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Family travel challenge

CIMG7613 I said before that most families will not be getting card after card after card all year long, like I do. Everyone needs to find their own comfort level and stick to it. I wanted to put together a 2-card combo that would take care of a summer vacation for a family of four.

I also wanted to make sure that points post in May or early June  if you apply for cards right now and mostly use your regular spending. Let’s assume you put around $2000 per month on cards like we do. So we can only work with $8000  (2000 x 4) if we have till the end of May. You could also buy a few Visa gift cards to make sure you get the points posted in time.

US Club Carlson Signature Visa. You get 85000 points after spending $2500 in 3 months. Annual fee is 75 dollars, not waived.  I mentioned before that my top hotel card pick is Chase IHG Visa, mostly due to its Point Breaks program (new list now released). However, in this case, I would go with Club Carlson card, since we are planning way ahead and know the exact location of our trip.

Chase  Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Visa (or Plus version). Both come with 50000 points sign-up bonus after spending 2000 in 3 months. Premier version has a 99 dollar fee and comes with 6000 points upon renewal. Plus version has a 69 dollar annual fee. If you plan to cancel the card, it probably makes sense to go with  a Plus version.

I mentioned in my previous post that we would need 112000 Club Carlson points to pay for 8 hotel nights in Florida. That is because you get every second night redemption free. If we put the minimum spend on that card, we would have 97500 points, including the sign-up bonus. Since the card earns 5 points per dollar, we would need to spend a bit less than $3000 to get the remaining points. So, the total spent so far is $5500

Here are the hotels we would stay at:

Park Inn by Radisson Orlando-Celebration  

The goal is to visit Disney, and fortunately, the hotel provides a convenient base, being located just 1 mile from the parks. The cost is 15000 points per night, and  we get a second night free.

Radisson resort at the port

This family-friendly hotel is located in Cape Canaveral and would provide a good base to visit Kennedy Space center. The cost is 38000 points per night, with second night free.

Radisson suite hotel oceanfront

The hotel is located in Melbourne, about an hour from Orlando. All the rooms in the resort face the ocean. The cost is 44000 points per night, with second night free.

Country Inn and Suites Orlando Universal

The goal is to visit Universal Studios, as you can guess from the name. The cost is 15000 points, with second night free.

Grand total is 112000 points. Keep in mind, there is always a chance of devaluation and the possibility of Club Carlson removing the “second night free” benefit. I don’t consider that program to be super reliable. They also have a habit of giving 3 days notice on changes in categories. To be fair, SPG and IHG  have raised award requirements before  with no notice whatsoever, so it’s a possibility with any program.

I have covered Chase Rapid Rewards Visa and some redemptions previously in this post. A lot will depend on where you live in the country, but 52000 points(the bonus plus the minimum spend) should be enough to cover 4 roundtrip tickets, especially if you live on the East Coast. You can always buy the 4th one if you are running short.

The best strategy would be to meet the spend on Southwest card first and book the award tickets before March 31st to beat the devaluation. Since our trip starts and ends in Orlando, we can always reverse the order of Club Carlson hotel stays, in case one is not available on points on the dates we need. Also, since Melbourne and Cape Canaveral are located not too far from Orlando, we can always start or end there, depending on award availability.

The Club Carlson card bonus will mostly work for families of 4 or less, since you will have to share a room. If you have more people than that, and some of you do (I’m looking at you, Nick from PFDigest!), you will have to come up with another plan. One option is to get a card in each spouse’s name, though that will increase your  spending requirement by $5500. I have described some ways to reach it in this post.

Truthfully, if you need to get two hotel rooms each night, that would diminish the value proposition significantly. It probably would make more sense to get a condo through VRBO or Skyauction,  set up base in Orlando and make day trips from there. You might be better off concentrating on getting enough flight points for everyone through Southwest.

Bottom line.

After applying for just 2 cards and spending $7500 total, you can potentially have enough points to cover 8 nights worth of hotel rooms and flights for a family of four. That would make the exorbitant prices of Disney a lot easier to swallow!

P. S. There is a 100000 miles offer for Citi American Airlines credit card, though with 450 dollar fee and high spending requirements. See my “Best deals” page for more.

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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6 thoughts on “Family travel challenge

  1. Personally I’d recommend SPG card and stay at the Disney Swan or Dolphin. This puts you on-site right between Epcot and the move studio park with waterway access and the bus system. Did this Spring Break 2012 it was awesome.

    I finally got approved by darn US Bank for this Club Carlson card. Now time to blow the 750k odd points I’ve amassed with them since they started giving out points like candy, and before they devalue

  2. MilesAbound, thanks for stopping by! I have heard good things about those hotels and hope to try them out someday. The issue here is, they cost 10000 points per night. On top of it, Spg Amex comes with only 25000 points sign-up bonus at the moment with a hefty 5000 dollar minimum spend. I know, what you are going to say! Anyone can spend 20000 dollars per month with minimum effort! 🙂 Club Carlson card seems like a better fit, especially since you can potentially squeeze 8 nights out of it. And as you correctly pointed out, devaluation is only a matter of time. You better burn those points pronto!

    • I agree better to spend those points, but I’d still stick with my rec. Maybe 10k per night but only 40k for 5 nights. You know that $5k over six months is not in the least bit hard to achieve! Personally with my family I’d rather spend five nights conveniently on-site than 8 schlepping back and fourth to inferior Radisson/Country Inn properties. Each to their own I guess. My next case study post is going to be on Universal Studios actually – another “real” one as I am planning our Thanksgiving break there. It will not involve Club Carlson points 🙂

  3. Milesabound, I agree with you on quality vs. quantity. This type of vacation would not be ideal for us, as we have small kids. But many families like to explore different places and hotels. The Radisson in Melbourne actually looks quite nice, with all oceanfront rooms. I plan to stay there when I get Club Carlson card.
    The SPG Amex is on my list of best hotel bonuses. However, I would hesitate to recommend signing up for it now, since most likely the bonus will be increased in the summer. Another issue with using SPG points is that they transfer to AAdvantage. That 40000 points will pay for my mom’s ticket from Europe in the off-season, with miles leftover. Or you could get 4 one-way tickets to Alaska after transfer bonus. I would prefer to get condo and just pay cash, if given a choice.
    I think the issue is, we write from very different perspectives. Your blog is geared toward those, who already have a huge stash of miles, mine is not. That’s why I always stress the importance of calculating the opportunity cost. However, everyone has different preferences and goals and that’s OK.

  4. We did Disney a little over a year ago with the five of us plus my mother-in-law. We had 300,000 Carlson points from working that promo they had a while back, so we did two rooms for eight days at the Radisson Resort in Celebration, which at that time was 9K points per night. We still have 150,000 Carlson points to burn.

  5. Nick, that sounds like a great redemption! I actually never got in on any of those promos unfortunately. Was too busy with my son, who kept me up all night for 2 years. The devaluation is coming, you can bet on it. Same with IHG, they are giving out points like candy lately.
    On an unrelated note, you should insert Chase Sapphire Preferred in your post titles. It’s Google gold. You are welcome!

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