When it comes to travel rewards, families have different needs than single travelers and couples. For example, families are typically less flexible than other travelers, as they need to work their vacations around school schedules. Families also tend to go to popular vacation destinations during peak travel seasons, while others may be more interested in out-of-the-way destinations. And obviously, families tend to travel in larger groups than singles or couples.
So, if you need to earn rewards that you can use toward a family vacation, consider these award travel strategies. (See also: How to Use Miles and Points for a Big Award Trip)
The Southwest plan
Southwest Airlines is an ideal carrier for family travelers. It offers two free checked bags for everyone, and it doesn’t impose fees for changing your reservation once you’ve purchased tickets. It also features early boarding for families with young children, and an open seating policy that makes it easy for families to ensure that they are sitting together.
Southwest also offers the Companion Pass, which lets you book a second extra ticket at no charge (other than taxes), on every flight including award tickets. To receive a Companion Pass, you need to earn 110,000 points within a single calendar year. Fortunately, Southwest offers various credit cards that help you get there. The pass can significantly cut your family’s travel costs for the year.
Earn miles that can be redeemed as travel statement credits
The problem that most families have with traditional frequent flyer programs is that awards are seldom available at the lowest mileage levels. This is especially true at peak travel times when families travel, and for groups of three or more.
Therefore, the best way for families to earn award travel is to use a credit card that offers miles that can be redeemed as statement credits toward any travel reservations. These travel rewards credit cards allow you to book your own travel (flights, hotel, car rentals, cruises, tours, and more) on any booking site you prefer, and then use your points toward those purchases. This gives families the most flexibility in terms of being able to use their hard earned travel rewards for an actual trip. (See also: Best Credit Cards With Easy Travel Redemption)
Earn points that can be transferred to different frequent flyer and hotel programs
Another great award travel strategy for families is to earn flexible rewards that can be transferred to numerous travel partners. This gives you the ability to earn points on your credit card without having to commit to a particular airline or hotel chain.
Cards in this category may allow you to rack up points, and then transfer them when you’re ready to use one of several popular airline or hotel rewards programs. While travel statement credits are even more flexible, with those programs your points are usually worth about 1 cent a piece. You can often get a better rate when you transfer to, say, an airline program and book an expensive flight. (See also: Which Airline Rewards Program Has the Best Value for Their Miles?)
Be flexible with travel plans and expectations
Redeeming travel rewards for a trip is not for the faint of heart. While going with the flexible redemption option allows you the most freedom to plan a trip according to your precise preferences, being flexible with your plans will give you the most value out of your hard earned rewards. This means that if you want to get the largest discount off your trip, you’ll want to identify the destinations and resorts that are available under that travel program. You might not get the exact hotel you want, or even visit the exact city that you want, but if you can be flexible and open minded, even a large family can take advantage of travel rewards and redeem them for an amazing vacation. (See also: 5 Tricks to Making the Most of Your Reward Miles)