Tips for Planning a Family Trip to Tel Aviv — Using Miles and Points
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Tel Aviv is a fun and energetic city that despite being popular for its nightlife is also extremely family-friendly. As the major metropolitan city of Israel, it incorporates the country’s love for families and children, making it an ideal vacation spot. Grown-ups can enjoy its cutting edge art and stellar food while kids can frolic at the beach and parks.
How to Get There
Tel Aviv is only 12 miles away from Israel’s largest airport, Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV). Once you land, you can either take a 12-minute train ride to the edge of the city, a 30-minute bus ride or a taxi that can take between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on traffic. Uber is available, but using the app connects you to a local taxi; Uber’s private car service was banned in 2017 and Lyft is not available here. Locals prefer the Gett app for ordering taxis, which is more reliable than Uber.
Since Ben-Gurion International Airport is Israel’s main airport with approximately 23 million passengers in 2018, there are numerous nonstop flights from many destinations within the US.
Israel’s own El Al airline currently flies nonstop from New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA) and has newly launched service from San Francisco (SFO). In June 2019, it will begin service from Las Vegas (LAS), and in 2020, after a 13-year hiatus, service will resume from Chicago (ORD). For many of routes, the airline is replacing its aging aircrafts with recently purchased new 787-8 Dreamliners.
El Al has its own loyalty program called Matmid, although the only current US transfer partner is American Express Membership Rewards (1,000 Membership Reward points to 20 Matmid points). Another option is to transfer Citi ThankYou points from a card like the Citi Premier Card to Qantas, another El Al partner. Alaska Airlines just announced a new partnership with El Al starting in July. As of right now you can only earn Alaska Airlines miles while flying revenue fares on El Al, but hopefully the partnership will expand to where you’ll eventually be able to redeem your miles for a free flight.
Delta Air Lines
Delta flies nonstop to Tel Aviv from New York-JFK and, starting in June, will increase the frequency to twice a day. Economy award fares vary but are often around 85,000 Delta SkyMiles roundtrip (plus $87 for taxes/fees) and business class seats are double at 170,000 Delta SkyMiles roundtrip (plus $110 for taxes/fees — often to get on fights connecting in London operated by Virgin Atlantic).
Another work-around is to use Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles and book the same economy class seat for usually 58,000 miles. Flying Blue classifies Israel in its Europe zone, and is a transfer partner with both Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards; the only problem is that availability is not nearly as good as booking directly with Delta.
Remember since neither Delta SkyMiles nor Air France Flying Blue have published award charts anymore, the number of miles needed to redeem for a free night can definitely vary. For quickly upcoming travel or peak travel dates you’ll most likely be looking at a much higher number of miles.
United Airlines flies nonstop from three destinations within the US: Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and their latest addition, Washington-Dulles (IAD). An economy class seat on United costs 85,000 MileagePlus miles, similar to Delta, although the taxes/fees are slightly less on United at $49. If you’re a United MileagePlus member who also holds a United cobranded credit card, such as the United Explorer Card, you can get access to a wider inventory of saver award flights. Just make sure to be logged in to your United account before searching for availability.
You can also use ANA Mileage club miles since its award chart only charges 65,000 miles for an economy class ticket round-trip. (Or, if you are looking to splurge, you can use 104,000 miles for business class.) ANA Mileage Club is a 1:1 transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, so redeeming miles in the program can be quite easy.
If you are flying from a city within the US that does not have a nonstop option to Tel Aviv, or if you are OK with a layover, you have the option of flying through Europe and Canada. This opens up many more opportunities to using your reward points from the major alliance groups, such as carriers like Swiss Air, Air Canada and British Airways.
Tel Aviv is actually only 20 square miles so it’s perfect for families to get around easily, mostly by walking. Lev Ha’Ir (literally “heart of the city”) is the hub where most of the city’s major museums and attractions lie, including Dizengoff Circle, Sarona Market, Habima Theater and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which has an excellent kids’ area. It’s also where the UNESCO World Heritage Zone of 4,000 Bauhaus buildings is found, making wandering around here a lesson in art and architecture. If you head north you’ll hit Park HaYarkon, the city’s largest park, with the Yarkon River running through it. Inside you’ll find a lake, water park, rock garden, playground and plenty of green space.
Ramat Aviv, just above the park, is home to the Eretz Israel Museum and Planetarium as well as the Yitzhak Rabin Center, the Museum of the Jewish People Beit Hatfutsot and the Luna Park amusement park.
West of Lev Ha’Ir is Kerem Hatemanim, or the Yemenite Quarter, which has charming cobblestone streets, the massive Carmel Market (don’t forget to bargain!) and the pedestrian mall Nachalat Binyamin. It ends at the waterfront and its promenade, which is the most scenic way to walk to the old city of Jaffa.
Best Points Hotels in Tel Aviv for Families
Right by the beach in the stylish Neve Tzedek district and walkable to Jaffa you’ll find the Intercontinental David Tel Aviv. This is one of Israel’s most luxurious hotels with recently updated rooms and suites (some of which can be connected). The rooms are spacious and boast sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea. A large swimming pool with an enclosed shallow kids’ pool, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV and an enormous breakfast buffet complete this luxury family hotel.
