Hilton Head bargain hunter shares travel tips with national audience

gmartin@islandpacket.comNovember 23, 2011 

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"I once flew 35,000 miles on an around-the-world trip," Rick Ingersoll begins. "I went to Europe, Asia, South America, you name it. Flying business class, not coach, mind you. Would you believe me if I told you it only cost $360?"

His refined pitch and smooth diction make it clear he has told this story before. But Ingersoll is anything but a corporate shill -- he's been traveling at staggeringly discounted rates for more than a decade and is determined to share his methods with anyone who will listen.

On Tuesday night, the Hilton Head Island resident brought his crusade before a national audience, appearing on ABC's "Nightline." The segment showed clips from a recent seminar in Chicago, where Ingersoll and others shared advice for maximizing frequent flyer miles and airline rewards points.

"We're just a group of tightknit people who are trying to help people save and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there," Ingersoll said. "And I'm not talking about saving people 10 or 15 percent on their next trip. I'm trying to teach them how to get that trip for free."

The secret, Ingersoll said, involves accruing frequent flyer miles and identifying dining and rental promotions. He said he often takes "mileage runs" -- long flights for the sole purpose of accumulating frequent flyer miles -- and that it's easy to follow his example.

He started the "Frugal Travel Guy" blog about four years ago to share his tips. He's also written a book about how to capitalize on travel agency promotions and is adamant that the economic downturn shouldn't deter people from taking their dream vacations.

"I'm flabbergasted that more people don't do this," he said. "You need to be a little patient -- nothing's just handed out to you -- but this is definitely something that anyone can do."

Ingersoll said people who visit his website are mostly in the 25- to 44-year-old demographic, but anyone from 18 to 80 can benefit from his advice.

He said he's enjoying the exposure from his first appearance on national television, and that minutes after the "Nightline" segment aired, his Twitter account had about 800 new followers.

Ingersoll insisted he's not sharing his travel tips for financial incentive, and the proceeds from his book benefit the Wounded Warrior Fund.

"I get a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction from what I do," he said. "It just seems like the right thing to do."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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