Airline Miles Make the Abnormal Normal

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Over the weekend I had the privilege of hanging out at the Hyatt Place Houston Galleria with fellow Houston miles and points travel junkies thanks to an Award Travel 101 Facebook Group meet-up. Richard Kerr, who runs that group, told a few travel stories and did a short presentation on award chart sweet spots, and I got to primarily just hang out meet fellow Houston travelers while chatting about upcoming trips.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

As always, meeting other travelers and sharing stories face to face is a real treat, but what struck me the most from the evening was just incredibly lucky we all are. Most of us are not Richie Rich, but yet we have experiences that are typically reserved for the Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous. 

Yes, my coffee came on a silver platter….but I’m staying on points and it was ‘free’.

In that one room on Saturday evening I talked to folks who are taking their kids to NYC for the second time this year because their kiddos love theater, families plotting how to score four lie-flat seats to Europe next summer, people who are taking their parents on an international trip at the front of the plane for the very first time, and those who are trying to figure out the best way to fly literally half-way around the world to Kathmandu.

Don’t just dream of Broadway…go to Broadway!

I talked to fellow travelers about using points to go skiing…and many of these Texas-based families won’t just go skiing once, but they may make a couple of trips in a season because points make it possible.

Where you live doesn’t have to limit where you go.

Many of the people I talked to aren’t just working and saving for one big trip of a lifetime, but they have multiple trips to various destinations planned or at least in the works.

Y’all, this isn’t normal. I know it almost seems normal when you are surrounded by others in person and online that are doing the same thing that you are, but I promise you this is not normal. This is way better than normal. Many of my friends outside the miles and points world still travel, but their families often make it to one spot a year (often by car), two if they are lucky. Every year or two or three they may have the opportunity to fly their whole family somewhere by plane. It just isn’t economically realistic to do more than that, and I totally get it. I think that is still great. Growing up we took exactly one family trip that required an airplane, and that was when I was in high school. You don’t have to fly in order to explore.

However, you can explore a much wider radius when airplanes are a part of the equation. Driving with our girls to Scotland last summer would have be a little tricky. Buying multiple business class (or even economy) tickets at the normal going rate would have been pretty much impossible.

It is not hyperbole to say that miles and points have literally opened the world to all of us. Even if you have the means to fly without using miles, you have the ability to do it a whole lot more, and in much greater comfort because of miles. You also then have more cash to spend on the things that you experience on the ground if you didn’t spend it all getting there.

Scotland thanks to miles

Some folks are happy with earning 100,000 miles or so a year on credit card sign-ups and other bonuses. Some are earning that amount every week thanks to gift cards and the like. Both are in very fortunate positions to be able to do what they are doing and turn those miles into travel experiences and a lifetime of memories.

There is no one-size-fits all right way to travel more for less, but getting to visit with so many other local travelers last week reminded me of how fortunate we all are for having found this hobby and both the creative and everyday ways to earn and stretch our miles. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all way to earn and use miles, there is also no reason to not be earning miles virtually every single day.

Since you are here reading this I assume you already know that, but in case you are new to the world of miles and points, don’t wait another day to get started. Make your next online purchase via a shopping portal to earn airline miles. Set a goal of where you want to go on your first mileage fueled trip. Research which miles you need to make that happen. Mommy Points Tip: Just Google “How to get to (insert city of your choice) Using Airline Miles” and you may very well find tons of tips and articles from those who have been before – just check the dates and make sure the info is still current.

Next, if your credit is good, and you don’t think it will tempt you into a debt spiral, get yourself a rewards earning credit card and start using it to hit the spending bonus and earn miles and points in everyday life so you can go on the trip you desire.

Travel is a regular part of not just my life, but my daughters’ lives. It is normal for my oldest daughter to wake up in her bed at home in the morning and be playing in the park with cousins on the huge rocks in New York City by the afternoon.

She goes from chocolate chunk brownie ice cream pints in our fridge and scootering around our neighborhood to discerning between the different ice cream trucks in Central Park and watching the cars zoom by down a busy Manhattan street. It is not culture shock to her. I don’t even think it feels foreign. Going to different places, seeing different people, and doing different things is her normal, and while I am beyond grateful for our miles and points fueled reality, I know our normal is decidedly not “normal”.

