You applied for the cards, you earned the miles, and now you’re ready to spend them on free travel. But what happens when you can’t find award availability for the dates you need? Or, the miles required for your desired flights are outrageously high? Here are some tips to increases your chances of booking the award travel you need.
Diversify Your Miles and Points Collection
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you only own American Airlines miles, you only have one way to book your award travel. But, if you own miles and points from multiple airlines and banks, you will have many options and more chances that what you need will be available. Credit cards that earn flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Miles and American Express Membership Rewards are a great way to diversify your collection since these points can be transferred to multiple airlines and hotels.
I’ve had the most luck booking award flights as soon as the schedules are released, around 11 months prior to travel. Often, airlines only release a few low-cost award seats. So, the early bird catches the worm!
Be Flexible on Dates and Schedule
If you are flexible with your travel dates, your chance of finding the award flights you need increases greatly. Even moving your travel day up or back by a few days can make a difference.
Consider Splitting your Travel Party into Two Groups
Instead of traveling together as a family of 5 or 6, consider splitting into two groups of 2-3 for greater award availability. You can fly on different flights or even different airlines and meet up at your destination.
Book Award Flight from Hub and Book Separate Positioning Flight
Maybe there is no award availability to Europe from Austin, but there is a lot of availability from Chicago. Book the long-haul flight from Chicago and book a separate (cheaper) positioning flight to Chicago.
I rarely find the award I want to book on the first day. But I don’t give up. I keep checking back. It pays to be persistent. Award availability can open up at any time, even just a few weeks before your desired date.
Readers, what is your best strategy for successful award bookings?