"My passion for traveling grew out of a profound love for aviation. I loved planes, airports and the whole traveling experience from the moment I started traveling by air at a very young age. Fast forward a number of years and I was in college in LA and could see all these big planes flying in to LAX from all over the world, I started thinking that I really needed to get onboard one of these magnificent machines and fly somewhere far outside the US border (which I had done, but it had been a long time). However, since I was in college and had limited funds for far flung international air travel, I discovered the ability to use credit cards to earn tons of miles and points which could be redeemed for aspirational travel experiences." says Ian. Fast forward again, after a number of successful trips financed almost entirely with miles, he was hooked. Couple the passion for traveling with a growing interest in video production, Ian started making videos each time he would go somewhere so that he could share those experiences with others. Documenting his experiences became second nature and sharing his tips and tricks eventually evolved into his new company, Capture Unlimited. Keep scrolling for the deets on of his latest adventure.
Credits: Ian Agrimis
What prompted this trip?
Ian: This recent trip to Asia was prompted by a sudden realization that there would be a significant amount of time that everyone was free and that the next time that might be the case was unknown. A few calls to a travel agent confirmed space was available on this river boat during the same time everyone was free and the rest is history.
Tell us a little bit about each destination!
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
This was our first stop and was amazing. A city of 6 million people with just as many motorbikes, it is the definition of organized chaos. I loved the energy of the city, it is truly a city that never sleeps. The people were extremely friendly however we only spent about 24 hours here, so I didn’t get the best sense of it.
Cai Be, Vietnam
This is a small floating market and village, the first place we visited in the video, and there wasn’t a lot to take in as far as the culture was concerned, but it was amazing to see how little the people live with and yet, how happy they are with what they have.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This was a big stop for us and was a really interesting city. We went to a few traditional Cambodian restaurants here and the first served tarantula, crickets, silk worms, and ants (not all together, but these options we offered). I had the tarantula and it was actually pretty good! Consistency was a little odd though… Other than that, the people were just as friendly and our guide even took us inside the house of a complete stranger, which is apparently a completely normal thing to do, or to be allowed to do in Cambodia.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
This was our last stop on the trip and was a very unique place. We didn’t get much of a sense for the people, but it is surrounded by ancient temples that are in fantastic shape and were really amazing to see. There’s a cool market as well. It is a few miles from the gigantic Tonle Sap lake (think US Great Lakes), which the Mekong flows out of.
What were your top 3 highlights of the trip?
Ian: Top three highlights were easily the motorbike ride in Ho Chi Minh, eating tarantula in Phnom Penh, and seeing wild monkeys for the first time!
So many people want to travel but aren't educated on how to get the best bang for their buck or don't know how to travel with points... Can you share how you made it happen financially?
Ian: My biggest recommendation for people who find airfare or hotels to be their biggest barrier to travel is to re-evaluate the credit cards you use for every day spending. A lot of cards are marketed as being the best for travel, but when it comes time to redeem, their redemption options don’t offer much value (looking at you, capital one venture card…). I recommend a card directly with the airline and/or a travel card with chase/amex. Between two cards that I use most often, I am earning, 2-3 points/dollar on all dining, groceries, gas, and travel, which is basically all I spend money on. With airline miles, you can often get a minimum or 2 and sometimes as much as 10 cents/point in value when you redeem. That amount of value is simply unrivaled by rewards cards in other markets, like shopping, that, when it comes time to redeem, offer a maximum of 1 cent/point in value.
Lastly, if you’re using a debit card, I recommend switching to one of the credit cards mentioned above, but this comes with a major disclaimer. One should only use credit cards if they have the ability to pay off the balance in full every single month. If you are incurring interest (which is often very high on these travel cards), you are forfeiting any potential value you’ve accumulated with points and are ending up in the red.
What are your best tips and tricks to tricks to traveling on a budget?
Ian: Plan as much as you can beforehand. Obviously if you can use miles/points to knock out hotels and flights, you’ll have more budget left over for experiences and dining. Using apps like opentable to book tables allows you to understand roughly how much you might spend on dinners each night and booking tours and other things in advance will mean you run into fewer financial surprises while abroad. Lastly, leveraging travel perks gained from frequent business travel (if this applies to you) is a great way to save money when travel for pleasure. I gained Marriott Platinum status through travel paid by my employer and that allows me to eat breakfast in their lounge each morning, as well as to come and go for snacks and drinks. Over the course of a week, not having to purchase breakfast for two each day can save hundreds of dollars. Finally, utilizing airline status for waived checked baggage and change fees is a good way to save a few extra dollars.
Any additional advice for travelers exploring Asia?
Ian: If there’s tarantula on the menu, order it.
Credits: Ian Agrimis