Learn how to maximize card rewards for family fun, saving

Next summer do your family right through card rewards, loyalty programs

Summer Hull
Personal Finance Writer
Summer Hull writes the weekly "Get to the Points" column for CreditCards.com

Get to the Points

The summer is made up of three months, which means about 92 days to try and fill with kid-friendly activities and child care, or 92 opportunities for family adventures and vacations that can translate to lifelong memories. Most families I know would love to load the summer up with a variety of vacations and trips, but sometimes dreams and budgets don’t perfectly align, so much of the summer is spent just counting down the days until school starts back up instead of truly living it up.

We live near Houston, but this summer my family of four, made up of my husband, my 7- and 2-year-old daughters, and myself has been to the beach in Rhode Island, saw family in Connecticut, played with Mickey Mouse in Florida, saw a Broadway show in New York City, rode in a stagecoach in Wyoming, swam at a couple of resorts within Texas, and we still have a trip to Kansas and Missouri to see the Great American Eclipse left to go.

No, we are not wealthy, or lottery winners, racking up debt, or living on inheritance. We are an otherwise very average family who happens to have unlocked the magic of what miles and points can do for us. 

"Believe it or not, using miles and points to enable your family to travel much more for much less doesn’t have to be complicated, time intensive, or require you to have lots of expenses or business travel."

Living the dream on card rewards
Those who don’t know us very well may think we are living the high life, but the truth is that our $250 hotel room near the line of totality during the eclipse was booked for 3,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points; our flight to Wyoming was 100 percent free on a private plane thanks to a crazy JetSmarter promotion for those who could prove they had a million miles; our resort complete with water slides and a lazy river in San Antonio was booked using an annual credit card award night when the room normally costs $300-plus per night; our amazing room at the Park Hyatt New York was booked using 30,000 Hyatt points per night when the selling price was almost $1,000 per night; and most of our other flights were booked via a collection of airline miles and credit card points that were primarily earned by leveraging our everyday spending for major rewards. 

We probably spent less cash on our summer of travel than most families would spend on one road trip to the beach.

More family travel for less money
Since my days of flying back and forth between graduate school in New York and seeing friends and family in Texas, to learning how to keep my two young girls connected to their family members spread around the country, I’ve spent much of the past decade learning the secrets of leveraging rewards earning credit cards, points promotions, airline award charts, travel sales, and otherwise very mundane everyday life tasks and expenses to enable our family to literally travel around the world, sometimes in suites and in first class, for a very greatly reduced cost.

Believe it or not, using miles and points to enable your family to travel much more for much less doesn’t have to be complicated, time intensive, or require you to have lots of expenses or business travel. After a little bit of learning and travel goal setting, it can become a very simple part of your everyday life.

All you have to do in order to learn how to earn and use miles and points to take your family to the destinations of your dreams, even on a tight budget, is stick with me here on “Get to the Points” as we look at different everyday tips and tricks you can apply to your life every week. We will cover everything from which rewards credit cards are the best for busy families, to leveraging big everyday expenses to earn huge rewards, to highlighting the airline and hotel programs that allow you to really stretch your miles and points to the max.

Even if dollars are tight, next summer your family can be the one that has made memories on the beaches of California, strolled the busy streets of New York City, taken in a museum in Paris, or relaxed on a tube in a lazy river for much less than you probably think. The only real limits to where miles and points can take you is your own imagination, so let those dreams run wild as we work together to “Get to the Points.”

See related: 5 ways hotel cards add up to big savings, How rewards card experts manage their payments

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Updated: 12-12-2018