Manhattan ice cream

Thanks to miles and points, I love that so many of us have made this our normal, and if you haven’t yet, let this be your Monday Motivation to get started. I’m here to help.

Whether you want beaches, mountains, or something in between, miles can make it happen.

How have miles and points altered your family’s ‘normal’?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. Since my wife and I retired miles and points has opened up our whole lifestyle. We used to vacation a few times a year and now I try to get away every month. I love traveling and having new experiences and would have never seen or have been to as many places without this hobby. Thank You so much for the information you constantly provide.
    .

  2. I used to be amazed at being able to travel in premium cabins. But now even with sizeable mileage balances I still am blown away by the fact that I can literally fly anywhere on the planet at anytime I want, even on a moment’s notice.

    • @Stannis: For anything in life there is a price. While I agree with your comment you have to take into consideration how many points or miles you will need to fly anywhere on the planet at anytime you want. That may be doable but not at the best cost for your mileage balance.

  3. I agree so much with this article. Miles have opened so many doors for travel for our family. I only wish I would have jumped in sooner.

    Wow earning 100,000 points a week! That is nuts. What are they doing with all those giftcards? Wouldn’t they have to be buying a crazy large amount?

  4. I totally agree – I always find it interesting how much better I travel as a manager in my company than the VPs and SVPs travel on personal trips. When you can go anywhere at a much lower cost, it really changes your options. People ask my wife and she tells them how easy it is but few are ever willing to try.

  5. We were the once a year vacation family before points and miles. Now, I homeschool my kids and we travel to destinations we read about to enhance their learning. We take trips almost monthly instead of yearly. They have been to places I would otherwise not be able to take 5 kids without the help of miles. Absolutely loving this “abnormal” life!

    • Hey twin sister! I have 5 kids and we homeschool too. I agree with you that taking the kids to placing we are studying is amazing. It really brings our studies to life.

        • Yes, maybe I will see you on a flight.
          Do you have any great tips on getting miles and points to fly your big family? I have only been working on this hobby for a year, so any advice is appreciated.

          • We are fortunate enough to own a small plumbing company and manage a few rental houses so I put all our supplies, gas, utilities, etc. on my cards. I also have the SW companion pass, which really helps. Between sign up bonuses on personal and business cards, we can take advantage of quite a few. I am starting to look into manufactured spending now. You can never have enough points!

  6. I totally relate. For many years, we did driving tips around the state and to visit Grandma and Grandpa in another state.

    Over the last few years we made a conscious choice to earn points/miles *and spend* them. That’s how we can travel “on a budget” with a family of 6. Outside of points & miles (and mistake fares every once and a while) it would be fairly difficult to travel as much as we do.

    PS – I recognized your bottom picture; breakers at Hyatt Ziva Cancun, right? It’s a rather pleasant walk between Ziva and Zilara.
    PPS – And as a side benefit you can get reservations at the other hotel’s restaurant if you want to.

  7. Our family of four has been able to travel so much the last three years thanks to miles and points and I am so grateful. But sometimes I wonder if I am “ruining” my kids. Will they be able to score the same kinds of deals in their generation? Am I “spoiling” them by the types of hotels we are now able to stay at? (growing up our standard was Motel 6) Will they be burned out on travel by the time they are adults?

  8. Points and miles changed my life in two significant, earth-shattering ways:

    1. After immigrating from Korea nearly 22+ years ago, my mother wasn’t able to return to see her family at all because of her crazy job where she couldn’t take any time off (even when my grandma passed away). I became the breadwinner of our family at 26yo (I’m 32 now) when my mom became disabled. I could have afforded one economy ticket at that point, but my mom was too frail and sick to travel in economy for 13 hours. Few years later, I stumbled onto the CSP offer and was able to fly her back to Korea to see her family (via Korean Air’s business class!). She wasn’t able to enjoy all the perks of flying business class (like lounges, food, wine, etc.), but she was able to withstand 13 hours thanks to the lie-flat seats. My mom burst into tears when she saw her siblings waiting for her at the gate. This was the first moment that made me realize how special this points&miles opportunity is.

