Before I get into the nitty-gritty, let me get something off my chest (as always, feel free to skip the rant). I’ve noticed, based on comments for our giveaway post, that we have apparently picked up quite a few new readers in 2017. Obviously, this is exciting, but it also made me realize that I have a responsibility to keep things real, so to speak.
The content on this site deals primarily with ways on how a regular family can stretch their travel budget. There is no question that miles and points can open the world, literally and figuratively. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Is family travel beneficial? I believe it is. Is it essential? Nope.
Few weeks ago I went to my hairdresser who happens to have two kids. She asked me about our upcoming travel plans, since winter school break was right around the corner. I told her we were heading to Hyatt resort in Bonita Springs for three nights, courtesy of points. The rate for our stay was $500 per night ($1,500 total all-in), and that didn’t even include club lounge access that we got due to my Explorist status. Instead we paid just 45,000 Hyatt points, an incredible deal.
Enjoying Hyatt private island. Apparently, my daughter decided to turn her brother into a mer-boy. And he let her!
She got a sad look on her face and mentioned that her family is staying home (again) because they can’t really afford to travel. Mind you, she said the same thing in March, right before my family went to Jamaica to vacation in an all-inclusive. She actually asked me about miles and points hobby, but when I mentioned that you need to have a high credit score, the conversation fizzled out. I didn’t pursue it any further. Preaching to her about the importance of family travel would not only be unhelpful, it would be downright obnoxious.
Many people in US can’t travel for one reason or another. Some are barely scraping by and have to work several jobs just to pay bills. Others have kids with health problems, so family travel isn’t really an option. If that describes your situation, please know that the last thing I want to do is make you feel like a bad parent. I hope that all of you guys view this blog as a non-juidgemental, non-patronizing place to hang out.
Miles and points community is a very competitive space, and I’m not just referring to blogging aspect of it. There is a very real issue of OneUpManship, as in out-traveling and out-redeeming the next person.
Oh, you went to Europe twice in one summer and got 5 CPM (cents per mile) on your business class redemption? I’ll go there three times. In first class. And get 15 CPM, plus a shower in the sky.
If you are looking to collect miles so the kids can see grandma in another state a few times per year, none of it should be relevant. And hey, if my umpteenth post gushing about visiting Bora Bora this summer annoys you, feel free to skip it. I won’t mind. Come back the following day and we’ll likely have a more “average Joe/Jane” type post waiting for you. I’m very much an average Jane, I assure you.
Don’t get me wrong, I make no apologies for going to Bora Bora. I’ve worked hard at accumulating points and cash in order to make this dream a reality. By the same token, I know first-hand how depressing it can be to want something and not being able to have it.
Travel is a privilege, though, not a necessity. I grew up in a family that hardly ever went anywhere. While my upbringing was quite dysfunctional in many ways, I don’t blame my parents for not taking us on trips. I know they couldn’t afford it. I also now know from experience how hard parenting is, and that we are all a little bit dysfunctional.
So, to sum it all up, the main goal of this site is to get you out of the house and explore the world, even if it means driving to the next town. However, everybody has different circumstances. So perhaps I should define our mission as “enriching readers’ lives”. For some it will mean enriching it through travel experiences, for others putting extra money in their pocket, paying off debts, whatever. You decide what you want out of it and we’ll be here to help.
On to my travel plans:
During kids’ spring break we are hosting my parents who are flying over from Europe.
You can see how I booked the tickets via points in this post. Right now is not really a good time to sign up for FlexPerks cards since US Bank usually raises the sign-up bonus during Olympic games. Merrill+ card has been discontinued. Fortunately, there are many credit cards that earn flexible points. I recommend you look into Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and US Bank Altitude Reserve (among others). See more details here
We are spending 4 nights in Orlando area and plan to stay in Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orlando-Orange Lake Resort This is a unique redemption because for 35,000 IHG points you can get a 2-bedroom/2-bath unit:
It’s a decent deal during spring months, which is a high season in Florida. The resort has pools, hot tubs and a lazy river, so we plan to stay on-site for few days just to enjoy the amenities. Few of my friends, including in-laws, have stayed here and had good things to say. I’ll report back on whether it’s worth it.
