I get questions regularly about what type of seating arrangement is most comfortable and practical for a traveling family with a child under two who does not yet require their own seat.  I received this question again this week and thought I would share the situation and my suggestions in case they are helpful for anyone else thinking through a similar situation.  Of course, I’m most interested in hearing what your family would do – and why!

The family who emailed me recently had their first baby and plan to fly St. Louis – Los Angeles – Kauai on American Airlines when the child is six months old.  They have a seven figure balance of American Airlines miles and are looking for the best seating arrangement for the three of them.  Miles are not a problem, but instead they are simply looking for the “best” solution for their new family of three.  They were picking between getting each person their own first class seat, getting two first class seats and holding the infant, getting three economy plus seats, or getting two economy plus seats and holding the baby.

There are pros and cons to all four situations, many of which may be obvious, but that I’ll go through them just for fun.  Depending on their travel dates and award availability issues they are looking at from 35,000 – 45,000 AA miles round trip for each confirmed seat to travel in economy or 75,000 AA miles for each confirmed seat for first class in a two cabin plane (assuming MileSAAver availability).  For the purposes of this exercise I will assume the economy tickets were 45,000 miles each and the first class seats were 75,000 miles each.

Three first class seats:

  • Everyone has the “roomiest” seat possible
  • Meal service
  • More attention from the flight attendants
  • Less competition for the lavatory
  • Highest number of miles required
  • Baby won’t get anything out of the roomier seat
  • Seating assignment will be 2-2 so only one parent will be within arm’s reach of the child
  • 225,000 miles

Two first class seats + lap infant:

  • Roomy seats for the adult + infant
  • Meal service
  • More attention from the flight attendants
  • Less competition for the lavatory
  • Two parents can sit right next to each other and take turns holding the infant
  • Fewer miles than having a seat for all three in first
  • Someone will have to hold the child the entire 10 hours of travel
  • No car seat to securely strap the child in
  • 150,000 miles

Three economy seats (with extra legroom):

  • Seats aren’t as big as first, but decent legroom
  • No complimentary meal service
  • Less attention from flight attendants than in first
  • More bathroom competition for diaper changes
  • All three are right next to each other within arms reach and with no “strangers” seated with them
  • Child can be firmly strapped in the car seat or held when desired
  • Under seat space for all three seats for baby supplies
  • 135,000 miles

Two economy seats with extra legroom + lap infant:

  • Lowest number of miles required
  • Have to hold the child for 10 hours of travel
  • Likely a “stranger” next to one of you
  • Under seat space only under two seats for all the gear
  • No car seat to securely strap the child in
  • Seats aren’t as big as first, but good legroom
  • No complimentary meal service
  • Less attention from flight attendants than in first
  • More bathroom competition for diaper changes
  • 90,000 miles

Coming to a recommendation:

Since they have a healthy mileage balance and don’t mind spending the miles I would immediately rule out getting just two economy seats as it is clearly the least comfortable of all four scenarios.  I would next rule out getting three first class seats as it just seems unnecessarily expensive on miles without having a good return for what you get.  If the seats were lie-flat seats, or the infant was a toddler who was less happy to sit still, or their family had an even number of people in it, then my recommendation here might have been different, but this just didn’t seem like the best option to me personally.

Ultimately I think the decision in this case comes down to two first class seats or three economy seats.  I think that is actually a decision that lots of new traveling miles and points parents have to make.  I know, I know, #firstclassproblems.  Those two scenarios are similarly priced in terms of miles with the slight edge going to three economy seats at being at least 15,000 miles cheaper.  I think which option is best can obviously only be made by the parents who know their own child, their own preferences, and their own risk tolerances of having or not having a car seat in use on the flight.  I think some snuggley six-month-olds who are being cared for by parents (who like to take turns holding the little one for hours at a time) may be most comfortable with two first class seats.

However, I know that my family would have done best with three economy seats, and ultimately that was my recommendation.  Having the whole family together in one row is very helpful for the first big trip with a little one.  Having the kiddo securely strapped into their own car seat is helpful in terms of having your hands free, but also gives peace of mind if you hit a patch of nasty turbulence.  The under seat storage for three seats is also helpful for the baby toys, diaper bag, emergency changes of clothes, etc.  Though of course some bulkhead seats do not have any under seat storage, so think about that trade-off before selecting the bulkhead.

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My recommendation was to get three economy seats together with extra legroom, and ultimately that is what the family did.  I just didn’t see being in that particular first class cabin with a six-month-old to be worth the additional miles since the layout puts you all further apart from each other.  First class wouldn’t have been a bad choice, but it wasn’t my first choice in this scenario.

I’m curious as to what you would have done in this situation and why?

 

 

Posted by Mommy Points | 2 Comments

Let’s say that you had a specific rewards earning credit card a couple of years ago that you cancelled because you no longer flew that particular airline or your spending patterns simply didn’t align with what that card hard to offer anymore, or whatever.  Fast forward to a couple of years later and your spending patterns or type of points you desire changes again and the card you cancelled a couple years ago now looks useful one more time.  The question becomes can you get the card again?  If you are a points junkie the second question is probably can you get the sign-up bonus again?

Like with most things in life, it depends.  Assuming you have good credit, you can usually get the card again, but whether or not you get the sign-up bonus can be more variable.  Some banks give you the sign-up bonus the second time more freely than others (ahem Bank of America).  Some banks now have language on certain offers indicating that you can only get the sign-up bonus once for the card (cough, Amex personal cards).  However more and more I have been seeing clearer terms when it comes to obtaining Chase credit cards.  This is great so you can know what to expect if you decide to get a credit card that you have had in the past.

I checked the terms of several different personal and business Chase credit cards and the terms often stated that:

This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.

Of course you need to check the terms of each offer individually before applying as the terms could vary, but this language is relatively new to Chase offers.  I very much appreciate that the language in the terms indicates that after 24 months of having the card you could get the new cardmember bonus again if you decide the card again meets your needs.  Life just isn’t predictable enough with moves, mergers, award chart changes, etc. to be able to know if a certain rewards earning card is perfect (or wrong) for you forever, so being able to be treated as a new cardmember after 24 months gets a big thumbs up from me.

Have you noticed this type of language on some offer terms recently?

Posted by Mommy Points | 13 Comments

Given our pretty easy driving proximity to the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa we get a chance to visit the property at least 1-2 times per year.   Thanks to my stash of points we get to do it, even during peak season, without breaking the bank.  Hyatt Resorts in general are fantastic, and this one specifically has a very special spot in my points loving heart.  I’ve written about this resort several times (see below), and even did a video on the property last summer, so I won’t do a full-on review this time as not much has changed (and that’s a good thing).

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa (2012)

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa (2013)

However I don’t want to skip writing about it completely since my love for the resort grows and changes as my own daughter grows from an infant to a toddler to a full fledged kid.  To mark this visit I want to share the top five reasons I love Hyatt Lost Pines from the point of view of a mom of a 4 1/2 year old.

1.  Kids put down the electronics and play outside

My most recent visit to the resort was with my 4 1/2 year old daughter and her 6 1/2 year old (second) cousin.  For better or worse they know how to work iPads and iPhones better than most adults.  Of course this reality isn’t unique to them as kids growing up these days really are the digital generation and have had iPads literally attached to their strollers since birth.  Seriously.  What I love about this resort is that kids put down the electronics and just play.  They play chase.  They play catch.  They swim.  They lay on the grass and daydream.  They just act like kids and it is beautiful.  I don’t know what it is about this place that brings out the ‘kid’ in the kids, but it just works and it is priceless.

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Just tonight I saw what looked to be a teenage football player start up a game of touch football with anyone within ear shot.  The participants ranged from other teenagers down to 5 year old boys who asked if they could play too.  In regular life these kids probably would have never interacted, but here on the large open green grass they talk and play with each other without any organized activity requiring them to do so.

I’ve been here probably a dozen times and I have seen this sort of stuff happen on every single visit.  This shouldn’t be a special thing to watch as this should be the norm for kids, but the reality is that it is unique in the days of organized play dates, helicopter parents, and screen time outweighing play time.  And trust me, I’m just as guilty as the next from time to time with all of those things so no judgement here.

2.  They have reasonable water slide rules

If you don’t have young kids this one won’t make any sense, but as the mom of a kid who visits lots of resorts I have had the chance to experience reasonable and unreasonable water slide rules.  I know resorts have to balance liability with keeping kids safely entertained, but many seem to err on the slide of uber strict water slide rules.  What is unique here is that they let kids 42 inches and up go down the slide by themselves, but they let the younger kids still go down with their parents.  I wish all resorts did this as it is the perfect solution for kids who want to go down the water slide but want (or need) a little more support than just being sent down by themselves.

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C going down the slide with dad last year

My daughter went down the slide with an adult once or twice on this trip and then was ready to do it by herself.  At some resorts she has gone down by herself before she was really ready due to the “no adults with kids” rules and gotten scared.  This rule also allows kids who are on the shorter end of the spectrum still participate in the water slide fun instead of getting left on the sidelines thanks to being an inch or two too short.

3.  The beach and lazy river are made for the short crew

As the mom of a four year old who can “kind of swim”, but isn’t yet a true swimmer, I very much appreciate that the pool has a zero entry beach area that she can safely walk around in without me having to have a hand on her at all times.  The lazy river is also shallow enough in most parts that she can hop along and keep her head above water just fine.  She was able to do that even when she was three years old last summer, so I appreciate that the water features are actually designed with families in mind.  Don’t worry if you don’t have kids, there is an adult pool you can retreat to as well.

