Here are some of the strategies that we used when planning our last minute trip to Germany and the Netherlands last week. If you don’t have time to plan, then the best thing to have on your side is flexibility…
1. It is possible to get a good value on your airlines miles; even last minute. You just need to be flexible. Airlines have something called Mile Saver tickets (or something similar to that). These are tickets that have been allocated at a low point value. They designate a certain number per flight in every class of seat. The trick is, if you are traveling last minute then you need to search for them. Generally speaking, you need to check around on different flights, days, times and airports.
2. You can upgrade your seat at the gate. If you are interested in upgrading your ticket from coach to business class, you can do it up until an hour or so before your flight leaves. If there is a lot of availability on your flight and you paid cash for your seat, you can upgrade sometimes for just a few hundred dollars. If you paid with points, you can not upgrade your seat using cash. However, you can upgrade using points last minute but again, it is just how many points do you want to spend.
3. Generally speaking the least busy days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday. Therefore these days are also usually the days that you can find tickets last minute using the fewest points.
4. Consider airports that are not as busy or in popular tourist destinations. For example, if you want to travel to Germany, check out Düsseldorf instead of Munich or Frankfurt.
5. Hotels; Using points at hotels is pretty easy, even last minute. Be aware, that not all hotel chains are equally represented throughout the world. So, it pays to have points for more than one brand of hotel.
6. Know when the high season is for the destination that you are traveling to. If it is their high season, you will pay more, spend more points and have a harder time getting into popular tourist destinations. It pays to travel on the off season if you can.