While I am always happy to share my own traveling stories with my family, there are tons of other great traveling families out there with kids of different ages, different numbers of kids, and who have had different experiences than me. As part of my “Little C’s Traveling Friends” series, I am sharing different family’s stories so we can all learn from their experiences. If you would like to be a part of this series just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s Little C’s Traveling Friends series is focusing on a family I have much to learn from as they live in the New England and have three boys ages 8, 6, and 3! I’ve got the art of traveling with my own 3 year old girl down pretty well, but traveling with 3 young boys must be a whole new ballgame on all levels! Here is their story and how miles and points plays a role in what they are able to do.
How has your traveling pattern changed (or not changed) since you have had kids?
My husband and I were both in the Air Force before having kids and he was stationed in Alaska while I was stationed in Georgia. We would spend weekends meeting up in places all around the country. We also were in that stage of life when friends are getting married all over the country, so we’d spend fun weekends visiting great destinations to celebrate their weddings. We would fly all of the time and saved up a ton of miles! We actually bought over 100 Special K cereal boxes at one time to redeem for AA miles!
One of our favorite trips that we were able to use our miles on was a 15 day trip to Australia. We spent time in Sydney then chartered a sailboat and sailed ourselves around the Whitsunday Islands. Afterwards, we spent time in Cairns, Port Townsend and diving the Great Barrier Reef.
After our first son was born, I decided to stay at home. Our traveling didn’t change then since lap children are free! Our first son had his first flight at 6 weeks old and had 6 trips under his belt by the time he was one. Our frequent trips died down when we had our second, and then our third child. Now we don’t fly with our kids as often as it is so pricey to get 5 airline tickets either with cash or miles! We are fortunate that our location in New England means that we have tons of great destinations we can reach without flying, so we haven’t slowed down as much as just refocused to some different destinations.
Between my previous job and personal travel, I’ve visited 50 states and 40 countries in South, Central, North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Where all have you traveled with your children, and what have been some memorable experiences on some of those trips (both good and bad)?
For the past several years, I’ve flown with the boys on my own to visit family. The worst experiences have been sitting on the runway for an extended period of time in the summer on a hot plane. My son was inconsolable and it was very uncomfortable for me to try to breastfeed him on the plane. I had usually used a cover, but it was too hot for that. Another bad trip was an anniversary trip to Vermont when my son wouldn’t sleep and cried all night. We took turns driving around town waiting for him to sleep (which he never did) while the other of us slept a little.
Those were the low points, but we have had great trips as well, going to Disney, the Cayman Islands, Amelia Island in Florida, and spending time using Dad’s hotel room in NYC while he worked and we saw the city.
What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way?
In terms of air travel, we are finally at a stage where flying is a breeze. I recently flew with all three on my own. There were three of us on one side of the plane, and my oldest was in the aisle seat across from us. I feel that I’ve earned my dues to enjoy this new era of travel! I swear by having each child having their own backpack with their own with reading books, activity books, iPod, and snacks. Even my 3 year old sat and listened to music while he colored on a recent flight. I haven’t brought car seats on board, so we either check them or arrange for whoever we were visiting to borrow or buy one for us to use. We’ve also rented car seats from the rental car agency. With three boys, my motto for travel on my own with the kiddos is the less stuff the better!
We love to stay at Hilton properties including Hampton Inns and Homewood Suites when we are traveling with the kids. Even in New York City, most of the Hilton brands seem to offer larger rooms that allow us all stay together in one room.
How do points and miles figure into your family travels?
We are all about the points in miles in this household! We’ve paid for airfare to Seattle, San Francisco, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas all with miles. Right now we primarily are utilizing hotel points for our travels. Before kids, we’d stay in boutique hotels and use miles for our air tickets. Now, we mostly drive or pay cash for air tickets and then use points for hotels. Especially on weekend trips to Boston, New York or DC, instead of a $200-400 per night hotel room we are able to enjoy it for free, and often get a free breakfast! For example, at the Hilton Garden Inn in New York, they provide vouchers for breakfast at a French Restaurant. Very, very good use of points!
We also stayed at the amazing Las Casitas Resort at the El Conquistador in Puerto Rico on hotel points. It was a two bedroom suite with full kitchen and living and dining rooms!
What future trips are on your horizon?
Our next big trip is to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. We are staying at the Andaz 5th Avenue for two nights thanks to getting the Hyatt credit card, and in fact we got our whole extended family to do the same thing! We are also saving up Hilton points for a ski trip to Mt. Tremblant, where there is a Homewood Suites located right in their ski village. We will drive the eight hours in order to save on airfare. We’ve also been stockpiling our miles and points in hopes of saving up enough to take all five of us on safari in Africa in about five years! We also hope to have airline miles to take us all to Seattle for a vacation next year and then to Disney World the year after. For Disney my goal is to figure out how to pay for our rooms and transportation with miles and points (hint from Mommy Points – 40k SPG points to stay 5 nights at the Swan or Dolphin or 70k SPG points to get 50k airline miles + 5 nights at those hotels).
What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?
I’d say absolutely go for it, however, my philosophy when planning a family trip is to really take in consideration the stage of life you are in and make the most of it. Our recent vacation to a beach in Florida was magical. I kept thinking how I wanted to freeze time and just stay watching my boys playing in the sand, swimming with them, and building sandcastles. Prior to children, I never thought I would change my travel style. I thought I would keep the opinion that the more exotic and adventurous the trip the better. I’m sure as my boys get older we will go back to more adventurous travel, but I am happy to relish in the stage they are in now. I’m also a big fan of driving to destinations as it is so easy to have what you need in the car instead of trying to fit it all in your one carry-on!
I absolutely love that this family has kept their love for travel, but adjusted it in a way that meets their current family dynamic and budget. I think some families who think travel is too complicated or too expensive to continue doing once children come along, simply haven’t yet found a way to adjust their old travel styles enough to fit their current needs. There is one more post coming from this family about how they used their Chase Ultimate Reward points to take the Amtrak Auto Train from Washington DC down to Florida. Why rent a car or fly when you can sit back, drink wine, and let the train bring your family and your car?!
Thanks so much to the Snow family for sharing some of your adventures and I can’t wait to hear all about the Auto Train!