The sun is setting on summer 2014 as many kids are already back in school, with the rest to follow in the coming weeks. As we squeeze the last days out of our final summer 2014 trip, my mind immediately jumps to planning out getaways for next summer. For us, it makes it more tolerable to end our current vacation knowing more are on the horizon, but for a family it is also imperative to plan in advance in order to secure the award flights and award rooms that are scarce during peak travel times like summer break.
Many airlines United, Delta, American, Alaska, and more have their schedules open through about mid-July 2015 right now, which means that your early summer award flights can potentially be booked immediately. Many hotels have their schedules open at least through mid-August 2015, with some (like Starwood and Club Carlson) open even further out than that for award bookings.
I recommend doing some summer 2015 planning as soon as possible and locking something in if you find award flights that will work. Remember that airlines don’t release all of their award seats exactly when the schedules open roughly 11 months out. If their computers and calculations tell them later on that some seats are likely to go unsold on that particular route then they will release more award seats. If the reverse happens and seats are selling better than expected on that flight then they may pull back some award seats that were previously available. When an award seat disappears it doesn’t necessarily mean someone else booked it first.
Many of the hotel programs, including my most commonly used programs Starwood and Hyatt, allow you to book a standard room on points if it is available for sale with cash. That means the sooner the better for securing hotel award rooms as standard rooms can sell out during popular times, or get swept up all at once by large events or companies selling packages that include stays at the particular hotel you are interested in. With hotels you can usually cancel award nights without penalty until pretty close to the check-in date, so it doesn’t hurt to lock something in “just in case”.
Just as a brief example, let’s say my family wanted to come back to Kauai in summer 2015. Availability right now on United isn’t fantastic out of Houston to Lihue (somewhat better to Honolulu then adding a flight to Lihue), but there is one day in July that is currently available at the saver level on miles via a one-stop flight to Kauai. Assuming I have date flexibility and July 5th works for us, I could snag that award and not worry that every other day in July wasn’t available. It doesn’t matter because I got what I wanted and can start planning another trip to paradise.
On the other hand, if I don’t grab that one available date, it could easily disappear on us and we would be left waiting for something else to hopefully open up later on, or potentially not get here via United operated flights. My parents are planning a trip to Alaska and award availability for June changed dramatically last week before they could lock something in so now they will likely be traveling out of a different city to get there.
Regardless of where you want to go next summer consider this your official reminder to get planning!
Have you already locked in some summer 2015 trips for your family?