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What’s in Our Wallet: Planning for 2018 Travel

By Nancy

That isn’t a typo. My head is really in 2018 right now. Since I’ve finished securing our hotel and airline tickets for our big 2017 trip to Alaska, it’s time to plan my credit card strategy in order to use miles and points for my family’s travel in 2018. (Note: We are a family of five based out of Dallas).

I realize we are 16 months from the beginning of 2018. However, SPG hotels are already online for January and February 2018, and Hyatt dates will be available about 13 months in advance. Most airlines release flight schedules and award space about 11 months in advance. Sometimes, the best time to nab award flights or hotel point stays is right when the dates are released.

Since I have a family of five, I can’t wait until it’s time to book flights to figure out a plan since it takes so many points and miles to get us there. I need to get all my ducks in a row so that when it’s time to book, my points are ready to go. It’s time to figure out where we want to go, how many points we currently have and what’s missing from our stash. That will determine which credit card bonuses we need to get over the next six to eight months to make it possible for 2018 travel.

Hawaii for early 2018

My family wants to return to Hawaii in the first quarter of 2018. We visited Hawaii for the first time in 2015 for (almost) free with the help of miles and points, and we had a blast! We spent two nights in the Waikiki area and five nights at Disney’s Aulani (you can read all the details here). While we loved Oahu, we’d like to see another island on our next trip.

Hanging loose with Minnie Mouse at Aulani

Hanging loose with Minnie Mouse at Aulani

Our current plan is to pull the kids out of school for a few days before their Spring Break to take a 10-12 day trip. We would spend 4-6 days on Maui or Kauai first, and then fly to Oahu to return to Disney’s Aulani (yes, it was that good!)

We will need five one-way tickets to Maui or Kauai, five one-way tickets from there to Oahu, and five one-way tickets from Oahu back to Dallas. We are planning on paying cash for Aulani, but we hope to use hotel points to offset some of the cost of staying in Maui or Kauai.

Leana wrote a post on the award costs to Hawaii by airline, so I could plan our credit card strategy by referencing that guide and factoring in the airlines most convenient to Dallas.

Chase British Airways Visa

My husband and I both got Chase British Airways Visas at the beginning of the summer when the bonus was 50,000 miles after spending $2k in three months. This is one of the few Chase cards that currently doesn’t fall under the 5/24 rule. The annual fee is $95 (not waived), but the current bonus is a slightly different offer at 50,000 miles after spending $3000 in three months. I already received my bonus 50k miles, and we just finished the minimum spending on my husband’s card.

We can use these miles to fly on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines to Hawaii from West Coast cities for 12,500 miles each way. Alaska Air has very good availability from Seattle for these flights, but my preference is to fly from Phoenix or Los Angeles since those cities have cheaper flights from Dallas.

When my husband’s card bonus hits, we will have enough points for five tickets one-way to Hawaii plus enough for five inter-island flights to Oahu. We will have to get to Phoenix or Los Angeles with a cheap flight or with Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward points.

For more information about the Chase British Airways Visa, check out this post.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa Infinite

My husband was recently approved for  Chase Sapphire Reserve by applying at a Chase bank branch. He was pre-approved for this offer despite the 5/24 rule (he is at ~7/24 not counting authorized user cards). This card gives 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4000 in the first three months.

The catch is that is has a $450 annual fee. However, this is one of those cases of “you have to spend money to make money.” The card has a $300 annual travel reimbursement, which follows the calendar year. We can actually get $600 of travel reimbursed the first year we own this card since we will have it for half of 2016 and half of 2017. The 100,000 points can be converted to $1000 cash or $1500 towards travel booked through the portal. The points have an even higher value when transferred to partners like Southwest, Hyatt and United.

We could use the 100k points to book flights on United to Hawaii, or transfer the points to Korean Skypass program (for flights to Hawaii on its partner, Delta), or transfer points to Singapore Air Krisflyer (for flights to Hawaii on its partner, United). We could also transfer points to top off our British Airways Avios account to have enough points for round-trip tickets. However, we will most likely use the points from this card for Southwest flights to the west coast and a few nights at Hyatt hotels in Hawaii.

