Sometimes, I get so focused on using points for long haul business class airline tickets that I forget there are actually other options—millions of them, actually.

In addition to bucket list vacations, it’s possible to do things like replace the new iPad your kid just shattered or splurge on that gorgeous handbag by redeeming American Express Membership Rewards® points.

I’m excited to announce that I am a new ambassador for American Express, a card that helps us fill our passports with style. To help illustrate how we do it, here are my seven top picks for using Membership Rewards points for family travel.

1. Fly Higher with Airline Miles

Transferring Membership Reward points to airline frequent flier programs is easy. Asia Miles, where one Membership Reward point equals one Asia Mile, are incredibly valuable to us because we take annual trips to Hong Kong (my daughter is pictured above swimming at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong), usually on Cathay Pacific. The only way you can upgrade a Cathay Pacific economy class ticket is through use of Asia Miles. If you’ve ever flown in Cathay Pacific business class, you know exactly why I move mountains to make it happen. (Not to mention, flying with kids is so much easier in premium classes.)

cathay pacific business class lounge hong kong

Because the mileage transfer happens quickly, it makes sense to wait until there’s a specific flight you need to take. This avoids accidentally transferring miles to a frequent flier program that won’t be able to accommodate your needs. Other eligible frequent flier programs include British Airways, Virgin America, Emirates, JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines and many more.

2. Transfer to Hotel Rewards Programs

Though we are not historical users of points for hotels (I’m not kidding when I say we hoard for business class tickets), it’s possible to transfer points to Hilton HHonors®, SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest)®, Choice Privileges, and Best Western Rewards. The conversion rate depends on the hotel program and many families benefit by doing this.

3. Offset Travel Costs

Alternatively, using Membership Rewards points to offset the cost of travel is possible when booking through AMEX Travel. You may want to book here anyway as they guarantee the lowest prices on hotels and there aren’t any blackout dates.

(Between the items on this list, you could more or less fund an entire holiday depending on the number of points you have.)

4. Buy Theme Park Tickets

legoland california rides

The cost for a family to enter a theme park these days is intense. For instance, LEGOLAND California starts at $75 per day for ONE CHILD. Why not relieve stress on the wallet by redeeming Membership Reward points for that child’s ticket instead? Other participating theme parks include SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Knott’s Berry Farm and more.

5. Dine Out for Less

The value per point here for dining gift cards is pretty good to Legal Sea Foods (we just had an amazing experience at Legal Sea Foods Harborside in Boston), Benihana, California Pizza Kitchen, Fleming’s and many more family restaurants. You have to eat while on vacation!

6. Gear Up

This SoCal family is doing an unusual amount of (very) cold weather travel this winter which means we need new gear. The conversion of points to dollar amount for retail gift cards is usually the same as dining gift cards. Options include some of my favorite haunts like Neiman Marcus, GAP, Brooks Brothers and Bergdorf Goodman. Not to mention there’s Dell, Crate and Barrel, iTunes and many more lifestyle options.

If you have a few thousand points leftover after a big redemption, this is a great way to spend them. A number of gift card options also provide instant gratification by landing in your inbox within minutes of purchase.

7. Enjoy Some Retail Therapy

american express membership rewards travel

Ultimately, the value of Membership Rewards points is determined by you. If you have points to burn and a hankering for a designer item or fun gadget, go for it. To spark your imagination here’s are some cool things I found.

Converse x Missoni Chuck Taylors

I love, love, love these shoes! Converse x Missoni Chuck Taylors do a great job of bridging the gap between sneakers and style. I wore them with a Lululemon dress and leggings during my last set of flights with surprisingly lengthy gate-to-gate connections (and a bum toe) and had absolutely no issues other than excessive compliments from fellow passengers.

Tory Burch Ella Handbag

As an avid Tory Burch fan, I would love to own this Ella handbag not only because of the look, but because it’s nylon. This usually means easy cleaning and packing in addition to it being lightweight for daily use.

Kate Spade Cedar Street Travel Wallet

Do not underestimate the value of a travel wallet. Not only will it save your passport from damage—possibly requiring a total replacement before expiration (my husband learned this the hard way)—but it keeps the extra cards, currency and other stuff you need organized. So, why not make it cute AND practical? I love Kate Spade travel gear, including this chic travel wallet.

GoPro Camera

I seriously regret not purchasing a water-resistant GoPro camera before our most recent trip to Kaanapali Beach Resort in Maui. We were in the water most of the time and I had no way to document it.

How to Earn Membership Rewards Points

You need a qualifying American Express card such as the AMEX EveryDay Credit Card, Platinum Card from American Express, American Express Gold Card and many more. The type of credit card you have determines how many Membership Rewards points are earned per purchase. To stay up-to-date, be sure to follow the #MembershipRerwards hashtag on social media.

Stay tuned as I plan our next Asia trip using points. Where are we going? You’ll have to wait and see. And, there’s holiday shopping to consider which, of course, can be done with Membership Rewards points. With so many options to consider, we want to know…

How do you use Membership Rewards points?

*Thank you to American Express for sponsoring this post on behalf of the Membership Rewards Program.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. My husband loves using his AmEx rewards to cash in on Home Depot gift cards for home improvement projects we plan. They definitely come in handy!

    1. For sure. A gift card used in the Home Depot gardening center would go a long way, too. I’ve been there 3x this week!

    1. I think I don’t redeem for hotels because I forget it’s an option. Or I get so focused on airlines! But SO many people do!

  2. What Chuck Taylor in high fashion! That’s so cool that you can buy these things straight from AMX! I have a Macy’s AMX but not sure if that qualifies. I am going to check. The holidays are a perfect time to rack up some points. Can’t wait to find out where you’ll be traveling to.