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Camp Mom and Dad: Extend Your Summer Vacation for Less than Day Camp

April 12, 2019
10 min read
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This summer I'm spending five weeks in Europe, mostly thanks to miles and points. The last three weeks will be just my 12-year-old daughter and me. We're taking what would normally be her summer camp budget and spending it on "Camp Mom."

Past Camp Moms have covered three continents and eight countries over nine weeks. We've explored deserts, jungles, historical sites and even commemorated a national holiday. Along the way, the kids learned lessons about both the world and themselves that no local camp could likely teach.

Foutainbleau castle outside of Paris, France
Photo by Dia Adams

What Is Camp Mom?

Camp Mom (or Dad) is my plan to swap out day camp for extended family travel and make “what I did on my summer vacation” more impactful than what a day camp could likely provide. We tack Camp Mom onto our annual family trip. After two weeks, my husband goes home and the kids and I extend our travels.

Getting to and from a location is the same price no matter how long you stay, and by using miles and points, I can usually keep the cost of Camp Mom equal to or less than what camp would have cost.

In the DC Metro Area, a quality day camp can easily cost $400/week. With two kids, an $800 weekly budget is totally doable thanks to strategic rewards use. We've successfully completed three Camp Moms and I'm now planning the fourth.

I count lodging, internal transport and tours in my calculations. I don't count gas or food as those are expenses we also would have at home. It's an art, not a science, but using $400/week/kid gives me a budget goal.

Camp Mom in Asia

The trip that was most subsidized by miles and points was a trip to Vietnam and Hong Kong that was tacked onto a family trip to Japan. We cashed in 130k American Airlines AAdvantage miles each to fly first class outbound to Tokyo and back from Hong Kong on a mix of American Airlines and Cathay Pacific operated flights. Leaving from Tokyo, used 20k American miles each to Danang, Vietnam, where we spent a week at the Hyatt Regency Danang. At the time, it was a Category 3 property that cost 12,000 points per night, but it's now a Category 4 at 15,000 points per night (so you can use a Category 1 - 4 award from the World of Hyatt Credit Card). That said, I think it's still a solid use of Hyatt points. From Danang, we were easily able to day trip into historic Hoi An.

Tour the temples of Hoi An, Vietnam. Photo by Elen Turner
Tour the temples of Hoi An, Vietnam. (Photo by Elen Turner)

From Danang, we spent 17,500 American AAdvantage miles each to fly Dragonair from Danang to Hong Kong. Our home in Hong Kong was the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui, which at the time was a Category 4 at 15,000 points per night. It has since gone up to a Category 5 property at 20,000 points per night. I would recommend that Hyatt Tsim Sha Tsui, not only for the rooms but also for the most enormous afternoon tea buffet I've ever seen, held on the weekends. It must be seen to be believed.

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Looking back, the only cash outlays I remember were cab fares in Danang, probably totaling $100, transport and tours in Hong Kong (about $100) and Hong Kong Disneyland tickets, which were just under $200. In other words, about a half-week of camp costs.

Hong Kong Disneyland (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Camp Mom in South America

Our last successful Camp Mom occurred two years ago in Chile, but the cash outlays were much closer to the cost of camp. For our family trip, we spent two weeks in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. The flights to and from Santiago were in Copa Business Class thanks to United MileagePlus Regional Premier Upgrade certificates. I booked the flights into economy for less than $400 each, so using confirmed upgrades on Copa was a terrific value.

Once my husband left us in Santiago, we spent three weeks traveling through Chile. Three weeks times $400/week times two kids = $2,400. As you will see, I spent well under that.

We spent three days at an Airbnb in Renaca, near Vina del Mar, that we loved so much we ended up adding on another week. Vina was just everything a beach town should be if you're a 13 or a 9 year old: clean, long promenades, beachside cafes and extensive playgrounds including a Ninja Warrior-type course in the sand. In July, which is technically offseason, the high was in the low 60s and the skies were sunny.

Vina del Mar, Chile
Photo by Dia Adams

Our cost for the oceanside three-bedroom condo was $68/night. At that price, using points didn't make sense. I did book through Deltaairbnb.com to earn Delta SkyMiles for my rentals and I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve for both the 3x points earning on travel and insurance benefits. Our total for 10 nights = $680.

