Mommy And Me Travels is a family of 4 and travel every chance we get. Like most of you reading this article; we are just a normal family that travels and loves to explore new places. We plan a trip, establish a budget, look for deals, and develop our itinerary. I’m going to share with you exactly what we are currently doing to travel for free now, and how I plan to set up our family to travel for free next year, and hopefully many more to come.
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Recently we have started taking free family vacations by using our newly (to us) discovered family credit card hacking tools. You are probably asking yourself what is credit card travel hacking and/or how can you start family travel hacks too? Travel hacking is basically the strategy of collecting points and miles then trading them in for free flights, free hotels, free upgrades, and/or free adventures.
Now that I have tingled your taste buds for taking free family vacations, lets hop into how to start family travel hacks for a family. This article is going to focus on some travel hacking 101 tips that I’ve discovered and started using for our family to travel for free (or at least very close to it).
Disclaimer – Mommy And Me Travels is not a financial advisor and I do not take responsibility for your experience with these tips or credit cards. I am providing you information that has worked for us but you will have to look at your own financial situation and decide what is best for you and your family.
1. Understanding Basic Travel Hacking Terms You Need To Know To Get Your Free Family Vacations
There are so many travel hacking terms that you will learn as you start to venture into ways to travel the world for next to nothing. This article is geared towards travel hacking for beginners and is going to focus on the 3 largest and most well-known credit card companies: American Express, Chase, and Citi. The following is a general list of the basic travel hacking 101 terms you need for the start of your education.
Credit Card Currency Types
Membership Rewards – Membership Rewards is the term used for the points that you earn with American Express credit cards. These can then be redeemed in the American Express portal or transferred to their travel partners.
Ultimate Rewards – Ultimate Rewards is the term for earning points with Chase credit cards. Like American Express, Chase also has a portal that you can redeem your points in or transfer to their travel partners.
ThankYou Rewards – ThankYou Rewards is the points that Citi uses. Similar the two reward programs above, you are able to redeem ThankYou Rewards in the Citi portal to transfer to their travel partners.
What To Earn
Frequent Flyer Miles – Frequent Fly Miles are Airline Miles. Airlines reward their travelers with airline programs where you earn miles for that one airline. You earn these miles or points by flying on a carrier (we call this butt in seat) or by using their credit cards (the card will be specific to the airline).
Points – Points are the currency that you earn and redeem through loyalty programs or credit card purchases. The amount of points that you can earn are drastically different from program to program or purchase to purchase. You will want to make sure you understand how your credit card earns points and the best way to maximize your purchases for each card.
Cash Back – Cash Back is another way that some credit card companies reward individuals for spending money on their credit cards. For cash back the company gives you back a percentage of the money you spend instead of you being able to use the earnings in travel portals.
How To Earn
Co-Branded Cards – Co-Branded Cards are cards that earn you points or miles with a specific company. Most of these cards are tied to one of the above companies but will only earn you points with the brand on the card. Examples of these types of cards are Delta Airlines (Amex card), World Of Hyatt (Chase Card), American Airlines (Citi Card).
Sign Up Bonus – A Sign Up Bonus is what credit card companies offer when you open a new credit card. These vary from card to card and also have different values depending on the program. The main thing you need to know right now about a sign up bonus is that there will be a minimum spend that you have to reach in a certain amount of time to get this big bonus of points.
Minimum Spend – Minimum Spend is the amount of money you have to spend in a certain time on a credit card to earn the sign up bonus. An example could be, if Southwest Airlines Credit Card is offering 60,000 miles for spending $3000 dollars in 3 months, then you would have to spend $3000 to earn 60,000 miles.
Now that you have a basic understanding for your travel hacking 101 education lets continue to get you ready to earn your first free family vacation.
2. The Must Of How To Start Travel Hacking For A Family
Before you get started there are several things you need to consider and take into account when you start travel hacking.
1 – HAVE A PLAN of which credit cards you are going to get and when (we will discuss our opinion on the best ones for families below). We try to open a new card to get the sign on bonus points whenever we have a large spend coming up.
