As a quick note of introduction, my name is Dan Miller, and I generally write over at Points With a Crew about how families (especially larger families) can travel for free or cheap.  There are actually only a few simple tricks to easily getting airline miles and hotel points that allow this.  The full scope of how to do this is probably more than I could write in this article, but if you’re interested, you could check out the Beginner’s Guide I wrote.  Feel free to contact me via email at dan at pointswithacrew dot com, or @PointsWithACrew on Twitter if you have questions – I love helping families travel and am more than happy to answer your specific questions.

Large families you say?

Taking a look at my logo might give you an idea of what kind of family I’m talking about.

There are 8 of us in my family – myself and my wife along with 6 kids.  Having a large family is super fun and exciting, but definitely keeps us on our toes!  Finding moments of peace and quiet is certainly far and few between at our house!!  In addition to the general noise volume, having a large family presents some definite challenges in traveling.

  1. It’s expensive!  Luckily we’ve solved this problem a little bit through our collection of airline miles and hotel points – we probably have over 1,000,000 miles between several different programs.
  2. Hotel rooms are a challenge – with a few exceptions (like when we stayed at a 2BR Homewood Suites in Dayton last year), we don’t all fit in one hotel room, often doubling the cost of lodging.
  3. As those of you with young kids can attest, flying with young ones can be difficult.  Now imagine the scenario we’re in – where on most airplanes, we literally CAN’T have an adult next to every kid.  This can lead to some challenging flights, including one this summer where a lady told my wife and I that we “were the type of people that shouldn’t have children” (!!)
  4. Getaways without kids are even more important, but are even harder to manage.  As I’m sure you can understand, finding someone even WILLING to watch our kids for any length of time is difficult, and the cost for a babysitter for 6 kids even for a long weekend can run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars

Bartering for babysitting

It’s the last point I want to talk about a little bit about today. I’m a firm believer that in marriage, you need to take care of your spouse first before the kids, and part of doing that is making sure to spend quality time with each other.  Getaway trips aren’t something that needs to happen all the time, but regularly getting away does wonders for the marriage!  We’ve found that it usually takes a day or so to turn off your brains from “mom and dad” mode.

We’re lucky in that both of our parents live somewhat close to us, but even that has its limits.  When you have 1 or 2 kids, dropping them off at Grandma’s for awhile is generally not a big deal, right?  The grandparents probably LOVE being able to spend extra time with their grandkids!  With us, it’s not quite the same – watching 6 kids is a LOT of work, especially if you don’t do it all the time, and even the grandparents aren’t exactly clamoring to do it every month for a week at a time! 🙂

Grandma watched the kids so we could go on a getaway long weekend trip to Miami and say for free in a suite at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Hilton (we didn’t even have to pick up coins on the ground to pay for it!!

That led us to another idea – bartering!

What and how to barter?

Bartering is simple – just exchange something you have but don’t want to someone who needs that but has something that YOU want.  In our case, we have an excess of airline miles and hotel points and need someone to watch our kids.  So we just need to find someone that is willing to watch 6 kids for a few days that wants airline miles!

We talked to a few people that we know here in town before finding someone that a) was willing to do it and b) we felt comfortable watching our kids for overnight and c) was willing to take payment in something other than cash.

The combination of those 3 factors ruled out most teenagers, which is the most plentiful source of babysitting around.  After talking with a few different folks, we settled on a lady that we know whose daughter is good friends with our daughter.  We had the 2 of them come over and stay the weekend at our house – we even supplemented it with my in-laws taking a few of the kids on Saturday morning to break things up, and as it turned out, my oldest son had a Boy Scout campout the same weekend which made things even easier!

It was a bit tricky to figure out what the terms of payment should be, but what we ended up on, at least for this first time, was 1 roundtrip plane ticket to anywhere in the United States in exchange for the long weekend of babysitting (Thursday through Sunday).

So far we’ve only done it the one time, but we’re definitely looking forward to doing it again!  What do you think?  What kind of bartering have you done or would you be interested in?  Leave us a note in the comments!