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Family travel isn’t limited to just parents and children. As a matter of fact, traveling is arguably the most rewarding means of bringing families together in more ways than one. My household’s fondest family memories include multigenerational trips when my parents and/or other relatives tagged along.
Believe it or not, getting the gang together for quality multigenerational travel can be affordable, fun and relatively stress-free. The keys are to travel light, keep costs affordable and be flexible. In my case, planning and taking spontaneous trips with the whole family is a fun way to strike a healthy balance between my dad, who is a serial overplanner, and me, who enjoys traveling on a whim.
One of my family’s favorite “sweet spot” award redemptions that resulted in an utterly exceptional multigenerational trip was at Marriott’s Domes of Elounda resort in Crete. What’s great about this property is that everyone gets a villa, and each reservation is good for up to four adults. Young children are free, so it was an absolutely perfect deal for our party of six.
As someone who has taken dozens of multigenerational trips using points and miles over the years, allow me to share my favorite tips and tricks:
Find a Team Leader
The best way to handle multigenerational travel using miles and points is to informally designate a “team leader” who will set up, streamline and manage all of the necessary logistics. This means having one person in charge of keeping track of everyone’s available miles and points. In terms of who that person is, select someone who is trustworthy, organized and considered the most knowledgeable about how this hobby works.
In my household, my dad and I equally share the responsibility of being the “team leaders.” We use AwardWallet to manage all of our loyalty program balances, as it allows you to track accounts belonging to multiple people and keep everyone’s contributions under one roof.
Share the Same “Household”
To make things easier, a number of hotel and airline programs allow you to “pool” points with anyone that you designate; this includes JetBlue, British Airways, Aegean and Hilton, just to name a few. EgyptAir, a Star Alliance carrier, takes it a step further and allows families to not only pool redeemable miles but also elite qualifying miles as well. This can be an extremely helpful way to achieve Star Alliance Gold status, which grants valuable perks such as a free checked bag, priority boarding and lounge access.
(For more on this, check out TPG‘s ultimate guide to points pooling for flexible credit card points, hotel points and frequent flyer miles.)
In addition to programs with official points-pooling options, there are many programs that allow you to easily transfer points to virtually anyone. For example, Hyatt allows you to combine points once every 30 days between any two accounts by filling out a form. You can transfer up to 100,000 (and receive another 100,000) Citi ThankYou points per year to another Citi account, though you’ll need to redeem those points within 90 days or they will expire. And you can transfer up to 100,000 Marriott points per year to another member’s account.
One smart tip I’d like to pass along to other traveling families is, when possible, strive to have the same “household” address across all loyalty accounts you plan to use together. Having consistency in addresses can work to your advantage, and it’s not just limited to gifting points and status matches. In my household, we not only use the same address for all of our loyalty programs but we also take it a step further and have the same billing addresses too. This is especially useful when transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points between each other, as needed, because Chase only allows points to be transferred to members of the same household.
If you want to transfer and pool American Express Membership Rewards points, you can do so by listing your family members as authorized users on the account.
Communicate, Plan and Be Open-Minded
Once all of the logistics are in place, it’s time to get the trip-planning ball rolling. It’s important to communicate and allow everyone to chime in. In my household, we keep the conversation flowing in our family travel WhatsApp thread, where we share existing travel plans, ideas and deals we stumble across on a daily basis.
I’d be lying if I said that sometimes the inspiration for a family trip didn’t entirely stem from an award or fare sale — and let’s not forget about those thrilling “mistake” fares that can disappear in mere hours. Sometimes everyone can quickly get in on the deal with an exhilarating and virtually risk-free “book now, think later” mindset, since many airline booking sites allow a free 24-hour cancellation window.
One spontaneous multigenerational trip that we’ll never forget is the time my parents shared that they had just booked an affordable, last-minute weekend trip to Lisbon. One look at my own empty plans for a cold and brisk weekend in March made it an easy decision for me to book flights for my own little family to join them in Portugal just days later.
