The author in Nassau on a trip with his mom
I love traveling with my mom.
I know, I know, you say. This is just some cheesy Mother’s Day piece and everyone is talking about how much they love their mothers all over the internets right now.
Well, I’m not kidding.
A few years ago I was able to book two round-trip tickets to Nassau in the Bahamas for me and my moms for the whopping price of $6 + taxes and fees so that we could jointly celebrate our birthdays, which are four days apart in early November. I took a few days off of class, she took a few days off from work, and we escaped the freezing East Coast weather together to sit on a nice warm beach and drink cocktails.
I’ll always be grateful to have taken that trip with her.
I was able to book that trip to Nassau, just like I was able to see the Northern Lights for only $32.50, by using frequent flyer miles. Today I’m going to put forward a proposal for future Mother’s Days which you can adapt as either a mom, or someone with a mom, starting today. In this proposal, I’m going to talk some about frequent flyer miles. Even though mileage programs can get pretty complex, they’re worth learning about because they can (and will!) empower you to take a trip together as mom and offspring for next to no cash this time next year.
If anyone out there has questions about frequent flyer miles, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. A lot of Matador readers are knowledgeable about this style of travel. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have in the spirit of helping moms and their kids everywhere, and even if I can’t someone else will probably be able to help.
A radical proposal for Mother’s Day: Take a trip together using frequent flyer miles
Part I: Plan a plan.
Take some time for the rest of this week to think about where and when you’d like to travel together next year, and lay out a rough sketch. Do you want to travel to Yosemite together? Hawaii? Oman?
All are achievable, in theory. Pick somewhere fun!
Part II: Conduct joint research.
Commit to learning a little about frequent flyer miles together for the next month. You and your mom, your mom and you.
Read articles and case studies on how frequent flyer miles have worked for other people in the past. After all, if other people like me can travel for cheap and/or free from time to time with the right planning, you can too. I’ll include resources and suggested readings below to get you pointed in the right direction, and even include some specific opportunities you can apply for which are valid at the time of publication (Mother’s Day 2013).
This joint research also gives you the opportunity to spend more quality time together if you live near each other, talk on the phone more often, or make a Skype date to scheme your way into a cheap trip somewhere together, and the journey is the destination, right?
Part III: Apply for opportunities (rack ‘em up!).
You’ll often have to meet very specific requirements to qualify for mileage bonuses, and sometimes you’ll have to wait 4-8 weeks for your miles to arrive in your account. Sometimes you’ll have to call back two or three times and speak to multiple people at the airline mileage programs (always be polite) in order to get your miles, but it can really be worthwhile to put in the time, and you usually get a good crazy story or two out of chasing frequent flyer miles.
Again, think about it like an adventure and keep in mind that the process should be fun even when it’s frustrating.
Part IV: Book!
After all is said and done, book your tickets as far in advance as possible. Ideally, you should be trying to book your award tickets (tickets booked with frequent flyer miles) about 6-9 months in advance.
Try the internet. Try calling the hotline. Try calling the hotline again and speak to a different agent on the phone. Try using different routes. All of these things will matter and you have to be persistent. Don’t give up if one agent tells you no award seats are available — a different agent may be able to find something for you.
When you successfully book your awards tickets for the next Mother’s Day, please report back here and share your story with everyone in the comments!
Background on frequent flyer miles
Historically, there have been all sorts of bizarre ways to accumulate frequent flyer miles. Everything from Lasik to the infamous pudding guy’s pudding trick. Depending on how much time you and your moms want to devote to seeking out frequent flyer miles, you’ll be able to rack up enough miles for a free domestic flight (25,000 miles in most cases), to a trip over to Europe (40,000-60,000 miles in many cases).
The largest wins are almost always in credit card signup bonuses. If you’re comfortable signing up for new credit cards and can meet the spending requirements (often these bonuses require you spend a certain amount of money within a certain period of time), you’ll be able to take care of this trip thing with almost no problem.
Generally speaking, if your credit score is over 700 you’re safe to apply for these cards without affecting your score, but be sure you’re in a position to apply for a credit card before you do so.
Important note: Make sure you read all of the fine print, since specific offers change constantly.
Frequent flyer miles (big opportunities)
- AMEX 75,000 Miles Sign Up Bonus with $5,000 spend1
- Chase Ink Bold 50,000 Miles Sign Up Bonus with $5,000 spend
- AMEX SPG 25,000 Miles Sign Up Bonus with $5,000 spend
1This particular 75,000 bonus will probably be taken down really quickly.
CardsforTravel.com maintains a great list of up-to-date offers on credit card signup bonuses, so if you’re reading this and one of the offers I mentioned above is already gone, you can check out what offers are current there.
Frequent flyer miles (small / medium opportunities)
- Miles for flowers for Mother’s Day (hint hint!)
- Miles for opening an account with Fidelity
- Switch your energy bill to Energy Plus
(mixed reviews, proceed at your own risk)
These are just a few specific examples of frequent flyer opportunities where you can rack up the miles you need to take a free (or cheap) trip for Mother’s Day next year. Monitor the forums and sites I mentioned up above, because new offers come out nearly every week. With a little effort and some extra reading, you’ll be well on your way.
If you don’t want to dive into the deep and highly specific world of frequent flyer miles, you can still plan on taking a trip together with your mom this time next year. As I wrote when describing useful tools for nomadic freelancers, InsanelyCheapFlights.com and Kayak.com are the two places I’m usually successful finding cheap airfares.
If you are a family of means, you could also look into the NetJets program or acquiring a Phoenix 1000 personal luxury submarine. (Though the subs take 3 years to build and will set you back around $78m, so plan that one for a future Mother’s Day well down the road, and take some sweet pictures of the squid and fishes for me!)
If you each put aside a dollar a day for the rest of the year, you’ll have enough to get tickets from New York to San Francisco, Taipei to Kuala Lumpur, or Miami to Toronto, and you won’t have to apply for any credit cards, get any laser eye surgery, or change your electricity provider.
Moms out there — today is about you. Want to start this conversation with your loving children? Just forward this article to them to get the ball rolling (no pressure, loving children!)
To my travel savvy youth brethren and sisteren, you do the same! If you think you and your moms could swing a trip together of some sort for the next Mother’s Day, and especially if one of you has always wanted to learn more about frequent flyer miles anyway, this is the perfect excuse. Pass this article on to your madre, your mama-san, your 母親, and brainstorm it together.
You don’t have to take a big exotic international trip — it could be something as simple as flying out to Colorado to go hiking together. However, if you put your minds to it and are comfortable with a little risk, there’s a high chance you will be able to take that big exotic international trip, for cheap.
What better way to let your mom know how much you appreciate her?
A personal note to my own mother
What do you think here? You up for a trip together somewhere around this time next year? Maybe somewhere cold this time to mix it up?