Even though I’ve been a miles and points family travel blogger for a few years, I still get a lot of questions from friends and acquaintances. How does my family afford to travel so much? How can we splurge on these vacations all the time? Some people assume we are rich or in debt up to our eyeballs. Others have told me that they know I travel for free because I’m a blogger. None of those things are true!
If you are one of those people who have wondered about how my family goes on vacation every few months, here are the nitty gritty details.
Credit Card Rewards
The biggest thing we do that helps us travel so much is accumulate miles and points through credit card rewards. My husband and I do this in two-player mode, with both of us applying for new credit cards a few times a year. We focus on credit cards with high sign-up bonuses, typically earning 50k-100k points after spending $3000-$4000 within the first three months. We charge our normal monthly expenses (food, gas, utilities) to our credit cards to meet the spending requirements to trigger the sign-up bonuses.
Focusing on sign-up bonuses on multiple credit cards with two of us applying allows us to earn a lot more points than just keeping the same credit card year after year. See my post Free Travel: It’s All About Sign-up Bonuses and the Power of Two.
We stay within our budget and pay off our balances every month. We keep some credit cards, but others we close down after a year. Then, when a new lucrative credit card offer comes around, we apply and repeat the process. Since we have kept our oldest credit cards open and we are responsible with our payments, our credit scores have not suffered.
In the last few years, we’ve used our miles and points to go to Hawaii (twice!), Mexico, Phoenix for Spring Break and Disney World. We’ve explored New York City and Washington, D.C. Our points have taken us on short trips within our home state, and most recently on a longer trip to Australia and New Zealand. Disclaimer: This blog makes money when people sign up for new credit cards through links on this site. See How This Blog Makes Money.
It’s not just the miles and points from credit cards that enable us to take multiple vacations a year. The reality is that even vacations using miles and points are not “free”. We pay annual fees on some credit cards. And, we still spend cash for pet sitting, airport parking, meals and excursions on our trips.
In order to make room in our budget for those items, we prioritize travel over other expenses. My husband and I don’t have the latest and greatest new cars. While many of our neighbors have moved and upsized houses, we’ve stayed put. We try to eat at home instead of going out to restaurants.
I get my kids on board with this strategy. Leading up to a trip, I am upfront with them about how we need to have a “no-spend” weekend so that we can treat ourselves to a fun excursion on an upcoming trip.
Why We Travel
Travel is in my blood. When I was a kid, my family prioritized travel. We went on numerous road trips all over the country. My parents made sure I signed up to go to Spain with my Spanish class and to the UK with my AP English class.
I want to show my kids the world so that they have a broader perspective outside of our suburban bubble. Although we live in a diverse area, there is still so much we can learn by visiting other parts of the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Also, traveling together helps us focus on each other. It’s the rare time that we’re not all pulled in a million different directions and activities. I know that the memories we make while on vacation together will last a lifetime.
My family goes on vacation more often than is “normal”. But rest assured, we’re not being financially irresponsible. The miles and points credit card strategy isn’t for everyone, but it has helped my family travel way more often than we would otherwise.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.