Today Dan from Points with a Crew is joining us to share his knowledge of budget travel for larger families using points. I think that you will enjoy his tips to help you maximize your budget and get the most out of your points.
What is your blog about?
My blog falls under the larger category of “travel hacking” blogs, which is loosely defined as using airline miles, hotel points and other strategies to fly for free or cheap.
A few years ago as I started learning more about this, I saw that most of the miles and points blogs out there were written by either single guys or couples with no kids, and seemed to focus on first class flights and 5-star hotels.
And while that’s fun to read about, it’s not how my family typically travels, nor how most people I know travel.
So I thought I’d give a voice to the “regular” family traveler, to let them know that it’s okay to drive on vacation and stay at the Holiday Inn Express.
Also because I have 6 kids, I like to focus on larger family travel as well, to show some of the ways our family is different. For example, when we rent a car, we actually have to rent TWO cars, because we don’t fit in one!
What are your favorite credit cards for points?
My favorite cards to get are the ones that get you where you want to go! My first piece of advice is to begin with the end in mind – figure out where you want to go, and only THEN sign up for the cards that give you the points where you want to go.
Does no good to get a lot of Delta Skymiles if it’s only American that goes where you want to go. Or don’t get a Marriott card if you want to stay at a Hilton.
What are common mistakes that people make with cards with points?
The most common mistake I’d say is doing the opposite of what I suggested in the last answer :-). Signing up for a card just because you got a big fancy signup bonus offer in the mail.
Second would be paying an annual fee on a card that you don’t really want/use, just because the payments are on autopay.
What are some of your favorite trips that you have taken using points?
There have been so many cool trips that we’ve had the ability to take in the past 2-3 years on miles and points.
Just to pick out 2..
My wife and I just got back from an around the world trip in first class, all using miles and points.
The 8 of us went on an Amtrak trip from Ohio to Denver that without points would have cost over $6500
How long does it typically take to acquire enough points for a trip?
It actually doesn’t take that long to get enough points.
If your credit is good, you can usually get enough points with 1 or 2 credit card signup bonuses.
I talked with a friend at work and after I encouraged him to think about where he wanted to go, he said that he and his wife wanted to go for a long weekend to Denver.
So after talking things over with him, they each applied for one new card and once the signup bonuses post, they’ll be able to have their airfare and hotel completely paid for on the trip.
Basically, all they need to do is for the next 3 months, put the regular spending they were already putting on their existing credit cards onto these new cards.
What advice would you give to someone who thinks that traveling with a large family is too expensive?
My advice is to just go for it. Start small, and do what you’re comfortable with.
I would imagine that most other large families are like mine in that they’re probably already pretty frugal.
So understand that having fun and traveling doesn’t have to mean that you eat out at restaurants every meal and buy tickets for everyone to every attraction – there are lots to do out in the world that is free and cheap!
What other cost-saving tips do you have for traveling?
We are members of the Cincinnati Museum which is about $100 / yr but also gives you free reciprocal admission to museums throughout the country which we use all the time.
Another great tip for car rentals is called Autoslash – we ended up getting our 8 day rental in Denver for about $100 TOTAL!
What are some of the best strategies for maximizing your points?
The single best strategy for maximizing your points is to plan what you’re going to do with them BEFORE you get them.
Miles and points aren’t an investment – airlines and hotels devalue their award charts ALL the time, so if you wait around and save up for an award, odds are good it will be more expensive the longer you wait!