The Overlap Option
Another option for families to come together without committing to an entire trip together is to book overlapping individual trips. For example, over the summer, my family and I spent time in Heidelberg, Germany. My parents also wanted to explore Europe at the same time, but didn’t want to completely interfere with our plans in Germany, so we ultimately decided to plan separate trips with an “overlap” in a city that all of us wanted to experience together. We chose to meet up as a group in Mallorca, Spain, for a few nights. It was an absolute blast!
Fair Points Trading
Of course, here at TPG we all know that all points are not created equally, and we understand that as a family as well. Even though we’re family, we still do our best to maintain a fair stance when it comes to spending our miles and points. I’ll admit that we’re pretty good at swapping points and have our own family “valuations” down to a science. Sometimes to meet this spending balance it’s easier to designate one person to use their miles or points for a portion of a trip while the others contribute in other ways, such as a rental car, food or a shared activity.
Maximize Elite Status Benefits
Sharing and maximizing status benefits along the way is a great way for families to enhance their overall comfort and save money on avoidable fees such as checked bags, breakfasts and other food expenses. For instance, if one person in the family has top-tier World of Hyatt Globalist status, that person can book a room for themselves using their Hyatt points as well as make a “Guest of Honor” booking to cover a second room (because at the end of the day, everyone needs personal space) with everyone receive the same status benefits. (Here are some ways families can earn hotel elite status before their next vacation.)
Having someone in your family with top-tier airline status goes a long way, too, because if that traveler books all of the awards from his or her account, plans can be changed or even canceled without facing any award redeposit fees. Also keep track of who in your family has a Priority Pass membership or access to American Express Centurion Lounges. (Here’s how to get a family of four or more into a Centurion Lounge.) Lounge perks — and, in the case of Priority Pass, free meals at certain airport restaurants and bars — can be a huge boon to a family traveling together.
Having a Southwest Companion Pass is another great option for traveling multigenerational families to keep costs at bay. Not only can you fly 2-for-1 for a whole year, Southwest has the most flexible cancellation policy out there (you can cancel award and paid flights up until 10 minutes before departure with no penalty). It’s a win-win.
Keep It Affordable
Beyond flights and hotel nights, traveling comes with its fair share of other expenses, including food, transportation and excursions. To keep a multigenerational trip simpler, consider an all-inclusive getaway using points. For example, we’ve taken several trips to the Hyatt Ziva Cancun as a family of four and took the in-laws along once. At the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, 25,000 points per night covers up to two adults per room (and children under 3) for an all-inclusive stay, which is an incredible value. You can add additional guests to the room for 12,500 points per night.
Load Up on Miles and Points When You Can
Be sure to communicate any terrific miles and points deals to your family members as soon as they become available. For instance, a family looking to travel together may be interested in the current Marriott Bonvoy cobranded credit cards from Amex or the Chase-issued Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card award 100,000 Marriott points after you spend $5,000 on your card within the first three months of card membership until April 24.
If you’re looking at a property in the IHG umbrella, consider the new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. You can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months and an additional 40,000 points after spending $5,000 total in the first six months. Credit card holders also get the fourth night free on award stays, so 120k points can stretch pretty far. For example, the Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman is just 25,000 points per night, while the all-inclusive Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay in Jamaica is just 50k points per night, including two adults and two kids under 12 on the reservation.
Planning trips for big families and working with many different busy schedules can seem intimidating, but it’s actually a very enriching experience from start to finish. Finding common ground, working through challenges and drawing on the best of each individual’s travel expertise is a great way to bond as you bring trips to life – and then take them!
Are you planning a multigenerational trip? Here are some more resources:
- 4 Tips for Traveling With your Parents
- The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of 2019
- Tips for Using Frequent Flyer Miles for Family Travel
- Travel for Less: 5 Ways for Families to Use Delta SkyMiles
- The Ultimate Guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards
- The Most Family-Friendly Airlines Around the World
Featured image by Thomas Northcut / Getty Images
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