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Summer has already started for most parts of the country, and you may be finding yourself in a situation where you didn’t really plan a family getaway in advance, but now it sounds like a darn good idea. Of course you don’t want to get sucked into paying high last minute booking prices, and luckily you don’t have to. You can still plan a last minute summer family getaway at a good price using a few of these tips.
Let Award Availability be Your Guide:
If you want to use traditional airline miles or hotel points to cover the costs of some of your travel expenses then I highly recommend letting award availability guide you, at least somewhat, to your final destination. For example, if you want some time in the Caribbean, but don’t mind too much exactly where in the Caribbean, then don’t focus in on just searching award availability to one spot. Search in and out of many islands until you find one with the availability you are after. This is, in part, what led us to selecting Puerto Vallarta for a late summer getaway over some other beach spots we were considering.
This morning I randomly searched for availability using British Airways Avios to Montego Bay, Jamaica from Dallas and found some dates with nonstop flights available for just 10,000 Avios each way! With some flexibility, you really can still use your miles for a great summer getaway – you can even combine this flight with staying at a great all-inclusive resort in Jamaica using your Hyatt points or Ultimate Rewards points transferred in from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for a vacation with very few out-of-pocket costs!
The same principle of flexibility will hold true with hotel availability, especially at popular family resorts. I highly recommend not falling in love with the idea of time at a specific resort, but instead let fate take a turn in the driver’s seat and check award availability at a few different resorts your family would enjoy and see who might have availability on dates that would work for you.
To give you a few ideas of what is possible on points, here are links to the Hyatt and Starwood Resorts. Be aware I am seeing more and more resorts playing around with award availability and making standard rooms only available as part of “packages” or similar so they aren’t available for awards. A call directly to the hotel may sometimes help with opening up that availability, but sometimes it won’t. There is still award availability out there, but it seems to be much tighter at some resorts than in some previous summers based on some spot checks.
Consider Booking Non-Standard Rooms:
I mentioned that award availability at some popular resorts can be scarce during popular summer travel days, so I recommend also looking at non-standard rooms in order to find availability. With Starwood you need to call SPG directly or chat online with them to see if “deluxe” rooms are available since you can’t book them on the website, but often these non-standard room start at just 1,000 – 2,000 additional points per night over standard rooms. With Hyatt you can sometimes book Regency Club rooms or even suites for additional points, so don’t forget those options, too!
Travel During the Week:
The kids are off from school anyway, so if at all possible I highly recommend traveling during the week if you can spare some time away from work. Summer weekends can be the peak of the peak in terms of tight availability, high prices, and crowds. If you can travel or a weekday (and for flights sometimes even on Saturday) you are going to have a much easier time getting awards or lower prices than just looking at weekends for your travels. If it works for your schedule, one date that is notoriously cheaper to fly on is July 4th, so don’t count that out if you are okay missing out on a little of the red, white, and blue festivities.
Look for Good Cash Rates on Discount Hotel Websites:
If you don’t have the hotel points to spend, or can’t find the award availability you are looking for then good old cash can be the key to the summer trip of your (last minute) dreams. I recommend searching a variety of discount sites to spot a good deal. A few sites that I would try include:
- Travel Pony – especially when they have an extra discount code
- SPG Hot Escapes – new list every Wednesday
- Hotel Tonight – including the new feature Escape which shows deals for the coming weekend
- Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection and Amex Fine Hotel and Resorts for included perks and potential upgrades on paid stays
- Vacation Rental By Owner or similar – you can sometimes score great rates on last minute un-rented weeks or weekends
Remember you can often use a card with fixed value points like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® to cover hotel costs if you find a deal you like. This way you can take advantage of good cash rates and still cover the charge with points!
Snag Great Airfare Deals:
I’m seeing very good airfare deals this summer, so if you want to fly on cash (or fixed value points) instaed of airline miles, it is still possible at a good rate. As always, follow @theflightdeal and @airfarewatchdog for the best deals. Frontier Airlines seems to have a pretty decent sale available every week or two as well, including a current 15% off code SAVE15 for travel from June 22, 2015 through Oct. 20, 2015 – not valid on Sundays.
This stacks with their sale fares, so I was able to build flights from Houston to Philadelphia for summer travel for as low as $86 round trip. I am seriously seeing tons of summer time flights to/from Orlando, Las Vegas, Austin, and more on Frontier starting under $100 round trip.
Are you still piecing together a last minute summer trip? Where are you headed and what tips are you using to save cash?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.