Planning An International Family Trip Using Miles & Points

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As I mentioned previously, over the coming days and weeks you’ll see the occasional post from a fellow reader who has applied to write for OMAAT on an ongoing basis. It’s possible that posts will still be in the publication queue after we’ve announced our decision, so we’ll be publishing these anonymously. We hope you enjoy the different perspectives!


I love planning vacations for my family. We’re always talking about our next trip. But, with a family of 4, it takes a lot of points and miles to travel affordably and in style. We prefer to travel in business class, enjoy higher-end hotels, and with two teenagers often need two hotel rooms.

I’ve found that with some careful planning (and the help of miles and points), it’s possible for our family to take lengthy and extremely nice vacations for a fraction of the cost. Our upcoming trip to Asia is a great example of this, and I thought it might be helpful to walk through how we’re spending under $4,000 for a two-week luxury trip for four.

Planning ahead

There are several things you need to do months before your journey begins. Some of the most important are:

  • Make sure you’re maximizing your earning potential on everyday purchases
  • Have a strategy for meeting your mile/point needs for the trip
  • Prepare to book flights 8-10 months before you want to travel
  • Be flexible, whether it’s the routing, days of travel, or cities to visit
  • Apply for credit cards you need to complete your itinerary 
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class (photo by author)

Earning potential with everyday spend

If you are serious about wanting to explore the world in style and do it affordably it starts with maximizing your everyday spend. Credit card sign-up bonuses are nice, and we absolutely leverage those as well. But our everyday spend does a lot to build our balances each year. You need to know what credit card gives you the most earning potential for your situation.

Our monthly household budget is $10,000, and we charge everything we can on our credit cards. On average, we charge $9,000 a month on all cards.

Here’s what credit cards we use on an average month and how many points we earn, including additional points from monthly portal shopping and AmEx offers:

Average monthly spend and point earnings

As you can see, we earn 31,500 points a month on average for our $9,000 in credit card spend. That’s over 378,000 points in a year! Assuming each point is worth 1.7 cents, we’re getting a 5.95% return worth $6,426 in one year, just by maximizing our everyday spend.

Penang, Malaysia Street Art (photo by author)

Have a strategy for meeting your mile/point needs for the trip

Maximizing everyday spend is especially important for families, because you need so many points for international trips. But, you also need to think about:

  • Where do you want to visit?
  • What kind of miles/points do you have available for an award booking?

When planning any trip, the first question I ask is; “Where do we want to go?” I like to think of the destination as a region and not just “I want to go to Dublin, or Singapore.”

After we decide what region we want to visit, I take inventory of my miles/points I have on-hand. Knowing where you can transfer/use your points & miles will help in getting the best flights available. If the points/miles are not in place, you need to earn them before you can really start planning.

Hawker stall Bangkok (photo by author)

Ideally book flights 8-10 months before you want to travel

Once you have decided on a region of travel, you will want to start searching for award flights. You need to start looking 8-10 months in advance. Obviously, this requires that points/miles be available for the flights. Hotel points can be generated later.

For our Asia trip, we had 300K American miles (mainly from flying partner airlines) and 200K Alaska miles (from previous credit card sign-ups) to use for the flights.

I started searching for flights in October for a trip to Southeast Asia this coming summer. Two cities we hoped to visit were Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City, but we were flexible to fly into any city in SE Asia.

I found 4 business class seats on Japan Airlines available in early July from JFK to Tokyo connecting to Singapore. American had award availability from Raleigh (where we live) to JFK to complete the outbound flights. The cost was 70K AA miles + $25 per person.

Japan Airlines 787 Sky Suite (photo by author)

For our return, I scooped up four business class seats on Cathay Pacific from Ho Chi Minh City to Boston (via Hong Kong) for 50K Alaska miles + $100 per person. To get home from Boston I booked a Southwest flight to Raleigh for 6K Southwest points + $5 per person.

Cathay Pacific Business Class seat A330 (photo by author)

Being able to redeem 50-70K miles for 18-20 hours in business class is a fantastic deal. If you plan far enough in advance, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific (as well as others) have great award availability, but in many cases it’s not too expensive to change to a better itinerary if something opens up later on.

Hong Kong Airport. Photo by author

Be flexible in your routing, days of travel, and cities to visit

Being flexible in your routing and travel days will help achieve a workable itinerary. Also, having the ability to adjust the cities you visit and the order in which you visit them will facilitate the planning process.

