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My wife and I travel with our six children and having a large family can sometimes make things a bit “interesting” on the road … to say the least. One thing we noticed as we started having more (and more) kids is that each new child adds not only a new person to the family but modifies everyone’s existing relationships. Each new addition can change the way parents interact with the other kids and the how siblings interact with each other as well. And of course, in a family of eight, one-on-one time between a parent and a kid can be hard to carve out. Unless you plan for it, it’s easy for it to slip through the cracks. But that’s not unique to large families, it can easily happen to families with two or three children, too.
Our 1-on-1 Travel System
How do we combat that lack of one-on-one time in our family? We set up small monthly activities with each of our kids and also schedule annual “long-distance” trips with each of the six. Since we have an even number of kids, each month my wife has individual outings with three of the kiddos and I have the other three. We rotate it throughout the year. For our long-distance trips, again, we each take three and the line-up changes each year.
For our monthly get-togethers, we keep things low-key. Sometimes we’ll go to a local bookstore and grab a frozen yogurt afterward. One daughter likes going to Cincinnati Reds games. Another family favorite is using the $10 monthly dining credit from the American Express® Gold Card to split a piece of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. (Here’s more about that monthly component of the card.)
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Award Programs and Perks That Can Help You Pull Off a 1-on-1 Trip
While you may initially worry about your travel budget, you’ll soon find there are many ways to minimize expenses on these sorts of 1-on-1 trips. Here are a few of our go-to options that you may be able to use as well:
- Southwest’s Companion Pass, where a companion travels for just the cost of the fare’s taxes
- Frontier’s Kids Fly Free program (and check out the airline’s new Friends Fly Free option)
- JetBlue flash sales where flights can cost just a few hundred points each
- Marriott’s 35k free-night certificates that come as a perk on your card anniversary with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (Here are the 10 best uses of a Marriott 35k certificate for family vacations.)
- Marriott’s up to 50k free-night certificates that are bestowed on your card anniversary with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Here are the 10 best uses of a Marriott 50k certificate for family vacations.)
- Hyatt’s Category 1–4 free-night certificate that’s an anniversary gift with the World of Hyatt Credit Card (Here are the best new Hyatt Category 1–4 hotel options for family vacations.)
- The IHG Anniversary Free Night certificate from the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- Hilton’s free Weekend Night Rewards, available annually with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Solo Trips With Our Kids
The longer trips are still a work in progress, and we try to involve the kids in the planning as much as possible. My daughter and I ended up going to Taiwan and Beijing because she wanted to fly on the Hello Kitty plane on EVA Air.
My 10-year-old son and I have an upcoming trip to Morocco, which was his choice. We’re getting ready by taking one of our monthly get-togethers to a local Moroccan restaurant for lamb tagine.
My 14-year-old enjoys Legos, so his choice was a trip that included a visit to the original Legoland in Denmark. A trip to Legoland’s traffic school (in Lego-themed go karts) was a big hit. (Here’s the essential guide to Legoland Florida, if you’re eyeing a trip slightly closer to home.)
Benefits of 1-on-1 Travel
Here are a few benefits we’ve seen over the past couple of years when it comes to one-on-one travel with our kids:
- It makes the world a smaller place. I think this is true of travel in general — especially for kids. Traveling in a smaller group helps me as a parent incorporate more teachings to our travels to make the trips more impactful. (Here are some tips to help kids remember trips.)
- The longest-lasting memories aren’t always when everything goes right. We’ve had a lot of fun trips but one of our most memorable was when my wife took my son overnight to Louisville to see a Toby Mac concert. My son felt sick, had to leave the concert early and ended up throwing up on the side of the road. Talk about a memory! But, they persevered together. On a travel note, I was super-impressed with the manager of the Hyatt Place Louisville Airport East who insisted he would take care of cleaning our car and then did it himself. Hero status.
- Kids get out of their comfort zone in ways they might not with the whole family. Same kid, this time with me. He was getting ready to go to Philmont Boy Scout camp in New Mexico with his Scout troop, so we thought we’d incorporate a hike to the top of Guadalupe Peak, at 8,749 feet the highest point in Texas. For a bunch of folks from the “flat” Midwest, this it was a brutal trek and at one point it felt like we were taking five-minute breaks every five minutes. But I was able to use all the tricks in the dad playbook and got us both to the summit.
- It helps extend our travel “budget.” In our family, we try to mix up different kinds of travel. We travel all together as a family, my wife and I go on trips by ourselves and then we have these one-on-one trips as well. Naturally, it is more affordable to take one kid than the whole family, so it allows us to spread out the experiences. It also helps us use miles and points since that process is easier when you can count the number of seats and beds you need on one hand. It’s fun to travel with just my wife, too, but it can be (understandably) hard to find willing babysitters for the kiddos. The trips with individual kids work because one parent is still at home with the others. It is, however, more fun to be the one on the trip than the one left behind with the other five kids.
I hope I’ve inspired you to incorporate individual trips with your kids into your travel schedule. If your family also takes turns enjoying one-on-one travel with your children, we’d love to hear about your experiences.
Featured image by Shelby Soblick for The Points Guy
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