7 ways to save serious cash on holiday travel

Want to fly home (or far away) for the holidays? According to AAA, the average price of an airline ticket to fly home around the holidays is close to $500 per person. Checked bags — or even boxes of presents — can set you back $60 or more per trip if you aren’t careful. And if you need to book a hotel room to stay near your family, you’re easily looking at an additional $100 per night, if not more, depending on location.
Quick math says a family of four is in for a few grand in travel costs before they can say, “Ho, Ho — no way that’s too expensive, we’re staying home!”
Fortunately, we have more than a few strategies for saving money every step of the way, whether you want to find affordable flights or save money on bag fees and airport food.
Know how to look for cheap airfare
Despite headlines that suggest otherwise, you can find affordable flights out there, even for holiday travel dates — but you have to know where to look or you won’t find them.
TPG has a complete guide to finding cheap airfare, so I won’t repeat all the tips, but I’ll remind you of my favorite tool: Google Flights, which has a search option that doesn’t require you to put in your destination. This tool is good as gold if your holiday travel plans are still up in the air.
You can put your city as the origin, your preferred travel dates and then just leave the destination blank and see the prices it finds to points near and far.

Or, if you already know exactly where you need to go to trim the tree and break the bread, plug in your origin and destination, and use Google Flights to quickly scan for the cheapest travel date. During the holidays, having even one or two days of flexibility can swing the price over $100 in either direction.
Go where others aren’t
If you live in New York City, flying to sunny Cancun or Aruba during Thanksgiving may be appealing, but it could cost you more than $600 per person. Keep those swimsuits packed away in the drawer, however, and you could save about $150 each if you cross the ocean to London, Amsterdam and Milan instead. And there are plenty of great reasons to visit London — and the rest of Europe — during the holidays beyond cheaper airfare. (Think: Christmas markets and thin crowds.)
Tropical getaways can cost a fortune during the holidays, but from Houston, approximately $200 per person during Thanksgiving week gets you round-trip flights to Las Vegas, which is a great starting point for exploring great outdoors destinations such as the Valley of Fire, Death Valley, Zion and the Grand Canyon if Vegas itself isn’t your thing. They’re all a reasonable drive from Las Vegas, and you don’t have to worry about stifling desert heat during November and December.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. (Photo by Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images)
And travelers based in Los Angeles can spend around $300 round-trip to really skip town and go to Beijing or Shanghai, while approximately $400 on airfare can be the key to spending your holiday hunting for the northern lights in Alaska.
No matter where you’re based, good deals can be found by heading to offseason locales and setting your sights somewhere far from the crowds. Instead of a beachy retreat in the Caribbean or Mexico, or a classic holiday ski week — especially during the December holidays and the New Year — consider a European city break or a national park.
Related: Best places to travel in November
Don’t rule out first class
Here’s the weird thing about the holiday travel season: Leisure travel picks up, but business travel grinds to a halt. Business travelers are usually the ones snapping up first class seats on someone else’s dime or with their frequent flyer perks. So, around the holidays, it’s not that unusual to find first class seats that don’t cost much more than economy would if you pay with cash — and with miles, those first class fares may be cheaper than economy. This was true on the search I ran on flights from Houston (IAH) to Los Angeles (LAX) the day before Thanksgiving.
That nonstop flight is available for 30,000 American Airlines miles in economy, but the exact same flight in first class is just 25,000 American Airlines miles.

And on Nov. 26, American’s economy seats from New York-JFK to Miami International (MIA) aren’t available using partner miles, such as British Airways Avios. But you can fly that same route in domestic first class/business class for just 16,500 Avios, plus $5.60 in taxes and fees.
Related: How to fly American’s best business class seats domestically

Be a points pro
I know, your favorite airline frequent flyer program or using points at a fixed cash value is your warm and comfy spot. But this is the holiday season, when otherwise sane people line-up at Walmart at midnight to save a few bucks on a gadget or gizmo. This is when we cut down live trees, cover them in tiny lights and fake snow, and watch them die slowly over the course of a month in our living rooms.
Mostly, however, it’s the time to up your points game if you want to save a lot of money on holiday travel.
Learn about transferring those Chase, Capital One, Citi and Amex points to partners as it can be the difference between saving all your holiday dreams or emptying out your wallet. Want to fly to snowy Aspen before New Year’s Eve? That’ll cost you 10,000 Avianca LifeMiles from Houston — or more than $300 per person in each direction if you prefer cash. So transfer your miles to Avianca from Capital One, Amex or Citi and book that United flight without blowing your budget.

If you just can’t shake the idea of ditching your turkey and cranberry sauce for sunny Aruba, JetBlue might be your answer, as you can book a one-way flight on the Monday of Thanksgiving week from New York-JFK to Aruba (AUA) for 9,100 points and just $15. If you don’t have JetBlue points right now, that’s not a problem. You can transfer them from Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards to fill your up TrueBlue account.
Eagle Beach in Aruba. (Photo by Marc Boettinger/Getty Images)
Leave early or stay late
Want to pay 32% more for your holiday flights? Go home on Sunday. If you want to avoid that Sunday surcharge, Hipmunk advises travelers to sneak out early or stay an extra couple of days. Whether you depart on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or fly out last-minute on Thanksgiving morning, your savings will be significant if you leave the Friday following Thanksgiving. Even Saturday departures are significantly less expensive than those turkey-stuffed travelers flying on Sunday. You can also save on the front-end of the trip if you head home for Thanksgiving on Monday or Tuesday instead of waiting for Wednesday.
While we’re talking about travel dates, yes, Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas and the New Year are very busy and often pricey. But those first couple weeks in December are slower than normal and there are outstanding deals to be had if you’re OK taking your holiday trip sandwiched between the most popular travel times. There are other timeless travel tips that still hold true, too. Among them? It’s almost always cheaper to fly on the holiday itself.
Last year, Expedia reported, travelers saved roughly $100 by flying on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve versus travelers who began their trip the Saturday before.
Photo by Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock
Ship it or pack it?
It can cost $30 to $50 for a standard checked bag on a domestic flight. Ideally, you have a way around those fees thanks to elite status or with the right credit card in your wallet, but if you don’t, that adds up. If your bag is overweight or oversized, it adds up even faster.
For example, a 50-pound bag would cost at least $90 to check with Spirit Airlines, as it’s overweight by a good 10 pounds. However, in the case of our test flight from Houston to New York, you could ship it via a UPS extra-large simple ship box (up to 50 pounds) for about $24. If you don’t want to shop around yourself, you can use the site LugLess to price out and purchase shipping for your stuff with services ranging from DIY dropoff to doorstep pick-up and delivery.
Shipping won’t aways be cheaper, but it can be. Even if shipping isn’t cheaper, it will usually be easier than lugging extra stuff and waiting around at baggage claim. Just be sure to allow some buffer delivery time around the holidays.
Fill up for free
It’s a known fact of life that airport food is expensive. Sure, you can pack your own snacks and sandwiches from home (and huge high fives if you do), but you may have enough going on around the holidays without slicing grapes and melons before heading to the airport. If you get to the airport hungry or thirsty, remember there are 28 restaurants across 21 U.S. airports where a Priority Pass lounge membership that comes with select credit cards may buy you and your friend(s) or family a free meal.
Whether you’re starting your journey or connecting at an airport such as Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Boston (BOS), Miami (MIA) or St. Louis (STL), pack a Priority Pass membership that didn’t come with an Amex card, and get around $28 per person worth of free food — usually at least one or two guests is allowed a $28 food allowance, too.
Eat at Landry’s in Houston’s Terminal C for free (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
If you do have The Platinum Card® from American Express, swipe your way into one of the Amex Centurion Lounges across the country in airports such as New York-LGA, Philadelphia (PHL) Miami (MIA), Las Vegas (LAS) or Houston (IAH) and visit the buffet or bar with up to two guests at no extra charge.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Bottom line
The holidays are a dichotomy of extremes — it can be a magical time to travel, relax and spend time with family, but it can also be stressful, harried and expensive. Our goal is to help you minimize the stress and expense that can come with holiday travel. Since the holidays fall around the time of year that winter weather picks up, be sure and book the trip with a card that conveys trip insurance (or buy your own) in case you hit delays or cancellations. You’ll also want to ensure that your PreCheck, Global Entry and/or CLEAR memberships are up to date so you can get through airport security faster.
Cheaper holiday travel is a very real thing, as long as you are strategic with when you fly, where you travel and what type of rewards you use to help you get there.
Featured image by Bernd Ducke/Courtesy Munich Airport