With our upcoming trip we fly into Singapore and home from Ho Chi Minh City. But where to spend our 12 days in-between?

I looked at visiting Malaysia. There’s a great Grand Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur. There is a new Ritz Carlton on Langkawi island for only 40K Marriott points/night. I also considered Siem Reap, Cambodia. My son and I were in Siem Reap in 2016 — it’s incredible. But the logistics were complicated and expensive.

We ultimately decided to spend 3 days in Singapore, then fly to Vietnam for 9 days, visiting 3 cities.

Wan Tan Mee with Sui Kau. Egg noodles “wet” with dumplings (photo by author)

Apply for credit cards you need to complete your itinerary

With flights booked and an itinerary outlined, the next thing to do is book the hotels. With teenage kids we prefer 2 rooms — many international hotels have a maximum of 3 persons per room anyway. And, of course, I want to use points wherever possible to keep our out-of-pocket low.

The Conrad Singapore (where I’ve stayed before, and enjoyed the location and breakfast) is 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night/room. We wanted to spend three nights in Singapore, and for two rooms we’d potentially need 360,000 Hilton Honors points to fully cover the stay.

Conrad Hilton Singapore. Photo courtesy of Hilton

Fortunately, I already had 100K Hilton points available. My wife and I then applied for the following cards to cover the balance, including one that gave us two free weekend nights:

We applied for 3 Hilton credit cards netting 177,500 points and 2 free nights

Our next stop is Danang, Vietnam. We have 2 suites booked at the Hyatt Regency for 20K Hyatt points per night/room. The rooms come with Club access which will help the wallet.


Hyatt Regency Danang. Photo courtesy of Hyatt

To cover the costs of this stay, I applied for The Hyatt Credit Card which earned me 40K points. To cover the balance, we transferred 80K Chase Ultimate Rewards points which we earned over 5 months of everyday spend.

I applied for a Chase Hyatt credit card earning 43,000 points

While visiting Hue, Vietnam we will be enjoying The Scarlett Boutique Hotel. We’re paying $60 per night/room.

Scarlett Boutique Hotel. Photo courtesy of Scarlett Boutique Hotel

Lastly, in Ho Chi Minh City, we have reserved 3 nights at the InterContinental Saigon for 35K IHG points per night/room. We’re both using our free night certificates from our IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Cards, along with 70K IHG points we earned in the last year from promotions/stays.

Basilico Restaurant, Intercontinental Saigon. Photo courtesy of IHG

Success! Two weeks in Asia for a family of four, mostly on miles and points.

Below is our itinerary with our actual costs and the “retail” costs if we were paying cash rather than using miles and points.

Asia 2018 Itinerary

Again, our budget is just under $4,000. If we were to pay for a trip like this it would cost over $23,000. I know it’s a lot of miles and points, but the reason you earn them is to burn them, and it allows us to take some incredible vacations that would never be practical otherwise.

Bottom line, with the proper planning and flexibility, anyone can take a great trip at a fraction of the cost. Even a family of four can fly in the front of the plane, stay at beautiful hotels, and do it affordably.

Who else travels with family-in-tow? How do you use miles to keep things affordable?


As a reminder, this post was guest-written by a fellow reader. Feedback is appreciated, but please keep the comments kind and constructive.

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. We’ve done three three week family of four trips to Europe since 2013 (fourth this summer) — last one had all air and lodging including taxes for 900. This summer will be more because I didn’t have as much time to prepare. We generallly do economy flights, but my sons really like nice hotels so a Park Hyatt has been part of each sojourn.

  2. So, basically:

    – Hoarde points before travel
    – Book way, way in advance
    – Sign up for credit cards to get points
    – Allow the frequent flier program to dictate dates and routes

    I appreciate the effort that this writer put into this piece. But is there anyone out there who doesn’t already know this stuff?

  3. I like your organization. The spreadsheets are nice and colorful. The $9k a month seems like a high number to be spending for a family of four on discretionary spending aside from the healthcare. That figure doesn’t include mortgage, car payments, property tax, and College savings for your teenage kids.

  4. “Our monthly household budget is $10,000”

    Yes, that caught my eye too. I had a mental picture of the family spending every evening sitting around the dining table, all furiously cutting “10c off” coupons from magazines.

    I found the article interesting despite that, and I do admire the resourcefulness. Though once again I wonder if there’s anything left after all this for the airlines – why are they still running FF programmes?

