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If you’ve ever booked family travel with points, you’re likely familiar with the many challenges involved. From a lack of availability to staggeringly high award ticket prices, roadblocks abound when booking family trips around a school calendar like every other family in America.
However, these setbacks don't mean you have to tap into your savings or redeem an outrageous number of miles to have a fun vacation. With the right tools and strategies, you can save as much as 50% on the cost of flights alone.
Here are five ways to secure award tickets and redeem fewer miles for family tr
Book Ahead (Or Last Minute)
The key to keeping your point costs low for family travel is to book saver award space. Airlines have different tiers of award tickets, with saver space being the cheapest (and most limited inventory). Airlines limit the number of saver award seats on each flight, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to save money on multiple tickets.
The best workaround is to book your seats in advance, especially if you plan to travel during peak season when demand is high. Most airlines open up award seats around 350 days before departure, making it an excellent time to book multiple tickets using miles.
If planning your trip almost a year in advance isn’t feasible, you can still increase your odds of snagging saver award space by booking as far ahead as possible. You’ll usually notice better award space six months to a year in advance than closer to departure. Of course, there are exceptions – Lufthansa is notorious for releasing business and first-class award seats two weeks before departure. This can be great for procrastinators or those who don’t have much flexibility to book their travel almost a year in advance.
Bottom line: Book your trip well in advance and you’ll not only find plenty of award seats for your family, but you can book those seats with fewer m
Get One or More Companion Passes
Airline companion passes are the best way to redeem fewer miles for family travel or save cash if you can’t find an award space. Many airlines offer companion passes that are valid on revenue fares, award travel or both. Most of them will let you book a ticket for a companion for just the cost of award taxes and fees. This can work out especially well if you’re a family of two adults and two children. The two adults can obtain a credit card that offers a companion pass and then use those passes to cover airfare for their childr
The most popular companion pass is issued by Southwest, which is valid on award tickets. Taxes on Southwest flights start at just $5.60 each way, meaning you can book a companion’s ticket for about the cost of a cup of coffee. Typically, you have to earn 135,000 miles or fly 100 one-way flights to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. However, select Southwest credit cards occasionally offer Companion Pass as part of a sign-up bonus, so it's worth keeping an eye out for those offers as well.
Another companion pass that can save you miles on family travel is the Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare™. These companion passes are issued to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Cardholders annually. Once issued, they’re valid towards a companion travel ticket – all you have to pay is $122 (or a $99 base fare plus ta
Book Discounted Award Tickets
Some airlines offer routine discounts on award travel, helping you redeem fewer miles when booking family travel. Some of these deals require flexibility with your travel dates, as the discounted fares are often valid on off-peak travel dates and must be booked quickly. For example, the Air France/KLM Flying Blue program offers discounts of up to 50% on Promo rewards, which can translate to massive savings for families traveling togethe
Award discounts aren’t limited to foreign carriers either. Delta Air Lines routinely updates its SkyMiles® Deals page with incredible discounts. Simply enter your home airport and you’ll get a list of routes currently on sale. These deals are usually valid for specific dates (often a month out), requiring you to be somewhat flexible with your travel dates. Still, SkyMiles Deals can offer tremendous discounts on award tickets even during busy travel periods if you’re looking for a ba
Take Advantage of Transfer Promotions
If you have a credit card that earns transferable rewards, you’re probably familiar with the occasional transfer bonus promotion. Some banks will offer 10-50% more points when transferring points to a specific airline. American Express Membership Rewards® is known to offer frequent transfer promotions. In fact, they recently offered 30% bonus points on Virgin Flying Club transfers and a generous 25% bonus to the Flying Blue program.
Other programs that offer bonus transfers include Bilt Rewards, Citi ThankYou® and Chase Ultimate Rewards® (though they are few and far between). With a transfer promotion, you can stretch your existing point balance further and end up redeeming fewer miles for family trav
6 Ways to Make Your Points Go Farther When Redeeming for Travel
Explore Foreign Rewards Programs
Most people stick to domestic legacy carriers when saving up miles for a trip – American Airlines, Delta and United. However, you might be able to redeem fewer miles by opting for a foreign partner airline. For example, United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance™, a global network of 26 airlines flying to over 1,200 airports worldwide. United no longer publishes an award chart and tends to have pretty high redemption rates, especially on international awards. Meanwhile, Star Alliance partners like All Nippon Airways and Turkish Airlines still publish award charts and offer cheaper redemption rates on many awards compared to Unit
Want to take a family vacation to Hawaii? A flight to Honolulu can set you back 40,000 United miles roundtrip. Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines charges just 15,000 miles for the same ticket. A family of four can save 100,000 miles by booking with a foreign partner instead of Unit
You can save even more miles on international flights. All Nippon Airways (ANA) charges just 88,000 miles round trip for a business class ticket to Europe. Meanwhile, United charges close to that for a one-way award. If you’re looking to redeem fewer miles for a family trip to Europe, you can cut your cost nearly in half by opting for ANA instead of United. ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, meaning you can access those awards fairly eas
When you have to earn enough travel points for yourself and your kids, you want to stretch them as much as possible. Booking family travel with miles has its challenges, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or unattainable. By booking ahead and taking advantage of discounts and promotions, you can save thousands of dollars (and miles). With the right strategy, you can continue traveling to incredible destinations with your loved ones without exhausting your mileage account on the very first