Success! A Family of 5 Took a Miles & Points Vacation to Paris!

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Success! A Family of 5 Took a Miles & Points Vacation to Paris!

Million Mile SecretsSuccess! A Family of 5 Took a Miles & Points Vacation to Paris!Million Mile Secrets Team

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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!

Rod is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.

Success A Family Of 5 Took A Miles Points Vacation To Paris
Rod Used Miles & Points to Take His Family on a Dream Vacation to Paris!

A big thank you to Rod for sharing his story!

Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.

My name is Rod Gonzalez and we have been collecting miles & points for 4.5 years.

What was the goal of your trip?

My original intent when we started collecting miles was to take the family to Paris, France, for a week with free flights and hotels.  I didn’t believe it was possible, but was shocked to learn how easy it was with a specific plan.

Success A Family Of 5 Took A Miles Points Vacation To Paris
Rod and His Family Stayed at a Hotel Walking Distance to the Arc De Triomphe

How long did you collect miles and points for your trip? 

It took us a little over a year to have the right miles & points to accomplish our goal.  Because my initial exuberance caused us to have miles in several programs, instead of with the partners necessary to achieve our family dream vacation.

Which points did you save to take your trip?

We opened these credit cards:

This enabled us to have a stockpile of American Airline miles and IHG hotel points.  We also used some Hyatt points that we already had for another hotel.

How did you search for and find the award flights?

Booking everything was very straightforward.  We simply used the American Airlines search engine for award travel and found 5 coach seats our first time looking!  Placing them on hold allowed us time to re-confirm this was a good idea. 🙂 

How did you find your hotel accommodations?

Same with IHG and Hyatt hotel stays.  A straightforward search netted us everything we needed for our vacation.  

Success A Family Of 5 Took A Miles Points Vacation To Paris
Rod’s Family Visited the Bridge of Locks Over the River Seine Before It Was Taken Down

We honestly thought this was going to be so much harder.  TripAdvisor helped us narrow down the best of the free hotels.  The InterContinental Paris Le Grand and Hyatt Paris Madeleine were the winners!

What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?

As a family of 5, the biggest challenge is always getting a big enough room, or two rooms that connect.  

The reservation agents weren’t willing to guarantee us a specific room.  Emails to the General Manager helped somewhat, but again, nothing was guaranteed.  Imagine part of my family in one wing and the other on the opposite side – first world problems!

When we arrived to the InterContinental Paris Le Grand, we presented the check-in clerk with candy we had brought from the US.  She was surprised and very thankful.  

Success A Family Of 5 Took A Miles Points Vacation To Paris
Rod’s Kids Loved the Nightly Chocolate Chip Cookies at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand, Where They Stayed With IHG Points. Waiting for Them to Arrive Was a Special Evening Activity!

Next thing we knew, we have two connecting rooms that were incredible!  The ceilings were 20 feet tall.  We overlooked the main street – great for people watching, and everything about it felt very royal.  Every night they brought the kids chocolate chip cookies.  

Did my small gift help?  I think so.  Ever since then, whenever we visit an international hotel we present a small gift upon check-in and we seem to get surprised with a nice upgrade or access to the club lounge.  

Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination.  Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.

The obvious answers are The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.

Success A Family Of 5 Took A Miles Points Vacation To Paris
A Little Persistence Goes a Long Way When You’re Planning a Trip for the Family. It Also Helps When You’re Walking up Every Step to the Top of the Eiffel Tower!

My first time with the kids we WALKED all the steps up the Eiffel Tower.  It was 40 degrees out and we still talk about how great that was.  Taking the elevator is too easy!  

My advice is let your kids pick the places they want to visit.  Our kids would pick a restaurant by the funniest looking name on the window.  They shopped only at stores that also had unique, unpronounceable names.  We found some great things at places we probably wouldn’t have normally entered.  

Also don’t be afraid to walk everywhere.  We shared candid moments just stumbling upon things…random statues, unique architecture, people watching, etc.

What did you learn about yourself on the trip?

What I really learned was my family is happiest being together.  

Success A Family Of 5 Took A Miles Points Vacation To Paris
Rod’s Kids Enjoyed Playing in the Parks of Paris

I thought we needed to be in a crazy or exotic location to have fun.  But at the end of the day, if we were all sitting on a dirt field we would still be having fun.  As a parent you want to give your kids things you didn’t have, but sometimes all they want is you to be present and attentive.

