Emily & Her Mom Visit Family Around the US for (Almost) Free!

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The best thing about collecting miles and points is being able to visit friends and family.  My mom and grandma both have birthdays in May, and it was a great opportunity to visit with them.  Thanks to our Southwest points and the Southwest Companion Pass, I was able to book all of our flights using points and we only paid $5 for each 1-way ticket!

My mom and I went to 4 states in less than 4 weeks:  New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, and Ohio.

In Albuquerque, we got to see my cousin who we had not seen in almost 15 years!  In Austin, we ate at the Fresh Baked food truck and went out for BBQ.  In Kansas City, I graduated and met Steve Wozniak, who signed my Macbook!  And in Toledo, I spent time catching up with my grandma and my dad.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Thanks to our Southwest Points, My Mom and I Were Able to Visit Family Around the US

Albuquerque, New Mexico

My mom had been talking about visiting her niece, Laura, for a couple of years.  Laura lives in Albuquerque, and we were looking forward to visiting her!  Laura was the 1st baby in the family, and my mom and her were really close when Laura was little.

 Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

We Hadn’t Seen My Cousin Laura in ~15 Years!

I booked tickets for us to visit Laura over my mom’s birthday weekend.  We stayed 3 nights at Laura’s house.

Sandia Peak

On Saturday, we went to Sandia Peak.  I had never been to New Mexico and was surprised to see huge mountains!  I thought it was all desert flatland.

The tickets were $20 for adults and $12 for children ages 5 to 13.  The tram takes you all the way up to the peak, at over 10,000 feet.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Sandia Peak Is ~3 Miles Above Sea Level

Each tram car fits about 50 people.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

All Aboard!

There were only ~20 people in the tram with us.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

My Cousin Laura’s Boys Are Too Cute!

We could see all of Albuquerque as we were going up the mountain.  The view was spectacular once we reached the top.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

My Mom Looking Over the Rio Grande Valley From Sandia Peak

There were several different mountains.  Once you reach the top, there isn’t much to do except take pictures.  You can walk down the peak, or have a meal at 1 of the restaurants.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Laura’s Youngest Boy Was Full of Energy!

We decided to take the tram back down.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

The Tram Runs Up & Down the Mountain Every 20 to 30 Minutes

The ride back was much more crowded.  Almost 50 people squeezed in and there wasn’t much room to move around.  But the views were still gorgeous, and it was a fun experience!

Old Town

Over the weekend, we also went to Old Town.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Ready to Take In the Sites Around Albuquerque’s Historic District

There are lots of touristy shops with souvenirs.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Old Town, Albuquerque, Is Filled With Adobe Buildings and Tile Roofs

There were several jewelry designers showcasing their creations.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Handmade Southwestern Jewelry Lined the Sidewalk

There was lots of turquoise everywhere.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Deciding Which Piece of Jewelry Would Look Best on My Mom

I bought a bracelet for my mom for her birthday.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

A Beautiful Bracelet for a Beautiful Woman

Back at Laura’s house, we walked to a nearby park for some fun on the slide…

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He Giggled Every Time He Came Down the Slide 🙂

We all had so much fun!

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Moments Like This Are What Matters!

On our way home back from the park, we saw the Sandia mountains.  Sandia means watermelon in Spanish, and we finally understood how they got their name.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

The Pink Hue of New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains as the Sun Goes Down

Austin, Texas

After visiting with Laura, my mom came to visit Austin.  We only had a few days in Austin.  So we didn’t have a lot of time to see the sites.  But we did go to 1 of the food trucks!

Fresh Baked – Austin’s Best New Food Truck

No visit to Austin is complete without a visit to a locally owned food truck.

 Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Ready to Try Some Freshly Baked Deliciousness

Fresh Baked is 1 of Austin’s newest trucks, and the food is delicious!  The chef, Sherry, used to work for Tavern on the Green in New York City, and serves excellent food.

In addition to fresh and flavorful quiches, breakfast paninis, and salads, she makes sweet and savory toast, and other baked goods.

My mom and I ordered the ham, tomato, and basil quiches with a salad.  Both were very tasty.  For dessert, we tried the brownie bread pudding, which was out of this world!

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

If You Visit the Fresh Baked Food Truck, I Recommend the Brownie Bread Pudding!

I will definitely return to Fresh Baked to try the other menu items!

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

With Fresh Baked’s Chef, Sherry

Texas BBQ

Since I knew my mom would be coming to Austin, we made an appointment for the TSA Pre interview.  This would let us get through airport security a lot quicker!

