’t have a problem with it…but man, looks so lucrative.

  14. Gary said,

    @MrWho the speakers do not get paid. $100 per person covers cocktails Friday evening, two days of lunches, plus conference rooms and a/v and supplies like name bades, etc. I can tell you that I did not make a dime on Frequent Traveler University. It’s an opportunity for a lot of like-minded folks to get together and talk miles and points over a weekend, to meet and talk in the halls and over drinks in the bar, to explore a city and to have some organized discussions around specific topics.

  15. Jamison @ PointsSummary said,

    Off the top of my head, these costs innclude- A/V , electricity, conference room booking, sponsors, name badge supplies, hotel, hotel meeting coordinator, open bar Friday night, two buffet lunches, soft drinks, and the rest goes to charity..

  16. nsx at FlyerTalk said,

    Thanks for the summary, Gary. After the water outage during the LA event, I’m glad to hear that you are flushed with success!

  17. MrWho said,

    You pay to sponsors instead of sponsors pay you? That breaks the definition of sponsors…just saying…

    Which charities are getting contributions from the ‘party’ and how much of a piece are they getting? And, while you are paying for ‘electricity’ or ‘name badge supplies’ or ‘whatever to do with hotel’, is anyone of you churning big from the ‘party’? Are those things disclosed? I really never paid attention to these ‘party’ get together stuffs, and I just started to reading ‘blogs’, so just curious.

  18. Jerry said,

    Any hint of when /where next Spring`s FTU might be be

  19. Acker said,

    ​Excellent choice of Hilton McLean. And a great price too. Nice to see so many bloggers. They were interesting but the real meat is in networking: during lunch, during breaks, in the elevator, and hanging around and/or walking up to people and just asking if it’s ok to join the conversation. It takes seconds to figure out if the discussion is right for you. I consider myself “advanced” but needed more info on reloads etc. Sure enough I found people who knew all the tricks & in return I was able to share my hotel and flight tricks. Making sure you socialize is key.

  20. Jeremy said,

    Thanks for all your information at last weekends FTU. Being from DC area (arlington as we spoke) I felt like I missed out a bit by not staying there and getting to talk to everyone after the events. Makes me tempted to go to the Tampa event. I think next one I just need to be more outgoing during breaks and stuff. Especially with regards to earning miles and manufactured spend.

  21. Frugal Travel Lawyer said,

    Great weekend! Looking forward to spending time with so many wonderful people again in Tampa.

  22. Tony said,

    I’ll my 2 miles into this, this past FTU was my first, I was looking forward to it and as an over all experience it was a let down. I’m not new to the miles, since I travel for work, and get a lot of miles and points from that, but when trying to take notes at this event was nearly impossible. I like the fact that Gary, you posted a link to download these notes now, but would have been MUCH more benefitical if it was done before the event not after the event. I’m sure these notes, will help me put together what I missed while taking the notes I took.

    Now if you want a suggestion for the next place to hold a FTU, how about Vanouver?

  23. Cook said,

    Thus far, I’ve avoided the FTU gatherings – for several reasons. After reading this post and the preceding comments, as well as private notes from some friends who were there… I’m seriously considering the Sept. ‘semester.’ While I don’t play this game at a professional level, I’m sure that a few ‘classes’ will improve my game by about 100k miles.
    That said, let’s never forget that, despite their claims to the contrary, most carriers regret becoming involved in this system, constantly reduce the effective benefits for all but the super-regulars and truly consider the rest of us as expensive, ungrateful pains in the behind. It may be a wonderful hobby for a bit longer, but my nickel bet says most of these programs will either be gone – or have become nearly worthless, withing 10-15 years. The truly sad part of today’s game is that most airlines cannot (or will not) deliver a meaningful benefit to the players. When the availability of ‘award’ seats is so sparse that we have to hire professional players to find convenient seats, where is the fun in playing the game? Ten years; Fifteen at the most and the “Award Game” will be a half page in some aviation history book.

  24. Jody said,

    Hos DO you jump to the top of the upgrade queue with Delta? I went through the link to the slides, but couldn’t figure it out.

  25. MrWho said,

    @Cook:
    “When the availability of ‘award’ seats is so sparse that we have to hire professional players to find convenient seats, where is the fun in playing the game?”

    Thus, you attend these money making machine ‘semesters’ for somebody to learn the hacks so that you can take advantage of merchants who provide free stuffs. Sounds harmless & non-profit-like…’Semesters’ are teaching unethical stuffs…if not, these ‘semesters’ always should have a presentation of how to take advantage of this brand hotels and invite a manager of the hotel the ‘semesters’ are giving presentation on.

    @Jody
    Gotta attend to learn that hack. Information is precious.

    @Gary, @Jamison @ PointsSummary: I want to know which charity you are giving a contribution to. If you are contributing to organization I don’t agree with, I have to think about if I really need to attend or want to attend.

  26. Gary said,

    @MrWho I don’t know why you insist on calling this a ‘money making machine’ when I’ve already told you that I have not made a dime on the event, and it’s run by a public charity. Among charitable organizations supported are Susan G Komen, Livestrong, and Hands on Education. Most of the money raised for charity has been through raffles and auctions, which are optional and not something that registration necessarily goes for. The event is priced to break even, sometimes a few extra bucks could be left (or not). It sounds like you’re not keen on attending anyway, and that’s cool. Plenty of other frequent flyers seem to value the opportunity and find it worthwhile. Different strokes, y’know? :)

  27. Jim said,

    Great line up of speakers for FTU but I was wondering have you ever considered Webcasting this event? For those of us who are going to be unable to be there in person on those dates, it would be nice to be able to see the FTU event live.

    Also it would be great if you would put together a poll and ask what your readers would like to see and hear about. Each of us has our own interest and all of the speakers do a great job of keeping us informed though sometimes not necessarily on the topic we would like to hear about.

  28. drz said,

    I’m thinking of attending the September event (would be the 1st time for me)- after reviewing the confirmed list of speakers could I suggest the blogger who writes MileValue?
    Also, it seems that some lectures are split by beginners/advanced; would there also be separate sessions for big spenders/travelers, and those who don’t travel for work or have a limited budget? I speak as one from the latter group…

  29. Tico said,

    Hi,
    What is the likely schedule of events. I know the cocktail reception kicks things off Friday night, but what time is last session likely to be on Sunday?

  30. Mark said,

    Hideous shirt.

  31. Jody said,

    Nice answer, ‘Mr. Who’. Next time you need help, I hope you run into someone just as kind and genrous as you.

  32. Gary said,

    @Tico things usually wrap around 4pm or so

  33. Papa Smurf said,

    What’s the process/criteria for selecting speakers for the FTU events? There are some Boarding area bloggers and others that participate, but don’t host any sessions (e.g. HackMyTrip). Are they not interested in having session or is there some selection criteria?

  34. silver springer said,

    We really enjoyed FTUDC; thinking of going to FTU Tampa but how different will the sessions be?
    I echo the comment for more advanced sessions; for example even though I have been an EXP for only a year, there were no surprises/new info at the AA session.

    Thanks for doing FTU

    Cheers, Mary Anne

  35. Gary said,

    Planning more total sessions as wel as dropping some adding others
    And the great time with friends remains!

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