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Why it's not too early to book your family's Christmas vacation

April 22 2022
9 min read
pool at Hyatt resort
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The flowers may have just started to bloom and your vacation plans for this summer may still be up in the air, but it's not too early to start planning — and booking — your family's Christmas vacation.

Even though the holiday season is not for another eight months, you may find that your ideal vacation destination is already booking up, especially if you're trying to use your points.

In fact, even if you are not 100% sure where you want to go just yet, you may want to plan a few different vacation options and then figure it out later. I have three very different December vacations already booked, which is one fewer than I had booked in advance of the holidays last year.

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While some of them require me to cancel 60 days out, that still gives me another six months to finalize my plans. But by booking something(s) now, I have a better chance of ensuring I am able to use my points and miles as life unfolds.

If you are yearning to get away for the holidays this year, here are some tips to consider if you want to start planning now.

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(Photo by Roberto Moiola/Sysaworld/Getty Images)

You can be flexible

Many hotel chains now follow a dynamic award pricing model, or one with off-peak and peak pricing, when using points. This means that during peak times, such as Christmas week, you may be forced to redeem a higher number of points per day.

However, even during the holidays, you may find that some dates fall into the off-peak or standard award chart.

If you have some flexibility in your schedule, you'll find more availability and potentially less expensive hotel pricing if you're able to go on the earlier or later side of the holidays.

For example, when looking at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort, which still has availability during the holiday timeframe, you'll find that traveling Dec. 21 (or earlier) through Dec. 26 will save you a decent amount of points versus traveling after Christmas.

(Screenshot from hyatt.com)

Know, too, that all Hyatt properties offer a points calendar that'll show you the number of points required per day (though that doesn't guarantee that a standard room is available), so be sure to put that calendar to use if you want to cash in as few World of Hyatt points as possible.

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Airline change and cancellation policies work in your favor

As a silver lining of the pandemic, remember that many airlines will allow you to book flights on points and miles and then cancel at a later time for no fee.

Although every airline operates things a bit differently, there's a good chance that your airline of choice has a flexible policy, allowing you to lock in airfare using your miles now without a penalty if your plans change later.

Major airlines including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways allow you to cancel your award flight without any fee, and the points or miles will go back to the account they were pulled from (for some, this no-fee policy only applies for flights originating in the United States).

With most carriers, even the taxes and fees paid will go back to the credit card used to book the reservation. JetBlue, however, will give you a travel credit valid for 12 months for the taxes and fees.

Related: How to avoid airline change and cancellation fees

I'm probably on the extreme end of things, but I currently have an American Airlines flight booked for a holiday trip to Aruba, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights reserved for Hawaii and a JetBlue flight locked in for Costa Rica.

There's a good chance I'll book Southwest for one (or more) of those trips, too, once the airline opens up its booking window on June 16. We have a Southwest Companion Pass, which lets a family member fly with me for almost free, making that a great potential option.

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino)

If the Southwest booking options end up being subpar, I know I still have a decent option already booked with another airline. By booking early, I'm also able to book the best flight option for my family at a reasonable number of miles. Typically, fares only go up in price (and points) as the holiday timeframe approaches.

You can look for price drops

Even though booking now will probably lock you into the lowest price, that doesn't mean you are out of luck if the cash fare price happens to drop.

Since many airlines allow you to cancel for no fee, you have the option to cancel and re-book if the fare price goes down. But remember: You'll need to keep a close eye on your flights to benefit from this since the airline won't automatically re-book you at the lower price.

Some airlines, such as Southwest, even allow you to simply re-price your fare by changing your reservation to the exact same flight. The process takes just a minute and can be done online — no phone call is required. Best of all, you can do this multiple times to truly lock in the best price possible.

Gone are the days of having to hope and assume that you are booking at the lowest fare possible since you were stuck with what you got outside of extremely expensive change fees. Instead, now you can book as early as possible and keep on checking to see if the number of points or miles drops.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Start accruing points now

Booking a hotel with points is a great way to save money, but if your points balance is looking a bit thin, there's still time to accrue points.

With some great credit card offers recently announced, it's easy to earn a boatload of points with just one credit card approval and welcome bonus. While it might not pay for your entire trip, it'll easily help offset a good portion of the price.

For example, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is offering Earn 140,000 bonus points + 1 free night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. With this card, you'll receive your fourth award night at no extra charge on every hotel reservation you make when redeeming points. So, a family of four could stay at the all-inclusive Holiday Inn Montego Bay in Jamaica for just 37,500 points per night when the fourth night doesn't add to the total cost.

Of course, award availability and the number of points required can always change, so you'll want to try to rack up the points needed as quickly as possible.

(Screenshot courtesy of IHG)

Similarly, if you're looking to stay at a Marriott-branded property, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card will give you three free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

With a little luck, you'll enjoy the added bonus of being able to top off the certificate when you pay the difference in points, a benefit scheduled to start in the coming weeks. This is great, as you'll no longer be stuck redeeming the certificate at a select set of hotels. Plus, you'll be able to use the certificate on peak pricing days, as long as you have points in your account to make up the difference.

While Marriott already implemented more dynamic pricing for approximately 200 properties, the rest of them will not move to that model until later this year — another reason why you'll want to book sooner rather than later.

For example, you can redeem the three certificates from the credit card offer to stay right on Fort Lauderdale Beach at The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort during peak dates. This is a great value, as the hotel currently costs more than $800 a night over the holidays.

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

Alternatively, if you don't want to worry about award availability, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card will allow you to purchase your airfare or hotel as a paid fare and then redeem your points to ultimately wipe away the charge.

Not only that, but if you book your flights via the Capital One travel site, you have access to predictive pricing advice powered by Hopper -- and potentially some built-in price protection coverage if it tells you now is the time to buy and the price drops.

Bottom line

Travel is booming and destinations across the globe are booking up quickly. This is true not only for the upcoming summer travel season but also for the winter holidays. If you know you want to get away for the holidays this year, our advice is to not wait to plan your trip. Start looking into vacation options now and consider if locking in a thing (or two) sooner rather than later, while leaning into the flexible change policies, makes sense for your family.

While there will always be something available later, if you want to use your points and miles to visit a specific destination, now is a great time to book.

Featured photo by (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
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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Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
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  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees