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Vacation With My Parents: Looking for Fun in DysFUNction

Well, guys and gals, I guess I’m officially back. I know, you’ve been in agony over the last few weeks,  eagerly anticipating my return. Fear not! I’m here to provide all the miles and points news updates. What? Are you telling me that there are already 100 blogs  doing just that on a daily basis? Ten posts per day, including covering all the latest naked airport sightings of middle-aged white males?  Are you saying you don’t really give a rat’s behind about my blog? I’m not gonna lie, that hurts.

So, I took time off from posting while my parents were visiting us here in Florida. Best decision,  and I intend to do it during all of my trips. I didn’t write one single word for 10 days, hardly checked other sites or Twitter, and it felt great. Obviously, not everyone can do it, but if you are able to leave your job (blogging or whatever) behind while you are on vacation, it’s the way to go.

There are always going to be some pressing matters, but consider letting others do the rat race for awhile, so you don’t end up like this:

rat

Image courtesy of bigjom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yes, it’s a stock photo image of a dead rat. Quirky! Wait, did this guy/gal kill the rat so he/she  could take a photo and sell it online?

Anyway, miles and points universe didn’t fall apart without me in it. But in case you are like my cousin-in-law who only follows this site, check out my list of secondary credit card offers. Several worthwhile bonuses have popped up lately, including Amex Blue Cash (with  cell phone bill credit offer) and  new Jet Blue co-branded credit card. I told you this hobby isn’t dead. Oh, and don’t forget that AAdvantage award chart will change on March 22nd. See my post for more on this topic

So, back to my parents. As the title implies, there was a lot of dysfunction to be savored over the last week and a half. But before I get to it, let me make it clear that I’m not making fun of my parents. Truth be told, I’m a lot like them. In fact, when I complained to my husband about something they said or did, he would give me the look. And I knew exactly what he meant by it.

Where are they? Is this free?

One of the biggest challenges was just keeping track of them. We would lose sight of mom and dad on a regular basis. It was like having two extra kids to take care of. They were constantly getting distracted by taking pictures of mediocre, ordinary stuff. Here is a table with glasses on it, let’s snap a photo!

Another challenge was explaining the difference between “free” and “complimentary.” We would be sitting at a  breakfast diner and my mom would ask me if she could put  sugar, jelly and syrup packages in her purse. No, it’s complimentary, but only when you consume it on premises. My mom would make an amazing hobbyist. Her biggest joy was going to a Chinese buffet. Our exchange:

Mom: Is this section included too?

Me: Everything is included.

Mom: And this?

Me: Yes.

Mom (2 minutes later): What about this section?

Me: Still included.

Mom: Is my orange juice included?

Me: Nope, that’s extra.

Mom: So why did you get it then?

Me: Because you asked for it, and you are a guest here, so I want you to be happy.

And don’t even get me started on shopping. I’m breaking out in cold sweat just thinking about it. I hate shopping anyway, but when my mom is here, it’s a  fate worse than death. She can easily spend hours upon hours looking at stuff, but she has a hard time deciding what to get. Hey, do you think my co-worker will like it? How am I supposed to know, I’ve never met her!

Even worse, she made me try on a bunch of stuff she was going to get for my sister. We both happen to be the same size, so mom wanted me to put on blouses, pants, revealing shorts and parade them in front of her as well as all the other customers. And this went on and on at four different stores.

We stayed at two beachfront hotels, and I made a huge mistake in getting connecting rooms at one of them. My parents took turns walking over to our section (unannounced) and complaining about each other. Never again. To be fair, they kept the kids a few times so my husband and I could go out to eat alone, which was an amazing treat.

When we were taking them to the airport, my daughter asked  where we were going. My husband: “We are taking your Belarus grandma and grandpa on a plane and you won’t see them again. Maybe ever (grins)” I’m sure he was kidding. I think…

I would do it again in a heartbeat

Because they are family, period. I don’t know any family that’s not  dysfunctional. And those who say they are not, are usually the most dysfunctional of them all. I love my parents and want my kids to spend as much time as possible getting to know them, quirks and all.

 

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In fact, I’m bringing my mom back this November and will again be taking her shopping and Chinese buffet-ing (a word?) But I won’t lie, I’m a little relieved that dad is staying behind. It will cut down on dysfunction considerably.

