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Helping a Family of 6 Afford a Disney Trip, and More!

As some of you may know, few months ago, I wrote a long goodbye post. I was burned out, frustrated and fed up. I felt chained by this site.

chains

Asian theme week is over, back to “white people” stock images. I’m not quite sure what this stock photo (taken with permission from a reputable site) is trying to convey, but my interpretation is that the lady feels trapped by something in her life, in a figurative sense. But who knows? OK, moving on…

Where was I ? So, bailing on the blog seemed like the logical thing to do. Well, a few months have passed, and I realized that perhaps my goodbye was a bit premature. I felt like I had more posts left in me. So, I started writing, then writing some more. Amazingly, even though I gave up on the blog, you, the readers, refused to give up on me. Will my site be around next year or is this my (truly) last post? I honestly don’t know. For now, I’m not making any plans or schedules, and simply enjoying the ride.

The truth is, I never really went away since I’ve continued helping people via my free consulting service.  Obviously, readers have the option to use my affiliate links, but it’s not required. As corny as it sounds, I really do enjoy helping others find ways to afford travel. It’s my jam, as the cool kids would say. You might be surprised as to who emails me. Not all requests are from families. I’ve had childless couples, retirees and even a broke medical student looking for advice! I welcome everyone.

Of course, the primary goal of this blog is to reach ordinary families. I try very hard to tailor  content and  advice to  normal people who don’t make six figures. I truly believe that nice (at times even luxurious) travel is achievable for a typical family. We are a living proof of that. We are NOT one-percenters, and none of our trips are sponsored. I’m not criticizing those things, not at all. I have zero problem with people getting paid good money for their hard work. I’ve never been offered a sponsored trip, so can’t really comment on that. But if Tahiti tourism board is reading, I’m interested!

My point is: While a family who makes $120K per year  may not think twice about burning 25K Ultimate Rewards on 1 night at a Hyatt, a family who makes $60K  probably should think twice, and maybe even three times. Still want it? Go for it, and don’t look back. Splurging without regret is what this site is all about. And let’s face it, travel is a splurge. It’s not like food or shelter, you DON’T have to travel. But it definitely makes life more interesting. And it does make family unit stronger, I’m sure of it.

Anyway, I wanted to highlight one of the requests I’ve received recently, in the hopes that it will benefit some of you. As usual, I edited it and took out names and any personal information.

Here we go:

Hi! I stumbled upon your blog and decided to take you up on your free consulting for travel.  Many of the travel related blogs are all about optimizing for getaway trips for couples.  I’m not sure what’s even practical for a large family where award travel seems impossible.

 
About Us
We are a family of six living in Richmond, VA.
 
Goals
Short Term — Save some money for a Disney Vacation in November.
We are planning to drive there and most likely stay off site.  I have about 40,000 Starwood points, but it seems the most likely resort (Sheraton I Drive) was charging 20,000 points a night.
 
Long Term — Travel to Taiwan in 5 to 10 years
We have adopted two kids from Taiwan and it’s our dream to afford to take our kids back  when they are older.
 
Spending
We have about $4,000 left to spend in the next month to wrap up a kitchen renovation.
We will also spend about $2,100 on Disney tickets for the 6 of us if we decide to go as well as the lodging.
 
We spend a fair amount on eating out and food.  Most of our money has been going back into home renovation.
 
Current Cards
I have a Starwood SPG and a Chase Hyatt.  I have been using them for the rare instance to book a free night here or other.
 
I also have an old Citi card that has “Thank you” points. I was going to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred to use the 40,000 sign up bonus.
 
My wife and I have good credit and we just refinanced, so I’m okay with opening a few accounts.  I’m not sure I’m up for doing manufactured spend; seems like a lot of hassle.  I have a colleague who does that, but he doesn’t have 4 kids!
 
Thanks in advance.”

My response:

 Hi! Thanks for contacting me. You are absolutely correct, most of the miles and points sites focus on solo or couples travel. That’s why I’ve decided to start my blog. While award travel is a bit challenging for someone in your situation, it’s definitely not impossible. In fact, I even wrote  a post  awhile back, discussing some Disney lodging options for a large family. Read it here 

