Most points-and-miles guides offer advice for singles and couples, but what about families who want to use rewards to cover their travel costs? Below, we’ll go over how to go on vacation with the whole family on mostly points and miles.
See our list of the best credit card bonuses here.
If you want to read about great places to visit, see this list of best travel destinations to use the points and miles you’ve earned with your credit card rewards and loyalty programs.
Points & Miles Strategy
To collect enough points and miles for your big family trip, you need to start well ahead of time. Depending on your monthly spend and where you want to go, it may take a year to stockpile enough rewards.
1. Determine where and when. Are you going to one destination or hopping from one city to another? Wherever you choose, we recommend traveling during the off-peak season for cheaper award rates.
2. Figure out your trip length so you know how many free hotel nights to shoot for. Of course, the longer you stay, the more points you’ll need. Some hotel chains will give you the fourth (IHG) or fifth (Hilton, Marriott) award night free, so make sure to take that into consideration. For example, all Marriott Bonvoy members get their fifth night free when you book an award stay of four nights. To take advantage of that offer, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card.
3. Choose your hotel chain so you can plan your hotel credit card strategy. Make sure to consider which hotel chains are available at your destination. We recommend using AwardMapper to view hotels in the area as well as the number of points required each night.
Learn more about earning free hotel nights with our guide to The Best Hotel Credit Cards For Travel Benefits And Rewards. You will discover how co-branded hotel credit cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card can help you earn free nights at those hotel properties.
5. Sign up for your chosen hotel and airline loyalty programs. You and your partner will need separate accounts. Some programs will let you pool points with other members.
6. Apply for credit cards so you can earn the sign-up bonus. If both you and your partner open the same credit card, you could double up on bonuses. Just make sure you can meet the minimum spend for the welcome offer.
7. Manage your points and miles. Make and update a credit card spreadsheet tracking the name of the card, when it was opened and the rewards (points, miles or cash) received.
Points & Miles In Action
1. Book your flights. If your dates are flexible, you won’t have issues booking economy award tickets when the schedule opens. Check with your carrier, but it’s usually around twelve months in advance.
2. Book your hotel stay. Most hotels will let you book a year in advance, but make sure to know the cancellation policy in case your plans change.
Best Credit Cards For Points & Miles Strategy
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card rewards you with a generous welcome offer to get your family started on your way to your next vacation. The card offers flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards points. These points can be used for travel at a fixed value. Or, you can transfer them to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is similar to its sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, but has a much higher annual fee. The hefty fee is worth it through its more generous benefits and greater points earning potential.
If your family enjoys flying on Southwest Airlines, this card makes perfect sense. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offer families two free checked bags and there are no fees for flight changes. Through their Rapid Rewards program, you can book any available seat on the plane.
There are two other co-branded Southwest cards you might want to consider if you fly more frequently on the airline: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.
With proper planning and flexibility, you can take your family on a memorable vacation without having to pay for much out-of-pocket.