Planning Bigger Trips

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 I started this blog my kiddo was one year old and we were all coming off a pretty rough first year.  In fact, if you ever get curious as to why I still have just one kiddo – that first year is 95% of the reason why.  Most of our trips were short and not too far from home.  At that young age the focus of our trips was pretty much solely on connecting her with family, as she was just too young to really appreciate any other elements of travel.

Here she is at a little over a year old on a trip to Disney that we took a few weeks before I started this blog.  The main purpose of the trip was to meet up with extended family members.  She had only been walking for a couple months, only knew how to say a few words, was still taking a bottle at night, was still in diapers, etc.  She was more of a baby than a kiddo.

Here she is last month on Christmas morning.  She is fully conversant (and knows some Spanish), barely naps, sleeps in a real bed, doesn’t wear diapers, eats almost everything we eat, is learning to ride a bike, and loves to travel.  She is a “big girl”.

So, as time continues to pass, Little C gets bigger and Bigger and BIGGER.  Since we plan many trips at least a full year out, we are now looking at booking trips for when she is between 4 and 5 years old.  That is a world of difference from having a one year old.  I get comments sometimes that my type of travel has changed from when the blog started (some saying that is a good thing, some saying it is a bad thing), and that is correct my travel patterns are evolving…and having a kid that is getting older is a big part of the reason why.  We will always have many trips to connect her with her family spread around the country, but we are now starting to spread our wings a bit further from home as well.

It is no surprise that booking a journey that stretches across the globe is a different process that booking a flight to Grandma’s house.  It requires you to stretch your brain a bit further, which is both challenging, exciting, and exhausting.  Of course in the miles and points world, reward availability also becomes a much bigger issue when you want to fly three people in a premium cabin to popular destinations.  Flexibility and strategy become even more important as your reward travel goals grow as ours are.  We are about to be in the “magic” window when our daughter is old enough to go on big trips successfully, but not so old as to be tied to a school schedule.  PS, the other “magic travel window” for easy or even regular babies is from about 2/3 months through when they are mobile – though that very much did not apply in our household. 

You will start to see more posts about planning and taking longer, further, and bigger trips from time to time.  Of course the shorter domestic trips aren’t going away either, so hopefully there will be a decent mix of both.  We aren’t 100% set yet, but it is likely that our first really big family adventure with C will be to Australia and New Zealand in a little over a year.  So, plan on hearing more about that planning process as it happens.

Being that we are a family of three instead of just a solo traveler who can leave home at a moment’s notice, our focus won’t be as much on finding the best premium cabin to experience as much as it will be on finding availability for the three of us.  We don’t yet have so many exotic trips under our belt as to need the latest and greatest in-air suite complete with personal chef (though no complaints if we get that some day!).  We just need seats comfortable enough to sleep in – and no, economy seats are not comfortable enough for us to sleep in to Australia.

The first major thing we are looking at when planning this trip is how to really maximize the routing given the type of miles that we plan to use.  Do we also want to visit Asia, do we want to tack on a stop in Hawaii, do we want to add the Caribbean, etc?  That requires planning more than just one big trip at a time – it means you are actually potentially planning more than one trip at a time.  Here is an extremely simple example of how that can work.  We need to attend a wedding this summer near Cancun (dates changed to protect the innocent).  Tickets are running $500 – $600 right now for economy.  However, if we wanted to, we could take on half of the Mexico trip to our Australia trip in first class for just 5,000 more miles instead of the 30,000 a one-way first ticket would usually cost with United.

So, our Australia trip could be Cancun – Houston (stop for months until Australia trip) – Sydney – Houston

If we did that then we would just need to get from Houston to Cancun which we could do on a one-way using miles, or purchase a one-way ticket.  This probably won’t really be the route we take as there are other ways I am thinking of optimizing this trip, but it is a small example of what can be possible with big award ticket trips.  The more thinking you put into them, the more you can get out of them.  Or, just use an award booking service and let them do some of the thinking in exchange for some $. 

If you are interested in getting started along this line of thinking I recommend reading a couple different things.  First, if you are interested options for using miles to get to Australia or New Zealand in a premium cabin, then my favorite broad post on the topic is on Travelsort written by One Mile at a Time.  That post is now a year old, but is still a good starting point.  If you are interested in starting to think about free/cheap one-ways and stopovers then I think Milevalue has the most comprehensive posts on the topic.

I’m sure some of you also have kids who are starting to get a bit older and bigger trips are becoming more of a reality.  I’d love to hear any stories you all have related to transitioning from smaller to “bigger” trips!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. So what you’re saying is that we can expect to see your trip report of EK First in the near future? 😉

    I’m in a slightly different boat, trying to cram in as much travel as possible before #1 arrives – so I might be browsing back through your archives in a few years!

  2. My nine year old has already been twice to Hawaii, once to Alaska, Costa Rica, Colorado, and twice to Colombia. This is all on points and miles of course. I am taking her on her first trip to Europe in March for spring break.

  3. My wife, three kids and I just went to Central America to see family using ThankYou Points. I don’t know that it would have been possible to fly over Christmas/New Year’s for all of us using points.

    URs get a lot of press, but TYPs are an underrated program–it’s not too hard to accumulate a decent balance with the generous sign-up and spending bonuses, and you can get 1.33 cents per point on travel redemptions w/ ThankYou Premier, so when you combine that with the spending bonuses on the Preferred (5% GGD for 12 mos) and the Forward (restaurants, Amazon) you can effectively earn 6.67% on a decent percentage of your purchases.

  4. My wife and I (along with our two year old ‘big girl’) just completed a 2 week trip to Australia (from DC)in Virgin Australia biz/Southwest). We went to three different cities in Australia (Cairns/Port Douglas, Brisbane, Sydney) on Quantas (domestic) and stayed at the Hilton Brisbane, Sheraton Port Douglas and Park Hyatt Sydney.

    The whole trip was done on miles/points and would have had a retail cost of over $60k (we did have to pay the usual taxes, but that was only in the hundreds of dollars – not too shabby). We do love showing family/friends our chart of the ‘what it would have cost’. Anyway, we had a great time, but was certainly a challenging time.

    Drop me a line if you’d like more details/strategy from our trip (we’re veterans of the miles/points scene – Hilton Diamond/SPG Platinum/Hyatt Diamond, etc). In addition to countless domestic trips, we’ve taken our little girl to Paris, Antwerp and Spain (including in BA First/Concorde Room) and have had very rewarding (and very challenging) experiences!

  5. I was able to find 4 business/first class rewards on Qantas using American miles on the same flights. (My husband and I were able to experience First in the A380 -it was awesome).It is definitely doable using miles. We went to Australia in July when there is more availability, and the weather was awesome. My kids are teens but we did some amazing things that your daughter would love.

  6. Great post Summer. I have been having some success getting 3 seats in business overseas, plus a lap child ticket. But it is a huge challenge over finding just one or two seats. I have been booking 6-11 months in advance, which takes the spontaneity out of it.

    Fortunately, there is just so much joy in seeing another land through the eyes of your children.

  7. @mommypoints – You mention using a booking service to ease the planning stages of a trip. Can you give me a recomendation for a booking service?

    This differs by person/job but for me it makes more sense for me to bill a few more hours and pay someone to book my trip than to spend hours on the phone with the airline.

  8. We are taking our first European vacation with my boys ages 4 & 6 years this summer compliments of! (Thanks to some boarding area blogs that tipped me off to the application process last fall!) I think this will open the doors to more distant vacations since showing my kids the world is a high priority!

  9. We have been doing ‘big’ trips with our kids since they were born and I think it has made them awesome travelers, we are getting ready for a trip to Spain and the UK with them in February. Traveling overseas isn’t that much different than domestic, you need the same stuff, you need the same patience, you just have to deal with jet lag 🙂

  10. My son will be 2 on May so we decided to take Europe vacation this spring break on AA award (since being in dfw area). Also going to Puerto Rico for 4th of July week for 5 days. Planning to go to Brazil for next yr Fifa world cup. I wanted to just go with my wife, but she want to bring our son with on on that trip. I will try to book an award ticket 11 month a head. Hopefully I will be successful on AA with our reminder miles. I always wanted to go to Australia and New Zeeland, that I plan to do in Feb of 2015 as the two nation will be hosting the Cricket world cup, have to figure out about that travel.

  11. to the above comment Puerto Rico, Southwest Companion pass for flight, and Marriott Mega bonus 2013 for hotels. Found Marriott properties in dfw ara for 45/night to get 1 free after 2 night stay.