  5. Great article. It is nice to see the perspective from someone with a family. I approach our family trips in a similar fashion. Lucky and the crew often write these great articles that get me jazzed up for an opportunity, only to ultimately find that they really only work for someone traveling alone and on short notice. Neither of which is ever a situation I find myself in. I’d love to see more of this kind of write up.

  6. Your average monthly points earning is off by 2,500.

    You list $1,000 spend on the Chase freedom 5% categories earning 5,000 points per month but isn’t the 5% bonus limited to just the first $1,500 spent in those categories over 3-months?

    As such you can’t have a monthly average bonus on $1,000 spend netting an average 5,000 points per month as you claim because that’s twice the cap on that 5x bonus.

    Unless both you and your partner each have the freedom card and you max out the 5x category bonus on both cards.

  7. Great article! Yes, some common information for regular blog readers but it was written in an interesting and easy to follow manner. The organization and breakdown was really helpful! I like the family element as it’s a new slant on OMAAT. It shows that with prior planning you can put together a great family trip.

  8. @AndrewOnTheRoad
    He is obviously playing in “Two-Player” mode with his wife as the same thing goes for his Amex everyday preferred spending where he shows $1k per month grocery spend at 4.5x points which with the $6k annual limit is only possible with 2 cards. For us family travelers two player mode is a given.

  9. I think it’s a lot of fun seeing how other people plan their trips and what redemptions they choose. Thanks for sharing this example!

  10. Yes, many of us already know these basic points and miles info, but thanks for a well organized and detailed article. I especially love the Average Monthly Expenses chart along with your average monthly budget. This gives others real insight on how to gauge their miles and points earning potential. A pleasure to read.

  11. Well written piece. Like the detailed breakdown. The family angle is sorely needed on OMAAT, and I don’t even have children.

  12. Finally, someone actually shares the actual money side of things. Lucky never specifically mentions where his points come from other than a vague pie chart once a year but this guy actually broke it down so it makes t easier for us to understand and see whether it’s feasible. It’s interesting to see that you need about 10k a month spend to make this work

  13. Good overview. Everyone travels a different way and I hope to see more family posts on good deals and redemption. Our family is kind of the same-its not always about going for free, instead its about taking an enjoyable somewhat luxurious vacation for a fraction of the cost.

  14. Good piece, I like it.

    I agree there’s not really a lot in it that I didn’t already know, but I love seeing a writer on this blog focus on award travel for families. As another commenter noted, what’s already on this blog is great but is (necessarily) more useful to single people who can travel at very short notice. Sadly, that ain’t me. So I’d love to see plenty more articles aimed at strategies that better suit family travel. Bravo!

    PS If you want to continue with an article on how to get a family from the US to Australia in style, I’d be thrilled!

  15. Fantastic article. I really liked the detailed information on your monthly spend although I’m a little bit shocked that you have to spend $750 a month on internet, cell phones and cable.
    Is it really that expensive in the US?

  16. If you are a family of four that wants to regularly travel in premium cabins and stay at high end hotels, then a non discussion of MS in this article seems to be ignoring the 800lb gorilla in the room.

  17. Good write-up and fairly useful as someone has to travel for 1 person (for work), 2 people (occasional couples trips) and 4 people (annual family vacations).

    More of this, as i highly doubt i’ll be flying J or F on 3rd world country airlines.

  18. Yeah, budget seems a little out of whack. Not sure why someone already making 300k+ would want a job writing for a blog or could relate to a lot of the readers here.

    Your “actual cost” should be more than $0 on award tickets and hotels. Article does not mention how you got your AA miles, but assuming from occasional spend, those 280k miles would have cost you $5600 in passed up cash back on a 2% card.

  19. Holy sh!t, hire this person immediately Lucky! As someone with two kids (who don’t fly for free anymore), I love this type of content which is frequently missing here and on TPG. A lot of the articles like flash sales and special deals aren’t feasible for family types with two working adults; I’d love to take a JetBlue flash fare trip to the Caribbean but I can’t just pull the kids out of school like that unless it’s summer.

    The numbers and spreadsheets are also awesome, and are another thing frequently missing in articles. Fantastic post for someone like me.

  20. I’ve taken my family of five to Europe three times on miles – in J or F. I think the key for families doing this is knowing how many seats will be available on any given flight and when that availability opens up. 11 or 10 months – or sometimes later than that. There are patterns that you need to figure out, such as “LHR-DFW has 5 seats in F that on Tuesdays only”. Finding 4 or 5 seats up front on any given flight is very, very hard these days.