Our other two destinations, La Serena and San Pedro de Atacama, were also not points-friendly in a traditional sense. Our lodging, again booked via Airbnb, was $400 for a week in La Serena in a three-bedroom oceanfront condo. San Pedro de Atacama is expensive due to its remote location, so our housing there was $300 for three nights. Total: $700.

San Pedro de Atacama is a bucket list destination, but it is also "hard work." Our three days there were jam packed with hiking in both deserts and upon frozen Andes lakes, gazing at wild flamingos and sampling llama milk cheese.

Cycling through the Atacama Desert. (Photo via Shutterstock)
Cycling through the Atacama Desert. (Photo via Shutterstock)

La Serena is more of a locals' beach town, and after Atacama, the respite was much needed. We spent most of our time in La Serena playing cards, heading into the mountains for stargazing and eating dulce de leche stuffed churros at Lider, the Chilean version of Walmart.

Car rentals in Renaca and La Serena cost another $550. Due to Chile's mountainous terrain, I felt more comfortable with an automatic, which made driving more expensive. However, I did use Chase Ultimate Rewards points for our tours in San Pedro de Atacama, which saved me more than $300 out of pocket.

We used miles on American Airlines to fly from Renaca (via Santiago) to San Pedro de Atacama, from San Pedro de Atacama to La Serena, and from La Serena back to Santiago. The total for nine legs was only 54,000 AA miles, of which I got 10% returned thanks to our Barclaycard Aviator card (note: that benefit is going away May 1). American Airlines awards are a terrific value within Chile and within Argentina at only 6,000 miles per one-way ticket.

With everything added up, our total cash outlay was $680 + $700 + $550, or $1,930 -- well under our Camp Mom goal.

Camp Mom in Europe

I'm currently planning our second Camp Mom in Europe for this upcoming summer. However, this year I'm only traveling with my daughter, so the cash budget I'm dealing with has dropped to $1,200. So far, I've been able to make it work.

Our family trip is to Spain and Portugal, ending in Faro. From Faro, we're flying to Paris for six nights. The flights are $150 total on Transavia (including seat assignments and luggage -- gotta love European low-cost airlines). Our nights in Paris are split, with two nights booked using 88k Radisson Rewards for Disneyland Paris, two nights using IHG uncapped free night certificates from the Chase IHG card (now capped at 40k) for the InterContinental Grand and two nights using 19k Ultimate Rewards points at an apartment hotel. I'm cheating a bit here on cost because we have Disneyland Paris annual passes in hand from our winter visit.

disneyland paris castle
Photo by Dia Adams/The Points Guy

After Paris, we're flying to Sardinia, again on Transavia, for $408. This is, by far, the most expensive part of the trip but I found a jaw-dropping hotel deal on HIP Escapes, a European flash deal site: $132 euros ($148) for six nights in a boutique hotel normally costing 219 euros ($246) per night. At that price, who needs miles? I'll spend about another $150 on a rental car in Sardinia.

We're then leaving Sardinia and heading to Marseille via Nice on EasyJet, where our total transport cost was only $105. Our four nights in Marseille are thanks to the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, which I got specifically for this trip. The up to 120,000 bonus after spending $5,000 total in the first six months and fourth night free benefits were big draws. The InterContinental Marseille goes for 55k IHG Rewards Club points a night so I'll save $275 at current valuation just with the fourth night free benefit. From Marseille, we'll take a first class train for $150 to Barcelona. Our last two nights are at the Le Meridien Barcelona for 100k Bonvoy points. Whew! It took a while to get all the pieces to fit together, but the result should be worth the effort.

Park Güell, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. (Photo by Daniel Corneschi/Unsplash)
Park Güell, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. (Photo by Daniel Corneschi/Unsplash)

So let's see if I made the Camp Mom budget target of $1,200 this time. $150 + $408 + $148 + $150 + $105 + $150 = $1,111. I'm not saying I'm traveling for free, but three weeks in Europe for under $400/week cash? I'll take it!

Bottom Line

I get that Camp Mom isn't for everyone. For one, you've got to either have a flexible job, summers off or be a stay-at-home parent. You also need to have access to some amount of cash that you would have spent on camps or other activities for the kiddos. However, I encourage you to open your minds to how tacking on a Camp Mom or Dad to your trips could extend both your kids' minds and your travel budget.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023