In our family, there are two different kinds of trips that we like to take. First there are trips that we take together as a family, and then there are more “getaway” style trips that we take just Carolyn and I. Both of these kinds of trips are useful, and they serve a different purpose. We’ve had a few trips of both kinds over the past year, and have enjoyed them all.
We have a large family (6 children; 8 total), so going anywhere for an extended period of time is quite the adventure, and is also fairly costly. Both of these are getting more challenging in time, the older (and bigger) our kids get.
Still though, I feel like it’s important to have these kinds of trips. I’ve long believed that giving the gift of experiences to kids / family is much more meaningful than gifts of “stuff”. One of the reasons that I started this blog is to introduce the concepts of travel hacking to larger families – people for whom even a regular family vacation might be out of reach.
Personally, I feel lucky in this regard – while my family is not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, we are at least middle-class enough that even before I started travel hacking, we could afford to take the occasional family vacation.
But accumulating miles and points has let us take a few more trips than we might otherwise have been able to. While we were generally good for a week-long summer vacation every year or so, now we’ve been able to throw in a few long weekend trips. See our sidebar for the trip reports from a 2014 mini vacation to
Spending Points on Family trips
I have said this over and over again, but for most families, it absolutely does not make sense to spend your points flying to exotic locations, or staying in aspirational hotels. Yes, it is great that the Intercontinental Tegucigalpa is on the most recent IHG PointBreaks list, but your kids are not going to be impressed by the marble fountains, or the carefully presented gourmet food. Unless your kids are wildly different than mine, what they are most interested in is the hot waffle maker and the swimming pool.
My favorite story about this is from a trip we took to St. Louis last year. The whole time that we were driving there, we kept telling the kids that we were going to “St. Louis”. So when we pulled up in front of a Hampton Inn (my first points expenditure ever!), the kids equated that as “St. Louis”. So over the course of the next few days, as we toured the sights, saw the Gateway Arch, etc., the kids would often ask when they were going “back to St. Louis”, which to them meant “swimming in the pool”. No amount of my convincing them that the Gateway Arch WAS in St. Louis would make them believe me.
So if you’re not spending all your miles on family trips, when SHOULD you spend them? We all know due to the seemingly endless devaluations by the different companies that it doesn’t make sense to hoard miles – EARN EM AND BURN EM is our constant motto.
So the other kind of trip that shows up on our demand schedules is a husband and wife getaway trip. Being able to have some alone time is crucial to keeping yourself sane 😀
But then we come to the problem. If you have kids (and you probably wouldn’t be here if you didn’t), and you and your significant other are off gallivanting on some romantic getaway, then someone needs to be watching the kids!
Who’s watching the kids?
A few potential options – depending on your situation
- if you have older kids, and not that many of them, you might be able to get away with leaving them on their own
- Family is always good! My in-laws just moved back to town, and they have been great with watching our kids for us. Similarly, my parents were the ones that came down to stay with our kids for a few days while we went to Miami (see picture above). They were great, but I think the kids wore them out pretty good. I wouldn’t say they QUITE had their bags packed waiting for us to come home, but it was close 😀
- Paying a babysitter. But with this option, the longer you’re gone (or the more kids that you have), the costlier that’s going to be. And I thought the whole point of this was traveling for free.
So that leaves us with option 4:
Bartering for Babysitting
This is an idea that I have had recently, but haven’t had the chance to try it out yet. The basic idea is that by following the concepts of the travel hacking, we have easy (easier?) access to miles and points, which is something that the general public does not.
I’m not one for “hiding” information (hence the blog), and I’d always be willing to share what I know in order to help anyone I can to achieve their family vacation goals.
But it’s definitely true that some people may not have the time, motivation or skillset to make this kind of travel hacking work. And there may also be some people whose credit is not in good enough shape to qualify for many of the offers that make travel hacking work.
So in that case, what about a barter system? Rather than paying for babysitting, what about paying in points? What would the going rate be for a week’s worth of babysitting? Depending on how many kids we’re talking about, I could see something like 2 roundtrip domestic tickets? Depending on the when and where of the tickets, we’re talking about a value of $600-700? That seems like we’re in the right ballpark, no?
That would cost us 50,000 miles (in most cases), which could be fairly easy to accomplish. Much easier than spending the $600-700. Seems like a pretty good case of a win-win
So what do you think? Would this seem like a reasonable plan?