How The Hobby helped me pay for it all

I used 100,270 Citi Thank You points to pay for two airline tickets, which were obtained from  sign-up bonuses on Citi Thank You Premier cards. I can’t really say that the tickets were free because I could have redeemed this amount for $1,000 in Walmart gift cards which are almost as good as cash. Still, getting 1.33 cents ( I have Citi Prestige cards as well) made this option more advantageous than using miles. The point is, my windfall came as a result of participating in the miles and points hobby and saved me $1,332 which I otherwise would pay out-of-pocket.

Assigning value to lodging is a bit more tricky, but I’ll give it my best shot. We redeemed hotel points for 2 rooms/8 nights. All of them were received from sign-up bonuses, but I did pay annual fees in the amount of around $216. I won’t bore you with the exact breakdown, but will mention that I utilized Club Carlson BOGO benefit (now dead) for 6 nights and used free e-certificates from US Bank for 4 nights. The other three nights (2 rooms) were booked with Wyndham points.  I will have a separate post on it later.

Since we were vacationing during Spring Break, it would be impossible to get a 2-bedroom beachfront condo for less than $250 per night. Once again, if I didn’t have points, I would simply pay cash. So, by that logic, we saved at least $1,784. Of course, condos have kitchens, but we weren’t in the room a whole lot. There was a fridge and a coffee maker, which saved us some money, though not a huge amount. I’ll be honest, I hate cooking while on vacation, so this was kind of a blessing in disguise.

The grand total  is $3116. Not a bad return in exchange for signing up for a few credit cards. Of course, as I’ve said few weeks ago, this visit was far from free. In fact, we dropped at least three grand on visas, Belarus airport transit, sightseeing, shopping and dining. If it wasn’t for miles and points, this would have been our only major vacation this year, which is OK. Kids sure loved the beach as well as all the other activities. For my parents, this trip was downright exotic and a welcome break from nasty March weather in Belarus.

But since I love travel and was able to  offset considerably the cost of my parents’  visit, we decided to add Alaska cruise to our long list of vacations in 2016. For that I’m  grateful to miles and points hobby. Family visits always come first, but it’s nice that we don’t  have to choose.

Average dysfunctional families, are you out there?

I’ve mentioned before that my family makes less than $65K per year, which includes income from this blog. We are debt-free, but still, many destinations and hotels widely promoted in this hobby are simply out of our reach.  It doesn’t really bother me because we are having a fabulous time, and I feel extremely blessed. Still, I hope to help families just like mine so they don’t have to choose between family obligations and true vacations. Let’s face it, many times, those two are not the same thing.

One of well-known bloggers recently confirmed what I suspected all along. The average household income of miles and points hobbyist is $150K per year. While I have absolutely nothing against those who do well financially as a result of  their hard work, my blog is primarily geared towards a middle-class family who makes less than half of that amount. Sure, it’s not a particularly hot niche, but I don’t really care. This blog was born out of frustration with lack of information for people like myself. In other words, if you are OK with vacationing in Florida because you can’t afford Maldives, I hope you find my site of benefit.

Readers, care to share your own stories of vacationing with parents/in-laws?

If you found my content beneficial, look at my Support Me page  for ways you can help keep the site running. Also, please, subscribe to receive free blog updates through email and recommend me to your family and friends. You can also follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook  and download my e-book 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

9 thoughts on “Vacation With My Parents: Looking for Fun in DysFUNction

  1. I, for one, am thrilled that I found a blogger that focuses on middle class families. We easily fall into that category and without miles/points would not have as many opportunities to travel with our family of five! Thank you again! I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of our first trips to Florida with my parents after reading your post. At that time, we didn’t have a local Walmart and I think they spent more time visiting Florida Walmarts than anything else! It made me crazy but they were completely happy!

    • Michelle, thank you so much! I’m thrilled to hear it. It truly gives me satisfaction when I help normal folks find more ways to afford travel. I honestly believe it brings families closer, and we sure made some amazing memories on this trip. All the kooky stuff don’t really matter, even though they drove me crazy at the time. Oh, the Walmart! My mom couldn’t get enough of it. We probably went there 5 times and finally, I told her enough is enough.
      Thanks again for you kind words. This particular niche definitely presents a challenge when it comes to fresh content, but I hope I’ll have some useful material for you now and again. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out via e-mail.

  2. I honestly don’t read other blogs because a lot of it I just can’t attain what they are talking about and that makes me discouraged.. At this point, I can’t get deep into the hobby, so I enjoy your more realistic take on things for a middle-class family. .

    I think your parents sound like a hoot. I’m so happy you are able to bring them here. I am sure it’s the highlight of their year and they tell all their friends about it.

