Family Travel

The Best Travel Loyalty Programs for Families


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Best loyalty programs for families"
Best loyalty programs for families
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson

Traveling with kids gets expensive quickly. Budgeting for family vacations can be complex, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on visiting your dream destination. Airline and hotel loyalty programs can help make family travel more affordable. Perks like free room upgrades can make travel more enjoyable. 

However, not all loyalty programs are created equally. It’s important to pay attention to which programs offer the most bang for your buck and which programs best fit your family’s specific travel goals. 

Once you identify the best travel loyalty programs for your family, you can start earning points, miles, and elite status. The more loyal you are to certain brands, the more benefits you get, so it’s worth becoming a repeat customer with your favorite hotel brands and airlines. Even if you don’t travel a lot, getting a co-branded credit card with your favorite hotel or airline can help you gain status more quickly and add up to big savings. 

Benefits of Travel Loyalty Programs for Families

Once you join a loyalty program, you can start saving money on flights, accommodations, and other travel expenses. Many loyalty programs come with perks, like complimentary room upgrades, free breakfast, or even free airline tickets and hotel stays. Many programs offer flexibility in booking across their brands. For example, Hilton Honors is used in Hilton Hotels across various price points, from the family-friendly Embassy Suites to higher-end Waldorf Astoria hotels. Points aren’t limited to standard travel, either. Many loyalty programs allow you to book all-inclusive resorts and first-class tickets with points and miles. 

What to Look for in Family-Friendly Travel Loyalty Programs

Families will get the most value from travel loyalty programs if they select programs that align with their needs and budget. There is no sense in joining luxury hotel loyalty programs like Ritz Carlton’s if their hotels are out of your budget. 

Moreover, even if you can afford to stay in five-star hotels, they still might not be the best fit if they don’t have locations in family-friendly destinations and don’t offer family-friendly perks. Similarly, you may be tempted to work towards gaining status on an airline with a great reputation, but even the best airline loyalty program isn’t useful if the airline doesn’t fly out of your local airport. 

Top Hotel Loyalty Programs for Families

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors, Hilton’s loyalty program, is one of the best family-friendly loyalty programs around. There are four different levels in the Hilton Honors program, a standard membership, silver, gold, and diamond. All members get access to member-only discounts, free Wi-Fi, the ability to choose your room, a digital key, remote check-in, and waived resort fees on award bookings. Among other benefits, silver status comes with a free fifth night. Gold status comes with a food and beverage credit or free breakfast, and diamond status comes with exclusive lounge access that normally includes lots of kid-friendly snacks.

Earning opportunities for families

Families can earn rewards in a variety of ways, including using co-branded Hilton credit cards and staying at Hilton hotels. Hilton also offers the option to earn points through member-only promotions by linking your Lyft account to your Hilton Honors account and through dining out. Members can also buy points. 

Family-centric perks and benefits

Hilton Honors has a number of features that are great for families. Hilton has 22 brands of hotels operating in more than 170 countries, ranging from budget to luxury. In total, Hilton Honors awards can be earned and redeemed at over 7,000 properties worldwide. Hilton also offers confirmed connecting rooms, so families don’t need to worry when booking adjoining rooms for their children or grandparents. Mobile check-in also makes arrival easier for families who can skip the line. 

Some family favorites in the Hilton include their all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, such as the Hilton Cancun, the all-suite Embassy Suites,  and Canopy by Hilton hotels that have fun, local touches. 

Redemption options and flexibility

The most popular way to redeem Hilton Honors points is for free hotel or resort nights. However, families can also transfer points to partner airlines, redeem points for rental cars, use points for Lyft rides, and pay for Amazon and other online purchases with points. Hilton Honors members can also redeem points for VIP access to concerts, dining, sporting events, and more.

World of Hyatt

World of Hyatt has five levels: Member, Discoverist, Explorist, Globalist, and Lifetime Globalist. Each level comes with additional perks. All members can use points for free nights, get discounted rates, and have resort fees waived on award bookings. World of Hyatt members and guests have access to amenities that complement their well-being, including complimentary access to Headspace’s premium colored noise collection and in-room access to MasterClass, which provides access to curated content libraries of a variety of classes. Discoverists and up get free premium Wi-Fi, late checkout, and the opportunity to get free upgrades if available. Explorists get guaranteed rooms, and Disoverists get free breakfast or lounge access, along with other benefits. 

Earning opportunities for families

Families can earn World of Hyatt Points by staying at Hyatt hotels or using a co-branded World of Hyatt credit card. World of Hyatt members can also earn points by renting cars through Avis. Buying points is another option. 

Another way World of Hyatt members can earn points is by traveling with Lindblad Expeditions. Nights spent on a Lindblad cruise count towards earning higher status levels with Hyatt. 

Family-centric perks and benefits

For families who enjoy traveling to all-inclusives, being able to use World of Hyatt points at the very popular Hyatt Ziva resorts is a big draw. This is especially true since pricey resort fees are waived when a stay is booked with points. Other Hyatt hotels throughout the world also offer family-friendly attractions. The Water Slides and Lazy River at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa and the Creative Oyster’s Kid’s Night at Wild Dunes Resort, part of the Destination by Hyatt, are other family-friendly properties in the Hyatt portfolio. 

Hyatt and American Airlines have partnered to give reciprocal status to loyalty club members with elite status. This makes World of Hyatt an attractive option to families who are frequent travelers and want perks like free checked bags. 

Redemption options and flexibility

World of Hyatt Members can redeem points at over 1,300 Hyatt properties worldwide. The Hyatt family includes hotels that cater to a variety of needs, from the upscale Grand Hyatt, Park Hyatt, and Hyatt Ziva All-Inclusive properties. 

Another great feature of World of Hyatt is that families can start redeeming points for free nights starting at just 5,000 points, which is low compared to some other loyalty programs. Loyalty points can be earned and used at over 1,000 hotels in more than 70 countries. World of Hyatt members can also spend points on room upgrades, dining, and spa services.

Points can also be redeemed for more than 500+ World of Hyatt FIND experiences, including family-friendly experiences like the Kennedy Space Center Admission + Chat with Astronaut, a Branson Ferris Wheel Ticket, and a Clearwater Beach with Transportation and Aquarium.

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Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Families

Many travel credit cards that come with substantial sign-up bonuses have no or very low annual fees. That means starting to earn points is virtually risk-free as long as you pay off your balance each month. Plus, if you find you don’t use your points and miles for travel, most programs allow you to use your points for other purposes, such as online purchases through their shopping portals. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards for families: 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a staple for many families who like to travel. Dollars spent using this workhorse credit card on everyday purchases is an easy way to earn Chase’s versatile Ultimate Reward (UR) points that can be transferred to a large number of hotel and airline partners.

Earning opportunities for families

The Chase Sapphire Preferred usually offers a substantial sign-up bonus after you charge a minimum amount in the first three months of opening an account. You may also be able to get higher-than-advertised sign-up bonuses by opening a Sapphire card at a Chase branch. Then, rack up reward points by making everyday purchases.

Family-centric perks and benefits

When traveling with kids, anything can go wrong. One fantastic family-friendly benefit of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is that it includes a generous travel insurance policy for trips charged to the card. Additionally, cardholders are not charged foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad. Those can add up fast and saving on fees leaves more in your budget for fun.

Chase Sapphire Preferred redemption options and flexibility

UR points are some of the most flexible points around. Cardholders can get the most value from UR points by transferring them to a variety of partner airlines or hotels. Or, travelers can redeem their points for travel with even more airlines and hotels on Chase’s travel portal. Tours and experiences can also be booked through Chase’s travel portal with points. For those who like to shop, it’s possible to redeem points for goods through online shopping. It’s up to you if you shop for your children or yourself!

Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy has a variety of co-branded credit cards that allow cardholders to rack up points and free nights quickly. All Bonvoy members get access to member-only rates, mobile check-in, free in-room Wi-Fi, room upgrades, and more. The Bonvoy program has five elite status tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium Elite, and Ambassador. Bonvoy members can earn perks like free breakfast and late checkout, both of which are great when traveling with kids. 

Earning opportunities for families

Depending on the card selected, Marriott Bonvoy cardholders get free hotel nights or additional Bonvoy points after charging a minimum amount to the card. Cardholders also earn Bonvoy points through regular spending and renting cars through Hertz. Bonvoy members can also earn one credit towards elite status for each night they stay at most Marriott hotels.

Depending on the card-specific Marriott credit card selected, cardholders can also earn credits towards elite status, additional free nights, and access complimentary premium Wi-Fi when staying at a Marriott hotel.

Family-centric perks and benefits

The Marriott family includes a huge variety of hotels. Some of the most family-friendly are SpringHill Suites, which are perfectly set up for families and include free breakfast. The JW Marriott Grande Lakes and JW Marriott Bonnet Creek are both Orlando hotel alternatives to Disney World Resort hotels with fun family suites and a variety of family-friendly amenities. The JW Marriott Bonnet Creek also has a kids club, climbing wall, and family-friendly activities galore. 

For families on a budget, the Marriott Bonvoy program offers members a free night every fifth night. The way this works is that when families book five consecutive reward nights, they get the lowest-priced night for zero points.

In addition to gaining access to family-friendly hotels, Marriott Bonvoy cardholders also have access to the Visa Signature Concierge Service. The Concierge can help parents create the perfect trip by getting them tickets to sports and entertainment events and making dinner reservations at family-friendly restaurants. 

The card also comes with extensive travel insurance, which can be vital to families when something goes wrong. When trips are charged to the Marriott Bonvoy card, cardholders automatically get baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and trip delay protection. 

Marriot Bonvoy Credit Card redemption options and flexibility

Families can redeem points earned with their Bonvoy credit card at any of the 30 hotel brands in Marriott’s portfolio, totaling over 10,000 properties worldwide. That means Bonvoy points can be redeemed for hotel rooms for nearly any type of trip imaginable. 

For even greater flexibility, cardholders can convert Bonvoy points to miles on one of Marriott’s partner airlines. Bonvoy points can also be used to book tours or to bid on unique experiences through Marriott Bonvoy Moments

best airline travel programs for families mom and daughter
Source: @hikarimurakami

The Best Airline Loyalty Programs for Families

Southwest Companion Pass

One of the best airline perks around is the Southwest companion pass. Once a traveler qualifies for a companion pass, they can get a free ticket for a companion throughout the year. Anyone who qualifies for the companion pass chooses one traveler as their companion for the year. Once selected, that person can travel on the same flight free of charge on an unlimited number of flights throughout the year.

Each adult in a family can earn a companion pass. For example, a mom can name her daughter as her companion for the year, while her partner can name their son as his companion for the year. Using this program strategically, a family of four could fly for the price of two all year long. Companions still need to pay taxes, but this is minimal compared to the cost of a full-price ticket. 

Earning opportunities for families

There are various ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. For most families, the fastest way to earn the pass is by using one of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards credit cards. New cardholders can earn the companion pass by earning a certain number of points, which may fluctuate. Most cardholders earn the companion pass through a combination of the card’s sign-up bonus and regular spending on the card. 

Another way to earn the companion pass is through travel. Flying 100 one-way flights and booking hotels and rental cars with a Southwest partner is another way to earn the companion pass. 

Family-centric perks and benefits

Free airline tickets for a year is a tremendous benefit for families traveling on a budget. Southwest allows families with children under 6 to board early, so they should be able to sit together. 

Redemption options and flexibility

A huge benefit of flying Southwest is that the airline never charges fees for changing flights. Plans can change quickly when kids are involved, so this is a great perk of flying the airline. And if a family finds themselves with more points than they can use for flights, they can redeem points for merchandise, hotel stays, gift cards, and more.

Alaska Airlines

Although the airline’s name may be misleading, Alaska Airlines flies to 100+ U.S. domestic and six international destinations. Alaska Airlines’ loyalty program is called the Mileage Plan. Points earned through the Mileage Plan program can be used for flights to over 1,000 destinations worldwide through the Oneworld alliance. Although not as generous as Southwest Airlines’ companion pass, some Mileage Plan members qualify for companion fares at deeply discounted rates.

Earning opportunities for families

Families can earn points on Alaska Airlines through flying. If you aren’t a frequent flier, opening a co-branded Alaska Airlines credit card is a good way to rack up points more quickly. Families can earn additional points by booking hotels, cruises, rental cars, and more with Alaska Airlines’s partners. 

Family-centric perks and benefits

Alaska Airlines has fun, themed aircraft, including some adorned with Mickey Mouse. While it’s hard to plan for a specific airplane, flying on a specially decorated aircraft is a nice treat for children. Alaska Airlines also offers complimentary coloring books on many flights and often has additional kid-friendly activity options, such as Disney-themed picnic packs, available for purchase. The airline also has extensive inflight entertainment, including plenty of kid-friendly shows.

This airline also guarantees that families with children under 13 can sit together at no extra charge. That’s a rarity with U.S. airlines. Another unique aspect of Alaska Airlines’ loyalty program is that they offer “maternity leave” for your points. The airline’s “Elite Leave” program preserves elite status for an additional year when a member becomes pregnant or gives birth.

Those who hold a co-branded Alaska Airlines credit card get additional family-friendly perks like a free checked bag, discounts on in-flight purchases, and priority boarding.

Perhaps the most family-friendly benefit of holding an Alaska Airlines credit card and becoming a Mileage Plan member is the ability to qualify for companion fares. These fares are typically under $100 before taxes. This adds up to big savings for families.

Redemption options and flexibility

Mileage Plan members can book flights with as little as 4,500 points. Additionally, Alaska Airlines points can be redeemed with over 20 partners worldwide for flights, hotels, experiences, and more.

For even more flexibility, Alaska Airlines does not penalize families for changing or canceling flights. If a flight is booked with points, any taxes paid with cash are refunded. Moreover, Alaska Airlines does not have any blackout dates for using points for flights on Alaska Airlines.

Other Airline Travel Reward Programs

Of course, the best airline loyalty programs are largely dependent on your nearest airport. Earning the Southwest Companion pass, as fantastic as the program seems, won’t be useful to you if the closest airport Southwest flies out of is eight hours away. So, if you live near another airline hub, like Delta or American Airlines, you might want to consider Delta SkyMiles or the American Airlines Aadvantage program for rewards you’ll be more likely to use.

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Tips for Maximizing Family Benefits in Travel Loyalty Programs

Again, even the best travel loyalty program won’t help your family if you can’t take advantage of its benefits. Here are some ways to maximize your family’s travel perks:

Strategically accumulating points or miles

Combining different ways of earning points and miles is the easiest way to earn free travel and the perks that come along with elite status. For example, using a co-branded credit card combined with flights or hotel stays can fast–track you to free trips and free breakfasts.

Taking advantage of family-friendly promotions

Another way to strategically earn points is to look for promotions that hotels and airlines run throughout the year. Credit card companies regularly offer elevated sign-up bonuses that might mean you can earn more free nights or airline miles after using a new credit card.

If you love your loyalty program, you may also be able to earn more points and miles by referring family and friends, particularly for credit cards.

Utilizing program partnerships for added benefits

For families who want to earn even more points and miles, pay attention to the fine print in your loyalty program. Dig deep into which partners can help you rack up free travel more quickly. For example, you can combine Chase’s UR miles with United Miles to book even more flights.

Many travel loyalty programs also allow you to rack up points by making purchases through their online shopping portals.

Getting started with travel loyalty programs for your family

With so many fantastic travel loyalty programs for families, there is something for everyone. Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Chase, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines have some of the best travel loyalty programs around and are worth a look for all families. And enrolling in most loyalty programs is completely free. 

However, this is just a starting point. There are plenty of other programs that might make sense for your family. And while entering the loyalty programs and points-and-miles game may seem overwhelming, it’s possible to start slow and earn points simply by traveling the way you normally do. Then, start paying attention to whether you can concentrate on flying and hotel stays with the same company. Other families may find that it makes sense to open a travel credit card and start earning points with their everyday spending. 

Other families look for every possible way to earn travel benefits by opening multiple credit cards or extensively researching travel partners. Both approaches, or something in between, make sense for different families. 

Final thoughts on the long-term value of loyalty programs for family travel

Whether your goal is to earn a free trip to an all-inclusive resort, rack up enough points for your entire family to fly first class, travel for less, or you just want free breakfast, loyalty programs can help you get there. By strategically using loyalty programs, you can travel more and travel better.

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