  12. My daughter is 3 years and my son is 4 months and we’re in Oklahoma. We’ve flown with daughter to Seattle, Alaska, Venezuela, Cabo and Banff. We took them both to Aruba last month. We’re taking them to Tokyo and Kyoto in April for a week to attend a wedding and we’ll spend a week in northern Vermont in August. We just started churning cards in July so we’re limited to coach flying now. We’re kind of dreading the flights to and from Tokyo but we’ll have an entire weekend to adjust after we return. I need to start something that resembles a business so I can churn business cards and maybe get better seats on future big trips.

  13. We travelled internationally a lot before my daughter and continued to do so after she was born. Her first trip to Europe was at age 11 months and she has been to Europe or Asia at least once a year. So we haven’t changed our travel pattern, just what happens once we arrive at our destination.
    – We can’t travel off-season too often now (altho we are headed to England for a long weekend in February) because of school breaks and due to the weather. Little ones need lots of outdoor activities to run off steam. My daughter is older now so we are once again shifting our activities.
    – We also used to look for quick dining options for a a more pleasant evening for everyone. Altho don’t count out upscale restaurants too. One of favorite memories is eating a 6 course meal in the Loire Valley at the chateau we were staying at. Since there were no booster seats, my daughter (then 4 years old) was placed on a beautiful pillow with tassles. Then she was led to the next room to watch cartoons in French while we finished our 3 hour meal. She thought she was a princess.
    – Getting 3 business class seats has not been too much of a problem for us since we can usually do non-stops, but it does take a bit of planning and searching.
    I look forward to reading about your planning and future trips.

  14. Oh yes, you should definetly take advantage while you are not tied to a school calendar. My travel this year revolves around school calendar and you have to do more planning, as you mostly flying in high season.
    Someone already mentioned geting 3 seats upfront on every flight may be challenging. Well if you are going to start the little one with Australia…the rest should be a piece of cake 🙂

  15. We did our first trip to Germany with kids the summer before last. It was right before my youngest started kindergarten. We got 4 free miles tickets for the flights (economy – but still – 4 of them). We did a home exchange with a family in a small village right where we wanted to be. And since I took my daughter out of preschool, we saved that tuition and used it to pay for the rental car. The whole 3 week trip, really didn’t cost us much at all. We did day trips from where we were. Didn’t feel like we had to eat out. Met the neighbors, went to the local pool and bakery and generally had a relaxing and wonderful experience. Enjoyed being in the village a lot more than the big city tours. Enjoy your experience. My kids can’t wait to go back. We are currently planning a UK trip for 2014

  16. We’re leaving on on our first international award trip in March with 3 kiddos in tow. For that many miles, we have to stick with economy for now – I was finding it hard to find 5 economy seats on some of the domestic legs. The miles also came from both AC and UA, which added another layer of difficulty.

    As the kids have grown, another big change that I’ve mentioned before is a switch from 1 to 2 hotel rooms per night if you can’t find an apartment or 2 br suite in many countries.

  17. Have you looked into flying Air New Zealand’s skycouch? It might work for you and your family. I know you stated economy is not comfortable for a flight to Australia but NZ’s new product might be. I’ve flown several 10+ hour trips in economy and have found most flights comfortable (singapore airlines is amazing.) I now fly in business class but will admit that all those flights in economy have made me appreciate flying business class even more.

  18. Domestic travelers here! I will give my children North America with my points and miles earnings but they may have to take the world for themselves when they can. They are great travelers, easy to please but its just not in the budget for this working class Tennessee family of 5.
    You could imagine how many points one can bust though needing 5 RTs flights each time. Not to mention how much it costs to feed and entertain a large family on vacation!
    They get some quality time at grandmas when we can bust out of the U.S. for a bit! It’s good for us to reconnect and good for grandma, though she may beg to differ!

  19. My kids are now 14, 12, and 9. Looking back, I wish we’d pulled them out of school for trips in the early school years (say K-4). After 4th grade it becomes too difficult to get caught up on homework.

    Our kids are now at a good civilized age to travel. We will visit Costa Rica in March, Peru in June, and are planning a 2 week trip to Europe in summer 2014.

    The summer the youngest turns 12, we plan an African safari. A trip to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia is one of our favorite pre-kid trips and I look forward to taking them.


  20. Protect the innocent? I think you may have your peeps confused, Mrs. Points. 😉

    Let me know when y’all are going to kiwiland. We’ll have ’em put on extra sheep for you.

