Sunday Reader Question: Best Way to Book Award Travel During Peak Periods Like the Olympics

by on October 30, 2011 · 10 comments

in Sunday Reader Questions

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TPG reader Moira writes:

“I’m recently into points and took your advice and picked a goal to work towards. I am trying to go to the 2012 Olympics in London. My question is: What are your thoughts on using your points for high travel events (ie. World Cup, Olympics, Super Bowl etc)? I watched your clip yesterday about getting last minute award travel because airlines will open up unused seats for award booking as the date approaches. If you were wanting to use your miles to get to an event would you book early or late? Would you even try to use hotel points or would the demand block you out?”

Definitely use your points for peak period events! The thing is, you’ll probably just have to get creative. Flying on non-stops into London on peak days will probably be difficult to get at the “low” award levels, but I checked on Continental/United and there is Star Alliance availability via Brussels and Frankfurt on many days. You could also fly into Paris and Chunnel to London. You could also try availability into Manchester/Dublin and find cheaper ways to get to London.

Low level Olympics business class award on Star Alliance

I’d recommend booking in advance, because things will likely sell out as the event nears. Most businesses doing business with the Olympics won’t buy tickets for employees until closer to the event and if you book your award before tickets go on sale to the general public, you should have a better shot at snagging availability.

In general, my main tip is to be creative! First find availability onto the continent and then try to get to your final destination. In general, finding intra-European availability is much better than trans-Atlantic.

Additionally, airlines do open up tons of last minute award seats, but I wouldn’t bank on it during special events like the Super Bowl. Instead, plan ahead and book the award seats before the airline and general public can snatch them from you. Travel is an adventure – embrace it!

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  • Tim

    Eurostar has just opened online ticket sales for the Olympic period. It’s $70 each way from either Paris or Brussels. Fly out of either and you’ll save on the APD charged by BAA. Tickets are going fast, book soon.
    It may have been an anomaly, but fares from LA to Vancouver fell through the floor a week before the 2010 games started.

  • Andy

    Thanks for the info!

  • Susan


    Initially I want to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I find your posts very well organized, informative and to the point. In addition, your approach to travel appears to mesh with my own perspective. I don’t travel much and so when I do, it is for pleasure and a pleasure to be savored. Thus while I try to do it as inexpensively as possible (read miles and points) the overall experience makes up more than half the reason to take trip in the first place. Perks such as 4 star hotels, business class seats, the occasional splurge meal are to me just as important as seeing new places. So keep the great information coming – I am looking forward to your post on hotel award programs.

    Now for my question: I am trying to book a trip to Europe from DFW taking advantage of US Airways off-peak rates. I currently have a trip DFW-CDG-FCO-DFW on hold. It expires tonight and my Starwood miles have yet to post. (I transferred them three days ago.) Availability has shrunk dramatically in the last three days on any routes to and from Europe particularly on the return leg. Do you have any suggestions on how to try to hang on to the tickets I have on hold until my miles post? I have never flown US Airways before and would welcome any strategy suggestions. Thanks for any help. I thought your advice on this might also help anyone else trying to book awards when tickets are tight and you are waiting for miles to post.

  • Justin M

    I checked AA availabilith to LHR during the Olympics. As of about a month ago there were low level business seats available.

  • Bohemiana

    We were in the same situation and fortunately our miles posted much faster than Starwood told us so we were able to get our itinerary. I would call in today and see if the same itinerary is still available and get a new hold through a new reservation for another 24 hour period. And if the exact itinerary is not available maybe just a different flight time would work.

  • Kevin

    book early! booked back in September using my reward miles for a trip around the world including London during the 2012 olympics. Intercontinental was good value with their points+money. Staying at the Crowne Plaza St. James for only $60 a night!

    Not sure where you are flying out of but I booked my flight on Virgin Atlantic because their mileage rewards were half off when I booked the flight for my girlfriend and I, meaning it was only 9,000 miles to fly one way from Newark to LHR. Even with the high taxes and fees it seemed worth it to spend less Star Alliance miles and use what I saved on the rest of my trip. Not sure if Virgin Atlantic still has that promotion going though, but they generally have plenty reward seat redemption options available for a low amount of miles, just higher fees.

  • Raffles

    It may be easier to go via Brussels if chunnelling, if only because a Eurostar ticket to Brussels is actually valid to anywhere in Belgium, inc the airport.

  • Charlotte

    The Virgin train that goes from Manchester to London takes about an hour and you can go to the terminal straight from the Manchester airport. Ride is smooth and it has a business class car. Highly recommend if you can get a flight into Manchester for less miles. Plus there is a bit to see in Manchester and around (easy train rides to Liverpool, Chester and York) if you want something to do besides the Olympics.

  • msally

    When I worked at Eurostar one of the pet peeves was Americans calling the Channel Tunnel the “Chunnel”. No other nationality calls it that!

  • Anonymous

    Forgot to follow up but with aeroplan award bonus and tacked on a few days in London!next stop hotels I’m thinking hotel indigo at paddington cause that seems like all that is vailable right ow … Anyone stayed here? Doesn’t seem to central any better ideas out there? Thanks so much for the advice points guy! I just wanted to double check are there always high fuel charges out of heathrow?

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