Redemptions starts at 50,000 IHG Rewards Club points, but usually only classic rooms are available to book with points (which fit only three guests). Remember, your fourth award night is free if you have the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. There are also many bonus opportunities to purchase IHG points to top off your account, if needed. If you are trying to conserve your IHG points, you can stay at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv Beach a little over a mile away (but still on the beach) for only 30,000 IHG points a night.
If you want to be right on the beach so your kids can play in the sand and jump the waves, the Sheraton Tel-Aviv is a great choice. It has spacious rooms and suites that all have balconies with views of the Mediterranean. There are three kosher restaurants, a 24-hour gym, spa with hammam, free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Unfortunately the only rooms available when using your points include one queen bed or two twin beds (a rollaway bed is available). While this is not ideal for a family, the hotel does offer adjoining rooms as an option. This hotel requires 50,000 Marriott points per night and your fifth award night is free. This is also the perfect opportunity to use your free night certificate that arrives annually as an anniversary gift with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
The Renaissance Tel Aviv is right on the beach, directly across from the marina. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool for cooler days, and all rooms have balconies and views of the sea, the marina or Jaffa, with some having the possibility to connect. The Renaissance has a wellness center with a spa, sauna and hot tub as well as three restaurants.
The only room category easily bookable with points is the basic comfort room, which can have either a double or two twin beds, along with a crib or rollaway. There’s also a separate seating area with a desk. Similar to the Sheraton Tel Aviv, rooms cost 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
The Hilton Tel Aviv is ideally located next to the waterfront Independence Park, which has a playground equipped with swings, slides and jungle gyms. The hotel also has direct access to Hilton Beach and the Tel Aviv promenade that leads down to Jaffa. If you need a break from the sun and sand, the hotel features a large outdoor saltwater pool with separate kids’ pool and a sun terrace with loungers and umbrellas. There are five kosher restaurants including one that is open 24 hours, a fitness center, spa and free Wi-Fi. Rooms are large and include balconies with sea views as well as spacious marble bathrooms. Interconnecting family rooms are available.
Deluxe rooms here start at 70,000 Hilton Honors points, while superior deluxe rooms skyrocket to 153,000 points and up. Similar to the other hotels mentioned, there is maximum number of three guests for a standard room with one king bed or two twin beds. While you could always redeem more points for a family room, your points will go further by just booking two standard rooms. Also, when using your Hilton Honor points, if you have any sort of Hilton status, you’ll receive your fifth night free. Fortunately, earning status is quite easy since Hilton Silver status automatically comes with the no-annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates & fees).
While children in parents’ room typically stay for free, at certain times during the year you’ll have to pay a $70 per night surcharge to have a third person in a room at this property. These dates for 2019 include: Passover April 18–27, May 10–20, July 1–15 and August 12-31, 2019.
While there are not a ton of points options in Tel Aviv, the city is full of other hotels from Israeli brands as well as smaller boutique options. A few family favorites include the beachfront Dan Tel Aviv Hotel, which has a kids’ club during Passover and over the summer; The Drisco, which has adjoining rooms options and a stand-alone six-room villa just outside Jaffa (and it’s a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, which does have a points-based loyalty program); Lusky Hotel, which has spacious family suites with kitchenettes; and the brand new Levee, which consists of eight fully equipped luxury apartments in the city center. While you might not be able to use your traditional hotel points at these properties, this is the perfect opportunity to redeem your miles earned from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
When to Go
Tel Aviv enjoys good weather year-round, but spring and fall are the most pleasant — summer can get brutally hot; winter temperatures hover around the mid-60s and it can be rainy. Check the calendar for Jewish holidays like Passover, Sukkot, and the High Holy Days, as prices will often be much higher and it will be nearly impossible to redeem points and frequent flyer miles. Some services, shops, and restaurants will be closed on holidays, and on Passover, many restaurants will not be serving their regular menus (no leavened bread or pasta, for example). Israel Independence Day, or Yom Haatzmaut, is in May when you can expect the city to be in full celebration mode.
Because Israel celebrates Shabbat every Friday evening to Saturday night, Israel’s weekend is Friday and Saturday, with Sunday being a regular workday. Some attractions and restaurants might be closed on Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday during the day so be sure to check opening and closing times carefully. Buses and trains do not run during Shabbat and getting a taxi can be difficult.
Language and Currency
The main language of Tel Aviv, as well as the rest of Israel, is Hebrew. With that being said, many people converse well in English, especially in Tel Aviv. The currency in Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS). Currently, $1 equals approximately 3.5 Shekels.
While Tel Aviv has a (well-earned) reputation as a party city, it’s also a great family-friendly destination. From the beach to the markets and restaurants to captivating museums, the city has so much more to offer than its bars and nightclubs. Tel Aviv is also a great jumping off point to explore the rest of Israel — it’s a about an hour’s drive to both Jerusalem and Haifa while the Dead Sea region is only 2 hours away.
Here are some more travel tips for visiting Israel:
- Planning a Family Trip to Jerusalem
- Things to Do in Jerusalem With Kids
- 12 Mistakes Most Tourists Make in Israel
- How to Get to Israel Using Points and Miles
- Your Points and Miles Guide to Tel Aviv, Israel
- 10 Foods to Bring Back from Your Travels in Israel
- 12 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Tel Aviv
- 10 Things No One Tells You About Tel Aviv
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors card, click here.
Featured image by Ilan Shacham
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