    • @Jennifer Don’t feel bad about not participating in this hobby more. It’s not the end of the world! All in due time, and the deals will still be there later, I promise. I’m glad you find my blog beneficial. I absolutely didn’t mean to suggest that this is the only site that focuses on more attainable, “regular family” travel. That said, there is definitely a lack of this type of information. And it makes sense, it’s simply the law of supply vs. demand. Most people are interested in visiting Maldives and flying in first class because they can easily afford economy seats and Holiday Inn hotels with what they make. Plus, this hobby is shifting more towards reselling, and the whole churning for bonuses thing is very old school. I try not to keep up with the trends.
      As far as my parents having a good time here, that’s definitely true. In spite of all the bickering, they thoroughly enjoyed this trip. I think they thrive on conflict!

  3. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while. It is always the voice of the reason for me. Off course I read the big ones (VFTW, OMATT and TPG). But as a single mom and not having a 6 digit income sometimes it feels very depressing to read about Netjets, Emirates shower or Park Hyatt Maldives villas 🙂
    I learned a lot from them and thanks to points and miles I can visit my family more often and take some nice child friendly vacations with my 3 year old son.
    Your blog made me fell I belong and I got some new credit cards to have a nice vacation next year with my son. We are heading to Miami for the Disney Cruise (paid with some cash and some cash back cc), flight from NYC to MIA with Avios and hotel em Miami with Wyndham points. I know traveling is not free, but It would take me longer to save up the money if it wasn’t for miles and points.
    I am very sad by the AA devaluation tomorrow. My family leaves in Brazil and no more 20K for me. I always planned my visits around the AA low season calendar and it’s been a long time I had to pay for a ticket. Now I need to explore other options to accumulate AA miles because it is going to cost me an extra 40k between my son and I.
    I got approved last week for the SPG card and I used your link. Hopefully you get the commission.
    Thanks for keeping up with the regular folks.

    PS. My mom LOVES Walmart but we have none in NYC. But she goes crazy at Costco. In a 3 week visit we have to go at least 5 times.

    • @Tania Pereyra A voice of reason? Me? That doesn’t sound reasonable! 🙂 I can’t thank you enough for your kind words as well as application via my site. It means a ton that readers go out of their way to find my affiliate links, which let’s face it, are not that easy to find! I did get a few of Amex SPG approvals last week, so it looks like your app has registered. But more than anything, I’m glad my blog has helped you afford travel with your son. That’s incredible.
      I definitely don’t have anything against well-known miles and points sites. Gary Leff from VFTW, Lucky from OMAAT and Brian Kelly from TPG are probably the hardest working bloggers in the industry, if not on the internet. I don’t always agree with them, but I greatly respect their dedication. Even if I didn’t have a family to take care of, I could never do what they do. I doubt most people could. Many readers simply have no idea how much energy goes into posts and blogging in general.
      Basically, we all write from our own perspectives. Someone who is interested in first-class luxury travel will mostly write about that topic. It makes sense. I wouldn’t expect them to suddenly start flying economy or stay in Holiday Inn hotels because that’s what I do.
      By the same token, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with Holiday Inn when it comes to family travel. My kids sure enjoy it. So, my hope is to encourage normal folks to look beyond Hyatt and perhaps consider vacation rentals now and again. There are many paths to affordable travel, and if you are on a budget, it’s good to explore them. To me, cash is super valuable. I agonized recently about Hyatt redemption and only went that route due to my husband’s Diamond status. But then again, I tend to overthink these things. So don’t be like me!
      As far as AA devaluation, yeah, folks like you will be hit the hardest. I’m very sorry about that. I recently suggested to one of my readers who also has family in South America to look into Alaska Air cards. My list of bonuses referenced in the above post should have a working non-affiliate link for personal version that comes with 25K miles plus $100 credit. Also, if you happen to have a business, here is a non-affiliate link for business version https://www.alaskaair.com/content/credit-card/visa-small-business-card.aspx If you apply on the same day, the inquries should get merged. As of now, it looks like Alaska Air award chart still charges 20K miles for off-peak American flights to S. America. It’s a decent option, at least till they raise the prices too. Also, I recommend you subscribe to TheFlightDeal website and follow them on Twitter. You never know if a super cheap fare will pop up. Please, don’t ever hesitate to contact me via email if you have any questions.
      Thank you again for your support!
      P.S. Enjoy your Disney cruise. I too hope to try it out someday. Just pretend you are in an overwater villa in Maldives. 🙂 Emirates showers and all these other fancy stuff… I’m sure they are fun, but at the end of the day the biggest joy of travel is sharing it with someone you love. Your son will have a time of his life and will probably talk about it years later.

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