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Family travel is a huge part of the miles & points world. Lots of folks get into this hobby because they want to visit family, or they want to vacation with their family.
David, author of Wise Flys, is a family travel expert. So I asked him to share with you his top tips for traveling with a family each week!
David: Family travel can be challenging for miles & points enthusiasts. For example, finding multiple available award seats on a flight can be an obstacle. And of course, you must have a larger stash of rewards compared to if you’re just booking solo travel.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot using credit card rewards to travel with my wife and daughter to 10+ countries, including Costa Rica!
I’ll share my tips and experiences to help you plan a family trip using miles & points!
Learn How to Use Miles & Points to Save Money on Family Travel!
1. Multiple Family Members Can Take Advantage of Valuable Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses
Unless you’re a big spender, using a dusty old credit card for your regular spending likely won’t earn you enough rewards to take a nearly free family vacation. Or it will take you a really long time!
The easiest and fastest way to earn enough miles & points to book family award travel is to sign-up for credit cards with big bonuses. When a great offer comes along, my wife and I submit separate applications. This way, we can each earn the sign-up bonus.
You can transfer the sign-up bonus points to Korean Air to book 2 round-trip coach award flights to Hawaii on SkyTeam partner Delta. So if you and a partner both earn the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus, you’ll have enough points to book flights to Hawaii for a family of four!
2. Pool Miles & Points With Family Members
Another tip for families is to share rewards with each other, when possible. Sometimes your account balance is just shy of what’s required to book a hotel award night or an award flight.
Some credit card and loyalty programs allow you do this for free, including:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – You can combine Chase points with a member of the same household (or a joint business owner)
- Citi ThankYou – You can transfer points to another Citi ThankYou account, but they expire after 90 days. And you can NOT transfer ThankYou points directly into someone else’s airline or hotel account
- Starwood Preferred Guest – You can only transfer points into other Starwood accounts that have shared the same address for at least 30 days. (But there is a workaround)
- Marriott – Transfer up to 50,000 Marriott points to any loyalty account each year (free for Gold and Platinum elite members), and you have to transfer at least 1,000 Marriott points. But you can transfer up to 50,000 Marriott points into or out of your account each year
- Hyatt – Transfer points to any other loyalty account if you plan to book a specific award
- JetBlue – Create a Family Pooling account with up to 2 adults and 5 children (under age 21) to combine points
- British Airways – Pool Avios points by creating a Household Account for up to seven people who share an address
3. Book Award Travel From a Different Family Member’s Account
Some credit card and travel programs don’t allow you to combine points with a family member, including American Express Membership Rewards. But there’s a family award travel strategy you can use to make the most of points in different accounts.
For example, most frequent flyer programs allow you to book one-way awards. This is useful if you don’t have enough miles in one account to book a round-trip award flight. So you can use miles from one family member’s account to book an outbound flight. Then, book the return flight from a different frequent flyer account.
With hotel award stays you can do something similar. For example, let’s say you and a partner have enough American Express Membership Rewards points to book a 5-night award stay at a Choice Hotel (1:1 AMEX hotel transfer partner), but the points are in separate accounts.
Each of you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to your own Choice loyalty account. Then, book consecutive award nights from the different accounts. You shouldn’t have to change rooms when you change reservations. At check-in, just let the front desk know that you made multiple reservations.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
When it comes to family award travel, earning miles & points tends to be the easy part. The challenge can be finding available award seats for everyone in the family.
Sometimes, you’ll have to compromise or be flexible with your travel dates in order to make the most of your rewards. Booking award flights for everyone in the family might mean taking a route with a layover, even if a non-stop option is available for sale.
Being flexible when booking award travel can potentially save you hundreds or thousands of dollars, which you can use for fun family activities for your vacation!
5. Plan Vacations Far in Advance
An unavoidable obstacle that affects families trying to use miles & points is planning around school schedules. The limited travel dates often means trying to find award seats during peak travel times when most other families travel.
Fortunately, most school districts publish their calendars 6 to 12 months in advance. This means you can plan your vacations in advance.
Some airlines release their award seats 330 days prior to departure. In my experience, you’ll typically have more award flight options the sooner you book. That said, if you have flexibility to book last-minute, available award seats appear closer to departure dates, too.
6. Look Out for New Flight Routes
Another trick to finding several available award seats for a family trip is to keep an eye out for new flight routes. Typically, there’s a larger number of available award seats when a new route is announced.
For 2018, American Airlines and United Airlines are expected to launch 10 new routes each, including a new non-stop route between San Francisco and Tahiti.
I also recommend checking your local airport’s website for news about new routes.
You can book amazing family vacations by taking advantage of miles & points deals! But sometimes booking family award travel can be a challenge. For example, if you’re unable to find multiple available award seats on a flight.
But there are a few tricks to make it easier to book family award travel. Many popular credit card programs, including Chase Ultimate Rewards, allow you to combine points with a member of the same household. So you can transfer points to a partner and then book multiple award flights from one account.
Planning ahead is also very important. If you’re traveling with school age children, I recommend booking your vacations once you take a look at the school calendar. In my experience, you’ll typically have more award flights the sooner you book.
Please share your family award travel tips in the comments!