  21. This is an awesome post, however your cell phone/internet expense needs to be looked at: your spending 9000.00 per year or 9% of the family budget and that seems really high.

  22. Wow – if I was spending $120,000 A year on my credit cards alone I don’t think I’d need to bother with miles!

  23. I agree, like a few other commentators, that the family perspective is a welcome addition. For a high earner/spender, it’s definitely feasible to plan for an amazing family vacation. He brings up some good points about not being wedded to a particular destination and to stay flexible, which is certainly harder when you’re planning around school schedules.

  24. The taxes and fees for your JFK-NRT flights seem a bit light to me. And as the others mentioned, the Cable, Phone and Internet seems extreme.

  25. I’m planning my first family trip, have flights booked, but with a 1-year old I preferred to pay the 10% to use miles I already had.

    It would be nice to see guest posts from readers on how they planned and booked their next trip, more so for 2+ travelers, as solo travel is much easier.

  26. Writing: 8/10 (clear writing)
    Content: 7.5/10 (family content is what OMAAT is somewhat lacking in. However, would like to know what are the tips and tricks/the more general trends and availability, to book J tickets for 4 pax. Or is it a book 2 tickets and wait for more to open up. Plus if they have status,how to extend it to 2 rooms for benefits.)

  27. This is definitely an area mostly ignored by blogs, except mommy points. I travel with 4 as well and I’d say a good 90 percent of the travel blogging community ignores the challenges that presents. There is so much to say in this area — what airlines release what at beginning of schedule, which products are well configured for families, best options with points in countries that generally limit hotels to two guests, viable options and routes for splitting family groups. On and on. It’s a huge vacuum.

    Everything in this community is so focused on one or two passengers. It mostly goes in one ear and out the other for me. Ohh, partner X won’t allow close in booking anymore and it’s a “huge” devaluation? Bah. When you’ve gotten four to Oz and back in J over New Years everyone else looks like pikers with their little concerns.

  28. Pro:
    Methodical / detailed presentation of how he earned and utilized the points for this vacation.

    Con:
    [And] This applies to many stories seen on travel/lifestyle blogs. Obviously reading about the adventures of celebrity “X” cavorting in luxurious hotel “Y” in sunny coastal town “Z” is all fine and good because we know they are filthy rich to begin with and it is not meant to taken as one of those “If I can do it so can you” stories. Or, for example, a hypothetical former software startup founder who sold his business to Google for millions and now regales the masses with how he has embraced #vanlife. Of course #vanlife holds much greater allure when you know you never have to be concerned with money again and you can return to upper-middle/upper class urban or suburban living at a moments notice.

    So, the big thing lacking in many write-ups is context. The readership of OMAAT or TPG or whatever is diverse. There are probably those who can only carry no-fee or a limited number of $95/year cards to those with Amex blacks. Living in a state with no income tax my own 190k a year job results in 10.5k a month free cash flow (or “budget” as the article’s author calls it). However, this is immediately cut in half taking into account mortgage, car loan, and student loans. Based on IRS adjusted gross income data I myself fall into the top 5% of earners whereas the author probably is much higher.

    If Lucky (or TPG and other certain individuals) himself writes a story we sort of know the context (successful business person who generates significant revenue and thus points). Therefore, if the goal is to diversify with contributors I think it would be valuable to show how people with less means went about achieving a points based vacation. While it is fun reading about the differences between Swiss First vs. Air France La Premiere vs. Emirates First vs. Singapore Suites, I would venture that for many readers they may only be able to pull off such a feat perhaps once in their lifetime and would therefore appreciate those articles that present more realistic goals for someone in their economic demographic.

  29. A few notes (I’m not critiquing the author but this site in general).

    1. Please avoid all of the bold, italics, etc. It is excessive and annoying. Sure, use bold for headings but the other stuff is just annoying when you read the article and it appears so frequently.

    2. Link highlights. I won’t say don’t use them, since I know you will, but at least only link current articles. The one with the shopping portal is from 2013. I’m not a big portal person (yeah, probably stupid) but I imagine tons of things have changed from 2013 and much of that information is useless.

    And sure, the budget is unrealistic for probably 70%+ of the US.

    There is so much info out there regarding points it is hard to come up with useful information any more. Many of these web sites don’t really serve up a lot of useful information. Some things, due to the large readership, aren’t revealed but too many people would find out about it and it would die.

