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Quick Points: These award tickets are best to book at the last minute

Sept. 30, 2022
5 min read
Quick Points: These award tickets are best to book at the last minute
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It sounds irresponsible — maniacal, even — but you may find yourself days away from the vacation of a lifetime without a single detail booked. Your bags are packed. You’ve submitted your vacation request at work. And you’re just beginning to browse for flights and hotels.

Not everyone has the chops for it, but booking last-minute travel can pay off in a big way. Especially if you’re a frequent award traveler — some of the most aspirational and valuable awards magically appear a few weeks (or days) out.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. You might just be inspired to give last-minute reservations a go.

Some of the best flight and hotel awards appear within a few weeks of travel

Sometimes the best travel experiences are booked at the last-minute. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

It’s not ideal, but waiting to book your flights and hotels a week or two before departure can be your only chance to achieve your bucket list items.

InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa

One of the biggest unicorns in the hotel award space is the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa. This IHG hotel is almost impossible to book with points.

Despite costing 120,000 IHG points per night, demand is high — in large part because points book directly into an overwater villa (often $1,300 and above per night).

However, if you search for award availability just a week or two out, you can often find what you’re looking for. Here’s a three-night stay available on points for next week — it really doesn’t get much better than that.

IHG.COM

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Similarly, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island makes an appearance on many a bucket list.

For most of the calendar year, you’ll find the hotel charges over 500,000 Hilton points for a premium room. The hotel makes standard rooms available in waves.

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But here’s the thing: Standard room availability is nearly guaranteed within a month from the current date.

HILTON.COM

Swiss business-class seats

ANDREW KUNESH/THE POINTS GUY

Swiss International Air Lines business class tends to have good availability eight days from the current date — and it often gets scooped up quickly, as you’ll likely notice availability isn’t nearly as good on days 1-7 from today.

Our favorite ways to book are through Avianca or Air Canada Aeroplan. You can search routes between Zurich Airport (ZRH) and the following cities:

If you’ve got ice in your veins, you can hold off on booking flights until eight days from your desired departure date and snag a quality business-class seat to Europe on Swiss.

LIFEMILES.COM

Lufthansa first class

Lufthansa releases its first-class award inventory to its partners up to 30 days before departure. However, you’ll need to reserve your flights at least three days prior to departure — so there’s a balance as to how “last minute” you can book.

This deal is still extremely hard to find. Lufthansa's first-class seats are a darling of the points and miles community. After flying them once, you’ll understand why.

We recommend using ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG's parent company, Red Ventures) to alert you when seats become available. Set your route search between Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and the following U.S. cities:

Related: 6 tips for booking Lufthansa first-class awards

Bottom line

It takes a bit of faith to book last-minute flights and hotels. However, with some of the best deals in award travel, there’s really no other way to book.

Tangentially, it’s good to have a backup plan just in case the stars don’t align for you.

When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve booked safety-net flights and hotels that I would have been at peace with using if award space didn’t open up. It’ll keep you sane during your frantic, white-knuckled week of award searches before your departure date.

Featured image by TIM MCKENNA/INTERCONTINENTAL BORA BORA RESORT THALASSO SPA
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023