Travelers may have been exposed to measles at Disneyland — Here’s how to keep your family safe

On Oct. 16, a person with measles traveled to Disneyland while infectious, according to the Los Angeles Times. Anyone who was at Disneyland between 9:15 a.m. and 8:35 p.m. may have been exposed, and could develop measles within 21 days of exposure.
This is just the latest report of travelers being exposed to measles. By Oct. 3, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had recorded 1,250 individual cases of measles across 31 states this year — the highest number in the nation since 1992.
In May, a cruise ship in St. Lucia was quarantined after a case of measles was confirmed on board, and there have been multiple measles reports at major U.S. airports including Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (MDW) and Newark Liberty (EWR).
Outside of the U.S., measles has remained a common disease in some areas of the world. The CDC indicates that 10 million people around the world get measles annually, and about 110,000 of them die from the disease.
Given the increase in measles outbreaks, it’s important for travelers, and especially families, to know how to stay safe during a measles outbreak.
What you need to know about the measles
Measles is an airborne disease, spread from coughing and sneezing, and can linger up to two hours. Symptoms — which according to the CDC often manifest with seven to 14 days from exposure — typically include a high fever, cough, runny nose and red and watery eyes. The signature measles rash usually manifests itself three to five days after these symptoms surface. Those who have measles can spread the infection during a roughly eight-day window — four days before the rash appears, and another four days after.
(Photo by Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock)
Dr. Nava Yeganeh, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, pointed out that measles is more infectious than Ebola. “It has a really high degree of infectivity. ​One person​ with measles might infect ​up to 18 ​others, whereas ​one person with Ebola usually infects two to three individuals.”
She adds that families are “wise to be cautious” because the effects of the disease are much more scary for children.
“Measles is often much more devastating in younger children,” said Dr. Yeganeh. “Children with measles suffer more of the complications, ​such as pneumonia and encephalitis. If you get measles when you’re under the age of 1, there’s a 1-in-600 chance you might develop a fatal ​chronic brain inflammation disorder ​called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).”
Fortunately, said Dr. Jon Sutter of Nuheights Pediatrics in Clifton, New Jersey, the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is an effective way of avoiding the disease altogether and he strongly advises following established recommended schedules for vaccination. Two shots of the MMR vaccine are 97% effective against measles, and children who have those two doses enjoy lifetime protection against the disease.
Should babies who travel get the measles shot early?
If international travel is on the docket, the CDC recommends that infants 6 to 11 months of age should have one dose of measles vaccine (usually, children in the U.S. receive this first dose between 12 and 15 months of age).
Also, the CDC recommends that any infant vaccinated before 12 months of age should also be revaccinated on or after the first birthday with two doses, separated by at least 28 days. Dr. Yeganeh added that travel should wait until after the antibodies have had a chance to form, which typically takes two to three weeks.
Should preschoolers get the measles booster early?
Typically, children in the U.S. get the booster MMR shot between 4 and 6 years of age, but an accelerated schedule after the first birthday of two doses separated by at least 28 days is recommended by the CDC if you’re planning travel abroad, especially to countries on the CDC watchlist.
(Photo by NadyaEugene / Shutterstock)
The doctor’s prescription
Here’s the first piece of advice when trying to decide how to handle the measles vaccine for your family: Don’t panic.
Dr. Louis Morledge, a New York City-based internist with a specialty in travel medicine, advises families to first review their itinerary. “If they are going to areas that the CDC has labeled on the watchlist, then I would exhibit a lot of caution with regards to traveling with young children who are pre-vaccination age.”
(Image by Westend61 / Getty Images)
Morledge pointed out that families need not avoid travel altogether — or overreact to headlines.
“Yes, there are more cases in the U.S. since the year 2000, and the number will probably only increase,” Morledge said. “But at the same time, this is a very small percentage of people that are affected and, for the most part, they’ve been in select communities where there are a lot of non-vaccinators.”
Morledge does not see a reason to accelerate vaccination schedules if families are not traveling to areas with outbreaks as announced by the CDC.
He does add that, because the situation on the ground changes so often, families should consult their state health departments before proceeding.
Parents who are traveling with their kids should also check on their vaccinations, Morledge advised. “If an adult doesn’t know [his or her] vaccination status and they’re traveling with young children, they should find out about their immunity status with a blood test that gives this information.” Lost immunity would signal that the adult should get vaccinated, too.
Finally, said Yeganeh, don’t forget the importance of basic hygiene, including washing hands and exercising caution, especially in public places.
Bottom line
Yes, the U.S. is grappling with a measles outbreak at a level that outpaces recent years. The exact recommendations for families when it comes to accelerated measles vaccination schedules differs a bit depending on who you consult, but the doctors agree that a little common sense and following CDC- and doctor-prescribed strategies are key.
In the end, you need to determine what is right for your family. That may mean vaccinating early, avoiding certain countries or locations with current measles outbreaks until children are fully vaccinated, or doing nothing differently at all. You (and perhaps your physicians) need to make the decision you’re most comfortable with to keep your family as healthy as possible for the long haul.
Additional reporting by Melanie Lieberman.
Featured image by Hero Images/Getty Images

13 key things to know about Global Entry

As a frequent international traveler, I’ve come to depend on Global Entry, a system that allows me to clear U.S. customs in few minutes. While the process of becoming a member may seem cumbersome, it’s actually relatively painless, and the service continues to exceed my expectations, though renewing has become somewhat arduous in the last year. And though the program launched more than a decade ago, it continues to evolve and change.
Here are some important things you should know if you plan on getting Global Entry, including how you can get it for free, what to expect during the interview, how to use it, renew it and more.
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
1. Use credit cards to get Global Entry for free
All Global Entry applications must be submitted online through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, along with a $100 nonrefundable application fee. After you’ve received conditional approval, you’ll need to schedule and complete an interview.
But you may be able to get Global Entry for free (or cover the cost for friends and family members). Many credit cards — even some with annual fees under $100 — will reimburse you for the Global Entry application fee. Typically, this credit is available once every four years.
Here are our top picks for low-fee cards to use that offer a free Global Entry credit:

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year)
United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year)
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee)
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card ($95 annual fee)

The information for the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
And here are some of the premium cards that offer this benefit:

Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee)
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®  ($450 annual fee)
The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee, see rates & fees)
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express ($595 annual fee, see rates & fees)
Citi Prestige® Card ($495 annual fee)

Most of the credit cards that offer an application-fee waiver allow you to buy Global Entry for someone else. So, if you know someone with an unused credit on their Amex Platinum, for example, they can charge the fee for your Global Entry renewal to their card, and the purchase will be reimbursed. With some cards, you (or the person who gifted you Global Entry) may not see the credit on the statement for up to eight weeks.
Another way to get Global Entry for free is to have Platinum or Diamond Medallion status with Delta. As part of Choice Benefits, Delta Platinum Medallion members can receive a $100 voucher toward Global Entry enrollment. Delta Diamond Medallion members can receive two $100 vouchers and get to select another choice benefit. However, this is absolutely not the best way to get reimbursed for Global Entry. Instead, use one of the aforementioned credit cards to get it for free and then select a more valuable choice benefit.
2. Expect the following during your interview
Once you’ve paid for (and, hopefully, been reimbursed for) and completed your Global Entry application, the interview comes next. Depending on where you are, it may take a while to schedule an interview. The enrollment center at Los Angeles International (LAX), for example, has been closed until further notice (at least until Sept. 30) because so many CBP officers have been reassigned to the southern border. (Find alternative California interview centers here.)
When your interview day does arrive, be sure to arrive on time and bring:

A print-out of your letter of conditional approval
Valid passport(s) or permanent resident card
Evidence of residency (Think: a driver’s license with your current address, a mortgage statement or a recent utility bill)

