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Trading Miles and Points With Family and Friends

I’m sure that most of you vacation with relatives from time to time. As avid participants in this hobby, you have probably found yourself in a situation where using miles and points makes way more sense than paying cash.

But here is a dilemma: You have other people involved, so you need extra hotel rooms and airplane tickets. How do you go about asking them to contribute? Should you ask them at all?

First, you absolutely should view your miles and points as a valuable commodity. It may not be real money per se, but it’s tangible currency nonetheless. You have put your credit on the line in order to get that bonus, potentially foregoing other sign-up offers. You have spent your valuable time learning the tricks of this hobby.

So the cost is very real, even if not obvious to the naked eye. It wouldn’t be fair for your relatives to just expect you to cover the expenses because after all, it’s not like you are paying real money.

That said, it’s best to agree on the details ahead of time to avoid any misunderstanding. It’s not fair to say that you will cover everything, only to demand a specific payment later. For example, you can offer to pay for airline tickets if they cover lodging. That’s where it will come in handy to have an idea on what your miles and points are worth to you.

I’ve actually applied this principle to our upcoming trip to Europe. I don’t keep track of what I’ve used down to every single mile, but I have made several redemptions that saved my in-laws’ significant amount of money. In exchange, I asked them if I could count it toward our vacation rentals’ portion. I still plan to contribute real money, but I feel this was a win-win for everyone.

Speaking of, the other day I saw an ad on Craigslist where a guy was trying to sell his rare parrot for a $1,000 (with a possible trade for a horse). Nope, not a joke. Say what you like, but at least he knew what the bird was worth, and to him it was a horse. Kind of rhymes!

We have paid (with points) for  a relative’s hotel room  in exchange for her watching our kids at night. It allowed us to have a getaway of our own. Of course, you need to make sure it’s someone you can really trust. Otherwise, you’ll spend your entire time worrying about the children instead of having fun.

I am very fortunate to have a family who really appreciates it when I treat them to a getaway. I try not to be stingy, and when it comes to IHG PointBreaks, I will gladly use points for  a third cousin we’ve never met, especially if it’s a good value.

My favorite part of this hobby is being able to use miles and points for my parents. We bring them here to visit the grandkids on a regular basis. For me, it’s a must and comes before any vacation with just my husband and children. What’s nice about this hobby is that I don’t have to choose.

Swapping Alaska for Florida

I’ve mentioned earlier that I planned to take my parents on a cruise to Alaska in 2016. Unfortunately, after a lot of back and forth, we decided to bring them to Florida  for Spring Break instead. Visa situation is complicated, and they would have to deal with Canadian embassy on top of all the other hassles.

What’s funny is that my mom actually admitted that she didn’t really want to go to Alaska. She loves to lounge on a beach and, well, Florida seems like a good choice for Eastern Europeans who are sick of nasty March weather in their country.

I can’t book their airfare yet, but already started looking at hotels. Fortunately, I have enough  points that our out-of-pocket lodging costs should be minimal. Let me show you some places I’m looking at because I think they would be a good Spring Break choice for Americans who may be sick of their March weather too.

1) Holiday Inn and Suites Clearwater S-Harbourside  Indian Rocks Beach

The resort costs 25,000 points per night, and rooms come with 2 queen beds that will fit 4. This place costs $235 (plus tax) per night in high season. We will need two rooms for 4 nights. I don’t wanna hear how this resort is too expensive on points! That’s me talking to Julia, my alter ego. Anyway, I like this place and will burn 180,000 IHG points (after rebate) to stay here…I think.

Honestly, spring is very expensive in Florida, whether it’s a hotel or condo. This resort is located within a 10-minute walk of a nice beach, has  a heated pool, waterpark and miniature golf. It is expensive at 45,000 points (per night) it will end up costing me after Chase IHG Visa rebate, but I just think my mom will love it. My in-laws stayed here and enjoyed it.

If you only need one room, I  recommend you consider it for your spring vacation.

2) Radisson Hotel Oceanfront Melbourne, Fl

This hotel costs 44,000 Club Carlson points per night, and you get every second night redemption free with their co-branded Visa (for now). All rooms are suites, fit 4, face the ocean and come with spectacular views. This is the place that made me want to get Club Carlson Signature Visa.

We will probably end up staying three nights, and I will have to redeem the full 44,000 points for the third one. The rate for this place in the spring is very high,  and suites go for $200 to $250 per night, including tax. It would mean getting a little over 0.45 CPP. Considering the fact that I now value Club Carlson point at 0.20 cents, this is a great deal. Plus,  it would allow me to conserve dollars, my favorite currency of all.

This hotel makes the case (sort of) for using US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa for everyday spending. As you probably know, a new announced benefit is that you’ll get a free night in participating US property after $10K in yearly spending. So, here is what you’ll have if you choose to take advantage of this benefit: 1 free night certificate, 50K in points since the card earns 5 points per dollar on everything, 40K points after renewal and paying $75 annual fee.

So potentially, you can get three nights at this property for $275 (annual fee+ opportunity cost of $200 via 2% card). That’s not  a bad deal during high season and holidays. Any concerns? You betcha! That hotel may not be available for the dates you need, Club Carlson may jack up the price to 75K points etc. The Deal Mommy did a review of this property and I can’t wait to stay here! But no, I will not be putting $10K on my Club Carlson card.

