Booking award tickets for big families can be challenging due to the limited availability of award seats. Indeed, tracking down multiple award seats on the same flight can be difficult, especially if you want to fly in a premium cabin.
It will require more preparation and research. So, starting the process early and being flexible with your travel plans is crucial to increasing your chances of finding award seats for your family.
The purpose of this guide would be to provide a step-by-step strategy and insider tips for booking award flights for big families. It aims to help you navigate the challenges of booking award tickets for a group of four or more, and offer practical advice on monitoring flight patterns, researching routes, maximizing points or miles, and coordinating travel dates to secure the best possible holiday experience for your family.
Booking Award Tickets for Big Families - Credit card and points strategy
Before going into the burn process, we will first discuss the earning strategies. Booking award tickets for big families is expensive because you will require a lot of points.
Indeed, flying to Asia for 60,000 points is standard and quite easy to accumulate that amount with a single credit card application. However, if you have four kids, they will not be able to participate in the very important earning phase.
Therefore, both adults in the family must contribute by sign-up for new credit cards to benefit from their generous bonuses. If you are planning for a big family trip, you can get a lot of points from the following cards:
Then, you will have to maximize the organic spending; when you have a large family, the day-to-day bills will reflect that, especially in terms of groceries, clothing, activities, etc. The best card for that purpose is one that gives you a good accelerator on those categories, such as the American Express Cobalt® Card at 5X.
With the American Express Cobalt® Card, you can also get 5X the points on clothing and other family necessities, such as books, Amazon purchases, Netflix, etc., by employing the gift card strategy.
Since there is a limit of $30,000 on the 5X earnings with the American Express Cobalt® Card, each adult should sign up for one to maximize the accumulation potential, which is crucial for booking award tickets for big families.
Focusing on a flexible currency such as the American Express Membership Rewards is important because you will have ample choice of programs when the time to book comes.
Booking Award Tickets for Big Families - Monitoring flight patterns
Starting early is crucial when booking award tickets for big families. Since partner award seats are limited compared to Air Canada‘s, they tend to sell out quickly, especially during peak travel seasons.
For example, even a year out, there are only four seats left in economy and one business class seat for this flight to Taipei, an easy gateway into South East Asia, as space is limited with Eva Air, a Star Alliance partner airline in the Aeroplan program.
Therefore, it is essential to begin monitoring flight patterns and researching routes at least a year in advance to increase your chances of finding available award seats for your entire family.
Knowing when the airline releases award seats is very important; I’ve summarized that information in this article. I have also noticed that some airlines release a certain number of seats, and when those are booked, they tend to release more in the following days. That is why you must keep checking to understand the pattern for your situation.
Additionally, starting early allows you to be more flexible with your travel plans. It gives you more time to accumulate points as you will be capable of getting a rough estimate when researching flight patterns. By planning ahead, you’ll not only be able to secure those coveted award seats, but you’ll also likely be getting them at the best price.
Booking Award Tickets for Big Families - Possible routes and flexible destinations
When booking award tickets for big families, it is important to research all possible routes and be flexible on final destinations. Effectively, if your plan is to travel to Bali for your family holiday, consider itineraries that go west and east.
In the same manner, search for major hubs close by instead of limiting yourself to your destination. Indeed, there may be only three seats left on the SIN-DPS segment while plenty of spaces are available on the YUL-LAX-SIN flights.
Consequently, if you only input Bali as your destination, the YUL-LAX-SIN-DPS flight will not show in your search results as there are not enough seats for your party. In some cases, like that one, the best option might be to fly to Singapore with your tribe and purchase low-cost tickets to get to your final destination.
You can use Flight Connections to look for the available routes for your journey and employ ExpertFlyer to find award space on the different segments.
Booking Award Tickets for Big Families - Booking award tickets
When booking award tickets for big families, it is important to reserve the tickets as soon as they become available. The limited number of award seats means that they sell out quickly, so acting fast is essential.
For our example earlier, Eva Air releases two business class award spaces every day, 355 days before the travel date. To secure these tickets, booking as soon as they are freed is crucial. If families need more than two seats, they should also be ready to reserve immediately the remaining seats before they sell out. Yes, you read that correctly, buying the only two seats even if you are travelling as a family of four.
Then, closely monitor the release of the two new seats for travel on the following day; while booking seats on two different dates may not be ideal, that is a strategy for booking award tickets for big families and saving on costs.
You can also hope for more award seats to be accessible for that same day since you booked them, but it might be unlikely for some airlines.
Afterwards, you can always plead your case with customer service to change your date if new seats are released; remember that schedule changes work in your favour and booking early almost guarantees you a flight change before your trip. In the worst-case scenario, you will be flying separately.
Finding multiple seats in economy class a year out is relatively easy, but the challenge is mostly when you want more than two business class award spaces.
Alternatively, you can purchase the missing seats by paying cash and redeeming travel rewards, thus combining the use of various types of points. Then, call to link your two bookings together. This is mainly a strategy when travelling in economy.
Booking Award Tickets for Big Families - New availability and changes
When booking award tickets for big families, monitor flight availability and make modifications if necessary, especially if you are not travelling on the same route or dates, as I explained in the previous section.
It’s essential to keep an eye on flight availability closer to the departure date, as seats may become available or other factors may require changes to the booking. ExpertFlyer can track that information for you and send you an alert so you can act accordingly and ensure that everyone is on the same flight.
Booking award tickets for big families can be difficult, but with the right strategy, it is possible. The key is to plan ahead of time and to be flexible with your travel plans. You can ensure the best possible holiday experience for your family by monitoring flight patterns, researching all possible routes, and maximizing your points or miles redemptions.
To increase your chances of finding award seats for your entire family, focus on flexible currencies such as Membership Rewards and book your tickets as soon as they become available. By using these tips, you can have a memorable family vacation.