It is really easy for single people to use their reward points and miles to travel. Or at least, that is what I concluded when I started booking awards for three or four people. It turns out that it can be twice as hard to find two award tickets together, than one, and four times as hard to find three seats together. Finding four award seats on a plane is like winning the lottery!
Nevertheless, there are some ways I have found to make this work. Here are my top tips:
Look for fixed value points and miles. Traditional airline miles require families to find available awards, while fixed value points and miles are just worth a fixed amount. Fixed value programs from airlines include Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, Virgin America, and JetBlue. In the field of credit card rewards, these programs include Capital One Venture Rewards, Barclaycard Arrival, and Citi ThankYou points. Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to miles or used at a fixed value for travel.
Book air 11 months out. If you have to book a trip using traditional frequent flier miles, book it as early as possible. With most programs, travelers can book as early as 11 months in advance. Coincidentally, families will already know their children’s school schedules way in advance, so this isn’t really that much of an inconvenience. The biggest problem for me is that the anticipation is extraordinary.
Split the team. Eventually, every family must conclude that the trip is about the destination, not necessarily the journey. So it can make sense to send part of the family on one flight, and the other on a separate flight. It seems unlikely that a family of 5 or more will ever find that many award seats on one plane.
Wait for schedule changes. So you plan 11 months in advance, and you split the team onto multiple flights, but don’t give up yet. Airlines frequently change their schedules throughout the year, and give passengers a chance to rebook their flights if it affects them. So simply call the airline and tell them that the schedule change is unacceptable to you, no matter how small. Then, request that your award seats be re-accommodated on the flight of your choice.
Traveling as a family has its challenges, but it can be extremely rewarding. By using every trick in the book, you can use your points and miles to get your family where you want to go.