    This site is still somewhat interesting to me, unlike TPG, MillionMile Whatever, etc. since it is largely done by one person. Adding team members will likely cause me to lump it in with the other sites and only glance at it occasionally. Greed kills many businesses and many of these blogs are falling off the cliff. I’m guessing in a few years many will be gone.

  30. Thanks for the well written post. Interesting to see the breakdown and how you patched the trip together with points from different sources.

  31. To the poster mentioning you have to add the $5600 in lost 2% back as part of the cost- yes, you’re right. But.
    It’s not so much that he “saved” 20k. It’s whatever he saved over what he would have been willing to pay. For a 2 wk Asia trip in J for 4 I would have paid happily out of pocket 10-12k (not 24!). So in this case would have achieved 6-8000 actual value for me. I am sure for other cases you can tweak that to a far better return, but it still beats the original $5600 premise. If you add the psychological/emotional factor, getting cash back would be far less likely go to vacation time with the family and instead just become a statement credit.

    Thanks to the author and looking forward to more in depth articles in this genre addressing some of the suggestions in this thread. This is how I do ALL my FF traveling. 4 of us. And yes, we have been to Oz, EUx4or 5, and HKG this week for 3. It is hard to find them but it can be done. (HKG x 3 in J on CX + 1wk 5*hotel – cash outlay $350 tax – 420k miles air, 120 of which came from Marriott Air+Travel Package, which paid the hotel).

  32. Just to reinforce my point of over-saturation of articles. There were at least 11 articles posted yesterday and as of 11am (east coast time) there are six already.

  33. I liked this piece, even though the Guest’s circumstances are nothing like my own. In fact I’ve enjoyed reading all these Guest articles, hopefully more to come. They have made me reflect a bit on the fact that my own planning is kinda slap/dash. I never plan far enough ahead, often end up paying cash when points would have been less painful, rarely remember the ‘cash value’ of hotel points as listed by a number of sites.
    The one thing that troubles me: the fact that the banks fall over each other handing out credit cards to people who can’t afford it….because for every savvy CC user, and one suspects that most readers of this site fall into that category, there must be many who fall into a debt spiral lasting years or decades. Otherwise, how would the banks fund these generous sign-ups/points deals?
    It goes without saying it’s not a reason to take advantage of the offers.

  34. I appreciate OMAAT including this write up on the family vacation planning perspective. We have a family of 5 and have only so far managed domestic vacations on miles/points. I’d love to plan a vacation like this writer has done. I follow several blogs, and there’s never enough written about travel with children – and no, I’m not talking Disney. We are also big spenders and rack up a steady supply of points and miles and – like this guy – I’m not afraid to spend them. I’m of the earn and burn mentality. Some of the other commenters have mentioned family travel to Europe. I’d love to see some more planning/itinerary on European travel in business class. I also love how you’re auditioning your applicants. As always, good job OMAAT

  35. @PhillipBender I don’t want to sound snotty here but with less budget the rules don’t change. It just takes longer. This J travel for fun stuff is by nature generally geared to people with higher means.

    It might be interesting to see what can be done with miles in Coach and 3* hotels (the horror!).

    In my case, I supplement my miles income with business expenses. That is the only way I can think of apart from manufactured spend to goose your balance quickly (signup bonuses aside).

  36. Yeah, for the commenters that are wealth shaming the author I would just point out that while 70% of people might not have a budget like the author does, these are also probably not folks who should be wasting their time focusing on taking a two week premium cabin, 5 star hotel jaunt through Asia either. If you’re looking for tips on how to take a $30,000 dollar vacation when you have a $50,000 a year job I would just say…ummm….he’s sharing his ideas…he’s not a magician. I would also say complaining about his budget being higher than yours just motivates these folks to stop sharing numbers so they don’t upset anyone.

  37. Great article. I’ve always found OMAAT a bit light on family travel. Since this is a topic that affects so many, I hope to see many more of these articles.

    To the detractors saying that the writer’s income is too high to make it relevant to them, please stop. The fundamentals are the same whether you make $50k or $500k annually. Maximize your earnings on each all spend, and stay flexible with carriers and destinations. If your earnings are 1/2 that of the writer’s, then you can take this trip every other year.

    I recently had a discussion with a friend who has no knowledge of points/miles. To his disbelief, I boasted that anyone with $150k of income and average spending habits can snag $20k/year of luxury travel if they play their cards right. This proves my point.

