How to plan a family holiday on points and miles
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As we approach 2020, it’s time to get planning where points and miles can take your family next year and beyond. While we’ve gone over how many points your family can earn in a year and why you shouldn’t hoard them, we’ll now talk about how to use those points and miles to plan a holiday as a family.
To begin, confirm you’re signed up for loyalty programmes with airlines such as British Airways Executive Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and have read the TPG U.K. Beginner’s Guide to points and miles. Check the TPG U.K. guide to how many points and miles your family can earn in a year for a gauge, though note that the amount every family receives varies.
While this article mostly focuses on using points and miles for transportation, you should also be collecting points in major hotel programmes like Hilton Honors, IHG, World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy. Additionally, sometimes it can be easier to convert your American Express Membership Rewards to a hotel programme to book just one room rather than trying to book multiple award flights.
Pick your goal experience
Points and miles planning requires flexibility. My family starts with an experience we would like to have together, such as skiing, beach or city break. Since our children are young, we also factor in where we have the best chance to relax. We can then come up with a list of potential destination airports. We are flexible in the eventual destination because we usually cannot be flexible on dates.
An upside of points and miles flights for families is that they typically include checked luggage. For example, if you want a skiing holiday, you can start with a few European ski airports and then build out which resort based on the airport where you find availability. It’s worth thinking outside the box as well, for example, you may find better availability flying to Denver or Vancouver than the traditional European airports over February half-term. You can take the Eurostar with your family by transferring American Express Membership Rewards and take the ski train service from London to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice in the winter.
As a family, especially one subjected to a rigid school calendar, you may be restricted most by when you can travel. If you can be flexible with which part of the summer you travel, there can be good availability on flights. It can also be a lovely time to visit many beautiful places in the U.K.
British Airways releases Avios reward seats 355 days before the date of departure and Virgin Atlantic does the same at 331 days. Eurostar releases seats approximately six months in advance. We set alerts in our calendars for when half-term reward seats are released. For example, my boys’ 2021 February half-term starts 12 February 2021. The signal is set for midnight on Sunday, 23 February 2020, in hopes of getting four economy Reward Flight Savers through British Airways. We know we need to have around 56,000 Avios (7,000 each way) for the four members of our family to fly to most airports in Europe. One can adjust the Avios to cash ratio depending on how many Avios you wish to spend.
How many points do you need?
As we did in the example above, you can come up with an estimated number for how many points and miles you will need by specific booking dates. You can also choose your destination based on how many points and miles you have at the time you need to book, which is often how our family chooses where to go. Again, this is where flexibility is key to points and miles success. Remember to transfer your Tesco Club Card vouchers into Avios or Flying Club miles at least 24 hours before you need to redeem them.
Keep in mind that if you’re close to a redemption, it may make sense to purchase the miles needed to get you there.
Using a British Airways Companion Voucher
If you have The British Airways American Express U.K. Credit Card or The British Airways American Express U.K. Premium Plus Credit Card, you may need to factor in using a Companion Voucher or two. For families, it can be essential to earn two Companion Vouchers in close succession so that you can redeem them together. We decide on which term we will use our Companion Vouchers. For us, this is usually May or October half-term or summer holidays because we find the best availability and want to use them for long-haul redemptions. Keep the expiration dates in mind when picking on which term to use them so that they don’t expire. Check out these articles for how to maximise your Companion Voucher for two people with 50,000 Avios, 100,000 Avios, 150,000 Avios or 200,000 Avios.
Maximise your credit card bonuses
If you’ve come up with a number for your dream points holiday, it’s time to start earning. In most cases, these are the best cards to start with:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card: Best for beginners who want transferrable American Express Membership Rewards points and no annual fee for the first year (£140 each year after).
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card: Best for earning the most valuable U.K. credit card benefit, the British Airways Companion Voucher, and the highest rates of Avios (3x on British Airways, 1.5x otherwise). There’s a £195 annual fee.
- Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard: Best for when Amex is not accepted or if you are a loyal Virgin flyer. There’s a £160 annual fee.
Keep in mind that these cards might not be the best for all consumers in all situations. Read TPG U.K.’s credit card reviews for an idea of which card might be best for you.
While it can be more difficult for families to redeem award travel, we also can earn miles faster with our household spending. Now that you’re collecting miles, tally up how many you’ll need and set your diaries for when to redeem them.
Featured image by kali9 / Getty Images