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While I am always happy to share my own traveling stories with my family, there are tons of other great traveling families out there with kids of different ages, different numbers of kids, and who have had different experiences than us. As part of my “Little C’s Traveling Friends” series, I share different families’ stories so we can all learn from their experiences. If you would like to be a part of this series just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This fun family of three loves Disney (who doesn’t?!) and shares what they have learned after taking multiplel\ Disney cruises. I’ve actually still never been on a cruise, though if I went on one I would love to start with a Disney one! They plan to continue this family tradition of cruises and almost free domestic travel brought to you in part by points. Read on to learn more about how they do it all.
Tell us a little bit about your family
We are a Midwestern family of three, my husband and I are both 30-somethings who love to travel with reward points, but just don’t have enough vacation days to travel as much as we’d like. Can I cash reward points in for those? My daughter, we’ll call her Miss L, is 5 years old and loves all things princess and fairy.
How has your traveling pattern changed since you had kids?
Having Miss L didn’t change our traveling too much. We did wait until she was one to take our first family vacation, but we didn’t let her arrival stop us. We gear our vacation locations to cater her desires a little more (hence a Disney cruise instead of another line), but she happily just comes along for the ride.
Where all have you traveled with your daughter?
We have been to Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Dallas several times, a previous Disney cruise, Disney World for one day, Disneyland for 3 days, Kansas City and finally this Disney Cruise since she was born five years ago.
What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way?
We prefer to get a hotel that has a separate bedroom when possible, and for that reason we like Marriott Residence Inns quite a bit. We also prefer a free breakfast now that we have her because she is not a morning person. With free breakfast, one of us can run downstairs, get the breakfast and bring it back to the room while she slowly wakes up without there being an extra fee. We have learned to fly with less toys than we need because inevitably she would rather make a fort out of the emergency instruction manual for her little princess than whatever toys I tried stuffing in our carry-on.
We also found the need for pull-ups even with a fully potty trained child. On a 75 minute flight we were on recently, we were told the lavatory was broken and it wouldn’t be working the duration of the flight. For most adults, they can handle 75 minutes, but I was nervous for my 4 year old. Luckily I had a pull-up that she was able to put on and use without creating dirty laundry.
How do points and miles figure into your family travels?
We wouldn’t be able to travel as often without points. In our 10 year marriage, we have had 21 flights and have only had to pay for one seat, and it was on our most recent trip. Points allow us to go places that would take me 3-4 years to save up for, and I am now able to get us there in just one year. We were able to go to Disneyland inexpensively as our room, flight, park tickets and some of our food were free because of points.
Mommy Points Tip: Head here to read more reviews and tips related to Disney!
I wasn’t as involved with points in the beginning, but my brother got me hooked on an American Airlines credit card to help us get our honeymoon flights for free 10 years ago. From there we concentrated exclusively on free flights for the next 5-6 years. It wasn’t until after we had Miss L that we found sites like Mommy Points and learned that we were not using points to their full advantage. I started reading, learning, and keeping an excel spreadsheet of all my points. Then I learned about the website Award Wallet and that has helped me tremendously with tracking our miles and points.
Mommy Points Tip: If you are unsure about where to start on your miles and points journey, check out my Beginner’s Guide or read this recent post on my favorite rewards credit card for beginners that could help cover the cost of flights, hotels, or even cruises!
What future trips are on your horizon?
After this cruise, we plan to book on board for another Disney Cruise (you get better benefits by booking on board), but we aren’t 100% sure that will be the end result. We might swap it out for Discovery Cove and Sea World instead. We booked another DCL cruise while on the Disney Fantasy, but this time we will be going on the Disney Magic. We will be able to fly down to Port Canaveral for free, stay 2 nights prior to our cruise for free, and pay for part of our cruise all with points. We take one vacation a year, and I’m able to do so because points make it affordable for us.
What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?
I’ve found that planning everything to the minute does not work when traveling with children. When it was just my husband and I, we would pack our days full to see as much as we could. Now with our daughter we have learned to pick one activity a day and then relax and let the day go with the flow the rest of the time. Its okay to have an idea of what you want to do, but plans can change quickly with a child, especially when you have a toddler. We were pretty diligent with naptime when she was younger, so that had to factor into our planning. Some kids do fine napping in a stroller, but mine never could so we just planned around a 90 break in the hotel room each afternoon. It gave me and my husband some down time, and her the rest she needed to not be cranky the rest of the day.
Thank you so much to this awesome family for sharing their story and tips! I hope to get my family on a Disney cruise at some point, so thanks for the inspiration and tips!