    @guest – you’re hired!! 🙂

  38. I definitely love the idea of posts that cater to traveling with family. Just getting married dramatically cut down how often we could travel since this effectively doubled the mileage cost. Someday we’ll have kids, and we def want to travel with them.

    On the other hand, holy mother of the almighty creator… your budget is way more than what a typical family of four would ever spend. I don’t quite understand the $750/month for internet/cable/phone — that’s about 3x what it should cost. That extra $3k/ month in random spending (on chase cards) is also way beyond our budget.

    I don’t intend to be mean, I just would suggest that most families trying to travel on miles likely have a budget vastly smaller — it’s a heck of a lot easier to get 4x rt seats in C to Asia with $10k in monthly credit card spending.

  39. Yes, I’m from NC to. Always flying AA out of RDU, occasionally CLT. This is by far, my favorite guest writer because he/she provides an angle not seen on this blog and missing on other blogs as well. Yes, I can see that not every one has $10,000 to spend a month, but it is still a unique viewpoint and big budgets allow for crazy travel. Family travel is so hard to plan logistically, I spend hours researching and planning for my parents and myself. I would love to see OMAAT cover this topic more extensively.

    Cheers

  40. @Thomas Agreed.

    The most difficult aspect of traveling with more than 2 people isn’t necessarily earning the miles/points needed (MS or naturally), but rather trying to find the requisite availability, especially if schedules aren’t very flexible. ExpertFlyer is a godsend in this regard, but there’s definitely still a bit of luck needed.

  41. I agree with others I like the transparency on how the points were earned, etc. and organization of this article.
    With my friends’ families, what we like to do is fly economy to the destination and fly business class on the way back. We’ve found that whenever we travel that involves over 6 hours of time change, we always get jetlagged regardless of flying in economy or business or first. The excitement of travelling someplace new is enough to not mind flying in Y (at least for us) and as I always say, the only way to truly appreciate flying in business or first is to fly economy. However, after a trip is almost over, it’s always sooo much nicer to fly business/first class back home so that’s what we do! 🙂

  42. I would love it if Lucky decided to have “guest” writers more often. (whether or not he hires another employee)

    what really keeps us all coming back here?
    -trip reports
    -deals
    -general info.

    it’s hard to publish trip reports when your staff is so small. even adding one person will only generate a small handful of trip reports.

    But I think we’d all be interested in intermittent “guest” articles detailing a recent trip, how they planned for it, how they paid for it, etc.
    Many of us would write 1 or 2 per year for free… because we all like bragging just a little bit.

    For instance: I recently bought LifeMiles during one of Lucky’s “150%” deals.
    I used them (and a little cash) to fly round trip to Sydney.
    MSP-YVR (cash ticket to position)
    YVR-SYD direct in J on Air Canada (80k miles plus $85 pp)
    SYD-ICN-LAX direct in J then F on asiana (93,380 miles plus $121 pp)
    LAX-MSP (cash ticket to position)

    I’m sure many people would love to know how to get to Sydney for 160k miles plus $200 in J, or another 14k miles to get F.

  43. I see a lot on here about the $10k spend, which caught my eye too, but it’s not impossible. A high income with additional business expenses (I don’t own a business but I regularly expense a couple thousand dollars each month for work) can pump that amount up an an already high discretionary spending budget. It’s not inconceivable and the points hobby is not relegated to the middle class only. All walks of life want luxury without having to pay full price.

    I think the article is helpful and well written. I know most of these tips too, but there was a time when I didn’t. I can relate the writer because we are doing a similar trip to Phuket, Siem Reap, Bangkok, and Bali for 2 weeks with a family of 5 this summer also. But it took me 2 years to save up enough to pay for it on points.

  44. Family of 5. I don’t have the patience to earn for the big miles redemptions. I book mostly flight deals and supplement here and there with the miles and points. $50 flight MCO-CPH on Norwegian 6/2017. GASP… Guess what? It’s a plane, a really new plane and a chair with movies!!! If I wanted to order food, I could push a button and earn some credit card points. We have silver status on Singapore. We have only flown them on a fairly expensive award flight. Earned from partner airlines butt in seat! I mean everyone posts how free travel is, but there are taxes and fees to pay on award bookings. It can cost a bunch of $$ just to get to the city center from the airport with a family of 5. (Sydney) We don’t quite work in a taxi very easily. Do you think you can’t travel cause you have kids in school? WRONG. I have a high schooler, jr. high, and elementary. Watch for deals. I see so many deals I don’t know what to do with. I also don’t expect it to be free. Our vacation time is limited. We need to make the most of it. We need 2 rooms for almost all international travel so the amount of points you need for hotels is astronomical. So… it’s called CA$H instead.

