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Scheduling family travel can be fairly tricky, especially for us larger families, and as the kids get older. So many different activities and schedules going on – it really takes some concerted effort to get out of the rut and plan some trips!  One of the benefit of being involved in “travel hacking” is that it gives an incentive (and ability!) to travel more frequently

Planning an early summer trip

Our travel calendar for 2016 is actually getting kind of full!  We used the last of our Club Carlson bonus award nights for a spring break trip (2 rooms * 4 nights, broken up into 2 night chunks, natch!) before that benefit went away.  We also have a family reunion in July in Missouri. I’m also planning on attending the Family Travel for Real Life conference in March.

So it seemed like if we were planning on another trip, in the early summer would be the time to do it.

A return to Amtrak?

Our family took an Amtrak trip to Denver last summer.  We used 100,000 Chase points in lieu of paying the total fare price of $6540!

The trip itself was a blast – here’s us in the dining car


but we were plagued by some pretty massive delays – we were 13 HOURS late into Denver, missing our rental car and causing some pretty major vacation upheaval.  Because I’m such a planner, when the start of a trip gets messed up, it causes downstream delays – same thing happened when our flight to Dublin was canceled.  I should probably stop planning so much 🙂

The one good side to this is that because of the delays, I called in and got 2 vouchers for $1150 towards future Amtrak travel.  The Amtrak vouchers expire in a year, so it was getting about time to use them before they expired

A sleeper car – cheaper than you think!

I wrote about this last week – even though the conventional wisdom says that Amtrak sleeper car travel is dead once the new Amtrak Guest Rewards program is introduced in January, you can still find some good value in sleeper car bookings – you just have to make sure to find a route with availability in the “low” fare bucket.


Choosing to take the first part of our journey (only 9 hours) in coach seats lets us get a family bedroom for the main part of the trip (46 hours!) in the Family Bedroom (sleeps 4), and still only pay $1243.  Remembering that I had 2 vouchers totaling $1150, we were actually able to book this trip for only $93 out of pocket!

Since that will only take care of 4 of us, we used 40,000 points to book the other 4 of us. Since there is only 1 Family Bedroom per car, we decided to book the other 4 of us in the 2 roomettes (Rooms 13 and 14) that are right next to the Family Bedroom.  For a 2 zone trip, the price for 2 roomettes and 1 bedroom is the same – 40,000 points.

(SEE ALSO: Maximizing your route on the Amtrak Zone Map)

Getting back home

We decided that 2 and a half days on the train was enough for us, so we wanted to fly back.  American and United had literally ZERO saver availability for any days near when we were wanting to come back.  Thankfully, we were able to find good availability on Delta


After debating whether to transfer American Express points or Starwood points over to Delta, we ended up doing a little of both and then using 100,000 miles to fly our family of 8 back home

(SEE ALSO: The worst usage of 100,000 Skymiles EVER?)

Looking forward to a fun family trip!


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