Our interview series has become quite popular! Today, we continue with featuring our buddy, Ricky Zhang, from Prince of Travel, one of the newest blogs who is already providing everyone with so much helpful information. Great work Ricky!
What inspired you to start your blog Prince of Travel?
I’ve been playing the Miles & Points game for quite a while now – and I’ve been passionate about travel for even longer – so looking back now it seems inevitable that I would start a blog.
I suppose the catalyst for me was when I attended the PointsU conference in Toronto last year, where I met so many like-minded travellers and points enthusiasts, many of whom were also bloggers. I kept in contact with many PointsU attendees and received many words of encouragement, saying that if I was interested in blogging I should just go ahead, overcome any hesitations, and jump into it. Jayce from PointsNerd was particularly helpful in answering all my beginner questions, so big thanks to him. Once I arrived at a blog name and domain name I liked, I followed through with the advice and got the blog started.
What makes your blog different from others out there?
I would say that many blogs out there talk about maximizing travel rewards pretty exclusively. On the other hand, I love the actual travel side of things as well, and I love writing about destinations, what to do in places around the world, what foods to try, what stunning sites to visit, etc. in addition to emphasizing that Miles & Points are a key tool to help you fulfill these travel goals.
My goal with Prince of Travel is twofold: one, to get Canadians more passionate about seeing the world and to cast a spotlight on places you might not have considered visiting before, and two, to show you all the tricks and strategies you can use in terms of earning and redeeming miles, as well as hunting for deals in general, in order to make those goals a reality.
Lastly, I think the Canadian travel & points “blogosphere” could really do with more in-depth trip reports to inspire their readers – I hope to write as many of those as possible.
The lead image I chose for Prince of Travel and one of my favourite places: Old Town, Dubrovnik
Since you are so new, what challenges did you face prior to launching your blog? What helped you pushed through to the launch?
The biggest challenge for me was actually thinking of a name for the blog that I liked! I had toyed with the idea of blogging for quite some time, but had never settled on a good name – the good ones I did think of were all taken. One day, “Prince of Travel” just came to me while I was brainstorming, and I just went with it, securing the domain name and hosting that same day.
I’d say that the time I spent trying to think of a domain name was quite productive in the end, as it allowed me to flesh out a ton of ideas for what to write when I did eventually launch the site.
What can we look forward to with Prince of Travel?
More of everything! I divide all the content on the blog into three categories: Trip Reports, Travel Talk, and Miles & Points. I’m going on a “mini-round-the-world” trip very soon and so I’ll be writing the full trip report on that one – flights, hotels, lounges, sights and sounds. I’m keen to write about all of the places in the world I’m excited to visit, and I hope I can inspire many Canadians to take to the skies with me. And of course, I’ve accumulated so much knowledge about Miles & Points over the years, which I will continue to share in a reader-friendly, easily digestible form. Sometime down the road, I hope to build the site into a premier resource for eager travellers from Canada and elsewhere, and develop into a worthy bearer of the “Prince of Travel” moniker.
What is the favourite place that you have travelled to so far?
I went to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and had an absolute blast. I’m a huge football/soccer fan so watching the World Cup live was obviously a huge bucket list item for me, but beyond that, my trip to Brazil really opened my eyes up to the wonder of discovering a brand new country and a completely different culture for the first time. What I found particularly striking was how Brazil defied the way it was portrayed in various Western media, as well as my own preconceived notions about the country. That’s a feeling that has stayed with me and inspired me to seek out even more new adventures.
Other favourite places I’ve visited include Plitvice Lakes National Park and Dubrovnik in Croatia as well as the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro
If you can go anywhere in the world (that you have not been to yet), where would it be and what will you be doing?
For me, it’d have to be Buenos Aires, Argentina. Everything I’ve read about that place makes me drawn to it. From the magnificent food and wine to the endless tango all night every night, the people there seem to be born-and-bred experts on how to live well, and I’d love to experience a taste of that.
I’d also love to visit some of the most remote and isolated communities in the world, such as Tristan da Cunha, an island of about 250 inhabitants sitting smack dab in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, reachable only by a 5-to-10-day boat ride. The more obscure and hard-to-reach a place is, the more it intrigues me.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
I love studying foreign languages to make my trips more wholesome and be able to engage with the locals better when I travel. I studied French for eight years, Spanish for three years, and Japanese for a year, so I’m usually alright in terms of getting around or ordering a meal in many places. But I definitely need to brush up on a language regularly in preparation for a trip!
Can you share a tip or trick that you’ve used for travel?
I always send emails to hotels in advance of my stay to make special requests and ask for upgrades. Usually, for “small” upgrades like higher floor or better view, my request is honoured nine times out of ten. This works best when you have some kind of status with the hotel chain, but it’s worked many times when I’ve had no status as well!
The Sheraton Seattle, where I recently received an upgrade to a Deluxe King room on the executive floor
What advice would you give travellers and “Pointshoggers” out there?
In a phrase: life is short, so earn and burn.
Obviously, you should go at a pace you’re comfortable with, especially with credit cards. But when it comes to travel rewards, there’s always more ways out there to earn points if you spend the time to dig for it. Throw in the fact that there’s just so much of the world out there to see, plus the reality that most of us have limited time off of work to travel, and it just makes the most sense to rack up and then blow through your points as fast as possible.
Any final thoughts?
More than anything, I’m super excited to be part of the travel & points community in Canada. It’s great to know that there’s so many like-minded travel lovers out there, and to hear the kind words and comments from you guys every now and then is hugely encouraging. Prince of Travel has only been around for a few months, but I’m excited to carry on sharing my advice and views with all of you, and even more excited to see all the ideas we as a community come up with in the future.