What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip?  Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!

What would I say to folks…WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!!  

My family has been blessed with travel to Australia, Aruba, Grand Cayman, Rome, Venice, China, Bora Bora, Thailand, South Africa, London, Pamplona, and India – not to mention the countless domestic trips on miles and points!

Life is short, LIVE IT.  I know people who hoard miles and don’t use them – what’s the point?  Stop waiting for tomorrow when your kids or friends or wife are ready for an adventure NOW!  

I understand the hesitation to open a slew of cards, but if one card will get you somewhere, then take a chance and open it.  

Think of the CRAZIEST place you want to visit and plan towards it slowly – we thought Bora Bora was a dream and with some patience it materialized. 

Even if your dream is going to Disney, how about a Chase Southwest credit card for two free airline tickets?

For those on the fence, take the time to read a few blogs so you start to understand the power of credit card sign-up bonuses.  Make a plan and slowly execute it.  

Our first course of action is book the flight and hotel first…what we do at the destination can wait until we arrive.  As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

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!


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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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I would love to know what you thought of the Hyatt Madeleine and how you used points there, did you get 2 rooms? I am currently planning a trip for my family of 4 for this summer and having to get two rooms is killing me points wise so I would appreciate any advice you have. Thanks.

Loving hearing from families!! Interested in this Amazon/staples link. and your grand Wailea goal.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana and enjoyed South Africa & Cape Town specifically is fabulous. Marriott has partnered with a South African chain so that is moving up on our list (family of 4). My husband does travel and while we get points for his Marriott stays his company provides him with a CC. Our big trip this year was Cancun (JW Marriott) plus jet blue tickets from jet blue points & another credit card travel points. JW was lovely but the water is quite rough in late February and not particularly swim-able even for good swimmers.

More family posts!

Another family of 5 here. Last year we went to Grand Wailea in Hawaii for spring break – paid for flights (Hawaiian Air, transferred from (2) 100,000 AmEx bonuses my husband and I each got) and hotel (2 rooms) using A TON of Hilton points. Those Hilton points were earned over the course of more than a year with the Hilton card that got 6x points at drug stores and VR cards were an easy option. Can’t see that happening again, sadly. The year before that we went to Costa Rica – again, exclusively on miles and points. This year, we went on a safari in South Africa. We paid for our accommodations at a safari lodge, but our 5 tickets in coach were free – a huge savings. We don’t do much work travel, but we are larger-than-average monthly spenders. Everything goes on a credit card and every promotion or additional earning opportunity (other than reselling) is taken advantage of to keep this up. My Amazon account is always loaded with gift cards purchased at Staples with my Ink. All other shopping is done online through UR portal and we’ve had some amazing “double dip” coups (purchased a new TV for $2,000 at Sears that netted 40,000 UR points!). My husband and I are on our second set of Companion passes, which equal 4 years of free travel for 2 kids, which we have used extensively. People always say you can’t find availability for 5 during busy times like spring break, but each of these trips is always planned a full 11-12 months ahead so that isn’t an issue. If you are new to all this, it really is possible, you just need to map out your strategy. When I set my eye on the Grand Wailea my husband and I got every Hilton card we could and worked the VR angle with the end-goal of a million Hilton points, which we achieved. We definitely pick our cards based on specific goals and work toward them. My kids are teens now and I want to travel as a family to as many places as we can while we are still all together.

We too have a family of 5. We do pretty well, but not nearly what others have achieved since we aren’t as aggressive with the cc sign-ups. We definitely don’t use our miles for 1st class flights. We also watch/follow flat out $$ deals. So, with points plus $$, we have done A LOT. I have SW companion pass, but I’m more interested in international so it’s not as useful as it could be to me at the moment.

I think the assumption is we have traveled to all those destinations with the entire family. We take each of our kids on their own adventure, thus saving us miles and allowing for 1-1 time. Yeah, I’d say we pick a location and save for that specific trip until we hit what’s needed. End of this month is CapeTown with my oldest daughter. Going to dive with the Great Whites! Big tip of the hat to MillionMileSecrets for teaching us the “game”!

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