Points and miles are kind of a double-edged sword for families. On one hand, points help alleviate the larger travel expenses families tend to have. On the other hand, it can also be incredibly difficult for families to redeem points for travel. Families with school-aged children have to plan travel around breaks, which is also when travel is most expensive and award space restricted. Luckily, there are a few strategies families can follow to ensure they are able to redeem points and miles for award travel:
1. Collect Bank Rewards Currencies
The single most important thing families can do to ensure an easy award booking experience? Collect flexible bank rewards currencies. I’m talking about Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Amex Membership Rewards, Barclay Arrival Miles, to name a few. These points can be transferred to dozens of great partner airlines, covering nearly every major airline alliance. By focusing on bank rewards points, you’ll have more flexibility during booking time. After all, the worst position to be in is to count on great award availability from one rewards program and have that not be the case.
With bank rewards points, you don’t even have to depend on award availability. You can often get great value by redeeming your points through the program’s travel portal. Points are worth between 1 – 1.5 cents each, depending on the credit card you have. So even if none of the airlines you were banking on have award availability, you can book your tickets through the program’s travel portal and off-set your expenses.
Traveling with a family doesn’t have to be expensive or stressful. With points and miles, you can cover most of your expenses and it doesn’t have to be super difficult. Plan ahead, be prepared, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That should be more than sufficient to ensuring your whole family can travel without incurring exorbitant travel costs.
2. Book Off-Peak Travel
Being able to travel during the off-season is a great way for families to ensure they can book award travel easily. Flexibility, in general, is key. If the kids are able to miss a day or two of school in order to depart before all the other families depart on their vacations, there is going to be more availability and better deals. Both on points and cash. Of course, that’s not possible for everyone, in which case you should consider another option.
3. Split Cabins
When you’re traveling in groups of three or more, finding award availability becomes more challenging. That’s especially true in business and first class cabins. If you’re unable to find award space for the whole family in the same cabin, consider splitting up. You can put half the family in economy and the rest in premium economy or business. If the idea of half your group traveling better than the other doesn’t sit well with you, consider swapping cabins on the return flight. That way, everyone gets to experience a comfortable seat at least once.
4. Airlines That Offer Lots of Award Space
Booking award tickets for the whole family doesn’t have to be such a hassle if you time it right. That means booking well in advance or last minute, when airlines may open up additional award seats. When researching booking options keep an eye on airlines that offer great award availability. That includes airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Lufthansa, to name a few.
5. Booking a Standard Award
Standard awards (i.e. award tickets that sometimes cost twice the number of miles as a Saver ticket) are not ideal. Booking them for an entire family can get costly. But if you’ve managed to get all but one passenger on the same flight, then booking one Standard award might make sense. You can’t always get what you want (i.e. saver awards), but if you try sometimes you’ll get what you need (i.e. the whole family on the same flight, in the same cabin).
What are some of your tips for families booking award travel?
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