Parent’s guide to traveling as a family

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Traveling can be expensive, and that’s especially true if you’re traveling as a family. That’s where travel rewards cards come into play. 

We’ve put together a guide for our readers who love to travel with family (or friends that are family!). Below we’ll outline why your family should use travel rewards cards, how to choose the right card(s) for your family and tips for managing and maximizing the rewards your family earns.

Of course, now may not be the best time for family travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s a fantastic time to plan your next family adventure and earn the rewards you’ll need to help offset the costs. Plus, having something to look forward to is never a bad thing!

(Photo by Vova Shevchuk/Shutterstock)

Why your family needs travel rewards cards

Leveraging travel rewards can save your family money, be it with free flights, free hotel stays, or discounts on common travel expenses. With the right travel rewards cards, you can make the most of your family’s expenses by earning rewards from your spending that can be used for future travel.

How to pick the best card(s) for your family

The best travel card for your family will depend heavily on your family’s travel goals and spending habits. 

When deciding between cards, compare card features like: 

  • Welcome bonus
  • Minimum spending requirements
  • Ongoing bonus opportunities
  • Benefits and perks

It’s also essential to figure out which kind of rewards will best help you achieve your family’s travel goals. 

Maybe you don’t want the hassle of dealing with miles & points and would prefer to earn cash back. That’s great! There are a number of fantastic cash back credit cards that will serve you well.

Or, maybe you live near a United hub and know your family will fly mostly with that particular airline. That’s an important factor to note too because then, you’ll want a card that either earns United miles or bank points that transfer to United.

Bank points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards, offer the most flexibility. And for this reason, are really the most valuable rewards currency available. So they’re a great choice when it comes to earning and redeeming travel rewards for your family.

It’s also crucial to consider a card’s welcome bonus because earning large intro bonuses is one of the fastest ways to rack up tons of miles & points. Plus, make sure you can meet the card’s minimum spending requirements. Without a plan, you risk losing out on the card’s bonus! So it’s important to strategize. 

Best rewards credit cards for families

Here are the cards we recommend for families:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best for its overall value
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for simple travel rewards
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for premium perks
  • American Express® Gold Card: Best for dining at restaurants
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Best airline card (thanks to the Companion Pass)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for Marriott hotels
  • Hilton Honors American Express: Aspire Card Best for Hilton hotels
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for Hyatt hotels

The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

We always suggest signing up for Chase credit cards first due to Chase’s 5/24 rule and how they restrict new bonuses for some applicants who’ve recently applied for a lot of credit cards.

If you’re still trying to decide which card(s)to get, check out these other lists of our favorite credit cards:

I can guarantee you’ll find a card that fits your family’s needs!

My family and I used Marriott points to stay at the stunning Renaissance Koh Samui Resort in Thailand. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

Lounge access

Carrying a card that offers complimentary airport lounge access can be a huge money saver for families. That’s because you and your family will be able to take advantage of free food and beverages, along with a comfortable place to hang between flights. 

That said, depending on the size of your family, you may have to strategize when it comes to scoring lounge access for your group. That’s because many popular cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express, come with lounge memberships that limit visits to yourself and two guests. So families of 4+ will be at least one free entry short when it comes to getting the entire family access to the lounge.

If you find yourself (and your family) in this situation, consider having each adult carry a card with lounge access. That way, you’ll get double the number of free entries. Sure, you’ll be paying two annual fees, but the money you’ll save by not having to buy expensive food inside the airport can easily help offset the cost of said fees. 

How to manage the rewards your family earns

Managing your travel rewards can be one of the most time-intensive aspects of the miles & points hobby. Luckily, there are a couple of tools available to make the process a whole lot easier to handle.

One tip is to use a spreadsheet to track your family’s credit card portfolio. Keeping tabs on annual fee dates, minimum speeding requirements, card perks, etc., is crucial for success in this game.

Another great tool is AwardWallet. With AwardWallet, you can easily track all of your miles and points, including airline miles, hotel points, and car rental points. You always know your exact miles and points balance and expiration date, so you can prevent them from expiring. You can also add family accounts, allowing you to manage everyone’s miles and points in one easy and convenient place. I use this tool and love it!

Maximize your miles & points with  “multi-player mode”

If your family consists of at least two responsible adults, consider entering into multi-player mode. Strategizing in this way is helpful in many ways, including being able to avoid redundant benefits, stagger your card applications, and make the most of rewards pooling and transfers.

For example, maybe you’re over the Chase 5/24 limit. Check your partner’s 5/24 status to see if they can instead apply for the current 100,000 point offer after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. 

For more tips, check out our full guide to partner travel tricks here.

First steps in earning rewards for your family

Here are a few tips to get started in formulating your business card strategy:

  1. Assess your household spending
  2. Determine your family’s travel goals
  3. Decide what kind of rewards your family wants to earn
  4. Figure out what perks you need and want
  5. Make a plan for earning travel rewards
  6. Get out and make memories as a family!

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to use your travel rewards, be sure to read our guides on the best use of miles and points, including the best use of Chase Ultimate Rewards and the best use of American Express Membership Rewards. You can find all of our guides on this page.

Bottom line

Traveling with family is a wonderful way to bond and make lifelong memories with those you love. But paying for family travel can get expensive. If you don’t want to let your budget get in the way of your family’s travel dreams, use travel rewards to help offset the costs of family trips.

Deborah Atchison is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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