If you’re dreaming of your next adventure and looking to get the most out of your frequent flyer program, you’ve come to the right place.
In this blog post, we’ll cover our top 10 tips for booking the perfect award trip. From understanding airline alliances to making the best use of award charts and everything in between, these practical pointers will turn you into a savvy award traveler, helping you score that dream itinerary without breaking the bank. Let’s dive in!
How To Book An Award Trip In 2023? (10 Tips)
1. Start Early
Award seats are limited and tend to be available well in advance. For the best availability, start planning your trip between 11 and 6 months before your intended departure date. This will give you more options for dates, times, and airlines.
Make sure to check out our detailed guide on when different airlines and frequent flyer programs release award seats.
Don’t forget last-minute seats!
Some airlines release award seats last-minute (yes, even days before). If it is not peak season, another option if you don’t mind planning last minute, is to see what’s available in the next few days and arrange the whole trip just a few days before your flight. Typically, First-class seats tend to be released very close to the departure date.
2. Check the Award Charts
Understand the airline’s award chart before you book. Some airlines have zone-based charts, others price awards based on distance, and others use a dynamic pricing model (most-common today). Knowing how your airline calculates point usage can help you maximize your value.
We often publish articles on how to get the best redemptions and find sweet spots for each frequent flyer program. Make sure to stay tuned and sign-up to our newsletter to get the latest news on your inbox.
Here are some examples
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Partner Redemptions Made Easy
- Avianca LifeMiles Sweet Spots And How To Find Them
- Best AAdvantage Redemptions In 2023 (And How To Find Them)
- How To Find The Best Aeroplan Award Flights (9 Sweet Spots)
3. Use AwardFares
Our tool AwardFares is the world’s fastest and most intuitive search engine for award flights, and it supports multiple frequent flyer programs. Instead of spending hours manually searching for different routes on the airline’s website, AwardFares helps you find and see available seats in just seconds.
It’s a great tool for travelers trying to get the most out of their miles, whether they are experienced frequent flyers or just getting started.
You try the tool for free without an account, and access more premium features and unlimited searches upgrading to our Gold or Diamond tiers.
4. Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations
If you have some flexibility with your travel dates or even your destination, you’ll have a higher chance of finding an available award seat. Off-peak travel times will also require fewer miles or points.
Using AwardFares Timeline View To Find Dates
When being flexible with dates, AwardFares has an extremely useful feature called Timeline view. It is a simple and intuitive way to see award availability over time. It shows you how many award seats are available on each day of your trip, so you can easily see when the best deals are available.
To use the timeline view, simply enter your origin and destination airports, the dates of travel, and the cabin class you’re interested in. AwardFares will then show you a timeline of award availability for your chosen route.
The timeline view is color-coded, so you can easily see which days have the most award availability, and in which cabin class. There’s also a red cross indicator below each day in case there’s no availability at all.
You can also use the timeline view to track award availability over time, in case you’re not sure when the best time to book your flight is.
Using AwardFares Map View To Find Destinations
Similarly, AwardFares Map view can also help when being flexible with destinations. It shows you available seats from/to a given airport or city.
Note that AwardFares can also search between continents, award zones or metro areas, which makes it great explore the available seats.
To use the Map view, simply enter your origin and destination airports. AwardFares will then show you a map of the world with your chosen airports highlighted.
5. Understand Airline Alliances
If your preferred airline doesn’t fly to your destination, consider its partners. Many airlines are part of global alliances, which allows you to use your miles on any airline within that alliance.
6. Consider One-Way Tickets
Booking one-way tickets can sometimes offer more flexibility than round trips, particularly with complex itineraries. Different airlines might have better availability on different segments of your trip.
7. Book Stopovers and Open Jaws
Some airlines allow you to book stopovers (a stop in a city for more than 24 hours) or open jaws (flying into one city and out of another) on award tickets. These can be a great way to see additional cities without using more miles.
8. Call the Airline
For complex itineraries, don’t hesitate to call the airline’s award booking line directly. You’ll be surprised by how much they can do. Their agents can sometimes find award availability that’s not visible online and help you figure out the best way to use your miles.
Agents might also be able to work out available seats for you, for example, to divorce married segments, extend stopovers, and even open up award seats for you (like Qantas does if you have status with the airline). Cool, huh?
Did you get a negative answer from an agent? Don’t give up just yet. In many cases it takes more than one call, so use the HUACA technique: hang up and call again.
- Read our full guide about Married Segments here.
9. Split Up Your Group
If you’re traveling with multiple people, it might be easier to find award seats by booking tickets separately. There might only be a few award seats available on each flight, so splitting up your booking can increase your chances of finding seats.
How to handle family groups?
Sometimes, you might not find award seats for your entire group, and you may consider combining award with paid tickets. If you you do so, make sure you pay the ticket for the member who is flying out the most. This will increase the chance of getting status with that frequent flyer program, and earning more miles or poitns, faster.
Also, as of 2023, many programs also support creating a family account where you can gather and spend your miles jointly. This makes it easier to reach award seats faster.
10. Set Up Alerts
AwardFares alerts are a way to be notified when award availability opens up for a specific route and date. This can be very helpful if you have the chance to be patient and want to make sure you don’t miss out on any good deals.
To set up an AwardFares alert, just follow these steps:
- Log-in to your account
- Select the origin and destination airports
- Select the travel dates (wide searches can search +-1 day)
- Choose the cabin class you’re interested in
- Set the number of passengers
Once you’ve set up an alert, AwardFares will check for award availability on your chosen route and date. If availability opens up, you’ll receive an email notification right away.
Optionally, you can set up more filters such as airlines, aircraft or even a specific flight number.
BONUS: Have a Backup Plan
Despite your best efforts, you might not be able to find an award seat on your ideal flight. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan, whether that’s flying on a different date, using a different airline, or even combining award tickets with paid tickets.
You can try AwardFares for free. We are rolling out new features and improvements regularly, so sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of the latest news, announcements, and pro tips!
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