It was a chillier-than-normal but beautiful fall day in Austin, Texas, where we kicked off three days of non-stop travel talk, fun, and learning. On October 25-27, 2019, over 100 adventurers and explorers arrived in downtown Austin in addition to the FinanceBuzz team. Some attendees were long-standing members of the FBZ (FinanceBuzz) community, while others were brand new. All were welcome!
In fact, this was my first FBZ event, too, and I loved that the FinanceBuzz Elite Summit wasn’t a sit-in-your-chair-all-day conference kind of experience — it was intimate, an "unconference" experience where insider secrets were shared and new relationships were forged. The Summit's main venue, a dog-friendly, very Austin-y indoor/outdoor event space, made the experience even more special! I’m already looking forward to the next one!
But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a look at this year’s event.
It’s not just the points, it's the people
The magic of the FBZ Elite Summit is how it brings together people from all over the world — people with different backgrounds and experiences — and allows them to learn from leading travel and award travel experts (and each other!) in a casual, comfortable social setting.
A big focus of this year’s FBZ Elite Summit was to increase attendees' knowledge about using points and miles from credit cards for award travel. That was successfully accomplished, but importantly, attendees made new friendships and unforgettable memories with each other.
From the evening photo walk around downtown Austin to the morning 5K(ish) run, there was a social activity for every FBZer. And no matter the activity, the Summit presented an opportunity to be around like-minded people and feel part of an enthusiastic community. We know it can be hard to be the only point-and-miles geek in your day-to-day life!
Summit attendee Judy K. said, “I love that you added events which made it welcoming for a first timer to meet people and see the city (photo walk, dinner).”
For those of us who were in Austin on Friday evening, the meet-up at Bungalow — a quintessential Austin bar and hangout — provided a chance to start learning names, make new friends, and catch up with Facebook buddies.
As a newcomer to the FBZ community, I felt incredibly welcomed by everyone I met and it made me even more excited for the big day on Saturday!
Thank you to all the amazing presenters
Saturday was the big day of learning, questions, answers, and knowledge — and the knowledge bombs abounded. I saw people taking notes all day long and, as a panel moderator, I fielded lots of great questions for our amazing line-up of speakers and experts.
Our in-house award travel expert Brandon Neth kicked off the day and was available ALL day for questions and guidance. But he wasn’t alone in that (and, no, I’m not talking about his ridiculously cute pup Sophie) — all the speakers were amazing about answering questions both during and after their panels and presentations.
And the info they had to share? So helpful! Everything from easy status-match tricks to tips on which credit card to get next or what's the best rewards credit card (‘cause who of us ever stops asking those questions, right?). We also got to hear amazing success stories about travel that ranged from budget to seriously luxury.
Attendee and presenter Paul L. agreed: “The speakers were amazing — tons of inside scoop, very direct step by step descriptions.”
And he wasn’t alone, according to FBZer Ingrid K., “The insider information provided opened up new possibilities that you only could have gotten at the Summit. I just wish I could have cloned myself and attended all of the sessions!”
In case you missed it, our expert speakers and panelists included:
- Brandon Neth of FinanceBuzz
- Brian Jung
- Caroline Lupini
- Lee Huffman
- Deb Pollack
- Jason Steele
- Ben Komenkul
- Jason Lawenda
- Angelina Aucello
- Jamie Haas
- Kevin Song
- Paul Lanyi
- Greg Van Horn, CEO of FinanceBuzz
- Marika Flatt
- Brian Felberbaum
- Andres Garcia
- Steve Smith
The day ended with an evening cocktail hour that made it possible for everybody to keep asking questions, talk with the speakers directly, and continue to create relationships with new friends.
Food (do we need to say anything else?)
Of course, it wouldn’t be a successful adventure in Austin if there wasn’t some serious food involved. We all know that food can be a big part of an epic travel experience, and the FBZ Elite Summit was no exception.
From food trucks, to the Texas BBQ lunch at the Summit, to Saturday evening dinner at Fareground (Austin’s downtown gourmet food hall), and a final Sunday lunch at the famed Asian smokehouse meets barbeque known as Loro, there was no shortage of good eats.
And that doesn’t mean the learning and connecting stopped. In fact, the social opportunities during the meal outings might have provided some of the best chances to get the perfect bit of advice, whether you were a beginner or looking for expert info.
FBZer Chaitra C. said, “I loved the ‘people effect.’ Those nuggets obtained and connections made during breaks, breakfast and hanging out off-session. Nothing beats that because this really is a group of kind, chill folks.”
For those who attended, the FBZ Elite Summit was more than a series of seminars or presentations. It was an “experience” in every sense of the word — cool people, cool places, and an opportunity for growth and learning. I mean, isn’t that what travel is really about?
And the best part is, the love hasn’t stopped even though the event has passed — because we see you in the FBZ community posting your pics of hanging out together! Speaker Jamie H. said that one of his favorite parts of attending the FBZ events is, “building relationships with people that you end up running into while traveling all over the world.”
Keep posting your pics and we’ll see you at the next one!