Here are some tips from members on how to limit travel expenses when you have a big family!
In the first part of this folder, we had a look at the tips parents with three or more children provided us, enhanced by the opinion of experts on travel accommodation.
We have seen that there are several options and that it is possible to reduce costs through loyalty programs, among other things.
Let us now turn to another unavoidable expense. Transportation.
First, let’s hear from the expert.
A word from the expert
Transportation is probably the most important part of a large family’s budget. The problem with some rewards programs is the availability of aircrafts seats, or the limited choice of rental cars. However, as you will see, there are tricks to drastically reduce this expense.Jean-Maximilien, Président-Fondateur de milesopedia
The new Aeroplan program will benefit families who will want to travel together as a group from November 8, 2020.
First of all, it offers a family account – Aeroplan Family Sharing – that will allow everyone, young and old, to earn and spend points. Add in the fact that all Air Canada seats will be open for purchase with this program, without carrier surcharge. You will still have to pay for taxes.
Buying six plane tickets was no picnic. We had to do individual research and then see if there were actually six tickets available. And that was not to mention the fact that the prices changed when you did a search for six.Maude
However, there will be a need to make several purchases on affiliated credit cards for earn the necessary points for the destinations which were evaluated upwards. But we believe that there will also be generous bonuses on these cards. Let’s also keep an eye on the finds that will be the most affordable, the so-called sweet spots.
There are loyalty programs that offer free companion tickets or at a lower cost. In the past, a BMO promotion – now over – was a great success with many of our members and WestJet, for example, offers it automatically when you apply to some of its cards credit. Good to know for everyone.
Finally, some parents save the business class for a quick couple getaways, “because with three kids, I’m allowed to treat myself once in a while!”.
Of course! You would then need to keep and eye open for the escapades available for a low amount of points, dear parents. Boston, New York, Washington… where do you want to go for a long weekend? (Once we can travel again.)
Here are some strategies from parents, but in my opinion, they apply to everyone.
- Buy plane tickets to go enjoy the sun on Flighthub which gives suggestions for cheaper dates from different airlines. Some families will choose to go wherever the tickets are cheaper. They are flexible as to where they go. But I would like to remind everyone that it was difficult to deal with certain third parties during the recent period regarding flight credits or refunds. It’s worth giving it some thought.
- Then during school holidays, try to leave a little before and come back a little after the holiday dates, just enough to bring down the cost of airfares. Example: leave on February 24-25, and return on March 10-11, before and after the break… same thing for Christmas, leave around December 18-20, return around January 10. Of course, it’s up to everyone to assess their level of comfort with the fact that children are missing school.
- Calculate whether or not the intended destination is worth using your miles. It is sometimes best to pay with money, to match points against the expense, or simply to earn points. For example, to go to Cancun, it is better to pay and get a direct and cheap flight than to use Aeroplan points. Points from the American Express Cobalt™ Card or from the American Express Gold Scotiabank Card for example in this case can decrease the cost of air travel. On the other hand, to go to Martinique with five people, with flights costing around $1,100 per person during peak periods, it’s worth using Aeroplan points.
- Play with the currency: a flight to Florida with AIR MILES miles could be the winning combination.
- Consider the “low-cost” flights from the United States, such as Burlington or Plattsburgh if you are from the Montreal area. One mother reports that for her first family trip, thanks to all the points she had earned, was the most organized and paid off: she usedAeroplan miles for flights from Burlington to San Francisco and paid $86 in taxes for the 6 tickets. Bravo!
- Visit Volotea‘s website, which offers discounts if a family member is a subscriber: convenient and inexpensive to fly between major European cities.
- Travel with carry-on luggage to avoid paying for checked luggage. Parents also ask their children to carry their heaviest items on them. Shoes, for example, instead of sandals.
- Finally, a nice tip here: during a camping trip in the West of the USA, some parents filled a big hockey bag with all the family’s camping equipment (sleeping bags, mattresses, headlamps, etc.) that they sent in the hold. The week before their departure, they ordered a tent, a “Coleman” stove and a cooler in a Walmart at their destination. All they had to do was get everything when they arrived. Smart parents!
Some of our members who travel with five or more people prefer to travel by car.
For the moment, our trips are only by car: Cape Cod, Nova Scotia and next year, we are aiming to cross Canada if all goes well. With eight people, it is often more economical for us to use motor vehicles rather than flying.Sandie
However, when they decide to take a flight, they choose a hotel that offers a shuttle service on arrival and departure. Otherwise, they have to wait for a minivan taxi, which can be long depending on the destination, or take two taxis, because of all the kids and suitcases. And these situations want to be avoided, economically speaking.
Some people rent cars with AIR MILES. In Cancun, Tuxla (Mexico), and Chicago for a day, for example. Others use Aeroplan to pay for gift certificates at Budget.