I should be able to book 2 nights before June, the time when the BOGO perk is going away. Unfortunately, I will have to wait till January to get my third night. That’s when mine and my husband’s cards renew.

So, this is what I’ll do now:

Book 4 award nights in Holiday Inn, followed by one separate award night reservation. Then I’ll book 2 nights in Radisson using BOGO benefit while it’s still available. If there is availability for that gap night when I get my Club Carlson renewal points, I’ll cancel  1-night reservation in Holiday Inn and swap it for Radisson. Voila!

And that’s how I plan to treat my parents and myself to a 7-night beach vacation in Florida, our home state. Using points and miles will allow me to save money I can in turn spend towards out cruise in Alaska.

Making out like  a bandit

Sometimes the value you get by participating in this hobby  makes me downright giddy! Few weeks ago, I  redeemed hotel points to treat my parents  to a vacation in Europe in a location not too far from Belarus. Club Carlson program has made it possible.

klaipeda hotel

Klaipeda, you may say? Where is that? It’s actually a famous resort town located by the Baltic sea. In the days of Soviet Union, my mom used to frequent this area with her friends and has very fond memories from those trips.

So I was thrilled to find a Radisson Blu where you can redeem 22,500 points to get 2 nights (via current BOGO benefit) in business class room with breakfast included. As you can see, the paid rate is 163 euros per night. Not too shabby of a redemption, right? My parents are poor and can’t afford any vacation, period.

Did you know that authorized users are also entitled to a “second night free ” benefit? I saw this useful tip mentioned on Million Mile Secrets blog. I just added  mom as an AU to my card. Interestingly, when I called to add  dad to my husband’s account, the rep told me that social security number is required, so I couldn’t do it. US Bank just might be more quirky than Citi.

I already made the second reservation using the BOGO benefit since I didn’t anticipate any issues. So, I called Club Carlson and asked the agent if I should switch it to a one night stay due to this new development. She told me not to worry about it and that hotels don’t really care.  Of, course, YMMV So, my parents are having  a 4-night vacation in resort town for only 45,000 points total, full breakfast included. Oh, and let’s not forget bathrobe and slippers!

This is a reason I still find value in Club Carlson program. Even at full rate of 22,500 points per night, this hotel is a  good deal.

We are flying out of Kaunas, Lithuania and my parents will just take a short train ride to Klaipeda  after saying goodbye at the airport. I’m hoping the fact that they will have  a vacation to look forward to, will take the sadness out of the whole thing.

Sometimes the fact that people don’t view miles and points as real currency can actually be to your advantage. All my mom knows is that the hotel is free. I’ve noticed that friends and relatives who are very proud and won’t take money, will reluctantly accept “free” lodging or airline tickets. So in a way, it’s also a win-win. Using this hobby to help someone in need is a great feeling.

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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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7 thoughts on “Trading Miles and Points With Family and Friends

  1. It’s great that you can bring your family over and treat them to nice vacations. I’m sure it means a lot. Your Spring Break plans sound fun. I wish I could plan as far ahead as you do. We are more spontaneous travelers so rooms are usually booked up.

    • Jennifer, there are pros and cons to my approach. I know when my daughter’s Spring Break will be (via my brother-in-law who works in school), so decided to just go ahead with our plans. That said, my husband can’t get his vacation approved till December, so we are taking a chance.

      I don’t foresee any issues, but you just never know. I’d like to reserve the flights for my parents now, since we don’t have much flexibility if we don’t want to take my daughter out of school. I prefer not to irritate the teacher if at all possible.
      There is nothing wrong with being spontaneous!

  2. Wow. That is some serious planning ahead. I have a January trip that I’ve been meaning to plan but have been waffling on when and where in Mexico we’d go. Florida is a pretty awesome back up plan. Couldn’t you still stick with the cruise idea but do the Caribbean? Or does that just reintroduce the visa challenge?

    • Cheapblackdad, I’m a planner! I just got my kid’s school schedule, so figured why not? I actually thought about doing a cruise, but it’s quite expensive during that time of the year. Plus, my parents would need a multi-entry visa, so that’s another added cost. We did take them on a cruise before, so wanted to do something different.
      Plus, my mom just wants to sit on a beach, and Florida is a good place for that, right? We also need to conserve our savings, especially since we’ll have a cruise to Alaska to pay for. Not cheap!
      I have all these hotel points, and it just seemed like a good idea to burn them for my parents, especially with this Club Carlson devaluation.

      • I do find Cruise’s are one of the more challenging aspects of travel hacking. I know I could use Barclaycard & Cap1 points, but I find myself using those for so many other travel expenses. So I can see how it makes more sense to prioritize the beach.

    • Cheapblackdad, very true! While you can offset hotel and airfare cost almost 100% via points, it’s much harder with cruises, especially when you have 2 or 3 cabins involved. I do plan to get Arrival to help cover the charges, though it will be a marginal amount compared to the total cost. But my husband loves cruises, so you do what you gotta do!

  3. Pingback: Challenges of Vacationing With a Large Family in Europe, and More! | Miles For Family

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