    2. My fiance and I have always wanted to travel the world, but we suffer from debilitating back injuries (thanks to some jerk on his cell phone that rear-ended us on the freeway), so traveling via economy for more than 2-3 hours at a time seemed too punishing, making this dream seem too unreal. We sometimes choose flights with connections even when there is a direct flight because we just can’t sit for that long (and we have specific stretches and exercises we need to do every hour or so if we have to sit for a long time – and it requires a flat surface). Enter points&miles: we realized that we can book premium class tickets without breaking the bank!

    This realization played a HUGE part in us deciding to turn our jobs location-independent and travel the world – as long as we want to! We are leaving for our digital nomad life in February 2018. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I am always grateful that I stumble onto this amazing world 🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. I think the first time I uttered the words “truly I lead a ridiculous life” were when my wife and I were flying over the Mediterranean Sea in a helicopter transferring us from Monaco to the airport in Nice, France. Miles and Points are amazing…

  10. I agree with this article. I think one reason “travel hacking” is not more widespread is because of the complexity of redeeming airline miles. The rewards are amazing, but the learning curve is steep. Thanks for all you do to teach us!

  11. It was great to meet you (I’m the Houston blogger that introduced myself at the end) and the others at the meetup. Points have definitely changed my life almost all my flights are free unless I choose to pay for them. One day I will have kids so your blog is very interesting in that regard. Check out my blog TravelWithVik.com hopefully it’s of use to you and others in the Houston area.

  12. I have tried to explain to friends how we are able to fly 1-2 times per year with a family of 6, but I may have made it sound too difficult using miles and points. Usually when I get to the part about never carrying a balance on credit cards, the subject goes a different direction! My husband doesn’t totally understand how it’s working, but he certainly is enjoying our new adventures! Love your site!

  13. My 6 year old daughter always asks if there is a lounge in the hotel or airport we visit. She asks if we have a suite so we don’t have to hear daddy snore. This is normal to her! Now, we do fly economy (except when we flew RT to Asia in CX business) and I use points and cash for hotel stays in order to stretch them out, but we take 5-6 vacations per year. She’s been to Europe and Asia and all around the US/Canada/Mexico. My husband and joke about her coming into reality when she gets older and finds out that this isn’t normal – mommy is just miles and points crazy! Seriously though, I have told her many times that we are lucky as a family in order to do this because most people don’t get to go on vacation like we do. I keep telling her this, but I don’t think it’s sinking in yet.

  14. Great post for those in the know – and also for those just starting out. A short while ago, I said to my wife while having dinner overlooking the ocean in hawaii – We have a great life and are very lucky to stumble into the miles and points world four years ago. When we mention that are travels in the last year included Hawaii, Aruba, riviera Maya, punts cana, and grand cayman, the typical response is ” must be nice” When I get to the part of explaining we travel for pennies on the dollar using credit cards, you can start to see the doubt in their eyes. I have offered to many help getting started, give me call and I’ll come over to get you started. I have yet to receive that phone call! Just don’ t be jealous of us. Most have no problem sitting in front of their tv whatching hours of mindless shows, but scoff at spending a few hours at the computer reading and researching travel blogs as I do – and most of you reading this now. Our payoff, tens of thousands of dollars of free travel and once in a lifetime trips- EVERY YEAR! Thanks for the great information.

  15. Summer, you are so right! Those of us in this hobby are abnormal. With a basket full of points, the cost of travel becomes unimportant.

    Before I found you and Rick the Frugal Travel Guy, a trip to Europe was an exotic adventure to be dreamed about. Now, with two trans-Atlantics and one trans-Pacific this spring/summer alone, it’s nothing special.

    We are such a lucky group!

  16. I definitely agree that one nice feature with this hobby is we all enjoy the points in our own fashion. I don’t mind economy if I can get my family of 5 more places. I like to stretch my points as far as possible where I honestly get angry if I have to pay all cash for a hotel room. Like Wendy, I’m worried I’m ‘ruining’ my kids with all of our adventures. My oldest was labeled the rich girl from a friend at school due to our travels (California twice, Florida twice, and Las Vegas during a school year might do that).

    As many of us have tried to help friends, I would like to see an article about referral bonuses. For example, how can you send a Chase referral link? (Not the email). Chase claims their referral emails take 7 business days which is ridiculous. If anyone knows, let me know.

    • If your referral link can generate a Facebook or Twitter link, do that and copy paste that to send it via instant message or email.

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