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A mantra you see repeated here time and time again relates to planning ahead if you want to maximize your options using miles and points for family vacations. Miles and points availability can also sometimes be very good at the last minute, but most families I know function much better planning months ahead rather than days or hours ahead of time.
With that being said, today I want to take our minds off of this really hot weather and summer time travel and instead focus on something much cooler…ski season and winter travel! It may seem like a long time from now, but in the miles and points world it really isn’t far off at all. I have a pretty comprehensive post outlining lots of resorts and hotels you can book using points to go skiing here that I recommend checking out for some ideas, but in this post I want to share some trends I am seeing as of today that may help you in your search.
It’s Not Too Late to Book Christmas Week 2015 at a Ski Resort
A very popular week at many ski resorts is the week between Christmas and New Years, so not surprisingly that is one of the first weeks to become unavailable on points (or even cash). There are some hotels and resorts where there is already no points availability that week, however there are other very nice resorts that still have availability. If you are having trouble finding availability that week be aware that some properties have a 3 or 4 day minimum stay requirement during that busy week, even on points, so try adding a day or two and see what happens.
Some popular points-friendly properties that I found with some award availability between Christmas and New Year’s include:
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek – rates are over $1,000 a night, but there are rooms right at the base of the mountain for 30k Hyatt points as long as you meet the 3 night minimum – I love that this resort is right next to ski school, see a full review here.
Westin Snowmass Resort – rates are over $800 a night, but you can book this slope-side hotel for 16,000 SPG points per night during that holiday week. While we stayed at the luxurious St. Regis Aspen on our last trip to the area, the Westin Snowmass would be my choice for our next trip to the region thanks to its location on the family friendly Snowmass Mountain and the proximity to ski school.
Sheraton Steamboat Resort – rates at this resort for the holiday week are around $600 a night, or you can book with 16,000 SPG points. We hope to visit this hotel ourselves next ski season!
The Equinox, a Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa, Vermont – this historic and charming Vermont property is over $800 a night the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but can currently be booked for just 12,000 SPG points per night. It isn’t right on a ski resort, but is a good location for various types of winter fun in Vermont. Check out some of the fun activities Pizza in Motion took advantage of while staying there last winter.
Westin Whistler – this slope-side hotel in Canada also is going fro over $800 a night between Christmas and New Year’s, but currently has award availability for just 12,000 points per night – read this post to learn how we upgraded to a two-bedroom suite for a very reasonable up-charge on our last stay there.
Lock in Spring Break and Long Winter Weekends Now:
The later you go into ski season, generally the better award availability currently looks at the resorts I spot checked. In Texas we get spring break in March, though I know some other parts of the country don’t get it until April. April may be too late for a ski trip at some resorts (though not all), but March is generally still a good time for spring skiing, and availability is currently pretty decent. I recommend locking in spring break or other winter weekends now if you want some spring skiing with your family!
One property in particular that is a great value on points, but is already pretty impossible to book for holiday weeks and January weekends is the Hyatt Escala Lodge. This property is located in Park City, Utah and makes a very great value choice at just 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night. The trick is they have lots of “non-standard” room types, so finding availability for standard rooms can be tough. However, I’m currently seeing standard rooms with two queen beds available on points on many dates in February and March 2016.
If You are Really Crazy, Look at Christmas 2016:
File this under you didn’t hear it from me, but if you are really a psycho-advance-planner like I am then you can actually almost start peeking at Christmas 2016 availability with programs that let you book 18 months in advance. When you look that far into the future sometimes you find some really cool availability and even cash prices that are way more reasonable than they will be once you get closer to when normal folks start looking at rates.
Watch Cancellation Policies:
The one downside to planning way in advance is that lots of stuff can happen between now and winter 2015 – 2016, so pay careful attention to the cancellation policies at the properties you are booking. We had to cancel all of our ski trips last winter when I got pregnant in the late fall, but thankfully we had prepared for that contingency by only making refundable reservations. However, it is very common at ski properties to have cancellation penalties starting as far as 30 days out, so just keep that in mind as you plan ahead.
If you want some more tips on how to save money on a family ski vacation, check out this video full of tips I recently did with The Travel Channel!
Where will this upcoming ski season take your family?