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Families that regularly travel using airline miles and hotel points know that advance planning isn’t a “nice to have” attribute, it is virtually a necessity if you want to be able to do truly amazing things with your accumulated rewards. You can sometimes get lucky with good award availability at the last minute if you like to procrastinate, but generally speaking if you want to travel at peak times with multiple passengers you need to always be planning out into the future.
It is the middle of summer 2015 right now, but that actually means it is time to start not just planning, but start actually making family travel reservations for early summer 2016. The major airlines have their booking schedules open roughly eleven months in advance, which brings us through mid-June 2016 as of now. That means you can potentially lock in the flight award reservations you are after for right after the next school year ends. This may seem like unnecessarily advance planning as you are still enjoying this year’s summer vacations, but trust me you will be so glad you put the effort in now once summer 2015 becomes just another (awesome) memory.
Some searches I did via United and American for the popular destinations of Hawaii, Orlando, and Europe for early June 2016 showed award availability in both economy and business class on various routes/dates, even when I was searching for a family of four. In fact, award availability to Hawaii in business class on the 763 from Dallas was unusually good if you happen to be able to travel in very early June.
Obviously I didn’t check every route and every date, but there are multiple award tickets out there for families just waiting to be snagged if you are ready to pull the trigger and start piecing together your summer 2016 award trips. Since most of the hotel reward programs allow you to book rooms on points 12 months or more in advance you can also go ahead and make many of those hotel award reservations to go along with your award flights.
If you are planning to use cash or points worth a fixed cash amount for your summer 2016 travel then I don’t necessarily advise making your flight reservations quite yet unless you stumble on a price you are very happy with. Booking flights very far in advance with cash doesn’t always work out to get you the best deal, though it certainly doesn’t hurt to start tracking airfare now and pounce when it hits a threshold you are happy with.
While you are always much better off when you have some flexibility mixed in with your advance planning, this sort of 11 months out booking is what makes many of us very happy with earning and using miles and points, and is the key that is missing for many others who say that miles are “worthless” because you can never use them to get the flights you want.
I see plenty of flights on miles that I want – the hard part is narrowing down which ones to actually book! Where is your family headed in summer 2016?