For more information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, see this post.

US Bank Flexperks

Leana wrote about this card a few weeks ago, and my husband and I both applied for it during the Olympics promo (which expired 9/3/16). Our applications are both still pending, but if we are approved we will have a combined ~74,000 in points after meeting the minimum spend of $2000 after four months for each card. The annual fee is waived the first year.

We plan to put our monthly spending on this card for a few months to get our points balance to 80,000 points. We can use those points for four airline tickets valued at $400 or less. And guess what? We can book one-way tickets from Oahu to Dallas for slightly less than $400. We would need to use airline miles for the 5th ticket, or pay ~$400 in cash to get us all on the same flight.

If we don’t end up needing these points for flights, we could apply them toward hotel nights in Hawaii.

Cards for the Next Round:

After we meet the minimum spending requirements for Chase Sapphire Reserve and the US Bank Flexperks cards, we will be keeping an eye out for lucrative bonuses on other cards that will help give us more flexibility for our Hawaii award flights and hotels.

Cards that would be beneficial to us include the American Express Platinum and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold (PRG). The bonuses on these cards vary depending on the time of the year, but they have been as high as 100,000 points for the Platinum and 75,000 points for the PRG. Those points can be transferred to Delta or United partners like Singapore Air and Air Canada for flights to Hawaii.

When we get closer to a year prior to our trip dates, we want to apply for the Chase Hyatt Visa card and possibly the Chase Fairmont Visa card. These cards currently do not fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule.

The Chase Hyatt card comes with two free nights after $1000 in spending within the first three months. Since we will be traveling as a group of five (possibly six), we will need two hotel rooms. My husband and I would both get this card for two free nights with two rooms.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. Isn't it dreamy? Image courtesy of Hyatt

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. Isn’t it dreamy?
Image courtesy of Hyatt

The Chase Fairmont card is also a possibility if we decide to stay in Maui. It comes with two free nights after spending $3000 in three months, plus a suite upgrade certificate that would provide us a room large enough to fit my entire family of five. If we both got the card, we would have a total of four free nights in a suite. We could partner that with two free nights at the Hyatt Regency Maui and have six nights of hotel covered.

The free night certificates from both the Hyatt and Fairmont cards expire after a year, so it’s important to time the application and spending just right so that they don’t expire before our trip.

Who else is already thinking about travel for 2018? What are your plans?

This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream and has an awesome YouTube channel.

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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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13 thoughts on “What’s in Our Wallet: Planning for 2018 Travel

  1. Hawaii is my dream vacation but our family of 5 has not made it there yet. I have a BA Avios stash that I was going to use for Ireland but I just might change our plans after reading your post.

    • My husband and I were surprised at how much we loved Hawaii. It was so pretty, locals were super friendly, and there was lots to do! Of course Ireland sounds like a great trip, too!

    • I have been to Maui and Ireland and each time with kids, and loved them both! Ireland is cheaper and every bit as scenic as Maui. My best memory of Ireland was playing in the waterfall behind Muckross House. The waterfalls in Maui at the Seven sacred pools were way harder to play as it was so incredibly slick and crawling with people. The driving in Ireland was 80% easy 20% difficult. The driving in Maui would have been more difficult if we had driven the road to Hana rather than the tour we did. They both have fun music and a relaxed vibe. And I would happily return to either!

      • ST–it sounds like I need to add Ireland to my travel wish list! 🙂 I have so many places I want to visit!

      • @ST We only spent one night in Ireland, but it was quite memorable. I would love to go back where we have more time to explore that country.
        On Maui: while we liked visiting the island, driving the road to Hana was a bit of a letdown. It was scary to the point where my husband and I couldn’t relax or enjoy the scenery. At one point we saw a car in the ditch and turned around.