If things are backed up and your scheduled interview time seems like forever away, you can always try getting a walk-in interview. Many TPG readers and team members have had success showing up for an interview without an appointment. Or, consider an interview upon arrival at a participating airport (more on that later).
Once at the facility, you may have to wait a bit if the CBP officers are busy. I waited about 15 to 20 minutes for my interview on a Friday morning at the Chicago Enrollment Center, but one former TPG editor didn’t have to wait at all for her interview at a center in Los Angeles.
During the 10- to 15-minute interview, expect to be questioned about your application, and why you want to join the Global Entry program. The officer I spoke with was both friendly and professional, and asked to see my conditional approval letter, passport and driver’s license. I was then asked to confirm some of the countries I had visited recently (as listed on my application) and whether I’d traveled to each for business or leisure. The final step was giving my fingerprints and getting my photo taken (so make sure to brush your hair on the day of your interview).
A few minutes later, the officer told me I was officially enrolled, and that I would receive my Global Entry card within seven to 10 days (which I did). I was then given my Known Traveler Number (KTN) so I could enter it in my frequent flyer profiles and be eligible for TSA PreCheck.
Don’t forget to activate your card in your account within 30 days of receiving it, though you don’t necessarily need it to pass through Global Entry kiosks at the airport, which I’ll explain below. Some CBP officers will provide actual kiosk training, but mine did not.
3. How to use the Global Entry kiosk
(Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Once you’ve been approved, using Global Entry is easy. You simply head toward the line (or lack thereof) that says Global Entry when you arrive at immigration.
Approach the kiosk, use your fingerprints to identify yourself — sometimes this takes a few tries — answer the questions (you’ll recognize them from the blue CBP entry form) and take your photo. Then, proceed to baggage claim with your printout. You actually don’t need your Global Entry card to go through Global Entry kiosks in the U.S., but you will need it when traveling through NEXUS or SENTRI points at the Canadian and Mexican borders when coming back into the U.S. for expedited entry (more on that later).
Parents should note that very young children who are Global Entry members may simply be too squirmy to scan reliable fingerprints. If they receive a crossed-out printout, bring that to show a CBP officer.
Passport scans and fingerprints may soon be a thing of the past, however, which leads us to the next point.
4. Facial recognition is the next phase
Many TPG staff members, readers and even The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, have been experiencing some changes to the Global Entry arrival process. Some reported not having to scan their fingerprints, while others weren’t required to scan their passport or answer any CBP questions. Some travelers experienced a combination of the three.
This is because Global Entry will soon be moving to facial recognition, according to a CBP representative, following a pilot program launched first in 2018 at Orlando International (MCO). The new process, which won’t require trusted travelers to answer questions or scan their fingerprints or passport, is being slowly rolled out and tested at additional U.S. airports now, including Miami (MIA), Houston (IAH) and New York-JFK. You just need to take your photo at the kiosk and hand the printed receipt to a Global Entry officer.
But don’t get too excited just yet. Many (if not most) passengers are still being asked to scan their fingerprints and passports, so until the system is fully ready, you may have to keep following these extra steps for the time being — depending on your airport or arrival terminal.
The forthcoming change is welcome news for everyone, but especially for parents of small children with Global Entry. Since babies and young kids don’t always have fully developed fingerprints, this would help eliminate the need for extra time with a Global Entry officer, speeding things up for families (and everyone else in line as a result).
5. TSA PreCheck is usually included
Entering your KTN in your frequent-flyer profiles should ensure that you’re eligible for TSA PreCheck. I’ve personally never been denied PreCheck since receiving Global Entry, but some TPG readers report they have occasionally been refused the privilege. In any case, you should have TSA PreCheck almost all of the time if you have Global Entry.
6. You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen 
Global Entry service is available to more than just U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Citizens of Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Panama, South Korea, India, Colombia, Singapore, Taiwan and the U.K. are also eligible. Mexican nationals can apply, and while Dutch citizens aren’t currently eligible, an agreement is pending approval so they may be able to apply soon.
Canadian citizens and residents are also eligible for Global Entry benefits through the NEXUS program. For more information about how citizens from other countries can apply and get approved for Global Entry, check out the requirements and information on the CBP website.
UK citizens can apply for Global Entry.
The application process for U.K. citizens, for example, is slightly different: British citizens need to first register through their government website and pay a £42 (about $53) fee. If approved by the U.K. government, U.K. citizens can then apply through the U.S. Trusted Traveler Programs website and pay a $100 fee to the U.S. government.
When Nicky Kelvin, director of content at TPG U.K., applied for Global Entry, he said the U.K. government approval came through “incredibly fast, confirmed just 30 hours after application.”
He noted that his Global Entry application took a bit longer, closer to six weeks, and recommends that applicants log in to their account regularly, as he wasn’t automatically notified of approval. His interview appointment at New York-JFK was easy and quick.
If you’re a U.S. citizen thinking about getting Global Entry and you visit Canada often, you may want to consider getting NEXUS so you can also enjoy expedited customs there. Clearing Canadian customs and immigration can take a while, so this would save you a lot of time. NEXUS is 50% less than Global Entry, too ($50 per adult and free for children under 18), and once you have it (as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident), you also get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. The downside is you must go to an enrollment center along the Canadian border.
7. You can enroll upon arrival
If you’re having trouble booking an appointment or don’t live close to an enrollment center, you can enroll upon arrival at airports in 25 U.S. states, plus Canada, the Bahamas, Abu Dhabi (in the UAE) and Bermuda.
This service allows you to complete your Global Entry enrollment interview as part of the immigration process when arriving at the airport after an international trip. In order to do this, plan to follow signs in the airport for the “Enrollment on Arrival” lanes — and be sure your flight arrives during hours when interviews upon arrival are being offered.
A CBP agent will complete your Global Entry interview during your admissibility inspection. No other documents are needed other than your “requisite documents for international travel,” like your passport. If you don’t see any signs for this, ask a CBP agent.
For more information, you can read a detailed account about how one TPG writer was able to get his Global Entry approved in JFK’s Terminal 1 after a trip to China.
8. Expect renewal delays
Global Entry membership lasts five years before it must be renewed, and it always expires on your birthday that fifth year.
The Global Entry renewal system is currently experiencing major delays with renewals. Delays seem to trend upward during the summer, possibly due to an increase in summer travel, but also because of a general influx of Global Entry applications and because so many CBP officers have been sent to the southern border (as is the case with the LAX enrollment center).
In mid to late 2018, many members started experiencing excessive delays associated with renewals, where cards were taking more than two months to arrive, or no email reminders or updates being sent. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering Global Entry applications increased from 1.6 million in 2016 to 2 million in 2018, and are still on the rise.
When TPG reader Josh H. called to check on his pending application this past July, a Global Entry representative told him that, at the moment, applications are pending for 100 days. That means you may not see a status change on your application for more than three months after you submitted. If you aren’t sure what’s going on with your application, call to check out the status — and don’t be surprised if it takes a few months.
Delays can easily be avoided by doing one key thing: Apply for renewal well before your Global Entry expires.
9. But Global Entry now gives you a one-year grace period
Now for the good news. Thanks to the massive delays in renewal processing, the CBP has extended the length of time you can use your benefits after your membership expires from six months to a year. Your membership will work for a full year after its expiration date, but you must submit your renewal application date before it expires.
10. Families need to enroll kids separately
Parents can’t bring their babies or children through the Global Entry kiosks with them unless they, too, are enrolled in the program. This means you’ll have to pay the $100 enrollment fee for each child you’d like to enroll. You’ll also have to schedule and attend another interview with your minor. While the interview will just be a formality, you will have to show up — and this makes the enrollment upon arrival service extra handy.
TSA PreCheck benefits, however, extend to children 12 years of age and younger, so you can use the expedited lane together when traveling domestically. And the Mobile Passport app also allows you to create additional profiles for family members, and families of up to four people can submit a single customs declaration form. If your family doesn’t leave the country often, that may suit your needs better than Global Entry.
Extra fees aren’t required for children who use NEXUS (and, by extension, Global Entry) with their parents, or for children linked to the parent’s SENTRI profile.
11. You can update your Global Entry when you get a new passport
If you get a new passport (perhaps it was lost, stolen or simply expired), you can update your Global Entry profile to match your new passport.
Simply log in to your account, navigate to your dashboard on the right and find the section marked “Update Documents.” Here, you’ll enter your new passport number there. However, if you do have a name or status change, you will have to go to a Global Entry Enrollment Center to process that change.
If you’re one of the lucky people who has two U.S. passports, remember, you’ll have to change the number in your profile to reflect which passport you’re using for international travel at that time.
12. Global Entry cards are considered valid federal IDs
While you don’t need to carry your Global Entry card with you to use the Global Entry kiosks when arriving at U.S. airports, it is a valid form of identification. This means if you happen to lose your driver’s license or state ID, the card serves as a legal alternative ID you can carry around with you until you replace the one you’ve lost.
If you’re arriving in the U.S. by a cruise ship port like Port Everglades, check Global Entry requirements ahead of time, as we’ve heard varying reports from TPG readers about needing your card to access Global Entry kiosks there.
The card can also come in handy for travelers that live in a state where the driver’s license is not Real ID-compliant. So, you could use your Global Entry card as an alternative form of valid ID at the airport instead.
13. You can’t upgrade TSA PreCheck to Global Entry
If you already have TSA PreCheck and want to upgrade to Global Entry, you’ll have to go through the normal enrollment process. That means visiting an enrollment center and paying the full $100 fee (which, hopefully, you’ll get reimbursed for anyway by using the right credit card).
If you’re deciding which service to get, you may as well pay the $15 extra (TSA PreCheck costs $85) and get Global Entry (which includes PreCheck) in order to have both services. You never know when an international travel opportunity may arise.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
Featured photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images.

Things You Should Do Before, During and After Flying to Stay Healthy

Not many travelers are aware of the affect that flying long-haul can have on your body. In fact, many seem to think is that flying is associated just with feelings of jet lag at your destination. But, you don’t need to become a health expert to hack flying. There are a few simple steps you can take to support your health when traveling to make you feel fresher, less bloated and have more energy when you land.
TPG has outlined the things you can do before, during and after flying to get back on track with feeling fresh and healthy again.
Preflight
Prepare your snacks 
It’s no secret that airplane food can be a bit ‘touch and go’ when it comes to nutrition. There are rarely healthy options, and even the BA M & S buy on board menu items are high in sugar, and the shortcake comes in as one of the healthiest options on the menu. If you can, try to bring some healthy snacks with you for your journey. Examples include:

Protein bars, which will help you keep your energy balanced until your destination. They do good for helping to satisfy the sweet tooth as well. Look for a bar containing at least 10g protein per bar and one that is low in sugar (5g per 100g of carbohydrate of which are sugars).
Oatcakes with some slices of meat and cheese prepared and stored in a container. The balance of protein and slow-releasing carbohydrates will help fuel your body for a trip.
Nuts and seeds contain protein and fat but also contain nutrients that can support the immune system during a flight.
Beef jerky is easy to carry, as you can buy it in a health store and is also a super healthy snack to have with you in times of hunger. Make sure you get a brand that does not have any added sugar, honey or maple syrup.

Hydrate
Your flight hydration begins at home. Start your morning with a big glass of water and you should try to get 1-2 liters of water in before you board the plane. Herbal teas count toward this, but regular tea and coffee do not count as water intake. If you can’t manage this, then start slowly in the days before the flight adding in an extra glass of water each day.
Eat a rainbow
Try to get a meal in before your flight that is rich in color, as it will be loaded with antioxidants, which can support your body and immune system during travel. Most people do not eat many fruit and vegetables when they’re on a plane, so having a meal with a high vegetable content before the flight is advised.
(Image courtesy of BANT)
Get in a workout
You’re going to spend a number of hours sedentary in a confined space, so it’s a good idea to get moving before you fly. A yoga class or swimming class is ideal, as those activities stretches the whole body. Don’t have time to workout before you fly? Then try do some light stretching at the boarding gate or in the lounge.
During Flight
Support your immune system
A video recently went viral of Naomi Campbell wet-wiping her first-class seat, remote and “anything you can touch” before she sat down so she could minimize the risk getting sick. If you don’t want to take it to that extreme, it may be a good idea to take vitamin C during the flight, as it can support your immune system and play a role in supporting your body if you drink on the plane.

Skip the meal or eat light
Whilst you may not want to do this, a solid recommendation to arrive feeling your best is to limit the amount of food you eat during the flight. Stay away from the heavy carbohydrate-laden foods and try to get a light meal of protein and salad. Traveling in economy? Try ordering a gluten free meal, which often comes with a fresh fruit plate for desert. Eating light can mean you get to your destination feeling less bloated and increases your chance of arriving free of jet lag.
Hydrate some more
This cannot be stressed enough. It’s so important to drink 2-3 liters in the air, as you are more likely to be dehydrated and therefore suffer with low energy, headaches, dizziness and lethargy. Try to get some water from a member of the cabin crew each time you go for a comfort break. It’s also a good idea to bring a moisturizer with you on the flight, as skin can feel dry during travel.
Move when you can
Right up there with hydration, moving around is just as important when traveling. Lack of movement can increase your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which can be life threatening.
Post-Flight
Take Magnesium
Whilst there can be a number of supplements that can be good for air travel, Magnesium is one of the best to help the post-travel yucky feeling. It’s great at supporting the nervous system and calming the body, helps balance electrolytes and can also help relax the bowel for those who feel a bit constipated or bloated. The best type of Magnesium for travelers is Magnesium Glycinate in a pill, but you can also get a Magnesium spray, which is good for cramps and general feeling of stiffness after traveling.
Get some exercise
If your flight arrives at a decent hour, then try and get to the hotel gym and get a workout in. It can wake up your body and stretch your muscles, which haven’t been used for a long time. If you arrive late at night, at least do some stretching before bed. I recommend the downward dog yoga pose to release the tension in the whole body.

Eat a healthy meal
Try not to gorge on sugar and drink a lot of alcohol on the first night away. Your body is still recovering from the flight. Try to get a meal that is rich in protein and vegetables, and go easy on the carbohydrates. This combination will help you sleep and support your flight recovery and minimize jet lag risk.
Consider a sleep tea
There are many herbal teas designed to support the body for sleeping. The ingredients of these usually are camomile, lavender and valerian. Sample a few different brands at your health shop and see which one works the best for you. If it helps you sleep better when adjusting to a new time zone, then be sure to pack it with you.
Featured photo by Melissa Tse/Getty Images.

Visiting Exuma With Kids

If you want to escape the crowds flowing out of oversized cruise ships into the major tourist centers of the Bahamas, it’s time to visit the untouched islands of Exuma. There, isolation brings serenity and the beaches and marine life make Exuma perfect for kids or even the pickiest traveler.
Exuma consists of 365 individual islands with Great Exuma and its main village of George Town as the gateway to surrounding isles. You can fly or arrive by boat but the effort of getting there is rewarded by crowd-free beaches and perfect sunsets.
When to Go
Exuma is a tropical destination you can visit year-round, with consistent temperatures in the high 70s to 90s. Many people prefer to visit from December through May,  when it’s dry and a pleasant escape from winter elsewhere, but it is also the peak travel season.
The months from July through October are hurricane season with an average temperature in the high 80s but you could experience high winds and cloudy days. Be sure to buy travel insurance if you visit during hurricane season. If you’re looking to save a few bucks with less risk, travel to the Exumas in the beginning of July or the end of October.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
How to Get There
Flights arrive at Exuma International Airport at George Town (GGT) on Great Exuma, or you can connect via boat from Nassau (NAS). Flights are available on American Airlines, Bahamas Air, Delta Air Lines and Silver Airways (a United Partner). Look for JetBlue’s flash sales when prices are ultra-affordable or try booking a United flight with your MileagePlus miles.
The Silver Airways flight leaves from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and availablity looks wide open in late autumn. If you can get to FLL from your city, the entire trip should be 17,500 miles one-way in economy. This is a great price going directly to Great Exuma.
Screenshot via United Airlines
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your United account instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Just remember to log into your United account before searching for award availability since flyers with elite status and holders of cobranded credit cards like the United Explorer Card get access to additional award options.
After landing at George Town or Nassau, you can get to the other islands by high-speed boat. Most families stay on the main Exumas and make daytrips to other islands, most of which don’t offer accommodations or are owned by celebrities.
What to Do in Exuma With Kids?
Sightseeing tours by boat from Great Exuma start at $250 per person. Yes, that’s pricey for a family but most shared tours offer a full day of attractions with lunch included. You’ll need to rely on tour operators to see and do most activities.
For children, the recommended age to travel on a high-speed boat is 4 years old. Our daughter was 3 when we visited Exuma but she has traveled on similar boats before. A few things to keep in mind as a first-time traveler on a high-speed boat is that the water isn’t always calm and the sun will beat down on you if there’s no sunshield or roof on the boat. Bring a jacket for the wind and lots of sunscreen.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
 
Look to the Chase travel portal for outfitters that offer a variety of the tours we mention below. You can pay cash or use your Ultimate Rewards points to pay for activities offered via the portal.

Or, earn 2 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on tours booked through Viator.com

Hit the Beach
Here are the best beaches to visit with kids on Great Exuma:

Coco Plum Beach: This public beach is free to visit and has a sandbar directly off its shoreline. Coco Plum is a great spot to collect sand dollars. The only downside is that there are no amenities, beach bars or restaurants.
Stocking Island: Across from George Town, this amazing beach stretches for three deserted miles. You’ll likely have it all to yourself, all day. There are also a few dining options on the island. The public beach is free but to get here, you must take a water taxi for $15 per person round-trip.
Jolly Hall Beach: There’s plenty of shade at this free public beach on Augusta Bay on the main island close to George Town.
Hoopers Bay: If you want to see turtles, visit Hoopers Bay. There’s no charge to see the turtles that come ashore to nest. There’s plenty of free parking across from this free public beach if you decide to drive.

Go Kayaking
Rolle’s Sea Kayaking on Great Exuma offers a variety of watersport services in the area. Tours are $70 to $90 per person.
Snorkel
If you want to snorkel without time constraints the freedom to explore where you want, rent gear from any of the dive shops on Great Exuma. Or book a snorkel tour.
Here are the best waters to snorkel:

Stocking Island: Off Great Exuma, take a water taxi ($15 per person round-trip).
Three Sisters: Off Queen’s Highway close to George Town in Moss Town (Great Exuma), this beach offers shallow reefs with schools of fish.
Thunderball Grotto: Take a boat tour or private charter to get here. It’s quite a trek from Great Exuma.
Jolly Hall: On Augusta Bay on the main island close to George Town. This reef is filled with schools of grunts and yellowtail snapper.

Try Paddleboarding
If you want to rent a paddleboard in Great Exuma, it will cost $25 per hour, $65 for a half day or $90 for the full day with Exuma Kitesurfing. The company also offers group lessons, free pickup and drop-off.
Visit the George Town Straw Market
At the straw market (open 9am–5pm, Monday–Saturday), you’ll find handmade Bahamian crafts such as straw bags, dolls, hats and shell jewelry.
Swim With Nurse Sharks
You need to take a guided tour boat or hire a private charter from George Town to swim with the nurse sharks at Compass Cay (quite a distance from Great Exuma). it isn’t cheap but the experience is worth it! I recommend taking a shared tour with Exuma Cays Tours. A full-day tour includes visiting Compass Cay for the nurse sharks, Pig Island, sandbanks, Thunderball Grotto (the James Bond film was made here and the grotto is great for snorkeling/diving) and a local island like Staniel Cay for lunch. The tour rate is $250 per person (same price for adults and kids) or you can choose to take a private charter (up to 12 people) for $1,700 to $2,000.
Feed Endangered Bahamian Iguanas
This activity also requires a guided tour boat or a private charter from George Town so your kids can feed the indigenous iguanas. Exuma Cays Adventures offers a variety of stops along the way to Iguana Island. Pricing is the same as the nurse-shark tour mentioned above.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
Feed the Swimming Pigs
You’ve probably heard about the famous swimming pigs of the Bahamas. Families can see them by taking a private or shared tour to Pig Beach (close to Compass Cay). Various tour companies can get you there.
Photo by Jessica Rooks
Visit Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is only accessible by a private charter or boat tour. Admission is free and you can paddleboard and kayak with no equipment rental fees. This is a bit far from Great Exuma.
Photo By Jessica Rooks
Where to Stay?
There are no points-friendly hotels in the Exumas. Your two options: 1) Pay cash for your hotel and “erase” some or all of the statement charges with a credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, or 2) Book through a portal where you can either earn or use points (more on that in a minute).
Here are three hotels to consider on Great Exuma:

Hideaways Exuma is a beachfront hotel in an ideal location six miles from the international airport and less than a 10-minute drive to the main town of George Town. The property offers one-, two- and three-bedroom villas and cottages. Suites have two bedrooms with spacious king or queen beds that accommodate families of up to six people. There is no twin bedding available at the Hideaways Exuma. On site, there is a restaurant, outdoor pool and a variety of water activities for the family. The starting price for a two-bedroom is $187 per night.

Book via Hotels.com/Venture with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 10 miles per dollar on your hotel stay, which is up to 20% back in total rewards.

Exuma Palms is a beachfront hotel in George Town that offers an on-site restaurant and complimentary breakfast each morning. The bedrooms offer twin and queen beds that can accommodate a family of four. The starting price is $128 per night.
Peace and Plenty Resort has an outdoor pool, restaurant and spacious rooms. Rooms with ocean views and more than one bedroom are available and can sleep up to six people. This property offers rooms with twin, queen, and king beds to chose from. Peace and Plenty Resort is also located in George Town.

Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards: Many hotels in the Exumas, including the three I mentioned above, can be booked through Chase travel portal. (See the screen shot below for even more options.) Pay cash and earn points — at a rate as high as 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve — or use your Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for nightly stays.

Bottom Line
If your family is planning a getaway to the Bahamas, I recommend the pristine waters of the Exumas. The white-sand beaches are breathtaking and the surrounding waters offer a host of watersport opportunities and abundant sea life to explore.

How to Reprice a JetBlue Flight When the Fare Decreases

Most airlines give you 24 hours to cancel a flight without penalty after the fare is booked. After that, you are pretty much committed to the price paid. If a lower fare pops up after that time frame, you are out of luck and most likely disappointed that you didn’t wait those few extra days to book. But without a crystal ball, there is actually no way of knowing how low the fares will go or if you are booking at the lowest price possible at that exact moment.
Fortunately, JetBlue has one of the better policies among the domestic airlines. Although it is not as forgiving as Southwest’s policy, you have more than 24 hours to reprice a fare if the flight decreases. Whether you booked with JetBlue TrueBlue points or payed for your ticket, you might be able to get the difference back.
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The Five-Day Rule
If you have booked a JetBlue flight in the past five days and the price has decreased, you are eligible to receive a credit voucher or the points back for the fare difference. To process the difference, all you have to do is call JetBlue and speak to a representative. The process cannot be done online, and it is up to the customer to initiate the transaction — JetBlue will not automatically re-price your ticket for you. Within this grace period, there is no fee to re-price a ticket.
If you happen to find a lower price, you’ll either receive a voucher or your points back, depending on how you initially paid for the fare.

If You Paid for the Flight: You will receive a voucher for the difference in the fare price. The voucher will be deposited into your JetBlue TrueBlue travel bank and you have one year from when you receive the voucher to use the credit. One of the best benefits of JetBlue vouchers is that you can use your voucher to book a flight for any passenger, you just need to book through your JetBlue account.
If You Used Points for the Flight: The difference in points will go back into the account from which those points were deducted.

For example, earlier this year, my family received more than $100 back in our travel bank due to flights decreasing in price.

A Big Caveat
JetBlue runs fare sales quite often, so having a flight go down in price is not unheard of at all. However, there is one situation when your decreased flight price will not be honored. JetBlue often runs sales where you’ll have to apply a coupon code to get the discounted fare. If the fare price is lower only when applying the code, this will not count as a price decrease. This holds true for both point and paid reservations and means you will not receive the difference back.
Bottom line: The actual flight has to go down in price without a coupon code applied.
JetBlue Mosaic Status
While all members have five days to reprice a ticket, those with JetBlue Mosaic status can reprice a ticket at any time up until the flight’s departure. The process is the exact same as described above, but you’ll need to call the Mosaic line to do so.
This is a terrific perk of JetBlue Mosaic status. Not only can you reprice a ticket if the fare drops, you can cancel any reservation at any given time for no fee. This is not limited to reservations booked with points, but with paid reservations as well. For family travel, this is huge as it is essentially a complimentary insurance policy.
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
It also allows you to book speculatively and grab some of the best fare prices during peak times when the schedule is released, even if you are not 100% sure of your travel plans. If you think there is a chance you might cancel your flight, make sure you’ll be able to use those vouchers within the year. Even on reservations booked with points, the taxes paid will go into your travel bank and will not be refunded back to the credit card used. For flights to the Caribbean, the taxes paid on point reservations can definitely add up, so make sure you have a plan.
Fortunately, everyone is eligible to earn JetBlue Mosaic status, without even stepping foot on a JetBlue plane. If you spend $50,000 in a calendar year on the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Credit Card you’ll automatically be bumped up to this status.
Bottom Line
Family travel is expensive, but knowing you have some leeway to get the best possible fare is huge. All members should check their JetBlue flights on a daily basis during the five-day grace period. Those with JetBlue Mosaic status should check their fare price every single day, leading up to your flight’s departure. Call JetBlue the moment you see the fare drop as the price could always increase later in the day if you wait. Try to make it part of your daily routine and, at the bare minimum, check during a JetBlue Fare Sale.
Jennifer Yellin covers family travel deals for TPG and blogs at Deals We Like. Follow her family’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram.
Featured image by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy

Best (and Worst) Food and Drinks at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

While a visit to Disney parks is often about the rides, shows and characters, food at Disney has increasingly taken a center stage. Every time Disney unveils a new attraction or festival, the Disney chefs get to work. The result is always some tasty, innovative and highly Instagrammable new menu items guests scramble to try for themselves.
A sampling of the dinner entrees at Docking Bay 7. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
The most epic expansion at Disney parks in many years just happened with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland. Naturally, this new land introduces Disney guests to a myriad new food offerings — this time, from a whole other planet.
(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
In fact, while you won’t find character meals or fine dining, food is an integral part of making visitors believe they are actually visiting Batuu, a remote planet on the edge of the Star Wars galaxy. Disney developed the food to reflect that distant location. Most dishes are made of what would be local farm-to-table ingredients (if Batuu actually existed, of course). The result is an absence of chicken fingers and fries, and instead a menu that is pretty ambitious, much like many of the food offerings in Pandora – the World of Avatar at Walt Disney World.
Docking Bay 7 at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge offers a cumulative total of five restaurants and snack stands. TPG had three writers in the land on opening day. We tasted nearly every single dish, sipped most drinks, compared notes and picked our favorites. Here are the best menu items that will tickle your taste buds, along with a few that may have missed the mark. (And yes, the dining outposts on Batuu seem to be coding as dining, so warm up your best credit cards for dining.)

The Best Credit Cards for Dining Rewards
Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo
The largest restaurant with the most food and beverage choices in Black Spire Outpost is Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo. It’s most similar to Satuli Canteen in Pandora, although not quite as enormous. Mobile ordering is available to skip the lines and save time (though at times you need to use mobile ordering an hour or two before you want to eat). The best dishes include:
Docking Bay 7 lunch line-up. (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Fried Endorian Tip-yip. Tip-yip is a lightly breaded white meat chicken dish with a side of vegetable mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s probably the safest choice on the menu for less adventurous eaters. The restaurant also serves a kids’ meal version of this dish with mac and cheese instead of potatoes.
Fried Endorian Tip-yip, an all-day entree at Docking Bay 7. And yes, it comes with a spork. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
The mac and cheese on the kid plate was actually pretty tasty, so you might want to steal a bite from your kid’s plate.
Kids’ meal tip-yip with macaroni and cheese. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
Roasted Endorian Tip-Yip Salad. It’s often really hard to get your greens on a theme park vacation, so kudos to Disney for putting a salad front and center. With roasted chicken (aka tip-yip) on top, it’s a pretty healthy combination and a break from the many other heavy dishes most guests eat at Disney. Don’t let the look of this menu item make you shy away. It would be perfect on a hotter day. The dressing itself was refreshing and not too heavy, but if we had any complaint, it would be that it was a bit overdressed.
Roasted Endorian Tip-Yip Salad. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
Batuu-bon. Between the two desserts on the Docking Bay 7 menu, the Batuu-bon was the better choice. It is a chocolate cake with white chocolate mousse. Disney’s description says it also contains coffee custard, but ours was very light on the coffee filling. That’s probably a good thing because it made the dessert more kid-friendly.
The two Docking Bay 7 desserts. We preferred the Batuu-bon on the right. (Photo credit: David Roark/Disney Parks)
As for menu misses, we thought the Smoked Kaadu Ribs were ultimately too spicy for sensitive palates and just too messy for theme park fare. A side dish that accompanied this entree, a blueberry corn muffin, was well done but not enough to salvage the overall effect.
Photo by Leslie Harvey
The kids’ meal Yobshrimp Noodle Salad was a major miss. There are just not that many 3- to 9-year-olds who would enjoy chilled shrimp served with noodles and dressing. Even the adult version isn’t likely to be a grand slam, but will find the occasional fan far more frequently than the kid version.
Would your kids eat chilled shrimp with noodles? Ours wouldn’t! (Image by Leslie Harvey)
If you are at Docking Bay 7 for breakfast, your menu is a bit more limited, but Rising Moons Overnight Oats were surprisingly good. We didn’t expect to go to a theme park and enjoy chilled overnight oats, but as long as you are OK with the consistency, the fruity flavor with real fruit on top was quite good. The pork sausage in the Bright Suns Morning was also a standout in the morning line-up.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge breakfast. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Ronto Roasters
Not far from Docking Bay 7 in the market is a smaller food counter, Ronto Roasters, serving just a couple of items. Outside, a droid turns “space meat” on a spit heated by a podracing engine. Mobile ordering is also available at this restaurant to save valuable time in the land.
Ronto Wrap. The main menu item, the Ronto Wrap, is definitely a highlight. It’s a folded pita filled with pork sausage and a different variety of sliced pork, topped with slaw. It doesn’t necessarily look like it will be as good as it tastes, so don’t let the appearance throw you.
Ronto wrap with nonalcoholic Sour Sarlacc beverage. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
The breakfast version, dubbed the Ronto Morning Wrap, also gets strong marks on flavor from the combo of sausage, egg, cheese and sauce.
Ronto Roasters snack counter in Galaxy’s Edge. (Image by Leslie Harvey.)
Kat Saka’s Kettle
Outpost Popcorn Mix. Kat Saka’s Kettle is a shop in the Black Spire Market serving only one food choice: Outpost Popcorn Mix. The colors are bold purples and reds and the flavor is sweet and spicy. The first few bites were a bit weird, but the dish became rapidly addictive. If you like kettle corn and don’t mind a tiny bit of spice, this will be a hit. I even think many kids will enjoy it as well.
Outpost Popcorn Mix at Kat Saka’s Kettle. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
Oga’s Cantina
The inside cantina atmosphere. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
Oga’s Cantina is the local watering hole on Black Spire Outpost. It’s also the first place in Disneyland Park (outside of the private Club 33) to sell alcohol. If you’ve ever had the chance to stop by Trader Sam’s on either Disney coast, you probably already know how well Disney can do exotic cocktails. Oga’s drink menu matches that very high standard, but unlike at Trader Sam’s, drinks are premixed rather than hand crafted.
(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
There are no food items at Oga’s other than snack mix most of the day. The bar does serve a few breakfast items, presumably so guests aren’t imbibing on empty stomachs in early morning hours.
With a two alcoholic drink maximum and a very long line to enter, it was not possible to sample all the drinks at Oga’s. But with three TPG writers in the land on opening day, we collectively imbibed quite a few of them. We can confidently recommend the following:
Yub Nub. The drink is similar to a mai tai, but with the addition of passion fruit and also a bit heavier on the pineapple. At $42, it’s the most expensive drink on the Oga’s menu (but it comes with a very high-quality souvenir Endor tiki mug).
With the Yub Nub, Disney had us with the Endor tiki mug (adorned with Ewoks and the Death Star)! (Image by Leslie Harvey)
Bespin Fizz. This rum-based drink combines yuzu purée, pomegranate juice and white cranberry juice. It’s topped with a cloud swirl that spills over the edge of the glass like a dry ice fog. We couldn’t taste much alcohol in it (especially after the Yub Nub, which definitely packs a punch), but the fruity flavor was refreshing. It’s a much smaller drink that goes down quickly.
Bespin Fizz at Oga’s Cantina. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
If you are in the market for an (expensive) fun nonalcoholic drink, the Cliff Dweller, also comes with a keepsake Porg mug and is quite tasty, comprised of ginger ale, a blend of juices, hibiscus-grenadine and coconut. Expect to spend $32 for the cool drink with the adorable mug.
Cliff Dweller Porg mug and Jedi Mind Trick. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Milk Stand
Blue or Green Milk. The menu is simple at Milk Stand. This quick service counter near the First Order’s headquarters serves blue milk and green milk. (Neither is actually milk.) These drinks are moderately sweet smoothie-like concoctions made with nondairy ingredients like coconut and rice.
Blue and green milk in Galaxy’s Edge. (Image by Leslie Harvey)
The blue milk is largely considered the tastier of the two but unfortunately neither was truly excellent. This is a novelty drink that most people will order for either fun memories of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen (or just for Instagram) but not everyone will truly finish the “milk.” After three or four sips of each, I threw mine away. At $7.99 each, that’s an expensive Instagram shot.
Related: Best Credit Cards for Theme Parks
Bottom Line
The food in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge pushes a few boundaries and is quite innovative. There are some excellent selections, but also a few misses, mostly due to the innovative nature of the ingredients.
Disney always tweaks the menus after new land openings like these so expect changes in the coming weeks and months. In particular, I’d expect (and hope) for a new kids’ meal offering or additional snack to pop up somewhere.
For more inspiration:

First Look Inside Disney’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Was the Force With Disney for Opening Day of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?
Disney’s Star Wars Land Is ‘Sold Out’ — Here’s How to Still Get In
Miles Away: Using an LAX Layover for a Day at Disneyland
The Best Restaurants at Disneyland in 2019
The Best Restaurants at Disney World in 2019

Extended Stay Hotels Are Made for Business Travel But Perfect for Families

Finding an incredible hotel that ticks all the right boxes is challenging enough for a solo explorer but it’s an even taller task for families with infants. I recently traveled with my wife and newly adopted son to New York City and wound up really appreciating a hotel that was designed for someone else: the long-term business traveler. The Home2 Suites by Hilton Long Island City not only saved us a bundle compared to hotels in Manhattan but also provided essential amenities that would have been hard to come by on the other side of the East River.

In This Post

Extended Stay Hotels are Cheap(er)
Chains like Home2 Suites by Hilton, Extended Stay America, Residence Inn by Marriott, Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites aren’t exactly aspirational. These are neither hotels that you save points for years to splurge on nor the type of hotel where you’d necessarily want to burn a free night certificate from a credit card. But that’s OK — they are great solutions for those willing to turn their nose down a bit and appreciate them for what they are.
Home2 Suites by Hilton Long Island City
During my three-night stay in New York, I paid $238 per night (plus local taxes/fees) for a suite with a king bed, a pull-out sofa and 657 square feet of space for stretching out. For comparison, diminutive rooms with one-third of that space were going for $500+ in Manhattan for the same nights. Yes, we gave up being in the middle of it all, but the hotel was just three quick subway stops away from Central Park. In less urban destinations, where you need a car to explore regardless of where you stay, there’s even more reason to consider a property like Home2 Suites.
Ah, The Amenities of Home
Our 3-month-old infant is (thankfully) a pro traveler. He’s visited seven states and conquered eight flights in his short amount of time on Earth. Still, he requires things like formula, clean bottles, a suitable bathing station and frequent access to a washing machine. As it turns out, the amenities required to serve those needs are essentially the requirements of long-term business travelers as well. And, the hotel had a crib we could borrow for the duration of our stay so we didn’t have to bring one from home. (Just realize that some hotels don’t promise the availability of cribs or other baby amenities.)
Not an apartment. I repeat, not an apartment.
Our suite was equipped with a full-size refrigerator and freezer, a dishwasher, a stove and a microwave. That made it simple to clean his bottles and keep open containers of formula refrigerated. There was also a huge sink that doubled as a great bathing station after we asked for extra towels to create a soft basin. The stove enabled us to heat and boil water, while the microwave proved useful for heating up a neck pillow.
I also found myself surprisingly giddy at the notion of having legitimate silverware. I’ve tried on many occasions to use a plastic knife to slice an apple in a ritzy hotel room. While you could always ask room service at other hotels to bring you real utensils, extended-stay hotels typically offer dishes and silverware right in the room. My suite had enough for an entire family, which made slicing the free apples offered 24/7 in the lobby delightfully simple.
It’s easy to lose track of all the little things a family leans on at home when it comes to infant care, but staying in a typical hotel room brings them to light quickly. Extended-stay hotels attempt to re-create the setting of home for those who will be away for long periods of time, which winds up being a boon to families visiting for just a few nights.
Base Rooms Are Still Suites
At most hotels, reserving a suite means shelling out big bucks or lots-o-points. Many chains won’t even let you use a reasonable number of points to book a room with niceties like dishwashers and pull-out sofas. But when a hotel is designed to feel more like an apartment than a shoebox, even the standard rooms are great.
Traveling with a baby can mean lots of stuff, so the space of a suite is very much appreciated.
The base room at Home2 Suites by Hilton Long Island City is marketed as a “studio suite,” which meant that I didn’t have to pay extra for a massive space. I have Diamond status within the Hilton portfolio, an included benefit of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. While there was no available upgrade beyond that available, I was assigned a room on the highest floor of the hotel with an excellent view of Manhattan. A hot breakfast was included for my family for free.
Exploration Is Encouraged
While our massive-for-NYC room was ideal for families who just want more space, it wasn’t located in the hottest of spots. Extended-stay properties are generally built in safe but generally unremarkable areas. I view this as a positive, as it creates a roomy, comfortable home base that is not so attractive that you forget to leave the premises.
New York City is a big place, might as well explore!
In our case, the Home2 Suites by Hilton Long Island City was just three short blocks from a brand-new subway station (39th Avenue–Dutch Kills) with multiple lines running to Manhattan. We could reach Central Park within 15 minutes of leaving the room. For those who prefer private transit, there was no shortage of Lyft drivers available to whisk us across the Queensboro Bridge. (I use Lyft because of its partnership with Delta, enabling me to earn SkyMiles with each ride.)
For perspective, our Long Island City hotel was closer to Central Park than the citizenM New York Bowery Hotel that I reviewed late last year, even though the citizenM is in Manhattan.
Bottom Line
My family enjoyed our stay at Home2 Suites by Hilton Long Island City. My wife wasn’t exactly impressed by the residential surroundings, but it was cheap (for NYC) and easy to get from there to the main tourist spots. While we paid cash, it is often bookable for 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night. As a plus, the location ensured that we weren’t awakened during the night by the pulsing sounds of the city.
Home2 Suites leave plenty of room for a Doona stroller — a favorite amongst TPGers with kids.
The layout also made things effortless when it came to caring for our infant. We didn’t lack for space or amenities, two things that are mighty hard to come by for a reasonable sum in the Big Apple. Paying less than half of the going rates for hotels in Manhattan enabled a family like ours to spend more on activities and meals while still enjoying Diamond perks thanks to the property’s affiliation with the Hilton portfolio.
You’ve no doubt heard that priorities tend to shift once you become a parent (or grandparent!). As a new parent, I’m currently more interested in things like refrigerators, dishwashers, quiet neighborhoods and ample space in our hotel selections than I am rooftop bars and marble bathtubs. Don’t get me wrong — children and adults alike can appreciate glass-bottom floors in French Polynesia, overwater bungalows in the Maldives and all the finer luxuries of travel. I’ll just make sure our son has graduated to solid foods before planning those reservations.
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All images by Darren Murph / TPG.

Why Families Need the Barclaycard Arrival Card In Their Wallets More Than Ever

Traveling with a family requires adapting to different needs. Add to that the ever-changing miles and points landscape, and what worked for me a few years ago doesn’t necessarily work today. Thankfully, there are all sorts of options on where to go, what to do, and how to make travel fit into our family’s budget by leaning (heavily) on miles and points.
My New Go-To Points
I’ve recently seen a number of questions on the TPG Family Facebook group (that you should totally join if you travel with a family) about points-bookable hotels in Europe that are suitable for families. The honest answer: There are some — here are examples in London and Paris, but traditional hotel awards are not always the best option in places like Europe. I’m currently planning my fifth trip to Europe in as many years, and when there are four of us traveling, points hotels are pretty much out of my equation as two teens and two parents in one tiny room is virtually impossible (especially in Europe).
Instead of trying to shoehorn my family into a hotel room, I’ve moved us into vacation rentals, where we are much more comfortable. Here’s a photo of the private pool in the villa we’re visiting in June for less than $250 per night. But, this transition doesn’t mean that the era of using points is over. For example, I used “miles” from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to offset part of the cost. Other fixed-value credit card points that can be used for travel could also be a solid choices.

Another great way to use miles from the Barclaycard Arrival card is for a Disney or other theme park vacations. If you buy your theme park tickets through Undercover Tourist or another third-party vendor, they often code as travel and then Arrival miles can be redeemed toward them. Note that this only works if you use a broker/travel agent. Tickets purchased directly from Disney, for example, code as entertainment, not travel, unless they are part of a hotel package.
Related: The Best Credit Cards for Entertainment Spending
(Photo by Ryan Wendler / Walt Disney World)
You can use Arrival miles to offset any travel expense over $100. You have 120 days from the date of purchase to redeem miles but you can’t redeem a second time for that purchase later in the 120 days, so redeem all the miles you want the first time. On a large purchase you might want to wait until you are closer to the end date because you may have more miles to redeem at that time after they post each month.
How to Earn Arrival Miles
Barclaycard Arrival offers a compelling 70,000-mile sign-up bonus after you’ve spent $5,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. That actually translates to $735 in free travel because you get back 5% with every redemption you make. The annual fee is $89 and is not waived in the first year, but you can use miles to pay the fee after the first year.
Once you have the card, it earns at a very simple 2 miles per dollar on everything you spend. I give this card to my category-challenged husband so he doesn’t have to worry about which card to use for any given expense.

Earn Bonus Arrival Miles
While everyday spending is the most common way to earn Arrival miles, there’s another fun way: The Barclaycard Travel Community is a forum where people can share their travel stories. Barclaycard will give you 100 miles for a story, 50 miles for a photo and 10 miles for a location pin. Anyone can join and if you’re an Arrival Plus card member, the miles go right to your Arrival account. If you’re not, they’ll cash out as Amazon gift cards but a much lower rate: 2,500 points gets you $25 toward travel spend on an Arrival Plus card or a $5 Amazon gift card. You’ll even get 500 miles just for completing your profile. You also earn 10 miles if someone gives your story a like.
The best part: You only need 100 words per post and you probably have more ready-made content than you realize. How many reviews have you posted on TripAdvisor and Yelp? What about your Facebook and Instagram streams? You’d be amazed how easy it is to get to the 100-word mark. I make sure the words are my own, but I’ve pulled ideas from all sorts of places. You can also get 10 points for “pins”: 10-word snippets about a specific restaurant, hotel or location. Note: I recommend editing what you’ve written elsewhere so it’s not exactly cut and paste. Then use your reviews as inspiration and to jog your memory.
The biggest limit I’ve hit is that you can only post five stories per city, ever. Other than that, you can post up to 100 stories a month, every single month. Now that I have practice, I can write up to 20 posts and 100 pins per hour: 3,000 miles earned while binge-watching “The Office” or catching up on TPG Podcasts.
Bottom Line
Simplicity can be your best friend when you’re trying to plan your family’s travel, especially as award charts are all over the place (or more accurately, disappearing). With flexible points like Barclay Arrival miles, you can stop worrying quite as much about every movement and category change from hotel chains and airline alliances and focus on what matters: making memories with your kids (while still keeping some money in your wallet).

High/Low Travel Strategy: Mixing Luxury and Budget Travel on the Same Trip

While my favorite way to maximize travel is through points and miles, my husband and I have come up with a few other tricks over the years to find that elusive balance between my love of budget travel and his taste for the finer things. Our go-to technique for a vacation with the right mix of off-the-beaten path adventure mixed with pure luxury and true downtime is our “high/low” technique.
Much like pairing an Ikea mirror with an Eames chair in your living room, mixing high-end travel with lower-cost experiences in the same trip can work well. It also has helped us tame our children’s unrealistic expectations around travel.
On a boat we rented for $15 in rural Vietnam
High/Low in Practice
Our budget for accommodations during a recent weeklong vacation in Vietnam was an average of $350 per night. This was on the higher end, but it turned out to channel us toward hotels that we found didn’t cater to families. Instead we chose to look for somewhere in the $75–$100 per night range for four nights followed by somewhere in the $500–750 range for the next three nights. We also tried to find a third or fourth night for free through select hotels in Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program. FHR is available to holders of certain Amex cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. 
We loved exploring Hoi An’s food markets.
Tips for the Lower End
The key to the “low” end of the stay is to realize that while it may cost less, it isn’t actually less enjoyable because it is culturally rich. During the “low,” we do lots of sightseeing and driving, eat at local restaurants or cook and keep costs relatively low by engaging in the local economy rather than staying insulated within a resort economy. Our family is able to see areas we wouldn’t normally get to enjoy if we were only sheltered at luxury hotels and resorts. It is also a great time to do purposeful travel. Plus we often travel with our two young kids and want an Airbnb or family-run hotel for reasons beyond budget.
Make sure you’re using the best credit cards to book an Airbnb. We sometimes are able to book our “low” accommodations through Hotels.com/Venture and use my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for 10x the points on the room stay, then use it toward our 10th night free with Hotels.com, which is effectively a 20% return.
You can also choose a lower-category points hotel for your stay. A large welcome bonus, such as the one offered by the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card that earns you 100,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, could get you several nights at a Category 1–4 Marriott redemption.

Tips for the Higher End
When we head over to the “high” end, we enter pure resort mode — we don’t have to worry about driving or where to go for lunch because everything is right there. We often do not leave the grounds because we’ve already explored and just want to stay put. We like to book the luxury piece at the end of the stay and utilize early check-in and late check-out to really stretch the stay (FHR benefits and elite status are great for this).
This can be a fantastic time to use a high-end redemption to bring down costs and use the savings for extras such as cooking classes or a spa experience.
During a 10-day trip to Bali, for example, we spent five nights in a low-cost villa and then did a five-night redemption at The Ritz-Carlton, Bali (Category 6, from 50,000 Marriott points), taking full advantage of its incredible kids club and inexpensive babysitting.
Here are many different ways to stay with your family in Bali using points.
Our one-bedroom villa at Four Season Resort The Nam Hai.
Riding on the sleeper train between our high- and low-cost stays in Vietnam.
Lower End: Rural Vietnam
In Vietnam, our lower end stay was in the Bong Lai Valley at Phong Nha Farmstay for $85 per night, including breakfast. It was essentially a backpackers spot, but had a large family room next to the owner’s apartment. My older son became fast friends with the owner’s son, Howie, and talked about him for months afterward.
Enjoying the cooler weather at Phong Nha Farmstay.
In Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, we rented a private 14-seat boat for just for the four of us where I could easily breastfeed the baby; the privacy gave us the flexibility to turn back if our 2-year-old was scared of the caves. The three-hour cave gondola ride was $15, plus a $6.50 entrance fee for the national park. Rather than a scary experience, the ride turned out to be peaceful and done at the perfect pace for our family.

Another day, we took advantage of the advertised free bikes at the farmstay. The only family bike had a flat seat on the back. We used my sarong to tie my older son on the back, and my husband wore the baby on his front over the bumpy, muddy roads to the only local attraction called The Duck Stop.
Using a hand-drawn map, we found the family-run spot, which offered a package of food and a visit to see their raft of ducks ($4, kids free). Suddenly, we were in borrowed sandals and feed was being thrown on our feet. The ducks chased us while trying to bite our feet with their bills as the owner screamed, “It’s like a massage!” We then greeted the resident water buffalo before heading back on our bikes. These are the types of peculiar travel experiences that I had while backpacking in my 20s and love having again with my family (my husband less so).

High: Four Seasons The Nam Hai
As much as I love reliving my backpacking days, entering the Four Seasons Nam Hai was extraordinary. We booked with a fourth night free, which brought the cost down from $750 per night to $660 per night for a one-bedroom, ocean-view villa with an included exquisite breakfast. Yes, that is pricey, but that is why we balance it out with more affordable accommodations. We also considered the Intercontinental Nha Trang, Vietnam using IHG Rewards Club points from the generous IHG®  Rewards Club Premier Card (bonus currently up to 120k points) and the fourth consecutive award night free for cardholders.

The magical thing about a luxury resort is that they pretty much know where you are at all times and can reach you. With the kids safely in childcare, we attended a Vietnamese cooking class arranged by the hotel that included a visit to the local market. When we returned from the market with our fresh ingredients, the cooking assistant notified the babysitter to bring my youngest son to me at the cooking school via a golf cart because he needed to breastfeed.

When the baby finished his lunch, his babysitter whisked him away again, which made me feel like a mother in “Downton Abbey.” We could not have dropped the fresh shrimp into hot sizzling oil with our tiny children in tow. The Cooking Academy was $115 each and included our fantastic five-course lunch of grilled calamari skewers, grouper in banana leaf and wok-fried prawns in tamarind sauce.

To round off the experience, on our last night we went into the ever so photogenic Hoi An to see the lanterns lining the streets. We wandered the streets until our children melted down, and then hopped in a taxi back to the hotel and into bed.

When packing the next morning, we realized that my DSLR camera was gone and must have been left in the taxi. Normally, that might been adios to the camera, but the hotel quickly pulled the license plates off the security camera of us arriving the night before, located the driver and had my camera back in my hands by our 11am departure.
That could have been a sour note to end the vacation. Instead we were happy to be staying somewhere where we were just taken care of — our problem suddenly became their problem. We enjoyed the bountiful breakfast buffet rather than scrambling to track down the camera and avoided the sadness of losing all the photos from our trip in Asia with the kids, including those in this story. It was also a reminder to make sure I know what insurance protections my credit cards have.

Bottom Line
The adage goes that a vacation with kids is just a trip and never a vacation. After enjoying sightseeing and adventure time, end your family trip at a luxury resort with safe, reliable on-site childcare so you have time to truly unwind and maybe even have a date before returning home. Using this high/low method, you can average out the costs either with points or cash while enjoying both secluded luxury and local culture.
Have you ever tried a high/low vacation? How does your family balance different interests during travel?