Mileage runners are a subculture of frequent flyers who've found impressive ways to hack the system.
In online forums like Flyer Talk, they debate the best ways to rack up the most miles for the least amount of money.
But while each flyer has her own unique style and mileage goal, they can all agree on one thing: Elite status is the only way to fly.
"I know people who have a passion for new routes, new aircraft, new carriers, etc., but that's not me," says Scott Mackenzie, who runs the blog HackMyTrip. "If sitting on a plane for a day means I get an upgrade or a free flight in the future, that's a fair trade."
We reached out to eight mileage runners and asked them to share their best runs, travel tips and what they have in their carry-on.
Michelle Singh spent a Saturday flying 'MRY-SFO-PHX-LAX-MRY' as a kid to make Premier status.
Background: Today she's a stay-at-home mom and private pilot who blogs at Miles Points and Mai Tais. Check out her cool aviation photos on ThirtySixThousand.com and follow her on Twitter @hulagrrl210.
First run: "My very first mileage run was as a kid," says Singh. "I was just a few hundred miles short of making Premier for the very first time, so my dad dropped me off at the airport one morning, and I spent my Saturday flying MRY-SFO-PHX-LAX-MRY. No one seemed to care that I was an unaccompanied minor."
The status: Premier Gold on United. "I like having access to their Economy Plus seating and Star Alliance lounges when I travel overseas," she says. "Another great perk that many overlook is their very generous 3 x 70 lb. baggage policy."
The goal: Become a million miler. "I have about 800,000 lifetime miles, so I figured after two years of making 1K, I should reach that goal. After that, I'll be a Premier Gold for life!"
In her carry-on: Noise canceling headphones: "Crying babies and loud talkers are no match for my Bose QC15s."
Best way to pass time: People watching.
Tip: Do a stopover to get more value. "Technically, a stopover is anything over 24 hours, but a long layover, like 18 hours, is still a great way to see a new city."
Stefan Krasowski drove through all seven United Arab Emirates within 24 hours to make it in the Travelers Century Club.
Background: The New York business exec runs Rapid Travel Chai, an internationally-focused blog that helps people book the trip of the lifetime, even if it's just for one weekend. Follow him on Twitter @rapidtravelchai.
Greatest run: "One Friday night I left work, flew to Dubai, arrived Saturday night, spent 24 hours driving over 500 miles to each of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, each counting as a country for the Travelers Century Club," recalls Krasowski. "I flew back Sunday night and went straight into the office Monday morning. 16,000 miles flown, seven countries visited, awesome memories, no vacation days used."
The status: Delta Diamond, "which gives a tremendous amount of flexibility in terms of fee waivers and flight changes," he says.
The goal: Travel to every country in the world while holding down a full-time job. "Many of these trips include airfares, often for the shortest flight, that would be prohibitively expensive without being able to redeem miles for them," says Krasowski.
In his carry-on: "Passport, international driving permit, international certificate of vaccination, cash, multiple credit and debt cards; something to read, something to listen to."
Biggest challenge: "Earning tolerance from my wife is a lifetime work in progress."
Tip: Always book on a Tuesday at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m. Eastern Time. "That is almost always when fares drop each week. My Tuesday lunchtime is always blocked for checking airfares," says Krasowski.
Greg Davis-Kean took advantage of a Sears promotion and flew across the country in one day.
Craziest run: "Sears happened to be having a big promotion that day in which they were offering 10 points per dollar through Chase's Ultimate Rewards Mall, and so I spent the day not just flying, but blogging about my online shopping experiences as well," Davis-Kean recalls. Read his adventure here.
Status: Delta Platinum, which requires 75,000 medallion qualifying miles per year.
The goal: Keep high elite status with Delta. "With Platinum status, Delta allows free changes to award tickets (up to 72 hours in advance)," making those miles more valuable. "If I see a tempting award, I can book it just in case," says Davis-Kean. "If I decide later that it doesn't work for me, I can cancel it without penalty."
In his carry-on: "My iPhone, iPad, and laptop go with me everywhere."
Favorite airline: "I really do like Delta," Davis-Kean says. "It works because I live near a Delta hub and I have high level status, which gives me perks when flying (elite security line, priority boarding, free domestic upgrades, etc.)."
Tip: Stop booking nonstop flights. "By including a stop or two you can greatly increase your earned miles often without paying much (if any) extra," he says.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider