Living with credit, Rewards, Travel

How to feed your road warrior family for free

Damon Brown

As a father of two hungry, travel-ready kids, I am focused on maximizing the value of my cards while keeping the family fed. My wife and I are able to strategize our meals between layovers, drives and stops. Our young boys? Not so much.

My career as an author, entrepreneur and speaker keeps me increasingly on the road, and it is satisfying to start bringing my family with me as they get older. I’d prefer to not have my per diem, if not my salary, disappear feeding the little guys ages 2 and 4.

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These are four strategies I’m using to feed my road warrior family without breaking the bank:

Do the lounge

Airport lounges vary in quality, but nearly all of them have unlimited free snacks, drinks and even full meals. Think of airport lounges as an endless buffet available during your family travel (not to mention a quiet area for diaper changes, nap and other niceties).

Lounge access now comes standard on the high-end cards from Citi, Chase, American Express and Barclays. The access is often extended to additional card users, too, as it is with my Citi Prestige card, making it ideal for when parents and guardians are traveling without their partner.

Go for premium travel

It can be worth flying business or first class for your family to ensure they are fed. Two solid methods to fly at the front of the plane are by earning elite status for free upgrades or by getting the high-end fare via credit card or frequent flyer points.

In one particular trip to New Orleans, I knew we had a cross-country flight with a brief layover in Dallas and there would be no chance we’d be able to stop to eat in between.

Instead, I used my points earned from my American Airlines Executive Platinum airline status to upgrade the rest of my family to first class.

The cool part was, with my status, I automatically qualified for upgrades, so my move to first class would be free. Our boys could be fed without stopover drama or crankiness at the destination, which was well worth the investment.

Use food vouchers for a snack or meal

A new trend I’m eager to take advantage of is free vouchers or credit toward your meal.

In fact, you may already have access to these food vouchers: Check to see if your favorite credit card or club membership benefits have updated to give you an allowance per restaurant visit. For example, the lounge-focused Priority Pass, a perk/benefit with my Prestige card, now gives credit at affiliated restaurants both inside and outside of airports.

The credit is usually small – around $25 per visit – but it is a smart, free strategy to cover a snack or meal for the hungry family.

Save with free breakfast at hotels

Credits should tie into your overnight planning, too. Hotels can throw in free breakfast or food and drink credits in the in-house restaurant.

Let’s face it: When you have a young family, every morning is unpredictable. My family and I have saved hundreds of dollars and, more importantly, tons of grief by just eating downstairs at our leisure.

It’s worth the time to include food and drink credits in your hotel research along with price, location and quality.

See related: My Priority Pass is an even sweeter card perk now, Hidden card benefit: Save money and sanity in airport lounges, How rewards can help you earn status matches or challenges

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