  21. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve become more and more interested in completely exhausting a specific area or country. Right now I’m on a trip in Panama with all four kids. We’ve stayed 5 nights in Portobelo and we are only now feeling like we’ve had enough.

  22. MP you are going to have so much fun! Germany and Italy are especially child friendly. You have to be laid back and not try to visit every museum. But from your previous trip reports, it sounds like you’ve got the right attitude. Can’t wait to hear the trip reports and pick up some pointers.

  23. I am contemplating Australia at the end of January/start of February. I know that’s a popular award to try and find. I was there once, and want to go back. But, the price has to be right. Happy hunting/planning.

  24. What were the problems with 1st year travel?

    Our DS had colic at level 11, it was so bad we lived in a cocoon for 3 months. But once it cleared up we travelled with him. At 6 months he had his first passport stamps for Turkey & Italy. I won’t say there weren’t moments of frayed nerves but overall we remember the good more than the bad.

  25. Yep, same thing here as well. Daughter turning 5 and we are headed to Europe for her first big trip. She’s done great at both DW and DL, and we ran into MP in NYC this past winter, so we figure she’s ready for the really big jump across the pond!

    As an aside, we thought about tacking Italy on to London and Paris, but ultimately decided it was too much for a first trip. We’ll have plenty of chances later to do Italy on its own. I would be wary of trying to do too much in one trip.

  26. Greetings from the megabus! We are headed home to dc from an nyc school break.weekend. Having done Guatemala and many domestic trips I find the biggest change is my focus on lodging. As a single or couple I could be a lot more flexible but with kids you need what you need…be it 2 beds or a fridge, etc. Overseas I tend to rely less on chains and more on vacation rentals or luxury lunk type independent hotels. Next up, Ireland!

  27. Thanks to so many of you for sharing your “big trip” stories! Very exciting! I think C is going to love some of these new adventures a ton. For those who said to leave her with grandparents, we do have some of those “adult” trips lined up as well so it for us it is all about balance.

    It will be harder to get three premium cabin seats together, but certainly not impossible. That’s one of the reasons we aren’t going to be all that picky about carriers. Getting three F seats on LH just ain’t gonna happen…however my single seat was great. 😉

    For some people international travel with a young child is fine and there is no reason to wait until the kiddo is older, but that just didn’t sound fun personally to us and what we wanted to do on trips. She didn’t really travel until she was 11 months old due to some health issues that were ultimately more uncomfortable and messy for her than dangerous (though she did have a life flight thrown in there for good measure), so it just wasn’t the right time for us as a family to venture far from home. There was a lot of sleeplessness and frayed nerves to say the least.

    Those times have changed though and we are ready to go!

  28. @Adnan,
    Your mention of WC15 planted a seed in my mind. That sounds like an exciting trip to plan for.
    Is it possible for us to connect and chat about it? travelenthusiast at

  29. My 11 month old has already been to Hawaii 4 times and Wyoming. We’re headed to Alaska in a few weeks, then Singapore, Bali, India, and Hong Kong at the end of February- saving that big trip until he was a year old 😉 All done with miles and points (except Hawaii which is for work) I agree the first year is tough- or first 6 months for us- but I do miss the days when he would sleep the whole way on the plane.

  30. Wow MP racking up the UA miles, 480K for 3 tickets to Australia… Pity they *never* have business availability on these routes, though that may change after Feb 1.

  31. Great post, and thanks for the shout out to Ben’s Australia award booking tips on TravelSort. For us, although we’d taken the munchkin to Hawaii, France and the Galapagos, the major transition trip was to Hong Kong and Bali. That longer trip has given us confidence that, if anything, he’s a better traveler than we are! One thing that we’ve found really important with just one kid is to build in enough time for him to play with other kids, whether at the hotel or locals. Look forward to reading about Australia and New Zealand trip planning.

  32. My three year old daughter goes with us for most of our trips. We’ve mainly concentrated on Europe since she’s been born. We started with France when she was two, and it was fabulous. She loves to travel and loves planes. Traveling with a little one to another country forces you to slow down and pay attention to the world around you rather than run around from one famous site to the next. We usually take a few weeks for vacation, rent an apartment, and try to visit as many playgrounds as possible. It’s amazing to watch our daughter play with other kids who speak a different language and interact with other families. Last year we visited Spain, and this Easter we’re going to London with our little one. Now there are times that are challenging, tantrums, potty training, etc, but we’d rather be doing all that in another country that dealing with it at home I guess!

Leave a Reply

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