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Our Plans for 2018, Plus Musings on whether Family Travel Is Truly Essential

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:

Spring

During kids’ spring break we are hosting my parents who are flying over from Europe.

Flights:

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

Hotels: 

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.

Summer

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

Fall

???

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.

Bottom line

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 milesforfamily@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Click here to view various credit cards and available sign-up bonuses

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 “Our Plans for 2018, Plus Musings on whether Family Travel Is Truly Essential

  1. Really enjoyed this post😊. I’m so excited for your trips. Our 2018 travel plans are done and I’m looking forward to booking windows opening up so I can tackle 2019! We’re headed back to Vegas(with kids) in 3 weeks. We’re doing Banff and Lake Louise for Spring Break and summer we’re headed back to Walt Disney World.

  2. Forgot to mention how points and miles made these trips happen. 4nights in Vegas. Vegas flights were booked with SW gift cards from AmexPlatinum and Prg airline credits. We scored direct flights from Philly and Newark for cheap. $370 each way for 2 adults and 2 kids. Used Amtrak points from cc sign up bonus to get to EWR from Philly. 2 Hyatt sign up bonus cc free nights being used at Delano Las Vegas. Booked one night at Delano using Amex FHR for free breakfast and $100 food credit at a rate of $109. Last night using 8,000 Hyatt points at Hyatt Las Vegas before we take our early morning flight.

    Banff Lake Louise-used 100,000 Amex points from Platinum transferred to Aeroplan to book 4 rt flights -Newark to Calgary. One night near Airport booked through chase portal using UR. 2 nights at Fairmont LL using Fairmont freenight certificates from sign up bonus. Two nights at Rimrock resort in Banff using Barclaycard Arrival plus sign up bonus to erase hotel charges. One night at Wyndham Calgary Airport using Wyndham points plus cash from Masterpass promotion where I got 10,000 Wyndham points for a $59 stay at a local Knights Inn.

  3. Walt Disney World trip will be most expensive but points helped. 4 roundtrip tickets booked on JetBlue-EWR to MCO using JetBlue points transferred from Amex MR account when Amex had bonus on JetBlue transfers..making 1MR point equal to 1 Trueblue point. 1 night prior to our stay on Disney property at Wyndham Bonnet Creek using Wyndham points. 6 nights at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa using cash booked on a conference rate.

    • @Natasha Sounds amazing! I’m really curious how you’ll end up liking Lake Louise Fairmont property. I thought it was incredible when we visited it in the summer, but I bet winter will be magical. I really wanted to get a Fairmont card so we could stay there for few nights, but that ship has now sailed. ;(
      It’s funny, like you, I’m already thinking about 2019! It drives my husband crazy. I plan to do a post on it next week. Stay tuned!

      • You have to book early to get the best rates!! Like you, I’m the planner. If hubby planned, we’d never go anywhere. Lol

  4. We have two big trips for 2018. One of my favorite things to do is plug in what I’ve reserved and see what the cash rate would’ve been. I’ve got a $6000 Maui trip coming up in a few weeks that I paid $640 in fees to get (1 Chase Reserve and 2 Barclay AA) We have a 9-day Seattle and Olympic National Park summer family trip that so far adds up to $3800 that I got on miles and points (Barclay Arrival, Southwest card, Chase UR points). These are the longest trips we’ve taken so I’m pretty excited.

    • @Jennifer Very nice! And don’t forget, you get a $300 annual travel credit on CSR, so technically, your out-of- pocket cost is even lower. I can’t wait to hear about your Maui trip.

    • @Momma to Go Bonita Springs is a nice area in Florida. It’s usually warm here in the winter, so it’s a good place for a little getaway while kids are off. We were fortunate to be able to use water facilities and enjoy beautiful island owned by Hyatt. I definitely recommend this resort, a very good deal for 15,000 Points per night.

      • It’s 45 outside right now in Estero / Bonita Springs. Big difference than the 80’s we had a week ago. Kind of feel bad for those who came down to escape the cold but will be back up to 80 by middle of next week. We live a couple of miles from that Hyatt and I routinely use our anniversary nights for date night there to get away from the kids or buy anniversary nights at discounted rates on Dans Deals to put my Mom up there. Great value for a Hyatt and the private ferry out to the beach is nice with family since I can’t fit the whole family on my boat. Hope you enjoyed your visit to our little piece of paradise.

      • @Brad How about that! You know, I keep thinking that my husband and I should just go there alone to have a break from the kids, but end up taking them each time. There is just so much there for families. M kids love to roast marshmallows by the fire pit and really enjoy the water park. I do think we should probably avoid winter from now on. I was fortunate that when we went, the weather was in the eighties. It would be so sad to go there and not be able to use the amenities. Well, I bet those folks are happy to have 45 degrees weather right now. Just look at the weather up north!

  5. @Leana…you and Nancy are so down to earth and even your readers give some great advice when planning out trips. Without this hobby, there is no way my family could afford to go on the trips that we have or even plan. We have NYC and WDW for this year, and I have already penciled in ideas for 2019. I’m grateful for our UR points, Hyatt Points & Free Night Certs, SPG Points, IHG points & Free Nights, AA miles, and JetBlue miles. Keep up the good work, and can’t wait to hear about your upcoming vacations.

    • @Stephanie Haha! Well, I try to be down to earth, but I can be a diva at times. Just ask my husband! Honestly, I’m not set on only one way of travel and try to encourage readers to try different things. Motel on the beach? Why not!
      Thank you so much for your comments and continued support. I hope we can be of help in 2018.

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