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ft4rlWelcome to my live blog of the Family Travel for Real Life conference (#FT4RL).  If you’re new to the Family Travel for Real Life conference, it is a smaller conference that focuses on the more “real life” aspects of travel.  While it is primarily focused on family travel (it’s in the name, duh!), there are lots of things that are talked about in the conference that are applicable for those without kids as well.  If you want to see more information, you should check out my introductory post, which also contains links to recaps of all of the past FT4RL sessions

Our first speaker of the day is Richard Kerr, who is also known as  The Points Jock.  He writes for The Points Guy as well as moderates one of my favorite travel hacking Facebook groups – Travel Hacking 101.  His topic is Hacking Trips on the Ground: Cruises, Trains, Cars, Camels…  

Having done a few train trips myself before, I know they can be some great value.

(SEE ALSO: 4 reasons my Amtrak trip was a blast…)

(SEE ALSO: … but I’ll probably never take another Amtrak trip)

But based on some hints I saw him putting out there, I’m also definitely looking forward to cruise tips (and camel tips!)

Hacking trips (mostly) on the ground

The main premise of Rich’s talk is how to take miles and points redemptions that do NOT require a plane flight, subtitled why 2,525 is my favorite new number, which was a topic we only talked about here at the conference (sorry!).

train-pictureThen we went on to talk through Amtrak Guest Rewards.  Amtrak was one of my favorite redemptions when they transferred from Chase (unfortunately they don’t do that any more).  Then they devalued their award chart, but I’ve still found that there is STILL value in Amtrak sleeper rewards

The Bank of America Amtrak card also offers a 5% rebate on point redemptions.  There is also a 500 point enrollment for signing up for Amtrak AND 500 points for referring a friend (up to 90 friends).  You CAN still transfer Choice Hotels 1:3, but you do have to have the elite status with Amtrak and just holding the BoA Amtrak card does NOT give you the elite status (like the Chase Amtrak card did)

You an also get a $1.67 value redeeming towards Princess Cruises (6,000 points for $100 gift card to Princess)

Zoom Zoom (car rentals)

Rich also recommended Autoslash, which is my go to site for car rentals.

(SEE ALSO: Using Autoslash to save a ton on your next rental car)

Some other good sites for car rentals were Costco, Car Rental Savers, Chase, and Firefly.  You can also book through USAA to avoid the underage driver fee for renters ages 21-24.

Another good site was over on Frequent Flyer Bonuses, which gives a list of all the different car rental bonuses out there.  I had personally not seen this site before.

You can also transfer Hertz points to Southwest at a 1:2 ratio.  Make sure that you sign up for Hertz emails because they will also periodically give you 500 bonus points as a “we haven’t seen you lately” which can be transferred to 1000 Southwest points.

Haze Gray and Underway (Cruising)

Cruises are one of the few areas where travel agents can still help out.  Some of the best online resources for cruises are,, American Express Cruises for Platinum Cardholders and which is the Flyertalk of Cruising.  You can also redeem Discover Cash Back for cruises, up to $200 but it’s a little more restrictive.

If you have Hyatt Diamond status (I missed out on it personally 🙁 ) you can also turn that into MLife Platinum which gives you lots of good benefits on Royal Caribbean cruises

As far as redeeming points to go on a cruise.  Citi ThankYou Points and Chase Ultimate Rewards can get you 1.25 cents points.  Wells Fargo gives you 1 cent, and Amex gives 0.7 cents.  As we talked about before, Amtrak points can give 1.67 points towards Princess Cruises.  Co-branded cruise line cards are pretty weak, compared to other options out there

Camels, Falcons and Penguins for 20,000 points

How can we use miles and points to do some real life experiences – talking a little about the Chase Ultimate Rewards Experiences portal.  Yes the redemption rate is only 1.25 cents per point, but given the relatively low cost to manufacture miles, a lot of these can make a lot of sense and give you travel opportunities that you might not otherwise be able to do

First example was 3 experiences in the United Arab Emirates – a camel ride, a trip to a UAE falcon hospital and a penguin adventure in Dubai – for only 20,000 Ultimate Rewards per person.


Another example of a deal that Rich talked about using the Chase Ultimate Rewards experiences portal to do an All-inclusive Africa trip for 7 nights for 135,090 points which includes flights from the USA.  First is this 7 night deal for 91,090 Chase Ultimate Rewards


He then shared a deal on using Citi ThankYou points to transfer to Etihad to book on Royal Air Maroc to get you your flights from the US to Africa for only 44,000 miles roundtrip – total 135,090 points for a flight to Africa and a 7 night all-inclusive

Lots of great tips including a few I was banned from sharing on the blog – it was a very enjoyable talk!

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