Nicky Kelvin is a man who’s always travelling. All over the world, all the time, he’s in the air more often than he’s not.
As the face of The Points Guy UK, a site that helps millions find cheap deals on luxury flights, he has a job that most people would be jealous of, reviewing first-class plane travel and five-star hotels. You have likely seen photos of him posing with cabin crew members from a first-class plane seat or grinning in obscenely beautiful, far-flung destinations during stopovers. He is known by airline pilots, cabin crew and travel fanatics alike for his tips.
And yet, for all the places that the self-proclaimed aviation geek has been, nowhere compares to Israel.
“If anybody asks me where my favourite destination in the world is from a travel perspective, I always talk about Israel,” he tells me.
When we spoke just two days after the horrors of October 7, conversations around Israel seemed fraught with qualifiers and whataboutery; Kelvin, who calls himself both “really liberal” and “a staunch supporter of Israel” has always tried to avoid politics when speaking to his thousands of online followers about his favourite country. But, as a Jewish person enduring the fragile days after the massacre, it was difficult to talk about anything else.
“Like many diaspora communities, we grew up very passionate about Israel,” Kelvin said. Brought up in Leeds within a tight-knit Jewish community, Kelvin’s family attended an orthodox synagoue and adhered to tradition: “I was never allowed out on a Friday night ever, until I was 18,” Kelvin said.
From the age of 13, he was involved in FZY: “Being part of a Zionist youth movement provided maybe a different angle for me to express my Judaism.”
Kelvin, 37, deferred a law degree at Birmingham University to spend a gap year in Israel, an experience he described as “transformative”. After completing his law degree, Kelvin returned to Israel for another year, during which time he worked as a photojournalist for a news agency, a nanny for two different families and a waiter on a beach in Tel Aviv. One of the children he nannied, just a year old at the time, is now a teenage fan of The Points Guy; the boy’s mother reached out to Kelvin to tell him that the boy, Yoni, had been watching his videos on YouTube without knowing the man on the screen used to be his babysitter. It’s an anecdote Kelvin smiles over, a “full circle” moment.
Returning to the UK after his year in Israel, Kelvin worked as a music lawyer for the record label Virgin EMI, simultaneously developing his own travel advice brand the Miles Mogul and doing odd photography jobs. The Points Guy, launched in 2010 by American travel blogger and businessman Brian Kelly, seems an almost too-perfect role for someone with the interests, business acumen and on-camera charisma of Kelvin. His YouTube videos, from airline comparisons to the train-vs-plane races, are surprisingly bingeable, even if you are not actively planning a trip. When The Points Guy’s parent company Red Ventures expanded into the UK, it is no surprise why Kelly swiftly hired Kelvin to be the face of the new franchise.
“What we do is help people travel better,” he said. When he meets followers on the road, they’ll often tell him, “’I'm in this seat because of you.’”
When I spoke to Kelvin, he’d just been away for two and a half weeks, flying almost every other day. Starting in Manchester, Kelvin flew to Iceland, Boston, New Hampshire, New York, Los Angeles, back to New York and finally to London, where he was when we spoke. But he was only in London for the day; tomorrow he would be flying to Australia.
Kelvin’s career brings new meaning to the old Emerson adage, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” Most of the time, he doesn’t get to do much at the destination anyway, he leaves the hotels content to other people.
His area of expertise is air travel, namely getting you the best deals on flights. It seemed an awful waste to interview The Points Guy without soliciting a few travel tips.
“The way to save money on flights, especially business class flights, is to look at flying from other European airports, not London,” he said. “If you’re trying to fly to New York for example, sometimes you can find incredibly cheap business class flights from cities like Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, very easy cities to get to from London.”
His other tip was so good it seemed like a kind of airline travel cheat code: use airline shopping portals to earn points for flights. “British Airways and Virgin both have a shopping portal... all online retailers are on there, and you just click through to your retailer from the online shopping portal, and then you make your purchase as usual with the retailer, and then it tracks in the background and you get paid a multiple of points on your purchase – the multiple is huge.”
“On a credit card you’ll usually earn either one or one and a half points per pound that you spend, but in the shopping portal some of the retailers are paying eight, 10, 12 points per pound.”
Beyond his impeccable travel advice, perhaps the most important reason Kelvin so aptly suits the role of The Points Guy is that he never really tires of flying.
“I love airports and I love planes, it’s where I thrive,” Kelvin said. “I need to remain grateful because this is what I love, and the alternative is I could be in a cubicle in an office in a law firm.”