Booking the Grandparent Shuttle

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

When we need help from grandparents to watch our kiddo while we are out of town (or heck, just visit with her), we are really lucky to have one set of grandparents live literally two blocks away (stroller distance as I defined it when C was little), and another set that is willing and able to fly down to Texas a few times a year. I never take for granted that we have a really blessed grandparent set-up, and that is 99.9% why we left our former life in Austin and hightailed it to a Houston suburb shortly after our daughter was born. If you can live close to family, the pros usually far outweigh the cons. Unless of course you have a bad family situation, in which case head to the opposite side of the country…

20130703-111815.jpg

Kansas G’ma and Little C playing while she visited in June

That said, there comes a time when it makes more sense to bring the kiddo to the out-of-town grandparents than to have them travel down to your house, yet again. I thought the time would be right when our daughter was closer to 5, but due to a unique set of circumstances, it turns out the “right time” is in a few weeks. Her cousins will be at the Kansas grandparents house at the exact time that something came up that necessitates my husband and I going out of town sans preschooler. They all really want her to come and stay with them in Kansas so that all the cousins will be together for a few days this summer. Rarely can I say no to family get-togethers.

Even still, I had some real reservations about a three year old staying for several days without us at a grandparent’s house that she only has stayed at a handful of times – especially with the extra insanity that will come with a 7 and 9 year old cousin being there at the same time. No doubt it will be a lot of fun, but if it gets to be too much for her there will be no way to swoop in and “save her”. I had several long discussions with C about whether or not she wanted to do this, and what it might be like, and she insisted she understood and wanted to stay by herself at the Kansas grandparents’ house. When I got three straight affirmative answers from her I decided it was a go.

The original plan was for my husband to fly with her up to Kansas, spend a night, and then fly back leaving her there. After our trip I would then fly to Kansas to pick her up and bring her home. That would result in one round trip ticket each. Obviously getting a kid to grandparents isn’t inexpensive, but at least this way we hoped to all equally share the transport responsibilities. I started pricing tickets and found that our plan was a bust. One night stays, same day turns, or one-way tickets were pricing at around $800 each no matter what I did. Reward availability didn’t really line up with when needed to travel either. However, if you were willing to stay several days and/or over a Saturday night then the prices were much closer to $200 per round trip. This meant I had to change our booking strategy. It also meant all the travel had to fall to one parent…guess who? 😉

Ticket A (mine) and Ticket B (kid)

Houston – Kansas round trip

Wednesday – Monday

Ticket C (mine)

Kansas – Houston round trip

Thursday – Monday

If I booked one round trip for myself and the kid from Houston to Kansas, and another for myself to get home and then back again from Kansas to Houston, it worked. It was much cheaper than if I booked it the way we originally planned, as described below.

Ticket A (husband)

Houston – Kansas round trip

Wednesday – Thursday

Ticket B (kid)

Houston – Kansas round trip

Wed – Monday (this booking is the same in both scenarios)

Ticket C (mine)

Houston – Kansas round trip same-day turn on Monday

The way we booked it it cost between $600 – $700. The way we originally planned to book it cost close to $2,000. This was our first experience booking the grandparent shuffle, and it wasn’t easy. It took some real strategy and a shift from our original plans. To save money, one person had to do all the travel with the kiddo, which will mean that I am flying 5 out of 6 days including our trip that weekend. It’s not ideal, but it gets us where we need to be, and allows our daughter to have time with her cousins at grandma’s. I guess it also means I earn more miles….

If you are traveling while your kid stays with grandma, then another option is to book your actual trip from the grandparent’s home town.  In our case that wouldn’t work, but it is another way to potentially simplify things.  No matter what, the “grandparent shuttle” really requires you to think outside the box and explore a few different options.

I know many other traveling families have faced this issue before, so I would love to hear your experiences and how you book these trips!

Comments

  1. Each year we take a trip that involves some type of grandparent shuffle. We always plan to leave from the grandparent’s airport, and we always stay an extra day or two so they don’t feel that we are using them just for the babysitting (even if we are!) This is why I love Southwest so much because if you plan in advance, you can really take advantage of some super low fares and get everybody’s tickets for a reasonable price. I’m sure Little C will have a great time with grandma and the cousins!

  2. What, no 21,000 Avios + $ 10.00 RT flights available?

    Granted that is over 2/3 of the points cost of my last LCC RT flight to Rome, but then Kansas is a prime tourist destination which compares favorably to Kauai. Add a few chickens, some Hawaiian music, put on a lei and stand in the sand and you can hardly tell the difference.

    • ADK, ha ha. Peak summer travel just a couple weeks in advance so no dice (and would have been only 15k round trip Avios each). 😉

  3. When our daughter was little a lot of our trips were DTW – PIT – Wherever, and Wherever – PIT – DTW. In those days you could just stroll into the airport & stroll to the gate (zero security).

  4. OK, I’ll bite. How is it 15k Avios round-trip making the connection at DFW? Seems like it would have to be 18,000.

    I don’t know your exact dates, of course, but I assume you did try Southwest from Hobby, connecting at Love Field. They started direct ICT/DAL service just recently, taking over for AirTran at ICT.

    • Dave, you are right. Nowhere near enough sleep last night! I was thinking of ORD which is 15k RT from IAH. ICT is 18k with the DFW stop. Though frankly both the IAH-DFW-ICT or HOU-ICT are not good plans given the tight turns. Adding connections and/or a drive to South Houston would make an already kind of tough schedule really tough! There actually was a HOU ICT nonstop that we used Southwest points for in June when G’ma came down here – and that wasn’t too bad, but a connection + 90 minute drive is yucky.

  5. Mommypoints. As I am sure you know, ticketing as you have done technically violates the fare rules (because you are circumventing minimum stay rules for the fare class you paid for). You will probably not be found out, but if you are, severe penalties can be hoisted on you from the carrier including expulsion from the loyalty program etc. I hope you booked this with a carrier you only marginally care about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *