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Modern Families

My family just flew to three European countries and home again for $149 per person total

Here's how we traveled from the U.S. to London, Athens and Vienna and back again for less than the cost of one domestic flight.

Ted Lasso bench
Photo courtesy of Annie Reneau

My husband and kids sitting on Ted Lasso's bench in Richmond, U.K.

Our family of five just got back from a nearly 3-week European vacation—three different cities in three different countries—and we only paid $149 cash per person for all of our flights combined.

It sounds too good to be true, but it's not. It sounds like there's got to be a catch, and there is, but not like you might think.

Welcome to the world of travel hacking, where if you learn to play the points and miles game well, you can take vacations you (or at least I) never thought possible.


I started learning about the points and miles game in the fall of 2021 via the 10xTravel free course, and I started playing in earnest myself in February of 2022. As a result, in the past year and a half, our family has taken multiple flights and stayed at multiple hotels within the United States—including some schmancy resorts—for free or very close to free. (Certain taxes and fees on flights have to be paid in cash, so there's no such thing as a 100% free flight.) But this trip to Europe was our first foray into international travel with points.

Four people standing in front of a lit up tree

My family enjoyed the Rathaus Christkindlmarket in Vienna.

Photo courtesy of Annie Reneau

The one "catch" to travel hacking? It's a complicated, strategic long game that takes time and effort to learn. But it's totally worth it. The basic gist is that you maximize credit card sign-up bonuses to accumulate transferable credit card points or loyalty points/miles with hotels and airlines, all without spending any more money than you normally would. Then you learn how to redeem those points for travel, which makes them way more valuable than simply getting cash back.

I wrote an overview of how the game works in a previous article (which you can read here), but I figured a real-life example is the best illustration.

For this trip to Europe, I transferred 362,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card points to United Airlines. (My husband and I have accumulated over 1.2 million points and miles in the past year and a half, so this trip was barely a third of our points.) That's what all of our flights to, from and around Europe cost, plus one more flight paid for with Southwest points to get all the way home. The taxes and fees for all flights came out to $149 for each of us.

three young people in front of the temple of poseidon

The Temple of Poseidon was a favorite of the whole family.

Photo courtesy of Annie Reneau

Our original itinerary was actually US > London > Athens > Tel Aviv > US, but obviously the Israel plans changed when the war began. We switched from Tel Aviv to Vienna for our music-loving kids just a couple of weeks before we departed. The flight from Vienna back to the US cost fewer points than the Tel Aviv to US flight, which made it so our added Athens to Vienna flight was covered by points we'd already spent. (We'd originally booked a one-way cash flight from Athens to Tel Aviv. That got refunded when the flight was canceled.) And thanks to United's Excursionist Perk, our London to Athens leg also cost us zero points—we only paid taxes.

So what you see here are the fees we paid out of pocket for three flights—Spokane to London, London to Athens, and Vienna to Chicago (where we stopped to see family and friends for a few days on our way home). The Oct 15 "date of purchase" was actually the date we changed our Tel Aviv flight to Vienna—we purchased the original tickets months ago.

As you can see, the fees for these flights were $112 per person:

Screenshot of airline fees

Fees for flights from Spokane to London, London to Athens, and Vienna to Chicago

Screenshot via Annie Reneau

Here are the taxes and fees for the Athens to Vienna leg we added after the Israel changes, which were $31.40 per person:

Screenshot of flight total

Taxes and fees for flight from Athens to Vienna.

Screenshot via Annie Reneau

Finally, to get back to Spokane from Chicago, we booked flights on Southwest. We have a ton of Southwest Rapid Rewards points accumulated from playing the game as well as two Southwest Companion Passes, which means two of our kids traveled with us for free (only paid fees on their flights—no points needed). So we paid 14,345 Southwest points x 3 (43,035 points total) and the fees were just $5.60 each, which brings us to our grand total of $149 per person.

screenshot of southwest flight totals

We paid $5.60 each for our flight from Chicago to Spokane on Southwest.

Screenshot via Annie Reneau

To reiterate, we didn't pay anything beyond our normal spending for the points we used to get these flights. We just strategically utilized new credit cards for all of our expenses every few months. Accumulating points is actually the simpler part of the game. Figuring how to find the best redemption deals for the points is where it gets complicated and the real work comes in.

It's not like I just went on the United website, put in our dates and destinations, transferred the points and got the tickets. I spent many hours poring over different airline websites and different city combinations and dates to see where the best deals were. (We weren't tied to particular cities or dates other than our religious pilgrimage to Haifa, which didn't end up happening anyway.) It took a lot of time to find these tickets for the price we did, but again, totally worth it to save thousands of dollars.

family at sunset

Our whole family at the tip of mainland Greece at sunset.

Photo courtesy of Annie Reneau

If there weren't as many of us, we could also have gotten hotels on points, but with a family of five it was more affordable to book Airbnbs where we were Europe. So it's not like this vacation cost us nothing—we still had accommodations, public transportation, a car rental in Greece for exploring outside of Athens for a few days, food (pretty cheap in Greece, more expensive in the U.K. and Austria), and any museums, attractions and events we enjoyed.

But getting the flights for a song enabled us to do the rest. The cash price for the exact same flight itinerary would have cost between $6,000 and $9,000 for the whole family, especially since most of our flights were direct and at desirable times. Even if we were to see the 362,500 Chase points we used for their straight cash back value ($3,625), we still got a good deal. But those points didn't cost us anything. And our family got to take the trip of a lifetime. Travel hacking for the win.

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10 anti-holiday recipes that prove the season can be tasty and healthy

Balance out heavy holiday eating with some lighter—but still delicious—fare.

Albertson's

Lighten your calorie load with some delicious, nutritious food between big holiday meals.

True

The holiday season has arrived with its cozy vibe, joyous celebrations and inevitable indulgences. From Thanksgiving feasts to Christmas cookie exchanges to Aunt Eva’s irresistible jelly donuts—not to mention leftover Halloween candy still lingering—fall and winter can feel like a non-stop gorge fest.

Total resistance is fairly futile—let’s be real—so it’s helpful to arm yourself with ways to mitigate the effects of eating-all-the-things around the holidays. Serving smaller amounts of rich, celebratory foods and focusing on slowly savoring the taste is one way. Another is to counteract those holiday calorie-bomb meals with some lighter fare in between.

Contrary to popular belief, eating “light” doesn’t have to be tasteless, boring or unsatisfying. And contrary to common practice, meals don’t have to fill an entire plate—especially when we’re trying to balance out heavy holiday eating.

It is possible to enjoy the bounties of the season while maintaining a healthy balance. Whether you prefer to eat low-carb or plant-based or gluten-free or everything under the sun, we’ve got you covered with these 10 easy, low-calorie meals from across the dietary spectrum.

Each of these recipes has less than 600 calories (most a lot less) per serving and can be made in less than 30 minutes. And Albertsons has made it easy to find O Organics® ingredients you can put right in your shopping cart to make prepping these meals even simpler.

Enjoy!

eggs and green veggies in a skillet, plate of baconNot quite green eggs and ham, but closeAlbertsons

Breakfast Skillet of Greens, Eggs & Ham

273 calories | 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (5 oz) pkg baby spinach

2 eggs

1 clove garlic

4 slices prosciutto

1/2 medium yellow onion

1 medium zucchini squash

1/8 cup butter, unsalted

1 pinch crushed red pepper

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bow of cauliflower ham saladGet your cauliflower power on.Albertsons

Creamy Cauliflower Salad with Ham, Celery & Dill

345 calories | 20 minutes

1/2 medium head cauliflower

1 stick celery

1/4 small bunch fresh dill

8 oz. ham steak, boneless

1/2 shallot

1/4 tspblack pepper

1/4 tsp curry powder

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp garlic powder

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/8 tsp paprika

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

tofu on skewers on a plate with coleslawPlant-based food fan? This combo looks yums. Albertsons

Grilled Chili Tofu Skewers with Ranch Cabbage, Apple & Cucumber Slaw

568 calories | 20 minutes

1 avocado

1/2 English cucumber

1 (12 oz.) package extra firm tofu

1 Granny Smith apple

3 Tbsp (45 ml) Ranch dressing

1/2 (14 oz bag) shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix)

2 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

frittata in a cast iron skilletSometimes you just gotta frittata.Albertsons

Bell Pepper, Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata with Parmesan

513 calories | 25 minutes

6 eggs

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

2 oz Parmesan cheese

1 red bell pepper

1/2 medium red onion

8 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with slices of grilled chicken and a caprese saladCaprese, if you please.Albertsons

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Classic Caprese Salad

509 calories | 25 minutes

3/4 lb chicken breasts, boneless skinless

1/2 small pkg fresh basil

1/2 (8 oz pkg) fresh mozzarella cheese

1 clove garlic

3 tomatoes

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 3/4 pinches black pepper

1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

four stuffed mushrooms on a plateThese mushrooms look positively poppable.Albertsons

Warm Goat Cheese, Parmesan & Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms

187 calories | 35 minutes

1/2 lb cremini mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1 1/4 pinches crushed red pepper

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with open English muffin with goat cheese and sliced baby tomatoes on topMove over, avocado toast. English muffin pizzas have arrived.Albertsons

English Muffin Pizzas with Basil Pesto, Goat Cheese & Tomatoes

327 calories | 10 minutes

3 Tbsp (45 ml) basil pesto

2 English muffins

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/2 pint grape tomatoes

3/4 pinch black pepper

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

pita pocket on a plate filled with veggies, meat and cheeseThis pita pocket packs a colorful punch.Albertsons

Warm Pita Pocket with Turkey, Cheddar, Roasted Red Peppers & Parsley

313 calories | 20 minutes

1/4 (8 oz) block cheddar cheese

1/2 bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

4 oz oven roasted turkey breast, sliced

1/2 (12 oz) jar roasted red bell peppers

1 whole grain pita

3/4 pinch black pepper

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp mayonnaise

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with toast smeared with avocado and topped with prosciuttoDid we say, "Move over, avocado toast?" What we meant was "Throw some prosciutto on it!" Albertsons

Avocado Toast with Crispy Prosciutto

283 calories | 10 minutes

1 avocado

2 slices prosciutto

2 slices whole grain bread

1 5/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp onion powder

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bowl of chili with cheese and green onions on topVegetarian chili with a fall twistAlbertsons

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili with Cheddar

444 calories | 30 minutes

2 (15 oz can) black beans

1/2 (8 oz ) block cheddar cheese

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

2 green bell peppers

1 small bunch green onions (scallions)

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin purée

1 medium yellow onion

1/2 tsp black pepper

5 7/8 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp cumin, ground

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

For more delicious and nutritious recipes, visit albertsons.com/recipes.

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And yet, when December 25th makes its way into the periphery, many put themselves further into the red by buying items that no way match their budget. Or, there’s a sense of shame when telling family and friends that it simply can’t be done this year.

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Holt lived so frugally that he was known to wear threadbare clothes, ride his lawnmower about town in lieu of a car, and be more than content to spend his time either working or tinkering with his model automobile collection.

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Sammy J took us on a trip down memory lane.

Those of us who remember life before the internet love nothing more than to share "back in my day" stories with today's youngsters who've never had to try to get somewhere without GPS. When we tell our kids about dial-up internet, they look at us the same bewildered way we looked at our parents when they talked about party lines. So much fun.

Nothing splits the generations like what was considered advanced technology during our formative years, and one comedian has encapsulated that divide in an ode to the 1990s.

Sammy J sang "You'll Never Know What It's Like" at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and had the audience giggling along with recollections of life in the 90s. Driving around in the car with a big book of maps? Check. Making a collect call to tell your mom to pick you up but avoiding the collect call charges by telling her where you were instead of saying your name? Check. Agonizing over whether to take a photo because you only have 24 shots in your disposable camera? Check.

Younger generations will never know what it was like to live so primitively, it's true. But Gen X does, and this song is like taking a cold plunge into a pool of nostalgia.

Enjoy:

People loved the musical trip to the past.

"Thank you for taking me down memory lane! It was a blast 😀" wrote one commenter.

But some couldn't agree on whether young people have it better today or had it better in the 90s.

"All true! If only our teenagers knew who good they have it!" wrote one person.

"Life was so so good in the 90’s I feel lucky it didn’t have to grow up in this era 😕," shared another.

"God I miss the 90s!" wrote another. "Both my daughters always say they wish they grew up in the 90s bc it seemed so much fun and it was!!"

Kids today really will never know what those days were like, but that's okay. They'll be singing their own "back in my day" songs someday and marvel at how much has changed since they were young.

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