The Noob asked for contributors to his blog, and who was I to say no. I have been collecting miles for a while, and I’ve taken my game to another level since I started following the Noob.
There are many travel blogs that discuss strategies to collect enough miles to fly first class, but not many focus on family travel (except Mommy Points), so I will share what has worked for me and my family.
I have a wife and 2 kids, therefore I need to collect enough miles for 4 people. Sound difficult? It can be done. During the last 2 years, we have taken trips to Beaver Creek, Vancouver/Whistler, and London/Paris, all using airline miles and hotel points. In the next year, we will return to Europe (Provence, France and Barcelona, Spain) followed by Alaska next summer.
Growing up, I moved every 2 or 3 years, so I was lucky enough to visit many places in the US, Canada, and Europe. In college, I expanded my travel to include Asia and Africa. When our kids were young, our travel consisted of just having to drive a few hours to visit family. Now that the kids are a great age for traveling (they are 12 and 9), I want to show them the world! Traveling with a family can be a challenge, so here are some of the things that has allowed us to take some great trips using miles and points.
1) Fly coach: I need enough miles for a family of 4, therefore I book coach class. I would love to fly my family in business class, however business requires twice the miles. My kids would prefer taking 2 vacations in coach class rather than just 1 vacation in business. The kids are usually so excited to be on a plane that coach class is fine. We flew coach from JFK to London last summer, and I highly recommend the day flight.
2) Hotel pool: Room upgrades are great, but for kids, the most important aspect of a hotel is the pool. The size of the hotel room is an afterthought to kids. They might notice if you get upgraded to a suite, but they will definitely notice if the hotel has a great swimming pool. While in Vancouver last year, the kids and I would hit the pool every morning while my wife slept in. Everyone won!
3) Food for travel: Bring your own food for the flight, and your kids will thank you. Everyone knows that airplane food is subpar. Good luck finding a healthy kids meal at an airport. Pack a good lunch and a few snacks, and food is one less thing that your kids will have to worry about. During your vacation, don’t plan on having a lot of long dinners at fancy restaurants, as that is the last thing a kid needs at the end of a long day. If possible, get a hotel room with a kitchenette or rent an apartment, as this can make meal time easier on the kids.
4) Most important – Plan in advance: Planning a family vacation during the school vacation in February can be a challenge, as many families are traveling during the same period. The seats that are available for award travel go quickly, and good luck trying to get 4 award tickets on the same flight. Solution? Book way in advance, like 330 days ahead (which is the max that most airlines allow). School districts usually have the school calendar available well in advance (I know the dates for winter break for the next 2 years). As a result, I can plan ahead, and that makes booking award travel much easier. I’m targeting Hawaii for our family vacation in February 2014, and I’ll be booking it in March of 2013.
The Noob provides great advice for accumulating miles and points. My wife and I are currently collecting enough for 2 great family trips a year, all for pennies! Happy travels!
— Geoff Whitmore