  45. I have a family of 5. I love stories like this. Most of the content is geared for individuals & not families. I’d like to see more content towards family trips similar to this post.

  46. I think the amount of 3-4k $ per vacation of 2-3 weeks is what I pay usually in cash for my vacation. Yes, I don`t fly in Business, but I don`t see the need as I will rest when I`m at destination opposite when I travel for work when I need to be fresh next day. So this is nice, but honestly. in Singapore, you could stay in HGI for 120000 for 2 rooms so the title should say luxury family travel on a budget. As I could do no points miles travel of this itinerary from Europe for under the amount said here. Also I understand that Credit cards in US is a trend but in some parts of the world it really isn`t so the only option to earn points/miles is a hard way – really do the job and fly them or stay at those hotels. that’s when you value your miles rather than get 100k for some plastic card.

  47. here in the UK it will take me 3 years more to earn the same amount of points even if I had a GBP 10,000 a month budget! L O L.

  48. Ok. Run of the mill article but please hear me out, you need some beginner level articles here to build up your readership. Very well written article btw.

  49. I like that the author breaks down lots of detail, Excel style.

    Is the content new, not really. But lots of kudos for the detailed approach. Nerds and bankers love it.

    As for people commenting on $10k spending. Life is not fair, get over it. The author is probably a stay at home wife who has extra time to use on hunting deals as a hobby. Billionaire (I guess maybe$100k+ monthly spending)stay at home wife/husband need some fun too. What is more fun than playing middle-class LOL.
    Life isn’t fair, get over it.

  50. Yes, if we’re an expert, we all know about this. But for mileage/points beginners + especially with a large family, this kind of article is a very nice addition to the OMAAT. There were some family-oriented articles here but not so many.

    Details like JAL and Cathay having lots of availability in advance (for business class, not First though) are also important, but I want them to be more emphasized. The time window when they open the availability (ex: CX opens seats around T-360 days but Alaska only allows booking at T-330 days) could be added as well.

    Excel sheet is also a great example too.

  51. Very well written article (I think the best so far, just in terms of the writing quality, although the others have been good as well).

    The content was not groundbreaking but the willingness to share a budget and actual #s was VERY interesting. Otherwise you just have a bunch of posts where people are sharing their redemptions, but if I had a bottomless bucket of points I could book lots of interesting redemptions too. The appeal is seeing someone who is not a full-time blogger/travel consultant pull off a great trip.

    Also, I expect you have a large contingent of readers (like me) that have families and can only take at most one international trip per year. In our case, given the amount of domestic travel we do to see family, it’s less, we just don’t have the time off needed. So although fun to read, a whole lot of your posts (ooh, a mistake fare in J routing through Bhutan, must depart tomorrow!) are not on point for me.

    Overall, this was very refreshing to see how a “typical” (and I realize above average from an income standpoint, but this is a blog about luxury travel and I would guess the author is pretty close to the median income of your US readers) family can really juice their vacation dollars. Whether or not you pick this person I absolutely hope that you choose someone who can focus on the more practical aspects of the hobby and give concrete examples. As much as I love Lucky’s posts they are really all more “aspirational” given that he does this full time and earns God only knows how many referral bonuses and the like such that routinely dropping 300K in various points currencies is no big deal. For many of us it is, and we want to make sure we are maximizing our scarce resources — points and time.

    Two other quick, vaguely related comments: 1) We should hear from Travis more, his family oriented posts are excellent. 2) Why not add someone who can cover more “family friendly” trips and ALSO add someone who can cover the “miles on a budget” aspect of things?

  52. Lucky, I live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
    I would love to meet you. I could show you guys around too, and recommend some really nice places! (I am a high school student though)
    If it is possible, can you tell me when you will be coming?

  53. My Favorite posts are ones like this one. For a person who is newer in the points game, I love seeing it all mapped out and a complete plan for using points/money! Please do more posts like this!! Not everyone is a pro.

  54. Great article! I’d have to say that finding 4 business or first class tickets with points is extremely difficult.

    We spend about $30-40k a month on our credit cards and rack up a ton of miles, but we invariably pay for business or first class tickets because the ones with points are either not available or the routing sucks and we have to spend many hours in random airports. That’s very difficult to do when traveling with small children.