I recommend you investigate Sheraton Lake Buena Vista option mentioned in the post. You would have to call in order to book their rooms with bunk beds, but for 4,500 SPG points per night on weekends (5,500 points on weekdays), it seems like a good deal. It would definitely let you leverage your existing SPG stash and conserve cash. Be aware, the hotel does have $19 resort fee and $15 parking charge per night. But still, the value is definitely there IMO.
Since you plan to drive (totally understandable), you may want to focus on offsetting the cost of Disney tickets via credit card bonuses. There are a few cards that would be a good fit. Among them are Wells Fargo Propel, Capital One Venture Rewards and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. The bonus on the last two is only redeemable for travel expenses. When buying your Disney tickets, you can go through sites like Orbitz, to make sure your purchase is coded properly. See this page for more details.
You can read more on these cards in my page that lists best sign-up bonuses  Be aware, Barclaycard Arrival isn’t accepting new applications right now, though, they should in a near future (the link is now live, see the post). Meanwhile, I recommend you consider applying for Capital One Venture Rewards or Wells Fargo Propel. Wells Fargo is kind of  a pain to deal with, they made me fax our tax returns. If you are not comfortable with this, pass on this card and go with Capital One instead.
The bonus from Capital One  can also be redeemed for various gift cards like Target, where 40,000 points would give you $400 gift card. If you and your wife can get approved for it, you would have to spend $6,000 in 3 months in order to collect the bonus. But in return, you could knock  $800 off the price of Disney tickets. You would also have some points leftover from the minimum spending. Overall, I think it would be a good short-term strategy for reducing the cost of your family travel.
As far as the trip to Taiwan is concerned, I really hope you can pull it off. I would put it on the back burner for now, though. The problem is, it’s very hard to find 6 award tickets on the same flight. Not impossible, just difficult. Be prepared to spend cash for 1 or 2 seats. Meanwhile, you can focus on accumulating miles. I really like AAdvantage program. When you get ready to apply for their co-branded card, make sure that you are going for the bonus of at least 50K miles.  Don’t settle for less.
The same with Chase United Mileage Plus card (another good program to focus on). Only apply when the bonus is 50K-55K miles. Either way, I would leave it for now and focus on your upcoming trip to Disney. I think if you play your cards right (pun intended), you can cover a good portion of your tickets’ cost. Of course, it does depend on your monthly spending and what you can handle once the renovation is done.  Capital One doesn’t like to see many recent inquiries, so you may want to apply for it first. They do check all three agencies, and for some,  it’s a deal breaker. Not for me, as I got this card for my husband and tried to get it twice for myself. Unfortunately, since I constantly switch cards, I was denied. With you just starting out in this hobby, it shouldn’t be a problem.
As far as Chase Sapphire Preferred goes, it is a very good card, but IMO mostly for its bonus. The points do transfer to United and Southwest programs 1:1, so that’s a major plus. Read this post where I compare it to Amex Everyday Preferred  The latter is a great choice for everyday spending, but doesn’t come with a compelling bonus ( make sure to read my post on new Chase rules).
I totally understand your feeling on manufactured spending. I don’t do it and have no desire to start. Too much trouble and seems kind of shady at times!  Anyway, I hope this helps.”
Do you agree with my advice? Yay or Nay?
Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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12 thoughts on “Helping a Family of 6 Afford a Disney Trip, and More!

    • Michelle, thanks for your feedback! Readers like you is why I decided to give this blogging thing another shot. Feel free to email me with any questions. I always try to recommend the best options even if they pay me zero.

    • Jerri, I really appreciate your support, as always! I hope I can come up with some beneficial content. It is hard, pretty much everything in this hobby has been said a million times by now. But perhaps I can spin it in my own quirky way, eh? Please, don’t hesitate to email me suggesting topics that interest you.

  1. Funny, I had moved your site to the bottom of my feeds (which I don’t manage to reach very often) in case you decided to start posting again. Happened to scroll that way today and it’s nice to see you are back. I will move it back up!

    Family of 6 to Orlando? I would totally recommend one of the timeshare resorts because they will have more space (1, 2, or 3 bedroom units available) plus laundry and a kitchen, which is great for saving some dough. There are two Starwood properties, Sheraton Vistana Resort and Sheraton Vistana Villages. You can use Starpoints, but I would check the special “without daily housekeeping” rates at http://allears.net/acc/faq_hot.htm because you can get some great bargains, especially in the slower months. Coincidentally, I stayed at both properties earlier this year during the spring time. Vistana Resort is a little closer, maybe 10 minutes drive to WDW parking lots. Vistana Villages is 5 minutes further but a slightly nicer property in my opinion. (I should note that we usually leave the hotel for WDW about 30-45 minutes before the “rope drop” time). Both have nice, big pool areas that are great for a day or two of downtime from visiting Mickey. While I would stay at either property again, I give a slight nod to Vistana Villages because I felt the pools were a little nicer, especially the kid-oriented pool with a pirate ship and water slide (Vistana Resort had a slide but it was broken and apparently had been closed for like a year). Also, Vistana Villages has nice high-quality outdoor gas grills that are free to use for guests. Be sure to google the property map and state a section preference when making your booking (some people like to be near the pools, while others want more seclusion). The staff will do their best to accommodate your request (we were 2 for 2, but I also contacted the concierge about a week before arrival as a reminder). We booked 1 BDR units, giving us our own bedroom and our small kids slept on the sleeper sofa.

    Since these are timeshare resort properties, of course they will offer you a 2-hour sales pitch but participation is not mandatory. You can decide whether your time is worth the Starpoints and additional things they might offer (like free transportation to the park…but…if you plan to get there early, that benefit is useless because their shuttle bus doesn’t start running until 9AM). If you go, just don’t buy and be firm in saying no. On our first stay we did the tour for 5K Starpoints and some other stuff but on the second stay we passed.

