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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, especially when booking family trips around a school calendar and busy family schedules.

But 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 could 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 travel.

1. Book Your Trip Far in Advance

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 miles. The key to keeping your point costs low 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 award seats about 350 days before departure, making it an excellent time to book multiple tickets using miles. 

Quick Tip

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.

2. Get One or More Companion Passes

inside Southwest plane


Airline companion passes are the best way to redeem fewer miles for family travel or to 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 let you book a ticket for a companion for just the cost of award taxes and fees. With a family of two adults and two children, the adults can each get a credit card that offers a pass and then use those passes to cover airfare for their children.

The most popular companion pass is issued by Southwest. Typically, to earn this pass you have to accrue a set amount of miles or 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.

The Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare™ can also save you miles on family travel. These companion passes are issued to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Cardholders annually. Once issued, they’re valid toward a companion travel ticket—all you have to pay is $122 (or a $99 base fare plus taxes that start at $23). While the Alaska Companion Fare is valid on paid fares only, it can be ideal when award prices are high and a 2-for-1 airfare purchase makes more sense. You’ll save money and miles on family travel, which can be ideal.  

3. Book Discounted Award Tickets

Delta plane at MSP airport Minneapolis


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 together. 

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 bargain.

4. 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 issuers will offer 10-50% more points when transferring points to a specific airline.

Here are some popular programs:

With a transfer promotion, you can stretch your existing point balance further and end up redeeming fewer miles for family travel. Check out the best travel credit cards right now to find one with a rewards program that fits your spending habits.

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5. Explore Foreign Rewards Programs

Turkish Airlines flying in the sky

Turkish Airlines

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. Here are some examples.

Nippon Airways and Turkish Airlines

United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance™, a global network of more than two dozen 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 United.

Hawaii Vacation

A flight to Honolulu could set you back 40,000 United miles round trip. Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines charges around 15,000 miles for the same ticket. A family of four can save 100,000 miles by booking with a foreign partner instead of United. Turkish Airlines' Miles&Smiles is a 1:1 transfer partner of Capital One, Citi ThankYou, American Express Membership Rewards and Bilt Rewards. So they’re much more attainable than you might expect.

A Trip to Europe

All Nippon Airways (ANA) charges around 88,000 miles round trip for a business class ticket to Europe, while 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 easily. 

Bottom Line

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 go.

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Ariana Arghandewal

Ariana Arghandewal is a rewards travel expert and founder of Pointchaser, an online publication dedicated to rewards travel topics. She brings over a decade of experience writing about travel, points, miles and credit cards. Her expertise includes her roles as an editor for distinguished travel and finance publications such as NerdWallet, The Points Guy and FlyerTalk. She has also authored many articles featured in major financial news & travel channels like Forbes, U.S. News Weekly, Business Insider & Fodor’s Travel.