We’ve all heard about the amazing redemptions like a first-class trip to the Maldives or a spectacular safari trip. But we don’t just have to use points and miles for aspirational redemptions.

A question of whether to spend miles and points on short domestic trips comes up often. Should we save our points and miles for aspirational redemptions to faraway lands or spend them to visit family? My answer is always this: do what makes sense to you and what makes you happy.

If you have young kids, a three week trip to Southeast Asia is probably pretty far down on your priority list. Giving your kids an opportunity to see their grandparents is a much more realistic proposition. If you have family across the globe, or across the country, you understand how important this hobby could become.

Why This Is so Personal

I wanted to write about this because this feels very personal to me. One of the main reasons I got into this hobby is because my family is scattered all over the country and the globe. The flights are long and expensive – so I had to figure out a way to travel frugally and with more comfort.

Thanks to my obsession with travel rewards, I can now see my family regularly and fly in a lie-flat seat on long transatlantic flights. If it weren’t for points and miles, I couldn’t afford to travel as often as I do.

And this is where having a good stash of points and miles could be life-changing. Last year, almost on a whim, I decided to go visit my cousin in Boston. Once I’ve made my decision, I’ve got to work. I found saver level award space on United, transferred some Ultimate Rewards points and booked my ticket. The whole process took less than 30 minutes.

Family Vacation to Boston2
Points and Miles allowed me to easily visit my cousin in Boston without worrying about how much it would cost.

Next, I had to find a hotel. Thanks to my good stash of Ultimate Rewards points, I found a good deal on a Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel. I didn’t have any Hilton points at the time, and I don’t care about elite status. So I wasn’t worried about earning qualifying nights or elite perks at this hotel. The rate included breakfast anyway, so I was very happy not to spend $150+ a night on an expensive Boston-area hotel.

I flew United economy on a tiny airplane and I definitely didn’t stay in a luxury hotel. But, I was happy to spend the points, because I went to see the family members I haven’t seen in a while. Our mini family reunion was a great success. I won’t hesitate to spend more points and miles on pretty basic travel arrangements again if I can save upward of $1,000 on a short trip.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 spend in 3 months

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Two for One – Visit Family and Spend Some Time Exploring

One of my favorite ways to use points and miles is to combine a family visit with another trip. I get to see my family and be a tourist! Think outside of the box, is there a destination you’d like to see when you travel to visit your family?

Spend a few days with the relatives, then rent a car or jump on a plane and go do something fun, see a new destination by yourself or with your family. You’ve already packed your bag, right?

This is what I did last summer. I’ve always wanted to go to Berlin, mostly because I love 20th-century history and good food, both of which are in abundance in Berlin. So when my aunt organized a mini family reunion just outside of Barcelona, my wheels started turning. I didn’t want to fly across the ocean just to see and do one thing.

I pulled up Google Maps and stared at the map of Europe for some time. And then it hit me, Berlin! Unlike Spain, and many other places in Europe, it’s not going to be hot and crowded in August. It’s only a two hours flight to Barcelona and the tickets on the low-cost carriers were very reasonable.

My flight to Berlin was almost perfect in Lufthansa business class and the Hilton Berlin was lovely.

 

However, the flight from Berlin to Barcelona on Spain’s low-cost carrier Vueling was far from luxurious.

It was hot and crowded and the boarding area looked chaotic, like a scene from one of the disaster movies. Actually, just as I expected it to be in August in Europe, but I didn’t care. The ticket was cheap and I was going to see my family!

How Miles and Points Can Keep You Connected to Family
Boarding area for Vueling flight, Berlin Tegel Airport

In Spain, I stayed in a tiny resort town about an hour outside of Barcelona. There was not a single chain hotel so I dipped into my stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and booked a room in a small, locally-owned hotel.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each. Some might think this is a suboptimal redemption, but Ultimate Rewards points are fairly easy to accumulate, and I don’t mind spending them on local, non-chain hotels. This hotel was basic but clean and had a very efficient air conditioner, an imperative in Spain.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 spend in 3 months

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This trip turned out to be perfect! I got to see a city I wanted to visit for a long time and I met up and had fun with my family.

Booking travel for someone close to you who doesn’t have miles or can’t afford to travel must be the most gratifying use of points and miles. Do you wish someone could come visit you? Book an award ticket for them!

If you have a child or a grandchild in college, it’s so easy to use your points and miles to get them home for the holidays. Want your mom to be there for the birth of her grandchild? If you have travel rewards, you can make it happen. Most airline frequent flyer programs allow you to book travel for other people. Just log into your frequent flyer account and book a ticket for them (don’t forget to change the passenger’s name).

If you have one of the best bargains in travel, the Southwest Companion Pass, you can bring with you one other person on a trip for free. It’s a great deal if you live in an airport that’s well served by Southwest and fly them a few times a year. Combine a great fare sale with the companion pass, and you’ve got yourself a very affordable trip.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

40,000 bonus points after $1,000 spend in the first 3 months, another 35,000 points after $5,000 spend in 6 months

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Final Thoughts

In our pursuit of points and miles, we sometimes get carried away with optimizing redemptions and forget that the main point of this hobby is to be able to travel more. And that includes completely unglamourous travel we can book for ourselves or others.

Points and miles can make a difference between seeing your best friend get married or not. Want the grandparents to see your child perform in a piano recital or compete in a track meet? Want to take the entire family on a trip of a lifetime or on an Alaska cruise? This is exactly why we collect miles.

Don’t hesitate to spend your hard earned points to create memories or help others. One of the main reasons I became so involved in this hobby (lifestyle?) is to be able to see my family. I can now fly halfway across the world, or across the country, often in comfort, sometimes in basic economy, and see them. Nothing is more important than that.

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New to the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card to start with. With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months and 2x points on dining and travel, this card truly cannot be beat! 

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About the Author

Anna is a freelance writer from Cleveland, OH who loves to travel and is a big miles and points geek. Anna’s favorite pastime (besides traveling) is planning trips and figuring out what kinds of points and miles she needs to make it happen. Thankfully, Anna’s husband is completely on board with all the free travel Anna earns and happily joins her on her adventures.

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2 Responses to “How Miles and Points Can Keep You Connected to Family”


We just redeemed 3 one-way segments on Aeroplan to visit my family in Brazil over Christmas. By the time we decided to take the trip and the dates we had available, it would have been impossible to pay for it cash for 3 people. By some sort of miracle we found 3 seats on the direct Toronto-Sao Paulo flight on Dec 22nd. Aeroplan isn’t the most lucrative to redeem because of their surcharges, but paying 500 dollars for the 3 of us in taxes, fees and surcharges vs. 4500 for a one-way flight in cash on the same date – that’s like, 4 cents per point on the amount we saved!

Because we had to be back in Canada on the 26th, this meant we were only spending 2 nights in Brazil (and 2 nights sleeping on airplanes) with a 2 year old in tow – but it was all worth it. The flight back we paid with cash on United and both my husband and I achieved the status we we hoping for with Air Canada/United with that one last flight of the year.

Terry M.

I earn my miles & points much more slowly. I liked your post. What I often do (in addition to my own few trips) is to use some of my miles/points to help loved ones travel less expensively.
(I’m really sad that the SWA companion pass has become harder to get this year!)


Responses 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.

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