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4 Tips for Traveling With Your Parents

March 09, 2018
8 min read
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As an adult, being able to organize and then take trips with my parents is a really special experience. After all, they spent many years planning family vacations; now it's my turn to take the reins. It was a lot of fun to be able to lead them around, instead of the other way around.

I recently took my parents on the trip of a lifetime, which started in London and continued to Ghana, Dubai, Beijing, Bali, Singapore and ended up in Hong Kong. After countless flights, surviving an active volcano, eight different hotels and lots of laughter and adventures, the trip is done — but I can't wait to do it all over again!

Traveling with my parents is a gift.

I absolutely love traveling with my parents — here are some tips that may be useful when planning and organizing if you're thinking of taking yours on a trip.

1. Redeem Miles for Multiple Seats

Digging into that stash of miles to redeem for multiple award seats is the perfect gift for your parents who spent so many years providing for you. If you're unconvinced, remember that with constant program changes and mileage devaluations, it's better to use those hard-earned points and miles sooner rather than later.

When figuring out award tickets for your parents, do not transfer or share the miles to your parents' frequent-flyer accounts (you'll be charged a fee in most cases). Instead, just redeem the miles from your own account for award tickets in their names. You don't even have to be on the same itinerary as them. You can also do this for redeeming flexible points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points in the Chase travel portal. Note: Some airlines like Korean Air make you send in proof to book award tickets for family members, so plan in advance. You'll likely also have more options if you work with one-way tickets, versus roundtrip. Keeping an eye on ExpertFlyer is also a good idea, so you can see when award seats open up.

One of my most memorable travel moments was when I booked my parents and myself in British Airways first class from London to Accra, Ghana, using miles. It turned out we were the only passengers in first class on a 747. It was like chartering a private jet for the three of us — but it cost me just 68,000 Avios and $462 per person. Not a bad way to fly the Queen of the Skies!

In case you plan to pay cash and let your parents earn miles, keep an eye out for sale fares that are cheaper if bought in pairs, like a sale earlier this year from Emirates, where two people could fly from New York to Milan for just $799 total round-trip.

It's also a good idea to know the ins and outs of using partner awards. For example, I've typically used Alaska miles in the past to book Emirates awards, but you can only do that when flying to or from the US (however, Alaska has devalued their Emirates awards so this isn't always the best deal anymore). For our trip from London to Accra, I was able to use JAL miles instead.

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2. Use Credits Cards for Your Parents' Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Global Entry is something I've grown accustomed to, and I can't even count the number of times that TSA PreCheck has saved me from missing a flight. If you can use your credit cards to get these services for your parents, your travel will be much less of a hassle, since you won't have to wait for anyone to go through the normal customs or security lines. After all, my parents know that keeping up with me can be intense. As they always say,"There's no dawdling with The Points Guy: Move fast or get left behind!"

The following credit cards offer a free Global Entry credit (and TSA PreCheck along with it): The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card.

3. Give Your Parents Lounge Access and More

Although my parents and I traveled together for most of the trip, they did jet off to London a day before I did, so I made sure they were both authorized users on my Platinum Card from American Express, which gives them access to Centurion and Delta lounges. Plus, the cool part is that authorized users also get the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck fee waiver too.

It's important to note that authorized users on this card aren’t free. It costs $175 annually to add three of them (that’s $175 total, so just $58.33 each if you add all three). However, I still came out on top because each of my parents got the Global Entry $100 fee waived plus the lounge access to Centurion Lounges and Delta.

Besides being really useful for my parents with the Global Entry and lounge access, this premium credit card has ton of other perks, including a $200 annual airline-fee credit, a $200 annual Uber credit, Centurion Lounge access and Delta Sky Club access when flying Delta, Gold status with Starwood and Hilton, 5x points on airfare and more. Sure, the benefits come with a recently increased annual fee of $550 (See Rates & Fees), but when you consider the value you’re getting from the card, that annual fee is well worth it. And I know my parents would agree as they sipped their champagne in the lounge. "Go big or go home," they told me!

Now my parents will always have lounge access whether I travel with them or not.

4. Be Patient and Adapt

Your parents likely don't travel the way you do, and navigating through airports quickly can be stressful and take the fun out of the travel. I made the mistake of leaving the lounge in Singapore way too close to boarding and our gate was 15 minutes away. While both of my parents are fast walkers, we almost had to run and I could tell my mom was getting stressed out. In hindsight I probably should have planned that one a little better.

Also, you may have to take the hit for the team and let them have first dibs on the best offerings, like when I let my mom and dad sit together in Emirates first class and I headed back to business because there were only two award seats in first. Side note — my mom gets mom of the year for bringing me back a glass of Dom to business class! (After getting approval from a flight attendant, of course.)

My parents living it up in Emirates first class. I was back in business!

In short, I love traveling with my parents. They appreciate every moment, and so do I. Be patient if your parents aren't expert travelers and, in turn, they'll appreciate you introducing them to new experiences. I often tend to do more touristy things when I'm with my parents — activities I wouldn't do on my own or with friends — and it usually ends up being a blast!

My parents and I on the London Eye.
My parents and I pose at the London Eye.

I know I'm fortunate to have an amazing relationship with my parents, and getting to travel with them around the world is a treasure I'll carry with me for the rest of my life.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.

Featured image by At the tennis
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.