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Continuing the fun at the Family Travel for Real Life (#FT4RL) conference, and continuing the live blogging!  I hope that you will follow along with me as we learn about family travel, and how those of us with families can take part in it with their families.  See below for the lineup of speakers and follow us throughout the day with hashtag #FT4RL on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

I do not know @JeffTheWanderer very well, though we’ve had some discussions on Twitter and he was very helpful in giving me some suggestions when our family was potentially looking to go to Costa Rica.  He does have a website at Indulge the Wanderlust, but said that he doesn’t really update it any more.

Kenny and Trevor focused on how to EARN the miles – Jeff’s presentation is more focused on how to actually USE these miles, especially when you’re trying to get multiple tickets for families

Earning points

The main ways that you can earn points and miles are things like

  1. Credit Cards
  2. Cross Promotions
  3. Manufactured Spending
  4. Butt-in-seat miles

One strategy that Jeff shared is that rather than focusing on doing Manufactured Spending on a particular card – he usually just MSes with whatever card he wants miles on, and he doesn’t care about the fees, and then uses a cashback card to offset those fees.

Manufactured spending: Organization is key

Jeff shared a little bit about the system that he uses to track his manufactured spending.  He keeps a spreadsheet as well as receipts of the different card loads – that way it can help with things like making sure you don’t miss out on bonuses

(SEE ALSO: 50,000 surprise American Express points)

Or if you get audited.  He also shared a story of putting on a jacket and finding $1500 in Visa gift cards in the pocket that he didn’t know about.  Avoiding things like that is why he has the system now

Traveling (yay!)

Using miles, he and his family have gone to Paris, Rio, Santiago, Hong Kong, Koh Samui, Hawaii, Galapagos (on my bucket list!), Italy and Spain

One good trick is to make sure that you have miles in ALL of the programs – because he had Lufthansa miles, he was able to get a trip to Cuba when other people weren’t able to.

He also mentioned Award Wallet, which I ranked as #1 of my Top 10 miles and points tools.  I definitely agree that Award Wallet is a great tool for keeping track of your miles and points balances.

Don’t zero in on a particular place – keep your mind open on when or where you want to go


I’ve written about this before – The truth of the traveler’s triangle: The relationship between Time, Price and Location – if you’re flexible on your time and your location, you can usually find a good deal

Scheduling your travel

  • Mid-week – take your week of vacation from Wednesday to Tuesday instead of Monday to Friday
  • Off-peak – sometimes even the off-peak somewhere else is better than where you’re at!
  • Long-weekends – look for school teacher in-service days

If you’re looking for a lot of award tickets, you really need to start looking BEFORE the schedule opens (which will be 12+ months before you travel).  Then check the day that the schedule opens, don’t give up and you can always check in again last minute

Finding seats

Some tips for finding award seats

  • Know the history – know what seats normally are available
  • Look for alternative routings – what are you willing to live with to go on a flight
  • Check different flights
  • Book some flights now and wait for the rest of your ticket
  • If you see it, book it
  • Availability drives the vacation – “chase the fare, not the destination”

When trying to find family availability, break your family up into the smallest group possible (so maybe an adult and a kid or two in each “group”) and look for that availability.  Then, if you find some availability, change the number to the actual number of people that you’re looking for

So… the moral of this story is that flexibility equals vacation.  If you’re flexible with your time and location, you can usually find a great vacation spot

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