Get to the Points

Learn how to maximize card rewards for family fun, saving


Family rewards expert Summer Hull recounts her free family summer fun.

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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 quite a few vacation spots already. We visited 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 and swam at a couple of resorts within Texas. That’s not it, though –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.

See related: How rewards card experts manage their payments

Living the dream on card rewards

Those who don’t know us very well may think we are living the high life, but that’s not case.

  • 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.
  • 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

From 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. Taking advantage of points promotions, airline award charts, travel sales and more has allowed 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.

By keeping up with card tips and tricks, 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

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