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5 Tips to Turn Business Travel Into Family Vacations

July 01, 2019
10 min read
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From the day I graduated from college until a few months after getting married, I was a road warrior. I traveled Monday through Thursday every week. I was young and energetic and I loved earning miles and points.

Now, one husband and two kids later, I find myself more grounded at home. I left the job with early wakeups and lots of plane flights and came to terms with not being able to earn points and miles as easily. Fortunately, I live vicariously (and still earn miles) through my husband, who travels for work.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your business travel. Hopefully, it can fund your next vacation.

Pick One Hotel Chain and Stick With It

When planning your business travel schedule, look to see which hotels are close to your destinations. If you typically travel to major cities, there is a good chance you have all the chains at your disposal. (In small towns, you might be limited.) If there is one chain of hotels that can be found in all your destinations, stick with that chain wherever you travel. (Assuming you have some control over where you stay for work.) You might like the lobby bar in one hotel and the concierge floor in another, but if they aren't within the same chain, stick with your one brand. You'll maximize your points, bonus promotions and elite status.

Maximize your points in one hotel chain so your family can stay at an amazing family-friendly resort. (Photo by Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy)

Focusing on one chain and earning status could also help your family sleep more comfortably and save money when you travel together. Status could get you anything from room upgrades to complimentary breakfast to lounge access and more.

Fly Southwest

If you live near a Southwest Airlines city, you can put all your eggs in one basket and try to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. Many business travelers shudder at the thought of flying Southwest because it doesn't have business-class seats, but being able to earn a pass that allows another family member to fly with you for free (plus taxes/fees) an unlimited number of times for the life of the pass is well worth it.

(Photo by Ryan Patterson / The Points Guy)

Southwest allows you to earn the pass two ways: Earning 110,000 qualifying points or flying 100 qualifying one-way flights each calendar year. If you are on the road most of the year, hitting that 100-flight milestone might not be difficult. Most travelers, however, will probably strive for the 110,000 points. You can combine the points earned from flying with many other qualifying activities, such as Southwest credit card spending, shopping portal activity, crediting car rentals to Southwest, etc.

Related: Southwest Credit Cards Now Offering up to 80k Sign-Up Bonus Points

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Use the Best Credit Card

With business travel, there are typically three different approaches when it comes to credit card spending:

1. You can use whichever credit card you want and just fill out an expense report.

2. You have to use the company credit card, but you still get the points.

3. You have to use the company credit card and the company keeps the points.

The best situation is clearly No. 1 as you can fully maximize the points earned with credit cards. If you fall into this category, you'll want to use the best credit card for your expenses.

Airfare purchases: For your airfare purchases, the two best credit cards to maximize your points earned are the The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card. Both cards will earn you 5x points on all airfare (when booked directly with the airline on the Amex Platinum on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Let's say you spend $1,000 a month on airfare, that's 5,000 extra points earned each month on the respective card. Based on TPG's valuation, this is worth between $85 to $100.

Runners-up are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, earning you 3x points. Both will earn you Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which is a great currency to accrue. You can also transfer those points to World Of Hyatt, Marriott, United and more.

Related: The Best Credit Cards for Airfare Purchases

Hotel purchases: Depending on your hotel of choice, you might find that using that particular hotel's cobranded credit card is the best way to maximize your points. Or, if you want to put all expenses on one card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card earn 3x points on all travel purchases. This means you can put all airfare and hotel purchases on one card, which might be helpful when doing your expenses.

Related: The Best Hotel Credit Cards of 2019

Car rental purchases: Again, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card are your best bets as you'll continue to earn 3 points per dollar spent. Make sure to enroll in car rental loyalty programs or credit your rental to the best partner loyalty program.

Related: Five Steps to a Perfect Car Rental

Dining out: Being on the road means you are probably dining out often. These meals can add up, especially if you are the person to throw down your card when dining out with coworkers or hosting a client dinner. The two best cards for dining at restaurants are the Citi Prestige Card (5 points per dollar spent) and the American Express® Gold Card (4 points per dollar spent). While the Chase Sapphire Reserve only earns 3 points per dollar spent, it should still be a contender if you decide you want to use just one credit card for all business travel expenses.

Related: The Best Credit Card for Dining Rewards

Turn a Business Trip into a Family Vacation

Occasionally, a work trip might be scheduled to a fun destination. With one airfare taken care of and the hotel stay covered, this might be a great opportunity to bring the family along. Yes, you might be working all day, but they can enjoy the trip and you might be able to add a day or two and only be responsible for the added hotel costs (and flights for the rest of the family, of course).

(Photo by fstop123/Getty Images)

Last year my husband had a work trip to Anaheim. With my daughter at the perfect age for Disneyland, she and I tagged along for a portion of the trip. We all flew out together, spent a few days in Santa Monica (on our own dime) and then played in Anaheim (with that hotel room paid for my husband's company).

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Although my husband was there a few days more than his required work days, this was the perfect opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of our family trip. Not only was my husband's flight paid for, so was my daughter's, thanks to a Southwest Companion Pass. Three of us were able to fly round-trip for the cost of just one — and, of course, I used my Southwest Rapid Reward points to cover my flight cost. We only paid for half of our total hotel bill as well, so it was a win-win. We got to spend extra time with daddy while he was "away" on business and save a good amount of cash as well. Naturally, make sure this arrangement works for your employer and be sure to keep family and work expenses separate.

Take a Bump

Some of you will hate this, but hear me out. Taking a bump when you are coming back from a business trip is essentially free money and can make the cost of your next family vacation a lot less. When I traveled for work, I took bumps all the time when it wouldn't interfere with my work schedule. It allowed my now-husband and I to fly for free sometimes and we didn't even have to dip into my points (although, those were the days when bumps were easier to come by as flights were more frequently oversold).

(Image by DuKai photographer/Getty Images)

Now it is my husband's turn to take a bump when the opportunity presents itself. For example, a while back, my husband was on a business trip to California. He had a travel day built into the trip so he didn't have any urgent meetings to attend after he landed. His flight was oversold and he was able to pocket $500 and only had to wait an extra hour in the airport for his next flight. We used that American Airlines voucher toward a family trip to London.

Obviously, you want to make sure you aren't putting your job at risk in any way here. You don't want to miss meetings or stay an extra night on the company dime. Also, make sure your family is cool with you getting home a bit later in an effort to save some money on your next vacation. My husband knows I am OK with it as long as the payoff is good.

Bottom Line

Being away from your significant other and kids for work purposes isn't fun, but if you think of the points and miles you'll earn, it might help you feel better about your business travel. The time away will result in an awesome vacation where you all can enjoy new experiences and time together if you don't leave any points and miles on the table.

Jennifer Yellin covers family travel deals for TPG and blogs at Deals We Like. Follow her family’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

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 featured card

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

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 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our 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 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our 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