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Cash + Miles: A Way to Save Money on Your Family Vacation

Using Cash and Miles as a way to save money on your family vacation #travel #budget #tip

Have you ever noticed how expensive airline tickets can be in the summer time? I’m always amazed that a route I’ve bought for $225-$250 in the fall, winter, or spring, suddenly becomes $300-$350 in the summer months. For an average family of four, that adds $300-$400 to your vacation budget. However, there is a way to keep a little more cash in your pocket when buying airline tickets. It’s a cash and miles program where you use some of your airline miles to buy down the cost of your ticket and pay the remainder. Alaska Airlines is one of the few airline operators with this program.

I recently used 10,000 miles to buy down the cost of a $302 ticket to $194. This saved us $108 per ticket. It might not be the perfect use of miles; most data I’ve read puts a value of about 1.4 cents on each mile which would equate to $140. However, we kept $432 in our pocket, which is a great way to save money on our vacation. We’ll also earn miles back for the flights themselves when we fly.


Alaska Air: Money & Miles Awards offer up to a 50% discount on most coach or First Class fares. Maximum discount is $100 (USD) off of the base fare for 10,000 Miles, or $200 (USD) off of the base fare for 20,000 Miles. You earn 100% of the miles flown (Mileage Plan™ Miles only) when traveling on this award. Miles earned count toward Elite Status.

Delta: only available to its Delta SkyMiles Credit Card members. Description of Delta’s Pay with Miles program.


Another opportunity to use the points + cash program as a way to save is at hotels. We’ve personally used the cash and points program with Holiday Inn Express (Priority Club). The two chains I know that offer a Points & Cash program are IHG (Priority Club) and Starwood.

Again, I’m not claiming that this is the best “value” for your miles/points. I’m only expressing that it’s a way to save money (cash) on your family vacation.

Are there any other airlines or hotels that I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments below.


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    • Thanks Kristen! I’m really excited that I’ll soon have more time to spend on my blog. I look forward to sharing all these thoughts I’ve got floating around in my head. :)

  1. Great idea for traveling on a budget! And of course always make sure that your kids have frequent flier accounts as soon as you have to start paying for their tickets at age 2, or earlier if you purchase a seat for them.

    • That’s a great tip. We didn’t do it originally and kicked ourselves once we realized how dumb it was to “waste” those miles!

  2. We use Capital One and we haven’t paid for tickets in a while. We do have a yearly fee but with as much as we fly to Texas to see my family it’s totally worth it!

    • We LOVE our Capital One card! We applied for it when they ran that miles match promo (up to 100,000 miles) a couple of years ago. My husband loves the ease of using the purchase eraser!

    • Hi Peta,
      We’re HiltonHonors members too and I just noticed they say they have a points and cash program too! I’ll be sure to add them to this article. It’s such a great way for traveling families to use points to save money since it can be hard to travel often enough to earn free nights.

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