Some people say that booking award using miles and points can be complicated. Blackout dates. Program rules. Lack of availability. While it can be time-consuming to understand some of the nuances, award travel can open up a lot of options. When you are looking to book travel using miles and points, there are four tips that I think is helpful to keep in mind:
1. BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT YOUR TRAVEL DATES
Have flexibility around your travel dates. Plan ahead. If desired dates are not available, see if you can work with other dates. Award availability can also open up at the last minute, so you might be able to take advantage of it if your schedule allows you to fly on short notice.
What if your dates aren’t flexible: Don’t get frustrated. Buy your flights as usual and continue to earn frequent flier miles. Save your miles and points for another trip.
2. FEEL COMFORTABLE BOOKING ONE WAY TRIPS
If you are like most people, you’d want to book a “round-trip”. While that is also my preference, I’m also comfortable booking a one way while I wait to see if award space opens up. If you are not comfortable booking an “incomplete” trip, you may want to reset your expectation when using miles. For example, if you want to fly in business, know that you may find availability one way, but not necessarily on the return.
3. DON’T FORGET ABOUT POSITIONING FLIGHTS!
If you don’t have a lot of options from your departure point, consider flying out from a nearby airport. While you need to pay for the positioning flight, it can open up options that fit better with your needs.
4. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
I had to book a short positioning flight for an upcoming trip, and one flight option was through Cathay. Instead of booking the flight outright, I looked for distance based award availability on BA since Cathay is part of Oneworld. While my Avios balance is quite pitiful, I ended up buying the remaining Avios points to book the flight since it still offers a better value.
I know some people would prefer not bother with miles and points because they value their time more, and that’s totally fine. For those who are interested, investing time to understand the options can get you some really good value out of it.