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Easily standing in the pool

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Perfect depth for chilling

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4.  You don’t get nickel and dimed

Prices for the resort can be expensive during peak seasons (north of $350 a night for standard rooms on some nights), though if you pick an off-peak day, or simply use points, the prices are not that bad.  I have seen weekdays in the popular summer season for $150 a night (even less on some nights) and if you use points it is just a Category 5 Hyatt that goes for 20,000 points per night or 10,000 points + $125 on cash and points stays.   There is also a $26 resort fee that covers internet, self parking, golf bag storage, and more.

The resort fee stinks, but here’s why I don’t hate it that much…you aren’t nickle and dimed in addition to the resort fee.  There is no extra fee for self parking, most of the many daily activities, the s’mores in the evening, the water slide, the popcorn with the outdoor movie, etc.  Of course some things like massages at the spa or Camp Hyatt cost extra, but the majority of kid friendly offerings at the resort can be enjoyed without having to pull out your wallet at every turn.  It makes the whole experience so much more relaxed when you are able to say yes to the s’mores or the craft activity of the day without having to factor in the extra cost.

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Enjoy evening s’mores without paying extra

 5.  It’s not that hot thanks to all the shade

In case you aren’t familiar, summers in Texas are generally very hot.  Here in Central Texas in late July it is close to 100 degrees, which is obviously sweltering.  This type of heat can put a damper on outdoor fun in many situations, but here at Hyatt Lost Pines it actually isn’t that bad.  Part of that is due to the emphasis on water activities such as the lazy river, but a huge factor that the resort feel much cooler is that there is shade everywhere.

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This shouldn’t be a huge surprise thanks to the name “Lost Pines”, but it is so important that it easily makes my short list of favorite things about the resort.  If it were not for the shade this resort simply wouldn’t be very enjoyable during the very months of the year that families want to visit the most.

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Shade while floating the lazy river

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Man-made shade picks up where trees leave off

Of course there are lots of other reasons I love Lost Pines including very nice staff, the updated rooms, visiting Regency Club for snacks, lots of suites for upgrading, free rollaway beds, being able to use points to stay here, and more.  However, I said top five reasons, so I won’t get into all those details this time.

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Evening snacks in Regency Club

Evening snacks in Regency Club

I’d love to hear about which family friendly resort you love and why!

Posted by Mommy Points | 19 Comments

For the last several months I have successfully been paying some of our recurring monthly bills via Evolve Money with gift cards that I purchased using rewards earning credit cards.  I usually buy these gift cards at office supply stores, grocery stores, or even gas stations.  I do this mainly to hit minimum spending requirements on cards that would otherwise be tough for me to hit, though also to occasionally… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 17 Comments

The Marriott Rewards program is very popular, especially to those outside of the core miles and points community I interact with online, day in and day out.  I am always blown away by how many awards their loyalty program receives each year at the Freddie Awards and this loyalty/popularity is backed up by how many business and leisure travelers I talk to in everyday life who almost always bring up… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 11 Comments

The new round of IHG Rewards Point Breaks hotels is now bookable!  As usual, the Point Breaks rooms are available for 5,000 IHG Reward points per night and rooms are now available bookings (and stays) from July 28- September 30th.  Even though IHG has introduced some limits on how many Point Breaks reservations folks can book to help with limited inventory, you should still grab the nights you want ASAP before… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 6 Comments

During a recent stay in Washington DC for the 4th of July we split up our stay between two different hotels – the W Washington DC that is located virtually across the street from the White House, and the Grand Hyatt Washington that was located just a couple blocks away.  We split our stay in part to stretch points/dollars and in part because while we wanted the W for its… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 13 Comments

Chase Ultimate Reward points are one of my favorite types of points because they are transferable to hotel and airline partners including United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG Rewards, and more.  You earn points by obtaining and using Ultimate Rewards earning cards and then the points sit safely in your Ultimate Reward account until you want to use them.  You can then transfer them 1:1 to any… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 5 Comments

With IHG Rewards you can unofficially buy points for .7 cents each any time you want via a little bit of ‘work’ (as described here), however if you are starting from zero that method doesn’t work.  It also is a method that not all people are 100% comfortable with, so I think it is worth mentioning that right now you can purchase IHG points via a legit sale for almost… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 2 Comments

The preview list of IHG Point Breaks hotels is now available on the IHG Community Forum. The Point Breaks rooms will be available for 5,000 IHG Reward points per night for bookings (and stays) from July 28- September 30th.  This is just a preview list and the bookings do not go live until Monday of next week.  That is actually a good thing since popular hotels get snapped up relatively quickly… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 8 Comments

Hyatt has four all inclusive properties that you can currently make reservations at using cash or Hyatt Gold Passport points – the Hyatt Zilara Cancun (adults), the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos (families), the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Jamaica (adults), and the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall Jamaica (families).  The two Jamaica properties don’t open until November 2014, but the Los Cabos and Cancun properties have been open for a little while… Read the Rest.

Posted by Mommy Points | 17 Comments

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