I was thinking the other day how much my life has changed since I started this blog 5.5 years ago. I got older (though not wiser!) and my kids now have definite opinions when it comes to travel. I hope you take this trip down the memory lane with me.
Kids change everything, but travel goes on
There is no question that having kids makes travel harder and more expensive. You now have to redeem miles on three/four/five people instead of two. When children are very little, it’s hard to even enjoy trips. Going somewhere is more of a change of scenery rather than a true vacation.
That’s why when my daughter was an infant, the only flights we took were due to family obligations. When she was 10 months old, we flew to Philadelphia to attend my brother-in-law’s wedding. It was a total disaster, and you can read more on the whole thing in this post. Even so, the trip had its redeeming moments, and we still laugh about the series of unfortunate events that plagued it.
Deep down inside, I am an optimist. That’s why when she was 18 months old, we flew to Europe to visit my family. I had to drag a huge car seat, stroller, plus a portable crib. Needless to say, vacation it was not. Still, since we had an overnight layover in Frankfurt in both directions, I decided we might as well do something unique while we are in the area.
So, I booked a room in Hyatt Regency Mainz. I was able to snag a special rate of $120 all-in and get a Rhine river view room via status match. Sometimes a chain hotel is the best option in town.
On the way back, I got a room in a real castle near Frankfurt for $250 per night.
I’m not going to lie. Since we had a small baby with us, I was tempted to take the easy route and crash in a cheap/bland airport hotel. Instead, we paid for taxi and drove 30 minutes out of our way. But you know what? It was totally worth it. In fact, when I think about this trip, I mostly remember watching the boats go down the Rhine river, touring Gutenberg museum and sleeping in a castle.
So, my advice to those of you who have small kids is to keep it simple, yet seize the moment. You don’t always have to stick to a “safe”, aka conventional way of travel just because you are now a family. If there is a place that interests you, take that detour. As you get older, you regret the things you haven’t done more than the other way around.
Right about the time I started this blog, we went to Alberta, Canada with in-laws and two kids. My son was two and in diapers. It was our first flight as a family of four and the trip was a resounding success. Obviously, there were ups and downs, but we still had a great time. And I never looked back.
Now that my kids are older, we no longer have to worry about baby gear, car seats and all the other junk. Of course, we now have a totally different set of challenges. Still, I feel comfortable enough planning a trip to Japan and Hawaii next year. Thanks to miles and points, we just might be able to pull it off.
And after that, who knows… Wakanda?
Happiness per point
Like most of my fellow miles and points addicts, I enjoy getting high CPP (cents per point) in value when it comes to redemptions. The best CPP deal I ever got was an oceanfront room in Crowne Plaza Melbourne (Fl) that cost only 5,000 IHG points per night. The paid rate at the hotel was over $100 per night, so I got more than 2 cents per point. For IHG program, that’s beyond excellent.
But it wasn’t my best redemption. That would be Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort and Spa. I used 120k IHG (108k points after rebate) for two nights in an overwater bungalow. Finding award availability was a serious challenge, but I got lucky. Otherwise, I was prepared to pay $1,200 for a BOGO weekend deal in this hotel after buying Ambassador membership.
Factoring in the cost of the membership, I probably got around 1.25 cents per point. So, why do I consider this to be a more valuable redemption than Crowne Plaza in Florida? Because if it wasn’t for PointBreaks promo, I would never actually pay $100 per night to stay in the latter. It was enjoyable, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to experience it.
Not so with our overwater bungalow in Bora Bora. I remember sitting on the balcony at 4:00 AM in the morning and listening to the Pacific waves crashing on the other side of the island, watching Mount Otemanu surrounded by twinkling stars, and stingrays splashing just below the deck…I was thinking that it doesn’t get much better than that. There it was, my perfect redemption. I wish I could bottle up that feeling and take it home with me.
It’s kind of like reaching the top of Mount Everest. How do you ever top that? Well, the truth is, you can’t. But it doesn’t really matter. Chasing after the perfect redemption is a pointless (pun intended) and unfulfilling process. You can’t measure happiness. Every trip is special in its own right.
Besides, some of the most unique places can’t even be experienced via points. While Bora Bora tops my list of redemptions, our stay in Nesvizh castle in my home country of Belarus is probably the best deal I ever got on lodging. This is as close as I’ll ever get to feeling like royalty. It’s ironic that I got to experience this in a place that’s only two hours from where I grew up.
There is no place like home.
The pursuit of happiness
We, travel lovers, are an anxious and restless bunch. While most people are content at home, we are compelled to go out and explore new places. What are we looking for? What am I looking for? After all, spoiler alert, people are the same everywhere, and after awhile, it’s very hard to be impressed by scenery, however magnificent. Been there, done that. Veni vidi vici.
Miles and points can give us the tools to travel, but they don’t help in answering the question of why we do it in the first place. For some, it’s probably an escape from a boring and unfulfilling life. For others, travel is a means to feel important and Instagram-worthy, and perhaps earn a few bucks along the way. I’m not judging.
Plus, it’s easy to get sucked into the rat race and feel like we have to keep up with the Joneses. The fear of missing out (FOMO for short) is very real in the miles and points community, and we are all affected by it to some extent.
For me, travel is essentially life on steroids. I feel most alive when I’m on the road. I can’t really explain it, but I crave it every day. The thing is, though, I always look forward to coming home.
Playing with kids, hanging out with my husband, walking through the woods by my house- it’s where I feel most content and happy. And I don’t really need miles and points for that.
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.