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Two Magic Words That Make Family Travel Easier

July 2 2019
6 min read
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You've probably heard the saying -- "less is more." That applies to so many facets of life, including family travel, though it doesn't necessarily mean take fewer trips.

At least once a week in the TPG Family Facebook Group someone asks about tips for a first-time visit to Europe. Usually, that family is flush with excitement but understandably nervous about a first overseas trip with kids.

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In these posts related to Europe and elsewhere, I see a common pattern I want to address: over-scheduling. I get it: You want you and your kids to see as much as possible with the limited time you have for vacation. However, you run the risk of going full-Griswold and making everyone miserable with your enthusiasm.

https://youtu.be/vbF_7TiG5bg

As I finalized my own five-week summer vacation to Europe, I kept my travel mantra in mind. Feel free to say these two magic words with me:

"Minimize Transitions"

I crafted my mantra by watching the relaxation many European families achieve by settling in on the journey. Europeans get longer holidays than we do, but even on shorter trips, they tend to concentrate on one location without the cross-it-off-the-list mentality so many of us have when we hop the pond.

When I recap our trips, I try to document the failures as well as the successes. Almost every mishap occurs during movement from one location to another. We’ve missed the Eurostar, run with kids and bags at top speed to make a three-minute train connection, scrambled for flights and lost our way in rental cars. In Austria, we missed our connecting flight and made the firm check-in deadline for our vacation rental only because of the crazily efficient operations of Lufthansa at the Frankfurt airport.

(Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography)

Not only are the logistics complicated when you jump from city to city, but also one parent yelling for directions, the other throwing luggage and kids ducking for cover are not conducive to family fun.

Lesson learned. Now I go out of my way to set up shop in one location when we can. This means I plan activities that are doable day trips from our home base, and I select our home base based on what we want to do. It takes more work on the front end, and some flexibility on what you see, but I find it’s definitely worth it.

How My Mantra Works in Real Life

This summer, for example, we have four days set aside to visit Western Andalucia. We want to see Seville, Gibraltar and Baelo Claudia (a Roman ruin near Cadiz). Seville is about two hours from the other two sites. Instead of spending two nights in Seville, packing up, checking into a new hotel, unpacking and packing up again two days later, we're staying in Jerez, which is about an hour from all three. We have more car time each day, but driving is much less stressful than repacking and relocating. As a bonus, Jerez is a lovely destination on its own.

Gibraltar Rock, Mediterranean Sea (Photo by Westend61/Getty Image)

How Hotel Points Can Help

Three of the major hotel points programs can help you if you want to stay put in one place. IHG, Hilton and Marriott all offer incentives for longer stays on points. Many Airbnb hosts also offer discounts on longer stays as well.

Marriott and Hilton both offer the fifth night free on award bookings. With Hilton, you need to be a Silver elite member or higher, but you get Gold status with both Marriott and Hilton using The Platinum Card® from American Express. The no annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates & fees) even confers Hilton Silver status.

The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is actually the newest card in my wallet. I got it for my upcoming summer trip to Marseille because it offers the fourth night free on award stays. I'm using my 120,000 sign-up bonus points toward a four-night stay at the InterContinental Hotel Dieu. (Note that the current welcome bonus is 80,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of having the card.)

The Intercontinental Mon Dieu, Marseille. (Photo courtesy of Intercontinental)
The InterContinental Hotel Dieu, Marseille. (Photo courtesy of Intercontinental)

Why Slowing Down Matters

It’s now been almost six years since our first Camp Mom in Europe (where our family spent the money we would have on camp at home on travel instead). Our kids were 6 and 9 at the time. You know what my kids recount if you ask them about the trip? The fireworks over the Eiffel Tower? No. (That’s what I talk about.) They talk about the playground we walked to every day in Lofer, Austria. They talk about how, on the way back one day, they noticed a stream and asked if they could drink from it and how I told them to look for cows. Seeing no cows, meaning no cow poop, and running water from the mountain I told them it was safe to drink. They talk about drinking water they scooped from the Alps (and how I ordered ice cream for my Diet Coke).

Bottom Line

Memories are what happens when you stop and look around. The travel memories you want your kids to have do not feature schlepping to as many destinations as you can fit into your precious vacation weeks. By minimizing transitions and maximizing your hotel points or dollars, you can share your love of travel with your kids with money left in your pocket.

For more family travel advice, check out:

For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, click here.

Featured photo by Getty Images/Cavan Images RF
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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  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees