Family Vacation Suggestions for the "light" FF'er

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by SuperW2, Jan 29, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Hi,

    Let me start by saying that the FF point "game" has allowed my family to take some great vacations over the past several years at almost no OOP travel cost. The negative to that is that it gets harder and harder to pick out a vacation spots, that my family of 4 (Me/Mom and Twin girls under 10) all agree on, that isn't crazy busy, or somewhere we've already been (multiple times)... Talk about first world problems! We generally try to take one "bigger"/2 Week-ish trip in the summer (which is a horrible time to go to many places) just because that's when the kiddo's are out of school. We generally do a smaller trip in the Spring or Winter.

    I call myself a "light" ff'er because we don't have millions of points or elite status with any hotel or airline. We don't do mileage or mattress runs. We don't churn cc's (heavily) nor buy Prepaid cards and I only have a few of the dollar coins left :). We fly in Bus/1st occasionally on FF points, but flying in coach isn't yet an unthinkable thing for the most part (which is know is sacrilege to many "heavy" FF'ers). So I'm not sure if "light" is the right word... "novice" maybe, or just "Family FF'er" who has different goals and opportunities than someone who may be traveling with 1/2.

    I only travel a couple times a year for work, so negligible add to my FF portfolio for that. All of our points that we do earn from spend, and the few cc sign-up bonuses we do, shopping portal bonuses, etc. Most of our points are with AA, BA, Ultimate Rewards and AMEX (~100K in each program), with a small smattering with others, but probably not enough for a single award flight in any of them.

    We've done Hawaii (Maui and Big Island mostly) several times (and Oahu is probably our "fall back" plan for this summer if we can't some up with something else as there's always islands we haven't seen and snorkeling never gets old), last summer we did Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York City. We've done Chicago a couple times (with one side trip to the Wisconsin Dell's), done Disney on both sides of the states (we are on Left/West Coast, closest to San Jose/SFO). We do SF all the time, we just got back from Yosemite and close places like San Diego/LA are also part of our short trip rotation.

    We have a desire to go back Europe at some point with the kids (Wife and I went twice before the children complicated our travel planing ;)), but not sure the kids are ready yet... both are super PICKY eaters, and at this point I'd have to burn through the majority of my points on the various programs to get us there and back. Another "dream" is to go back to New Zealand (again Wife and I went before kids), but I'm likely several hundred thousand pts short of any chance of getting a family of 4 there, so will continue to be a dream! :eek:.

    So I guess long story short, I'm looking for Ideas of where to take the family this year...somewhere that won't wipe out all of my FF pts, but still be a fun family trip... Any suggestions are welcome!

    Thanks
    Sw2
     
  2. LAM

    LAM Silver Member

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    How about New England? Boston, the Cape or one of the Islands and then Vermont or Maine? Another suggestion would be historical sites in Virginia and then off to one of the beach communities on the east coast such as the Outer Banks of NC, the beaches around Charleston or in Georgia.
     
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  3. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I second the suggestion of New England. Love the coast of Maine. Really enjoyed Burlington, VT with my tweenage nephews. Toured Ben & Jerry's, then went across to NY and all of the things to do over there.

    St. Johns, Newfoundland is also a fun area. Iceberg spotting in early summer. Whale watching. St. Pierre is also interesting area.

    Alaska also has a lot to offer.
     
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  4. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    There are so many wonderful places to visit in the Pacific Northwest (including British Columbia) - Seattle, Portland, Columbia River Gorge, Olympic National Park, etc. And most of them are comfortable weather wise in the summer.
    You could also explore my neck of the woods (Asheville) in the summer - Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Blue Ridge Parkway and much more.
     
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  5. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Two words: National Parks.
     
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  6. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions, please keep them coming!

    Boston has come up in our discussion for a possible location (and direct flights from SFO is helpful too)... I was there in 2008 for work and had some time to walk around, see 2 games at Fenway and overall was an enjoyable visit (except for the work stuff). The kids like the historical sites, so would be plenty of that to see. We hadn't considered where to go from Boston (since we did NYC/DC/PHI last summer), and hadn't considered going North

    Also last year, there was much sadness from the family that we couldn't fit in Historic Williamsburg into our trip, so that might be an option, and as I was born in Charleston (moved as a baby), it would be interesting to see more of that area too, so both good ideas.

    Both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone came up in our wish-listing... both kind of in the middle of no-where (at least from a easy Frequent Flyer standpoint), meaning lots of driving to/from stuff with kids in the car is not really that much fun for anyone! Also, the crowds during the summer are almost too much to bear at some of the parks!
     
