What’s the Best Strategy For Redeeming Family Award Tickets?

Dec 7, 2014

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TPG reader Hung asked me on Facebook:

“I’m planning a trip to Vietnam next summer with my family of four, but can’t book United award tickets for four people at the same time. When I select two people, there are many award seats available. Can I redeem points for two seats first, and then immediately redeem another two award seats right after that?”

These days, finding even one award seat at the saver level can be challenging, let alone two, three, or even four. Hung is hoping that once he books two seats, another two will become available. Unfortunately, airline seating doesn’t always work that way. Most of the time if you book two award seats (especially if they’re the last two saver seats), more won’t open up. (However, it is possible.)

When you’re booking for four people, you really need to be flexible. United does allow you to change award seats as long as the destination and origin remain the same. You could try booking for the day before or after, and set alerts on Expert Flyer for United Airlines award seats so you’ll get an email whenever a new seat opens up. So you may need to go with your  initial approach–book two seats, and if more don’t immediately open up, then go one by one as you get alerted to available seats.

The best thing you can do when booking family award travel is be flexible. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
The best strategy for booking family award travel is to be flexible. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

If seats don’t open up, you’ll have to consider changing to other flights. Both American and United are pretty flexible when making changes to award tickets, whereas some programs (such as Delta) will hit you with a $150 fee on every single award change unless you have Platinum Medallion status or higher.

To summarize, be flexible and keep checking availability. Since you’re booking far in advance, I’m fairly confident seats will open up, even on another carrier. Sometimes you have to take a risk to get rewarded and not get stuck paying double for those peak level awards. Good luck!

For more on family travel and award availability, check out this post.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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