Here’s a contributing post from reader Jason E. on something a little different- Family travel. Hope you enjoy!
While I enjoy all the helpful information I find on travel blogs (this one being my favorite of course), I quickly realized playing the reward card game to plan trips for a family with kids has some strategic differences than planning trips without children. I am going to give some pointers on maximizing miles for planning family vacations:
1) Clustering points
Admittedly this strategy is not unique to people with kids, but it’s worth mentioning. Choosing cards that earn points for the same rewards programs gives you more options.
If you want to fly a family of 4+ people on reward tickets, it takes some planning and a lot of points on the same airlines. Figure out the places you want to go and figure out what the best airlines are to fly there. Then, get a strategy on how to earn those points. Below is a list of airlines with credit cards that earn points for that airline or points that be transferred to that airline. Note that most cards have a personal and business version:
- United (points can be used for all Star Alliance partners): Ink Plus® Business Card , Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold® Business Charge Card, Chase United Explorer (best offer can most likely be found at a local branch)
- Delta (points can be used on all SkyTeam partners): AMEX Delta Skypass (best offers are targeted or found on the Delta site), AMEX Memberships cards, AMEX SPG
- American Airlines (points can be used on all OneWorld airlines): Citibank AAdantage, AMEX SPG
- Southwest (points can be used for Air Tran flights): Chase Southwest, Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards, Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold.
- Virgin Atlantic (points can be used for Delta flights): Bank of America Virgin Atlantic, Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards, Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, AMEX Membership Rewards
- British Airways (points can be used on all OneWorld airlines): Chase British Airways, Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards, Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, AMEX Membership Rewards
There are many great hotel credit cards. Chase Intercontinental is one my favorites and the SPG card is very popular. The best hotel group to accumulate hotel points with is the Hilton HHonors program, imho. I know the Noob Master wouldn’t agree, but he doesn’t have kids. There are multiple Hilton cards and there are also many mileage and reward programs where points can be transferred into HHonors, sometimes at a rate of 1:2.
For example, the Bank of America Virgin Atlantic will sometimes have a bonus of up to 50,000 Virgin Atlantic points which can be transferred to 100,000 HHonors points. An example of what those points could give you is 5 free nights at a great beach resort in Thailand or 10 nights at the lowest priced Hilton hotel group.
Both Ultimate Rewards points and Membership Reward points can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic which then can be transferred to HHonors at the 1:2 rate.
HHonors Card Options: AMEX Hilton, Amex Surpass, Citibank Hilton Honors, Citibank Hilton Reserve, Bank of America Virgin Atlantic, Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards, Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, AMEX Membership Rewards
2) Book separate airlines for separate legs
Most airlines (not Delta) require half the number of points for a one-way reward ticket compared to a roundtrip reward ticket. You might not have enough points to get many roundtrip reward tickets with one airline, but maybe you have enough with one airline to fly one way and enough with another airline to fly back.
3) Don’t fly together
Realistically, it is difficult to get 4+ tickets on most flights because most airlines limit the number of reward tickets on each flight. So being willing to have the family split into 2 groups greatly increases the possibility of cashing in on multiple reward tickets. This could all be on the same airline, but not going on the same flight, or it could mean going on different airlines. So send your kids on one airline while you and your spouse fly on another and drink champagne.
4) Steal, I mean pool, your kids’ points
There are times when you might have to pay for airplane tickets (bummer, I know) or there are times when you are fortunate that your company pays for your family to fly somewhere (actually common for U.S. families working abroad). When this happens, you should make sure each family member gets credit for the miles. Unless your family flies a lot, your kids will not accumulate frequent flyer miles very quickly and being that parents can’t sign their kids up for travel reward credit cards (trust me, I looked into it:)), it can seem worthless to keep track of their points.
With most airlines, it is expensive to transfer miles from one family member to another. But there is at least one airline in each alliance that allows you to pool miles among family members for free. The airlines are Asiana Airlines in the Star Alliance, Korean Air in the SKYTEAM Alliance, and British Airways in the OneWorld Alliance. For example, if my family flew on an an airline in the SKYTEAM Alliance, I’d put my miles with Delta, but I would put my kids’ miles with Korean Air.
5) Have a plan for other expenses
The biggest expenses can mostly be eliminated with airline and hotel points, but there are still a lot of expenses with traveling. Reward flights aren’t actually free, as there are taxes. Things like rental cars and train rides can be covered by programs like Ultimate Rewards and Memberships rewards, but those points will save you the most money when used on flights. I would consider the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard®. It redeems more than $400 of travel expenses. This can include any taxes and fees on reward flights to make them completely free, rental cars, and train rides. It can also be used on flights and hotels for when you can’t or choose not to use your airline or hotel points.
I hope this helps you plan some fun and cheap family vacations!
(Disclaimer: Some of the cards mentioned in this post offer the blog a referral credit. Thanks for the support if you ever apply through the site!)
— Geoff Whitmore