On our way, we passed a stretch of highway where the speed limit was 85 mph.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

I Guess Everything Is Bigger in Texas, Including the Numbers on the Speed Limit Signs!

On our way back from the interview, we stopped at City Market in Luling for some authentic Texas BBQ.  I couldn’t let my mom leave Texas without trying some authentic BBQ!

We went to the back of the store where the smokers were located…

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Excited to Try City Market BBQ

And ordered a mix of meats.  We also got potato salad on the side.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

In Texas You Eat BBQ With Your Hands, No Plates or Utensils Here!

Everything was delicious, and Daraius and I thought it was on par with the BBQ joints in Lockhart (Black’s, Smitty’s, and Kreuz Market).

After just a few quick days, we had to leave the Live Music Capital of the World for Kansas.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Rocking Out of Austin and on Our Way to Kansas!

Kansas City, Kansas


I recently completed my MBA, and we flew out for the graduation ceremony.  Janet Wozniak, Steve Wozniak’s wife, was the commencement speaker.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Janet Wozniak Giving an Inspirational Speech to Baker University’s Graduates

I was surprised to see Steve himself attending the graduation ceremony, and hoped to meet him afterwards!

Well, my wish came true, and he is the nicest person!  He was very talkative and enjoyed chatting with everyone.  He came prepared with a black Sharpie in his pocket and happily signed autographs.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

With Steve Wozniak, the Co-Founder of Apple, and His Wife Janet

Daraius was excited, too!

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Unfortunately, He Didn’t Share iPhone 6 Secrets With Daraius

Steve signed my Macbook and my iPhone.  I was happier to get my Apple products signed than to get my degree!

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Forget the Diploma!  I Needed a Photo With My Autographed Macbook First!

Dinner and Drinks with Friends

After the graduation ceremony, I met up with my old friends from Lawrence, Kansas.  We went to 1 of my favorite restaurants in Lawrence: The Burger Stand.  They serve gourmet burgers and the food is fantastic!

It had been almost a year since I saw my friends from Lawrence, and I was so excited to visit with them and for them to meet my mother.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Grabbing a Burger With My Friends in Lawrence

A Special Mother’s Day Celebration

The next day was Mother’s Day.  To celebrate her special day, I took my mom out for Kansas City BBQ at Jack Stack’s.

 Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

My Mom Has Done So Much for Me and It Was Nice to Spend Mother’s Day With Her

We had a delicious meal that included baby back ribs, beef brisket, and ham.  We also ordered cheesy potatoes, broccoli, and coleslaw for our sides.  Yum!

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

We Were Extremely Full, But It Was Worth It!

Toledo, Ohio

I’m originally from Toledo and most of my extended family lives there.  My grandma is the coolest.  She loves to sing and dance, and is very sweet!

Breakfast with Grandma

For Mother’s Day, we went out to Bob Evans.  Bob Evans is known for their delicious breakfasts and it’s my grandma’s favorite restaurant.

 Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

3 Generations of Women Out for Breakfast

Later that day, my mom and I gave her gifts for Mother’s Day.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Happy Mother’s Day Grandma!

Cleveland, Ohio

Happy Dog Restaurant

I also got to visit with my dad in Ohio.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Getting a Bite to Eat With My Dad

We went to a gourmet hot dog restaurant called Happy Dog in Cleveland.

Emily Uses Southwest Points To Visit Family

Happy Dog Has 4 1/2 Stars on Yelp!

You Can Do It, Too!

The Southwest Companion Pass makes it easy to visit friends and family all over the US.  That’s because with the Southwest Companion Pass a person of your choosing flies with you for (almost) free for up to 2 years. You only have to pay $5 for each 1-way flight!

How Many Miles and Points You Need:

You have to earn 110,000 Southwest points within 1 calendar year to get the Southwest Companion Pass.

How to Get the Miles and Points:

Signing-up for just 1 personal and 1 business Chase Southwest card will get you most of the way to the Southwest Companion Pass.

1.   Chase Southwest Premier Cards

There is a personal and business version of the Chase Southwest Premier card.  You can earn 50,000 Southwest points with each card when you spend $2,000 within 3 months.  You will also get 6,000 Southwest points for your cardmember anniversary.

The $99 annual fee is NOT waived.  But paying the annual fee is worth it because you can get a lot of nearly free flights!

