6 tips for traveling as a family with points and miles
RObin DeGracia children have been traveling since they were in diapers. Not really. Her son was only 3 months old when she took him on his first flight.
She remembers him because he was in a baby carrier and she spent a lot of time in the flight walking with him on the plane. When she reached out to curl her legs as she walked past rows of other passengers, she accidentally grabbed the arm of a woman sitting in an aisle seat. Needless to say, the woman was horrified.
This is just one of the few mishaps that arise when traveling with children, but for DeGracia it is well worth it. Her son, now 11, and daughter, 9, are seasoned travelers who have crisscrossed the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, India and Indonesia, never before. name a few.
To make much of that travel possible, DeGracia relies on travel rewards to help offset some of the costs. “Travel rewards help us travel both for fun and to see family, and not have to choose between the two,” she says. DeGracia’s offspring make an annual trip to see family in New Jersey, as well as several vacations to other national or international destinations throughout the rest of the year.
In fact, many people face similar obstacles when trying to finance family trips. Over 80% of those polled in a 2019 Family Travel Association survey cited affordability as the top challenge when traveling with their children.
Travel rewards can be a solution, but it can sometimes seem like the benefits of credit cards and loyalty programs are designed primarily for solo travelers or couples. After all, families can struggle to save the hundreds of thousands of points needed to book round-trip airline tickets to four or more hotel rooms for the entire crew – not to mention the fact that the availability of rewards for large groups can be difficult to obtain. find.
But as DeGracia says, “It’s not impossible.”
Here are some strategies for booking family trips with points and miles.
Tips for booking family travel rewards
1. Anyone can earn points and miles
Parents will do most of the earning of points and miles. One way to speed up the process is to get a travel, airline, or hotel credit card that can help you earn points for your daily expenses.
Putting big purchases, like big groceries or daycare expenses, on the card can help you earn points faster.
If you have a two-parent household, each parent might consider applying for travel cards separately instead of adding an authorized user. This way your family can benefit from several credit card signup bonuses.
Children can also participate. Enroll your children in a frequent flyer account with an airline so they can earn award miles at the same time. “They earn more slowly than my husband and I, but it’s nice to be able to enjoy a free flight after a few years,” says DeGracia.
DeGracia plans to add their children as authorized users to their travel credit cards once they are teenagers. In this way, their expenses can also become travel rewards.
2. Pool your points
Numbers are powerful when it comes to earning points, and some loyalty programs will allow you to create a point pool with your family and friends so that everyone has a bigger stash to tap into.
This can be a great method to appease loved ones who still insist you visit – add your grandparents to the pool and your family can redeem the group points for family travel.
In the United States, JetBlue is one of the few airlines to allow pooling. When it comes to hotels, Hilton makes it easy to pool with 1: 1 transfer ratios between members. Hyatt and Marriott also allow pooling, but with the additional steps of filling out a point transfer form or calling the hotel, respectively.
3. Get a companion pass
Points aren’t the only way to get free travel. Some airline credit cards offer a companion pass that allows you to reserve an additional seat on the same itinerary for just the cost of taxes and fees. It is essentially a purchase, an agreement.
The Southwest Companion Pass goes one step further by expanding its benefits not to just one flight, but to all flights flown the rest of the year and throughout the following calendar year once you’ve earned it. If your family doesn’t always travel in one unit, you can even switch designated companions on Southwest up to three times a year.
Companion passes are good because they mean one less plane ticket you will need to save for.
4. Be loyal to one airline
DeGracia’s family is a United Airlines family through and through, as its home airport is a United hub. “Traveling from one hub to another is much cheaper,” she says. Not to mention that there are usually a lot more flight options.
Choosing an airline and sticking to it also works for families for a few other reasons. On the one hand, parents have enough going on in life regardless of which child has how many miles on which airline. Second, parents can get an airline credit card along with free checked baggage. Some of these cards will also cover the first checked baggage for people traveling on the same route.
5. Divide the family into different routes
Since award flights sometimes cost thousands of points for a one-way trip, it may not be possible to pay for the whole family’s trip with points. DeGracia’s solution is, for example, to book her son and husband with points, and then pay for herself and her daughter to take the same flight. This still saves him hundreds of dollars on the flight.
6. Book hotel suites
Hotel rooms are another challenge for families trying to travel on points. It can be difficult to accommodate an entire family in a hotel room, but there are many other options that you can book with points.
Consider getting a resort credit card that automatically offers elite status, so you can qualify for upgrades to two-bedroom suites. If that’s not an option, do some research. Most major hotel chains offer properties with bunk beds or timeshares with multiple bedrooms.
DeGracia booked a hotel room with bunk beds for her children. “The kids loved having their own space,” she says.
Using family travel rewards requires a change in mindset
It is possible to make family travel cheaper with travel rewards if you know how to maximize the earnings. Sometimes that can mean having to pay for flights and hotel rooms for each family member with a combination of points and cash. Still, points or miles can be an effective way for families to save money on travel.
DeGracia has another tip if you’re still having trouble traveling with points and miles with the whole family: “You can use your miles to transport other family members to you. “
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Meghan Coyle writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @inkwaves.
The article 6 Tips for Traveling as a Family on Points and Miles originally appeared on NerdWallet.
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