Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.
Welcome to the next installment of our Reader Success Series where Million Mile Secrets Readers share how they booked a trip with miles & points to get Big Travel with Small Money!
The Meckley Family is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.
A big thank you to The Meckleys for sharing their story!
Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.
We are The Meckley Family: Christine, Tom, Riley, and Sawyer. We are currently on a half-year journey around the world!
What was the goal of your trip?
To experience the world through our children’s eyes.
We have always had a thirst for travel long before having kids. We wanted to share this enjoyment with our children.
We waited until they were old enough (10 and 12) to understand and learn from their experiences, and young enough to still want to be with each other 24/7. Plus, hanging out with Mom and Dad is always a plus for me!
Our journey has been filled with ups and downs, but so far the experience is priceless!
How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
We started collecting airline miles with the AMEX Delta Platinum SkyMiles card 4 years ago. The sign-up bonus offered, plus the accumulation of domestic flights we have taken and purchasing everything on this card, helped us acquire almost 200,000 Delta miles.
Which points did you save to take your trip?
We had plenty of Delta miles. Both of us opened:
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card
After spending the required minimum we earned a lot of hotel points!
How did you search for and find the award flights?
If I am not using the Delta website to search, I use Skyscanner. Then I will go to the web site of the airline to see which offers the better rate.
We used Delta miles earned from Delta partner airlines to fly for free from:
- New York to Anchorage
- New York to Las Vegas
- Las Vegas to Los Angeles
- Bangkok to Paris
- London to New York
How did you find your hotel accommodations?
For hotel accommodations (when not redeeming points) I use Booking.com for apartment searches with kitchen, Wi-Fi, and laundry included.
I also check TripAdvisor for customer reviews. I love TripAdvisor!
So far we’ve redeemed:
- 12 nights at Marriott hotels
- 10 nights at Hilton hotels
- 5 nights at IHG hotels
- 2 nights at Club Carlson hotels
That’s ONE MONTH of free hotel stays!
And we are continuing to accumulate points from the credit cards we are using throughout our trip.
I enjoy looking online to see the balance each month and use the points as soon as I can. Sometimes combining small amount of points with some money (Cash + Points) extends the length of stay for us.
We have Hilton Diamond status and have been upgraded to junior suites with Executive Lounge access every time! That means free breakfast, snacks, computer access with printers (great for homeschooling) and all drinks included!
We stayed in Hilton hotels in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Australia, and soon to be in Budapest!
What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The most challenging part of planning a journey with children was making the decision to commit to a date!
Both Riley and Sawyer are very involved with soccer teams and Sawyer also plays lacrosse. They miss their teams.
Also, we wanted the kids to start and end the school year with their classes, so we will return before the end of the semester.
Taking a leave of absence from work was important to finalize our plans.
Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
No need for a lot of stuff. We travel with 1 small suitcase each and a small backpack.
Go to popular tourist destinations (like Europe) in the off-season. I couldn’t imagine doing Europe with kids in the summer. We strolled through major sights with NO LINES in Rome, Paris, Holland, and Spain, because we went in winter.
Use public transportation. Eat locally away from tourist restaurants. Rent an apartment when you can.
For homeschooling and to make your kids (and you) understand what you are seeing, use YouTube for informative documentaries on historical and cultural sites (like Normandy, Rome, Buddhist temples, and the Great Barrier Reef) and museums (The Louvre, Anne Frank House, Vatican Museums). This is a tremendous help – and fun too!
Don’t plan too much, but have a general idea on what you want to do. Then go with the flow!
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
We are constantly learning about the world and ourselves as we travel on this journey.
When you are with each other 24/7, you rely on each other. There are moments when the kids get on each other’s nerves (and ours), but they are few and far between compared to all the moments we are amazed and encouraged by one another and our surroundings.
There are “teachable” moments every day. We are still on our journey and as parents, we can tell it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for our children. To enjoy the adventure of traveling and learning about “real” things in the world.
To date, we have visited 11 countries and 19 World Heritage sites. The kids have attended school and made friends in Thailand, Cambodia, and Holland.
Riley’s blog, Travel With Riley, has been a success. Her followers email her about her adventures and she answers all of their questions.
What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
For families planning a similar trip I would start by obtaining as many credit cards with big sign-up bonuses as you can.
Plan on 1 or 2 countries for a month. Then commit to a date and just GO!
Use the miles from the airline credit cards and the hotel points for award flights and hotel nights. You don’t have to be rich to travel the world!
Refer to Million Mile Secrets because they have a very thorough and easy to use website. Also, read other family travel blogs. There are many on the web. That’s how I started. Involve your kids, too!
If you’d like to be considered for our reader success story series, please send me a note! Emily and I would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points!
* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 20,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another interview!