Travel Tips

For any family there are always two challenges: traveling with kids/baby and travel for cheap (frugal travel) with family. For the first challenge, we have penned our thoughts here: Tips for travelling with kids and having fun! For the second challenge, which is visiting amazing destinations and exotic locations with low budget, we encourage you to read the section below at leisure. This section will be expanded in coming days but the info below is the first step to succeed in the world of family travel with miles and points!
Some examples of our miles usage for travel to amazing destinations like Machu Picchu, Switzerland, Bora Bora, New Zealand etc is explained here:

We have traveled extensively past few years; more so after our precious daughter was born! Before she was born, we traveled mostly within U.S. We used to cover a lot of ground then. With a baby accompanying us, we now travel farther but uusually take much longer vacations to enjoy the scenery slowly and to get sufficient rest. One advantage of travelling with a baby is, you take your time to really enjoy the place!

We use miles and hotel points extensively to fund our vacations. In U.S, the banks, airlines as well as hotel chains are very generous and offer great incentives to new credit card users; showering thousands of loyalty points and miles to attract new customers. Farther/longer trips usually need a lot of miles and points from multiple programs. This means you need to apply for a large number of cards. Of course, getting that many cards is not easy. The key is credit history. Credit history is one of the most important assets you can have in U.S. Once you build a solid history, banks open the floodgates!

Some must do things to earn points and miles:

1. Start building your history with major banks/players: Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One and Barclay to name a few.

2. Start with a small number of cards, put your daily/regular spend on them and pay on time. This comforts banks and shows them that you are a responsible customer. This also helps you build credit history. There are no shortcuts to this!

3. Enroll in all the major Hotel loyalty programs : Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt and IHG. Whenver you stay in any chain hotel, you earn points.

4. Enroll in major Airline loyalty programs : American Airlines, United Airlines ,Southwest, Delta, British Airways, Alaska and Hawaiian. Whenever you fly, you earn miles.

5. Most airlines are a part of an airline alliance. Oneworld has American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific etc. Star alliance has United airlnes, Singapore airlines, Lufthansa etc. Skyteam has Delta, Airfrance etc.

7. When you fly any airline, you can typically credit your miles to another airline program in the same alliance i.e if you fly british airways you can credit the miles you earned to American airlines since they are a part of oneworld alliance. Same with Singapore and united.

8. Never leave any cashback or points/miles on the table. Use credit cards for all your daily spend at any merchant who accepts credit cards without premium/penalty charge over cash payment.

For a family this would mean thousands of miles/points/cashback every year.

9. It is easy to overspend with credit cards. Make sure you stick to a budget. Remember what you want may not be what you need and sometimes you dont really need what you think you need!

Flexible Bank Currencies/points

Apart from Hotel points and airlines miles, there are 3 bank currencies (Chase ultimate rewards/UR points, Citi Thankyou Points (Citi TY) and American Express Membership rewards (Amex MR)) that are flexible in the sense that you can either cash them out or use them as cash for travel needs, gift cards, merchandise or transfer to a partner airlines or hotel! Chase ultimate rewards and Citi Thank you points need a card with Annual fee for transferring to travel partners while Amex doesn't.

1.Chase Ultimate rewards

Earned through Chase sapphire preferred, Chase Sapphire, Chase Ink (plus or cash), Chase Freedom (regular or unlimited version) at different rates per dollar spent.

Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire and Chase Ink cash have no annual fee while Case Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink plus have anual fees. If you don't have the annual fee cards, only way to use the UR points is to get cashback(1c/point) or giftcards or use it for travel through UR mall. If you have annual fee cards, you can transfer them to travel partners and this offers the best value. You can also use it on UR portal for travel booking directly with a value of 1.25c/point.

The main travel partners are Hyatt Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Singapore airlines. We find most value in Hyatt and Southwest. The points transfer 1:1 to all the programs.

As an example, a Hyatt place Waikiki Beach hotel. A night here typically goes for 250$ including tax. But if you use Hyatt Goldpassport points you can get the same room for 12000 points. So if you have 12000UR (ultimate reward points) you can transfer it to Hyatt and get more than 2cents/point instead of 1cent/point if we had got cashback! Same thing holds for Southwest airlines. 1 Southwest mile is anywhere from 1.4cents to 1.8cents worth. So one UR point which can be transferred to Southwest is more valuable than cashback. As mentioned before you need card with an annual fee (95$ for Sapphire preferred) to transfer to any loyalty program.

2. Amex (American Express) Membership rewards

Earned through Green, Premier Rewards Gold, Platinum, Everyday and Everyday Preferred cards. The MR point or membership reward points works the same way as Chase UR points but the program has a different set of travel partners. We find these to be slightly less flexible and less valuable than Chase UR points.

3.Citi Thank you points

Earned through a bunch of Citi Thank you cards (premier, Preferred and Prestige), the thank you points are flexible with a different set of travel partners. We find them better than Amex MR but lower in value than Chase UR points. If you own Citi Thank you premier or Prestige cards which have annual fees, you can redeem each point for 1.25cents worth of travel. If you have Citi Prestige card, it allows you to redeem each point for 1.6cents worth of American Airline fares.

Must have credit cards:

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred (has annual fee)
One of the best travel cards in the word. Earns 2 ultimate reward points for any travel expense like gas, hotels, airlines, travel agencies, rental cars etc.

2. Chase Freedom
Another card which earns Ultimate reward points. But you do need chase sapphire preferred card to transfer the points to loyalty programs. It also features rotating 5% cash back categories (every quarter). Sometimes it is Gas stations, sometimes online shopping and some times groceries! 5% cash back on groceries , now who doesn't love that:)

3. Discover IT
Similar to Chase Freedom card this one offers 5% cashback on rotating categories(every quarter). These categories sometimes match Freedom but many a times are different.

4. Citi Thankyou premier card (has annual fee)
One of the best cards for Travelers. This one competes with Chase Sapphire preferred head on. It offers 3 thank you points in travel categories, 2 for restaurants and 1 everywhere else. But the value of Thank you points is usually lower than Ultimate reward points which you get with Chase Sapphire preferred.

5. Citi Double cash card
1% cashback when you spend and 1% when you payback. With no annual fee, this 2% cashback one is the best if you just want cashback on all the spend and don't want to bother with miles/hotel points.

Note that airline cards or hotel cards are not mentioned here because they are useful for getting a big sign on bonus only and rarely make sense for everyday spend!

Some useful websites and blogs:

Post Your Comments Here


[2016-04-14 19:45:16]

Awesome Initiative... We all need a place which is not driven by corporate companies with their bloatware and biased recommendations, but a family which travels together and a LOTTTT!! of experience. Good Job and let the stories continue.....


[2016-04-14 20:50:01]

Thank you!!


[2016-04-22 11:41:48]

Great tips for beginners here !.. still a long way to go for me :)


[2016-05-20 09:45:50]

Good and concise. Flyertalk is the best site for all the resources.