  2. Our family of four just returned from Hawaii in June. We took our 17 month old and 3 year old. The kids did great but the flights were still kinda tough since we lapped the little one.
    Flew DFW-OGG & HNL-DFW. We thought Maui was just OK. I know…how in the world??? Stayed at the Westin Maui and didn’t care for it at all. We love starwood hotels but this place was CRAZY crowded with no Aloha at all. We used points and still thought it was a flop.
    We really love Oahu though so that totally made up for Maui. We stayed on the windward side of the island in a VRBO. Oahu, outside of Honolulu, is fantastic and food was surprisingly affordable and delicious.
    Good luck picking islands and hotels! We love Hawaii!

    • Lindy–glad to hear you loved Hawaii! I agree with you–we didn’t love Honolulu, but we loved the rest of Oahu! I’m a little surprised you didn’t love Maui. I’ve never been there but everyone raves about it. Thanks for the heads up about the Westin. What a bummer!

    • Yes, we’ve been to Maui several times and haven’t stayed at the Westin but I have heard similar comments from others and just walking through there I thought it gave off a packed vibe. This summer we stayed in the Wailea area of Maui and we really enjoyed it. We used four free nights at the Fairmont and the rooms did accommodate our family of five – it might have been my best redemption ever! Previously I would have said I preferred Oahu to Maui also but the Fairmont might have given Maui the edge now!

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only crazy person who looks ahead one year or more! I want to get to Hawaii with my family too, but it’s so far from the Midwest. Every time I start working out the logistics to get to Hawaii, we end up in the Caribbean.

    • Holly–Yay, somebody else who plans far ahead! 🙂 Hawaii is an 8-hour flight from us (if we fly direct). My kids did fine on the flights, however the time change was really challenging for my younger two kids. They were crashed out by 7 or 8 p.m., so we missed some of the night activities at the resort. I’m hoping they do a little better in 2018. We love the Caribbean, too! Can’t beat that clear water.

  4. We’re from the Midwest and have taken our kids twice to Hawaii. They were pre-K at the time and we’re hoping to go back in the next year or two. We used miles for the flights and inevitably they were double connections – the first at some city in the center of the country and the second at LAX. Big tip if you are flying Alaska or any other airline that uses LAX terminal 6 – get one of the premium credit cards that has Priority Pass Select so you can take your family into the Alaska Airlines Board Room. The one at LAX has a kids’ lounge inside the main lounge, plus a pancakes-on-demand machine, fresh fruit, snacks, veggies, and maybe a hot item or two. Plus a good selection of free soft drink and adult beverages. Loved that lounge, it was a little oasis and made our 3-ish hour layovers very comfortable.

    Our faves are the Big Island and Maui. The Big Island has so many things to see/do – you can go the beach, visit coffee plantations, go horseback riding, see waterfalls and other majestic scenery, snorkel in the Kapoho tide pools, and check out Volcanoes Nat’l Park (tip: spend at least 2 nights in a vacation rental house in/near Volcano – you don’t want to daytrip the park from Kona). And that’s just a short list. Maui is more of a place to chill out and relax. I’m not sure what Westin the previous commenter did not like (perhaps the hotel?). We’ve stayed at the Westin Ocean Resort Villas complex and loved it. It is a timeshare property, so you have more space than a hotel room. I believe it is available on SPG points and you can also get good package deals from Costco. We visited the Westin Maui hotel for an evening luau show and it seemed like a nice place. It was big and of course we did not stay in the rooms, but people were friendly to us. Having said that, with a family, I would prefer the extra space at the Ocean Resort Villas and the convenience of having a kitchen to eat some meals in your room (saving $$$). The food trucks that park across the street from ORV are also convenient for good quality takeout.

    • Erik–Thanks for the tip about the Alaska Airlines lounge. Sounds heavenly!

      Ok, now I’ve gotta get to the Big Island someday. Our neighbors just returned from there and got to see lava flowing into the ocean. Amazing!

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