But it’s always worth comparing the different offers and promotions of Milesopedia partners.
And remember that rental prices fluctuate over time.
A few days before departure, the rental was US$153 less. The rental was paid with a travel credit, which included the cancellation option. So we were able to take advantage of this last-minute discount.Maude
Some families bring their children’s car seats since you don’t have to pay for this luggage when you fly, but others have had bad experiences with breakages in the hold. They then opt to make arrangements with the car rental company.
Car seats can really be a pain! Standards differ from country to country and it is important to be well informed before leaving. Personally, I find a couple of highly rated local car rental companies and I start the dialogue by email. This way I can make sure I have a car where three car seats suitable for my daughters can fit. The “Mifold” bench is great for traveling with children 4 years and older, it’s tiny and it fits everywhere.Virginie
Finally, all the parents we talked to remind us of the importance of good insurance, especially liability insurance if they are travelling outside North America or if the value of their vehicle exceeds what is insured.
Buses and trains
On site, our families prefer the immersion experience with the locals by taking the city bus and metro, rather than the much more expensive tourist bus. Yes, it is possible to save while traveling.
In Canada, Via Rail offers a 50% discount for children between 2 and 11 years old travelling in economy class, and the company has its own loyalty program. There are areas for four people to have fun, and free games and activity books are provided for the little ones.
In Europe, travelling by train with the Eurail family card offered by eurail.com (for non-Europeans) is also economical. The card is adapted to the number of travel days made over a one, two or three month period and is free of charge for children up to four years old.
Mothers have told us that they are looking for a rewards program that would allow them to reduce the cost of booking a cruise for six or more people. For example, with Carnival or Norwegian Cruise Line. There is the option of the agency “Red Tag” associated with AIR MILES, but they consider that the exchange rate of 909 miles for $100 is not very advantageous when there are several of them.
Loyalty programs have let them enjoy some nice add-ons before and after a cruise paid in money:
- Adding a day in a hotel with a water park the day before departure
- Renting a car
- Adding tickets for “Universal Studio” at the end of a cruise with on-site accommodation
- Enjoying a meal at the Orlando airport lounge on the morning of departure.
While the financing challenge remains, another family has found a strategy to lower the price of cruising by opting for entry-level family suites without balconies on Carnival’s newest vessels. Two interior rooms rather than a balcony suite with another cruise ship.
The disadvantage is to separate the parents, but the significant advantage is to double the number of bathrooms and still paying less money than for the larger cabin. It’s actually a great idea!
The expert's opinion
In terms of transportation, there are several programs that can be combined to save money:
- Aeroplan or AIR MILES for some flight tickets or car rentals
- Travel points programs such as American Express Membership rewards, BMO Rewards and HSBC Rewards for those who want the most flexibility.
Like Brigitte explained, the Aeroplan program will be completely transformed as of November 8, 2020. For families, we can think about:
- Family Sharing: Up to 8 members can share their Aeroplan points.
- Access to all seats on Air Canada flights: Convenient for families during the school break period
- Very advantageous baby bonuses
- Aeroplan credit cards that will allow free check-in of the first piece of luggage for up to 8 traveling companions!
Many credit card offers will be released on this occasion. At the moment, the only attractive offers if you want to start earning Aeroplan points are with the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card or the American Express® Gold Rewards Card.
The travel points
As for travel points, in Canada there are many credit cards that belong to several programs:
- American Express Membership Rewards
- BMO Rewards
- NBC Rewards
- CIBC Aventura
- HSBC Rewards
- MBNA Rewards
- Scotia Rewards®
The range of possibilities is therefore very wide. Some programs will require you to book through their platform (e.g. BMO Rewards), while others will give you complete freedom (e.g. HSBC Rewards).
In this case, the goal will be to have the most lucrative card in terms of welcome bonus, but also in terms of everyday earning. How about using points from one card to pay for a plane ticket, and points from another card for credit to save on car rental.
And, as always, varying the applications between Mr. and Mrs. lets you collect many welcome bonuses. Here are some excellent cards – some of which are part of my ultimate wallet:
Travelling when it’s not all-inclusive requires a lot of organization. Especially when the family is big… Transportation, especially air travel, is a major expense in the holiday budget and deserves our full attention.
We’ve gone over many parents’ good experiences as well as their tips and expert advice on the topic.
Our eyes are riveted on the new Aeroplan program, which should make it easier for several people to fly together, but let’s keep in mind that we’ll have to keep up our ingeniosity so that our budget is not swallowed up by this essential part of any trip that allows us to get around.
Programs and promotions that include car rentals, motorhomes and train travel also deserve more attention, especially in the current context.
May this file remain open-ended!