Right now is probably not a good time to sign up for Chase IHG co-branded credit card because the official offer is 60,000 points. It has been as high as 80,000 points, and some of my readers even got targeted offer of 100,000 points. The latter is a spectacular deal. Plus, the card is a keeper due to annual renewal certificate. For an annual fee of $49 you can stay in the above unit, which is a steal. You may also want to look into new IHG Accelerate promo (for stays between January 1st and April 30th). Register and view your targeted set of tasks here
After Orlando we are planning on driving to Fort Myers and spending 4 nights in Wyndham Garden Fort Myers beach The property is basically a motel built in the seventies, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s right on the beach, the most important part. Plus, the reviews on TripAdvisor seem to be decent.
I wrote about my booking process in this post. “Glitchy” is a mild way of putting it. Wyndham reservation system is seriously bonkers and I hope I don’t have any nasty surprises waiting for me in Fort Myers. We’ll see.
You can read the details in the post, but let me give you the short version. My out-of-pocket cost will be $400 for room booked via “cash+ points” rate. I also spent 60,000 Wyndham points for a 2-bedroom unit (for four nights). My cheap self seriously debated if we should just all stay in it and save the cash by foregoing the second room.
But, the fact that the second bedroom only has a full bed, AND there is only one bathroom made me realize that it’s a terrible, no good idea. Paying $400 to preserve my sanity and marriage is most certainly worth it. My husband REALLY likes his personal space and my parents are not very good at granting it to him.
Now is an excellent time to apply for Wyndham credit card (the version with $75 annual fee). The offer is currently 45,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 month. Application link (pays no commission) You may also want to read my post on redeeming Wyndham points on vacation rentals.
The big, yuuuge, fancy trip of a lifetime. Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, here we come! Am I setting myself up for disappointment? Probably. But I don’t care, I’ve been looking forward to this trip for literally decades. I’m especially excited about Tahiti portion. I’ve already written a post with full breakdown of our costs (mileage and out-of-pocket), so won’t repeat myself.
This is a very expensive splurge and not something we can pull off on a regular basis. I’ve already dumped $5,000 into it, and it will probably cost me another $4,000 to cover food, transportation and activities. We don’t plan to go crazy and do the YOLO thing each step of the way, but I also don’t intend to eat ramen noodles at every meal. This is quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime trip, partially due to cost associated with it, but also due to distance. If I really want to do something, I’m going for it. #NoRegrets
I don’t know what we are going to do yet, but our plans will most certainly involve renewal certificates from hotel credit cards. We will likely stay for few nights at a Hyatt resort, I’m just not sure which one. I really want to check out Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress that is currently a category 4.
I have a few other places in mind, specifically ones in Hilton chain. Since both my husband and I plan to renew Hilton Amex Surpass credit cards in order to get our “free” weekend certificates, we will retain Gold status through 2018. As Golds we will be entitled to free breakfast and possible suite upgrade. Those things are not a game changer to me, but they are certainly nice.
Whatever we end up doing, I know my husband will not be up for too many trips after our whirlwind tour of South Pacific. He is not into travel like I am. Quite the opposite, actually.
My goal with these type of posts is not to brag but hopefully inspire you guys to turn your own vacation dreams into reality. I understand that not every middle-class family can pull off a trip to South Pacific, but most can probably afford a drive to Orlando and Fort Myers beach. During high season hotel points can definitely be leveraged to your advantage in touristy spots like my state of Florida.
You have many options and remember: there is no right or wrong way to redeem your miles and points. Do what makes you happy, even if it involves no travel at all. As always, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Leana is the 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.