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Why this family traded holiday gifts for travel and never looked back

Dec. 15, 2020
5 min read
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Travel has always played a role in how our family bonded and took time to get to know each other. It has allowed us to get out of our comfort zones and spend uninterrupted time together outside of work and everyday responsibilities. This is especially true during the holiday season. The holidays are a time of year when it's especially important for families to reflect on what we mean to each other. And, we can do that -- in part -- by enjoying meals together or exploring new experiences as a unit.

That’s why on our son’s first Christmas, we took a last-minute risk to hop on a cruise to Mexico with our 9-month-old. It sparked a family tradition that we cherish. That year, we traded gifts for holiday travel and never looked back. Here's why.

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Holiday travel takes the pressure off hosting

We’ve all been there. Hosting for the holiday season puts all the pressure on one person to pull off the perfect event. No matter how many people help with the family get-togethers, hosting for the holidays can be a difficult and stressful experience.

Traveling for the holidays, especially on a cruise getaway or an all-inclusive vacation, takes the pressure away from anyone hosting and allows us to actually spend valuable time together. No one is cooking or cleaning or fixing the broken garbage disposal (because something always breaks when you've got guests) or running out to the store for those last-minute gifts. Instead, we are enjoying, talking and creating memories as a family with no imminent tasks on anyone's shoulders.

We want our son to value experiences over things

Photo courtesy of Sierra Redmond

We live in a material world, that’s true. However, as a part of the parenting principles that we wanted to instill in our son at an early age, we wanted him to know that "things" aren't everything. Travel is truly the best way to introduce the value of experiences over things.

Travel has allowed our toddler to live a life rich in culture, to be brave and try new things, to be thankful for the experiences he has had and have empathy for others that cross his path. These values are why we choose to travel with him in the first place and the holidays are a great time to reaffirm that message.

Holiday travel may actually save you money

The holiday season is a mad dash but it doesn’t have to cost you your savings or sanity. The costs spent on gifts for each other easily equals what you could spend on a family vacation. In many cases, the trip cost is significantly less -- especially if you're leveraging miles and points. (If you do want to buy traditional gifts this year but are tight on cash, learn how to use your points and miles to give gifts with $0 out-of-pocket cost.)

Related: TPG's beginner's guide to points, miles, airlines and credit cards

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Prepare for a holiday trip by signing up for a credit card with an amazing welcome bonus and then you can use those points or miles for your vacation. Take stock in any free hotel night certificates you have and tally your points to see how far they can take you.

Travel this holiday season probably looks much different in your household but it is not too late to adopt this tradition in your family for next year.

Here are some of the best ways to start a travel tradition during the holiday season…. even during a pandemic.

Try a staycation

Staycations are excellent ways to explore the city that you live in and a form of sustainable travel because you can support local businesses. Grab a night at a hotel, resort or vacation rental near your home and spend a weekend with your family.

Many hotel chains have launched their own "work-from-hotel" packages, which could be good money-saving opportunities for a staycation since they include some really nice perks. For example, Hyatt's Work From Hyatt packages include things like free laundry service, pool cabanas, rounds of golf, kids' programs and more -- depending on the property.

Related: 'Workcations' are this year's biggest travel trend -- here's where you can try it for yourself

Try camping or national/state park getaways

National and state parks are great low-cost options to get out in nature to explore and remain socially distant from others. With limited international travel options, 2021 is trending to be the year of outdoor recreation and it’s not too early to get a head start on that experience with your family.

Related: The best national parks to visit during winter

Support local tourism businesses

You don’t have to travel to have an experience. Booking local attractions can give you a new perspective on your city and help you support local small businesses. Consider booking a food, historical or photo tour. If you live near the water, look for harbor or river cruises, dolphin- and whale-watching expeditions, and more.

Gift future experiences

Want to be ready to kick off new travel experiences once the world opens up? Consider gifting an experience this year instead of a material item. A cooking or dance class, sporting event, spa treatment or future cruise could be amazing options for gifts and will give your recipient something fun to look forward to.

Featured image by Featured image courtesy of Sierra Redmond

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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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.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

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