2.   Chase Southwest Plus Cards

There is also a personal and business version of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.  You earn 50,000 Southwest points with each card when you spend $2,000 within 3 months.  You will also get 3,000 Southwest points for your cardmember anniversary

The $69 annual fee is NOT waived.

If spending thousands of dollars to meet the minimum spending requirements on credit cards sounds difficult, see this post on 40+ Powerful Ways to Complete Your Credit Card Minimum Spending Requirements.

3.   6,000 More Points

Once you sign-up for 1 business and 1 personal Chase Southwest card and complete the minimum spending you will have 104,000 Southwest points (100,000 Southwest points from the sign-up bonus on 2 cards + 4,000 Southwest points from the minimum spending on 2 cards).

But you will still need another 6,000 Southwest points to reach the Southwest Companion Pass.  Check out the post on The Easy Way to Get the Extra 6,000 Points for the Southwest Companion Pass.

Bottom Line

I had such an amazing time traveling with my mom, visiting family and friends around the US.  We never would have been able to take this trip without Southwest points & the Southwest Companion Pass!

Making lots of happy memories is what collecting miles and points is all about.  You never know when someone’s days could be cut short, and I know I’ll never regret spending precious time with those I love!


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10 responses to “Emily & Her Mom Visit Family Around the US for (Almost) Free!

  1. No offense, but I usually scan by your vacation posts, but I had to stop when I saw Woz! So cool. Congratulations on completing your masters!

  2. Daraius, I posted several times since I want to use your affiliate links but you never responded. How do we people use your affiliate links if we don’t know what kind of MS to meet the minimum spending that works now? Please shed some lights before people apply using your affiliate links. I copy pasted my previous post below:

    Hi Daraius, I want to apply Lufthansa card using your affiliate link…….but before that, please tell me how do I meet the minimum spending to get the sign up bonus since we cannot load Vanilla gift cards into BB at WM anymore. I checked around my area and all the Office Depot and Staples are out of the $200 fixed about Visa gift card, only the $100 one available but I don’t want to buy a lot of $100 visa gc because it’s a hassle to load them one by one at WM (besides amazon payment and evolve, since I want to pay my credit card bill with bluebird)……please advise so I can use your link to apply before the offer expires.

  3. @david–dude, do you read these comment sections?? daraius replied to this ridiculous question yesterday under some different topic. as a matter of fact, so did i! READ BEFORE YOU POST.

  4. Emily, Congratulations on receiving your Master’s Degree.! That’s quite an achievement. I love your vacation posts. Spending time with friends and family is what life is all about. Glad you were able to visit so many places with your mom, and also spend time with your dad and grandmother!

  5. @ Ryan- No offense taken. Meeting Woz was pretty cool. He was so friendly! 🙂

    @ R. Miller- Thank you! As a first generation college graduate, my family is proud. I’m so happy you enjoy my vacation posts. They are fun to write! I agree that the best use of miles is to be with those you love. I miss them already! 🙂

  6. albuquerque: sad to see that high finance’s menu appears to have dropped its signature green chili burger. if you come back and feeling up for a challenge, try hiking the la luz trail up to the peak and taking the tram down.

    lawrence: you went to lawrence and didn’t eat at the free state brewery? i always assumed there were laws against that!

  7. Emily, I didn’t know you were working towards your Master’s degree while you were traveling so much! I thought that you had the luxury of going away whenever you wanted. Having done schooling overseas and almost done with my BA here in US, I feel like I am forever in school and sometimes I feel overwhelmed just to think about going for a Master’s degree and still juggle my family obligations (I am a mom.) However, thanks to you and Daraius, I usually have a trip booked or planned before a new semester to spend time with my family, so that I have something to look forward to! Emily, congratulations, indeed!!!

  8. Nice pics and autograph from Woz. You guys missed out on the Albuquerque Old Town Ghost Tour (no ghosts on my tour unfortunately).

  9. @ Emily- Yes, I was working on my master’s while working full time. Keep your focus and don’t give up! Since you’re almost done it won’t be much longer, and you and your family will be proud of what you worked so hard to accomplish. Your kids will see your hard work and dedication and it will inspire them to achieve in life, too (just like my mom did for me). A celebration trip sounds like a great idea. Good luck to you!! 🙂

    @ Grant- Thanks! The Ghost Tour sounds like fun!

  10. I love Happy Dog in Cleveland! Are you from CLE? I spend about every other weekend in Cleveland Heights area… 98% of my trips from PDX to CLE are paid for w/ miles, of course!