  7. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    How about Italy? We did our first international trip there with our two kids (then 7 and 10) and had a truly incredible time. The food is kid friendly and Italians love kids. We loved being somewhere where having kids is actually considered a good thing! We did cooking classes, toured underground sites, stayed at an olive farm. A baker paused from his job to play with them. They played pick up soccer in a piazza with locals. I cannot say enough good things about it. Yes the flight burned a lot of points but it was so worth it. In fact it's what got me into this hobby in a big way. We are returning this summer and throwing in a bit of Croatia into the mix. Good luck!
     
  8. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I've done the national parks a number of times, starting with kids both below 6 years old. You could use Avios to fly to Las Vegas, Salt Lake, or some smaller town if you can find a direct flight. Grab a car, throw in a tent and other camping equipment, and take off. You could also drive from the west coast -- the point of collecting miles is to get you to places you want to go, not to stop you from going to places you want to go. Skip one year of mile burning and save up for a trip to Europe next year.

    The "big name" parks can get crowded, but there are hundreds of smaller National Parks, State Parks, and National Monuments that you can stay in. Near the Grand Canyon are not only Bryce Canyon and Zion but Kodachrome Basin, Capital Reef NP, Coral Pink Sand Dunes SP, Lake Powell NRA, Red Rocks SP, Cedar Breaks NM, Havasupai Canyon, Walnut Canyon NM, Sunset Crater Volcano NM, Wupatki NM, Petrified Forest NP, Rainbow Bridge NM, Pipe Spring NM, Monument Valley. . .

    If your kids don't do well on long car rides that can be a problem, but with care you can keep the trips down to two or three hours at a time.
     
  9. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Italy would be wonderful... wife and I loved Florence and Tuscany... I'm afraid that even converting everything I had, I'd still likely be short (480K AA miles to most places in EU from SFO is a couple hundred more than I have).
     
  10. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    After some more research and a short family meeting, we are thinking a few days in Boston, a trip (either train or drive) up through Vermont for a couple days and then a couple more days in Montreal and then back home. It won't completely break the bank as far as miles go (so maybe we can still do the Europe trip in the next year or two), will be some historical stuff, some just relaxing stuff and place that neither the wife or I have been (other than Boston).
     
  11. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    Sounds like a plan. May do Boston- D.C next Spring if we don't do Orlando.

    Re: Italy. If you both applied for the new 100k Citi card, you'd get there. I accelerated my planned AOR because of it and got approved yesterday morning.

    Another idea: One place I'd like to take my kids is to Escalante National Park. Visited Utah a couple times before kids and loved the hiking. There's even a "motel" where the rooms are renovated Airstreams. Flying to Vegas is super cheap so no real need for points, but then you can save the points for Italy later!
     
  12. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    $20K of Manufactured Spend in 3 mths right now would be tough for us ($10K is tough except maybe at the end of the year when prop taxes are due), but I had considered that.
     
  13. Terry Yap

    Terry Yap Gold Member

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    Come to Asia if you have a chance ! It's a melting pot of so many different cultures in a relatively small region. Hotels and food can be relatively cheap
     
  14. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    The food and picky eating would be a major issue (along with the # of Pts to get there).... on a scale of 1 to 10 of how adventurous eating or willingness to try new foods, my kids are about a Negative 37. I'm only slightly better. I lost 10 pounds when I went to China for Business in 2012, cause there was little (other than Rice) that I was willing to eat.

    We have troubles finding food in most US locations that they will eat... I'm not proud of the fact, but it is a fact.
     
  15. Terry Yap

    Terry Yap Gold Member

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    i see, but having said that, in countries such as Singapore, bigger cities in Malaysia and Thailand, the experience may be much easier than what you've experienced, there's a variety of food including a good proportion of western-type cuisine....
     
  16. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    One last thought - we are also based out of SFO and both just got approved for the US Air card and Alaska card. In addition to the miles my goal was the $100 companion ticket that comes with both - Alaska for trips to Hawaii and US Air for the other 48. It lowers our total cost enough that we don't mind paying cash for our domestic tickets and saves miles for those costly international trips. Just in case it's helpful!
     
  17. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Great vacation spot we enjoy as a family is Gatlinburg, TN. Its in the Smokey Mountains in Eastern Tennessee. So much to do for every member of the family. Historical, Skiing (seasonal), Dinner Shows, Murder Mysterys, Tours, Go Kart Tracks, Arcades, etc. And Dollywood is there too for a nice little amusement park.
     

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