    I prefer looking for deals on J or F and snapping them up then.

    Having said that, I spent $18k on 4 x EK F tickets recently and I feel like a sucker now because this guy spent $4k on his entire vacation!! I thought I was getting a deal!

  55. I LOVED this article. so well written. also motivates me to spend everything on the card to get points.

  56. I would love to read more articles about booking family of four (with teens) travel, and how/where to find award availability.

  57. I don’t understand why some readers have to shame the author’s budget. It’s his money and he can do whatever he wants.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading this post. To the author: have you thought about using the IHG free nights at intercontinental Danang? It’s a better hotel than the one in Saigon.

  58. Liked the detailed breakdown & where the points came from. Generally I don’t have to book for a whole family but this angle would compliment this site very well. Covering where the sweet spots are when you need 3-4 tickets in economy or J. Wouldn’t care for economy flight reports as much as the more aspirational J or F ones though.

  59. I’m writing this from the pool at the Park Hyatt Dubai. My wife and I flew here in Emirates First booked with JAL points transferred from SPG. Before the Park Hyatt we stayed at Al Maha. I couldn’t have done this without blogs like this one and all the tips and tricks I’ve learned. I own a small business and I spend well more than $10,000 a month and have no problem racking up points. We also have two children (who are with the grandparents right now). When we travel with the kids we usually use southwest to go to Florida, because it is just so hard to use points to fly international in premium class and find more than 2 seats. I really appreciate guest’s post and would love to learn more tricks and tips for using points for families for international premium travel.

  60. I’d be interested in hearing why families choose to stay at high end Western hotels. Especially in Asia

    We stayed at amazing properties in Saigon, Hue, Danang, and Hoi An and they were dirt cheap.

    But when I travel with bigger groups we always stay in an AirBnB or VRBO.
    Heck, we almost always stay at those with just the 2 of us

    No amount of amenities makes up for the ability to have a living room (central gathering place) , kitchen (where you can cook, reducing your expenses greatly) private outdoor space, pool, etc

    Want amenities? just book a spa down the street

    That runs counter to the points and cc bonus game…
    But who wants to be cooped up in a room when you can have an entire flat or house, which gives you the opportunity to be with your family?

  61. Great article and would love to see more content around planning family (4) travel.

    Would like the goal to be more about earning and stretching points as opposed to luxury though.

    Sorry, but my teens don’t need to travel in business class and stay in suites; I’d rather be able to take them on two or three trips a year.

  62. Great post! Though I have to disagree with the author on the ease and expense of travel between some of the Asian destinations he mentioned. They are all popular holiday spots well served by LCC. The distances are so short, just think of it as taking a bus. Eg singapore to Langkawi, flying time 85 mins, from about 40 bucks on LCC.

    Another thought is that in many parts of Asia, 5 star hotels are relatively affordable. Bangkok is a particularly good example. I once paid 60 bucks for the Hilton, for example. Save the points for more expensive cities! Also there are many luxury local hotel options that almost always cost less than the international chains.

  63. As a former regular at Scarlett, I believe that room photo is from their Singapore branch. I first stayed there during their soft opening in mid 2000s and returned too many times to count. Oh happy memories of the old days when Duxton Hill had its thriving bar scene 🙂

  64. Some of these points have been brought up already.

    1) Spending 10K$/month on credit cards is not something most of OMAAT readers can relate to unless spending on small business, etc. Obviously it is much easier to travel as a family if you can generate 100’s of thousands of miles fairly quickly combined with bonuses etc.

    2) I do appreciate your family orientation as I am also a family of 4 trip planner.

    3) Regarding your airline ticket purchase. You spent roughly 500K points for business class tickets that should normally cost total of 10-12K$ maximum. That is not an amazing return on miles at 2-2.4 c/mile.

    4) Normally hotel awards make little sense unless you boost with bonuses as you did. The problem is that you can’t do this every trip. Also, Asian hotels should be much more affordable with cash.

    Overall, I appreciate the effort. However there is very little actual help in this article for family travelers. Unless the author is totally in debt, I assume overall household income is well over 300K$/year. Most of us can’t relate to this level of income and spending.

  65. This was one of my favorite guest posts. I really like the family aspect of it, it’s tricky to find awards for four people, and as mentioned, outside of North America it can be hard to get a hotel room for four people.

    On this note, will we see any more posts from Travis? He gave a lot of good information, he was especially helpful for choosing a hotel in Oslo on Choice points with a family.

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