Actually, all of our 2015 travel plans involve miles and points. My goal is to conserve my limited savings and utilize this hobby as much as possible. Without further ado:
1. Trip to Jamaica in March. We are staying in Holiday Inn Montego Bay and flying on Southwest. I’ve written about it in detail, so won’t repeat myself. Basically, our out-of-pocket cost is $440 for all four of us.
2. Trip to Europe in June. This is a big one, in terms of time and cost involved. I have been planning this 2-week trip for several years, and the goal was to book 9 award tickets and pay for as few flights as possible.
I’m happy to say, we mostly got the schedules we wanted. Frequent flyer miles paid for our 4 transatlantic tickets, as well as a 1-way flight within Europe. I bought few flights with cash, but the cost was fairly reasonable. Well, as much as it can be, considering everything had to be multiplied times 4.
We are paying for our few hotel stays with cash (more on that later) and will rent houses in Germany and Italy to fit the entire clan of 9. Pompeii, here I come at last!
3. Trip to Sanibel (Fl) in July. We are going for a 2-night getaway with my in-laws, using 4 certificates we got from the infamous “Into the nights” IHG promo. We plan to stay at the Holiday Inn Sanibel. This hotel normally goes for 35,000 points per night.
I’ve written about this place before, and my husband has been asking to go back. I love Sanibel and Captiva islands and highly recommend you visit them and enjoy this relatively unspoiled part of Florida. Since we live in the state, no airfare is required.
4. Our wedding anniversary trip to Sarasota (Fl) in September. This is the only vacation we are taking without kids, for obvious reasons. We are using the renewal certificates that come with Chase IHG MasterCard. The annual fee is only $49 and worth every penny. We plan to stay 2 nights in Holiday Inn Sarasota-Lido Beach.
The rates in this hotel can be as high as $300, so this is a good place to use the certs. The award rate would have cost us 35,000 points per night. I’m hoping that I will be able to get an oceanview upgrade due to my Platinum status, another great perk of the Chase IHG card.
5. Trip to Port St. Lucie (Fl) in October. This one may or may not happen. I am thinking about staying in Holiday Inn Express St. Lucie West and possibly taking my brother and sister-in-law along with us. The reasons are: It costs only 10,000 points per room, includes full breakfast, and is located only 15 miles away from the beach.
There is a lot to do in the area, so it would be a fun escape. However, if I see something I like on IHG PointBreaks list (costs 5,000 IHG points per night), I will probably go with that. I am cheap!
Something I wanted to point out: When I did a search for 2 adults+2 kids, award rate wasn’t available. Yet, when I checked further, it gave an option for a room with 2 queen size beds. I called the hotel, and they said it was a mistake and to just book it. Be aware of this potential issue, and double check room options just in case.
Don’t just go by what the IHG search returns. Remember what I said about their IT team. Also, as I’ve told my reader Nancy last week, sometimes the room will fit 5, but you’ll need to call the hotel and inquire about the rollaway option. Most of the time, the online search won’t show it.
6. Trip to Lake Buena Vista in December. Every year, we have been going to Disney Fort Wilderness Campground. I’ve written about our experience before in this post. Basically, my husband and his sister stay with kids in the tent, and my in-laws and I get a hotel nearby.
My plan is to use my in-laws’ renewal certificates from their Chase IHG cards in order to get a 2-night stay at Holiday Inn Orlando Vacation Club-Orange Lake Resort. We just stayed there and I really enjoyed it. The place can fit up to 8 people. It also goes for 35,000 points per night. Hmm.. I sense a pattern here.
And that’s it, folks! As you can see, the second part of 2015 consists of short weekend getaways. The reason for that is the fact that my husband’s 3-week vacation allowance will be completely used up in the first part of the year.
Your family can do it too !!!
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Maybe, most likely not. Here comes the bummer part. I don’t really think that our plans are easily achievable for most regular families in America. The truth is, all of this will still cost us a huge amount of money. The trip to Europe will most certainly not be free, or even close to free. Additionally, a lot of our getaways involve Florida, where we happen to live. If you were to fly here, it would add a considerable amount in airfare expenses for 4 people.
Something else you should remember: Our mortgage and cars are paid off, and we reside in an area with a relatively low cost of living. I also don’t shop very much and happily accept hand-me-down clothes from friends and relatives. Plus, I churn my own butter (just kidding). We also made a choice not to save as much money for retirement as experts suggest. Instead, we invest in memories.
A family that makes $65K (or less) and lives in an expensive city, has a mortgage and car payment, will never be able to afford the trips we take. And it would be ludicrous of me to suggest that you can start from zero, get several cards and participate in a few promos, and then be able to have a beachfront vacation in Florida, another one in Jamaica and frolic around Europe all in one year. For free.
But I can honestly claim that if your family is responsible with finances and has some savings, you can have an almost free vacation in Florida or Jamaica or Europe, depending on your level of participation in this hobby.
By the same token, no matter how much I save or cut back, we will never be able to afford a trip to Japan, Tahiti and Africa in the same year. But we can probably pull off one of those due to my stash of miles and points. I’m more than OK with that.
Many times good enough is, well, good enough. If you can only afford to stay in PointBreaks hotels and have to plan your vacation around that program, it’s OK. Don’t longingly look at glossy trip reports of exotic places you’ll most likely never visit.
What matters is that you spend time with your family and make travel something that is a part of your budget with the help of points. Your kids will thank you for it someday. Here is an excerpt from a note my 6-year old brought me the other day:
“Mommy, thanks for hugs and kisses and putting me to bed. And let’s not forget, for taking trips with me.” How about that? In spite of all the dysfunction I tend to create in the family!
Readers, please, tell me about your vacation plans for next year and how points will help you pay for them. I would love to hear about it!
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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.