Thursday, September 7, 2017

Using miles & travel goals

As part of my 2018 planning, I'm evaluating our travel plans for the year, building a budget, & determining our priorities as a family. We've roughed out our list of destinations & timing, which leaves us with the budget review.

When we decided to move to California, we prioritized spending time with family & friends in Washington. We knew this would represent a significant portion of our travel budget, but it's important for us to maintain our connections & ensure the boys get to spend a lot of time with our relatives. (The majority of my family lives close to each other, making it easy to see multiple people in one trip.)

Our travel budget for the 2018 is $7000. This represents a variety of trips, but just one potential hotel stay. The biggest category of this budget is for airfare, car rentals, etc. (Note: a few trips haven't been fully planned, so these are placeholder numbers, although the full sum needs to come in at or under $7000.)

Our full flight budget for the year is $3,900, and would take around 390,000 miles to cover in total. (Note that this is an estimate. Some flights require more miles, so I'd like to be flexible on which parts of our travel we can book via points so we can get the best value). Given that airfare is such a big component of our traveling, I'd love to find a way to get at least half of our flights covered via miles. My stretch goal would be all of the flights covered via miles, but I think that will be challenging! I haven't been very efficient at maximizing these opportunities in the past, and want to focus on this. Here are the ways I'm thinking about accruing these miles:

  • 36,000 - We have a credit card through the airline, & I'm guessing this is how much we'll accrue
  • 30,000 - companion fare via our credit card
  • 90,000 - existing miles balance 
  • 50,000 - points transfer from a hotel loyalty program (primarily accrued via work travel) 
  • 90,000 - miles from my other three travelers. These are harder to use, as I have to book the reservation under one child, for example, which is a hassle if we're traveling in groups. But, let's optimistically go with this. 
  • 30,000 - points accrued from other hotel transfers. This is optimistic, although I do have quite a bit of travel planned for Q4. 

If we were able to utilize miles to offset the majority of our 2018 travel, it would allow us to either a) take additional trips or b) reduce our costs! We're leaning towards b, with the understanding that some trips naturally go over, and we may want to increase our budget around a major milestone (15th anniversary, etc). 

What about you? Do you use miles or points to offset your travel budget? Any tips to share? 


  1. You seem to be the master at this. I don't use nearly as many miles as you do. One thought though, could you use the kids/your hubby's miles for adult individual trips? Then when you need to fly all together use yours? I don't know which hotel chains you like to stay at but Hilton is pretty good, they just changed their points program so it's way more flexible with use of points and dollars. Wish all of them would go to that.

    1. Oh, I'm a novice! There are apparently message board on this stuff, and people go through super elaborate plans to leverage credit card offers.

      I'm trying to sort out how to use the kids miles. I think I can do it, but it requires breaking up the reservations & is just generally a hassle. I was going to transfer all of the miles to my account, but they charge a fee, so that's out as well.

      I'm a platinum member of Starwood/Marriott/Ritz, so typically stay there. It's a preferred chain through work, so the one that I stay at the most. I also love the option of using points or cash!

  2. My husband has always gotten a free companion the last few years but that is ending this year so we will have to redo our travel set up (4 kids, it adds up quickly). One thing we do is use miles (most of our miles are on Southwest) to get to a place we can leave on a bigger trip from at less expense. Example-Emirates to South Africa was a great price but far more from SFO vs JFK so we used miles to get to JFK and Emirates on to SA.
    I have a hard time with the kids miles as well. I usually try to use them on little quickie trips to San Diego from the Bay Area.

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