    • Erik, I really appreciate you taking the time to post this. You should start your own blog, for realz! I totally agree with you that 1, 2 or 3- bedroom units would be a better match for this family. My advice had more to do with helping them conserve cash and utilizing the points they already have. It sounds like they are on a tight budget. But I will forward your comment to this guy via email. I hope you don’t mind? I think he will find it helpful.
      Glad to know my blog has been promoted on your feed! I don’t know… I think I just needed to regroup. Lots of things were driving me totally nuts, and I let them get to me. I won’t go into specifics, but let’s just say miles and points blogging industry isn’t the most pleasant place to work! Of course, let’s face it, I stirred things up too, at times needlessly. Anyway, sorry for the rant. Hope you stop by when /if I feel like venting.

      • I’ve thought about doing a blog but have concerns about the potential amount of time that it may take away from my life. And let’s face it, time is much more valuable than money because you can never get it back. Another option that I would recommend – but only to someone that is very strong-willed – is to complete a “request information” form at one of the major timeshare systems web sites (Starwood Vacation Network, Hilton Vacation Club, Marriott Vacation Club, etc.) Inevitably that puts your name into their marketing machine and you can probably expect to be contacted within 30-90 days with an offer to stay at a timeshare property for several nights at a low price. Orlando is usually one of the featured locations. Of course, you have to participate in their 90-120 minute timeshare presentation, but as long as you say no, you’ll be OK (it is rarely ever a good deal to buy a timeshare directly from the developer). I have done these “tours” with Starwood and Hilton at prices well below the market’s normal hotel nightly rates. In my experience, these two companies are not that aggressive compared to others like Wyndham- after saying no a couple of times, they get the hint that you’re not interested and back off. If they try this option, when they are contacted they should insist on making the reservation at the time of the offer. You don’t want to buy the offer package and then try to book it later only to find out that they can’t accommodate your preferred dates. Also, they should confirm that they will actually stay at the timeshare resort and not someplace nearby. Holiday Inn and Diamond International will do that which makes no sense to me – why would I want to stay at a Holiday Inn Express for a few nights and visit a nearby timeshare property that is likely much nicer? If you are trying to sell me something then let me experience the actual product!

    • @Erik Very true that blogging is a major time-sucker. I enjoy writing, but it’s super draining, and many evenings I just don’t have the energy to come up with anything worthwhile. The thing that motivates me is when I get a positive comment or an email. Why pretend, making a little money doesn’t hurt either! 😉 But you are right, time is a precious commodity. Well, if you start a blog, let me know, I’ll read it. Also, if you feel like contributing a post, I will be happy to publish it. I can’t afford to pay you, but would probably give a small gift card as a token of appreciation.
      As far as timeshares go, I agree, I’ve never seen a good deal directly from developer. I know you can buy one on resale market, but even then I would hesitate. I’m cheap, and just can’t imagine paying fees and be tied to one property from then on. I really value flexibility when it comes to travel. Thanks for your tips. My husband would never do a timeshare, but some relatives might. I will pass along your tips.

  2. Oh, a Disney post? I am completely uninterested in this topic.

    Obvs just kidding.

    Firstly, I have a serious man crush on Erik. Love his advice. Yours is really good too. To me, the keys to Disney are:

    1. Have enough points for flights, or fly on Allegiant. I recommend Southwest or Allegiant for families, but really any airline will do.
    2. Use Barclaycard and Cap 1 card to purchase the tickets on undercovertourist.com
    3. Points for resort/hotel are fine. I prefer resorts with kitchens, so I’d recommend a site like allears.net or redweek.com to book a resort. Otherwise do a timeshare tour. The stay is the easy part, as there are hundreds of some of the best resorts in America in Orlando, and they are all competing for you to stay there. You can find a deal somehow. We’ve considered just going to stay at a resort and doing all of the awesome cheap stuff in the area. If you have enough Marriott points, I recommend the JW Marriott Orange Lakes. Superb lazy river/pool facility, and the attached timeshare is incredible.
    4. Use the 4X gas promotions to buy Disney gift cards and then use the points to gas up both of your cars to save about 15% on spending money at Disney.

    Also, don’t do any of your purchases through disney if you can. Their resorts are not as good as the ones just miles away, and are 2X as expensive. Their meal plans provide horrendous value, and if you are staying for more than 2 days, their tickets are more expensive than undercovertourist.

    • @Cheapblackdad I’m sure Erik will appreciate you having a man crush on him! Thanks for your suggestions, I didn’t know undercovertourist.com codes as a travel purchase. That’s very helpful! I’m always glad when readers chime in when it comes to Disney. I’m not an expert in this area, and my advice mostly centers around hotel points options. I actually plan to do a post addressing this a bit.

  3. undercovertourist works on the Cap 1, but now that I think of it, it did not work on my Barclaycard. However, I am wondering if that changed with some of their changes as a recent RCI charge of about $250 for our week in Puerto Vallarta posted as travel. I’ll see what I find as I have some Disney tickets to purchase.

  4. Pingback: Paid Vacation Rentals Vs. Rooms Bookable on Points, Plus Opportunity Cost | Miles For Family

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