2 – BUILD POINTS by paying everything on your credit cards so that you earn points on the money you were already going to spend. If you have a credit card that doesn’t earn you points then you are leaving money on the table. Also, now I never use a debt card as debit cards are not earning points or cash back on the money I’m spending.
3 – PAY OFF THE BALANCE of the credit cards each month. Paying interest will mean that the trip costed you money and wasn’t truly free. You are trying to use credit cards to travel hack not to put yourself into debt.
The above is the very basic way to start your family travel planning for where you will start on your journey of traveling for nothing.
3. Travel Hacking 101 – Sign Up For Loyalty Programs: Airlines, Hotels, And Rental Cars
The first thing you need to do to start your travel hacking 101 journey is to sign up for every airline, hotel, and car rental loyalty programs. It is completely free to sign up for these programs. The name of the game, of course, is to earn these miles and points to trade in for free travel. You can’t do that if you don’t sign up!
Bonus tip – Remember to sign up your kids for the airline loyalty programs. Most programs will let you do family pooling so you’ll get to your goal faster if everyone is earning miles.
4. Decide Which Credit Cards To Start Your Family Travel Hacks Journey
You are now ready to start earning valuable points and miles. The fastest way to get to those free family vacations is to earn great sign up bonuses through find the best credit cards for families offers. Here is where some planning will come into place so that you can start your family travel hacks.
Let’s say your first goal is to start earning free flights for your family of 4. You can look at that several different ways. Do you fly Delta? Sign up for a Delta Credit Card and you can earn a one-time use companion pass. This is great if you are at a Delta Hub. However, we have found that as a family of 4 we prefer the Southwest Companion Pass because it can be used for at least an entire year multiple times. The fastest way to get the southwest companion pass is to get a healthy sign up bonus on a Southwest Credit Card. (You’ll get the best deal at the time with our Southwest Credit Card link).
Do you drive most places and want to start earning free nights first? No problem. Sign up for one of the hotel credit cards. If you are a Hilton fan, then look into getting a Hilton Aspire Card. You will automatically earn Diamond status with Hilton on this card so you’ll be racking up points and upgrades (where available) on your very first stay. We really enjoy Hyatt Hotels and Resorts for fun family get-a-ways. With the World Of Hyatt Credit Card your sign on bonus will start earning you free nights immediately. Not to mention that most Hyatt redemptions start at 5,000 points.
Don’t want to be tied down to just one airline or hotel? Then you are in luck. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and American Express Platinum are great all around travel credit cards. That means you can earn American Express membership reward points or Chase ultimate reward points and spend them in their portals on any of their transfer partners for travel around the world. These cards give you more freedom on travel partners and locations but also come with hefty annual fees (you definitely can get more benefit out of the card then the annual fee cost if you use them right though).
These are just a few examples of the best credit cards for families to start travel hacking. There are so many options out there that you just need to decide what is best for your family. No two families will have the same goals for travel and no two families will have the same credit card hacking strategy. The goal of all families is to travel for free
5. Get Out And Build Family Memories – Earning And Burning
If you have completed these few steps then you are well on your way to earning your first free family vacation. The whole reason to start family travel hacking is so that you and your family can build lifetime memories together for less. Don’t just build a lot of points or miles and never use them. Feel free to follow our example of earning and burning. That means that a soon as I have a free night or free flight, we are off on our next adventure.
Wrap Up Of Family Travel Hacking 101 – 5 Tips To Start Your Family Travel Hacks
This by no means is a complete list of family travel hacks. This guide is very much a travel hacking for beginners. I wanted to provide you information to get your toes wet on how to start travel hacking so that you can start traveling for free with your family. Once you have these travel hacking 101 steps down, check out our Family Travel Hacking page for more tips, tricks, and information about planning all your free family vacations.
Have more questions or want more ideas? Join our Family Facebook Group: Little World Adventure Travelers.
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**** Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This article has not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any of the credit cards, airlines, hotels, or adventures mentioned in the article. Mommy And Me Travels is not responsible for your family travel hacking experience. You have the responsibility for your own success or failure in this travel credit card hacking adventure. ****