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Sometimes the best plans are those that are not planned at all. Spontaneous outings or last minute getaways can add a real sense of adventure to any summer vacation. One unlikely source to help fund these adventures is the vast amount of rewards points Canadians are sitting on.
“When it comes to redeeming points, the industry has taken a lot of flack recently over long booking periods or lack of inventory,” says Patrick Stojka, founder RewardsCanada.ca. “But some of the best deals and offers are available right now particularly if you’re willing to be a little adventurous.”
RewardsCanada.ca offers up the following five tips for cashing in on some last minute summer fun.
Flight Deals and Discounts:
Many of the major programs including Aeroplan and AIR MILES have last minute flight awards for travel within the next week or two. These redemption offers can represent a significant saving over using cash for last minute flights and can be booked immediately.
Once you click through the city of your choice you'll be presented with a list of destinations that Aeroplan knows there is availability for travelling to in the next 14 days on the Fixed Mileage Redemption level:
Finally many frequent flyer programs release award space on flights last minute when they see flights aren't selling out. For example, Lufthansa’s Miles & More program typically doesn't release first class award seats until 14 days before the departure date. So if you have flexibility you can travel to Europe in style without having to book nearly a year ahead.
Event and Day Passes:
Looking to take the family to an amusement park or trip to the zoo? Programs like AIR MILES, Aeroplan, and American Express Membership Rewards offer great family day passes for a reasonable redemption values to attractions across the country. From the Vancouver Aquarium with Aeroplan, amusement park tickets with AIR MILES to simply going out to a movie with Cineplex passes from Membership Rewards, there are numerous options for you to use points to save you money on these 'staycation' ideas.
In many parts of Canada you only have to drive an hour or two from your hometown to feel like you are in a total different country. You don't need to fly somewhere to make it feel like your on vacation, simply by staying at a nice hotel in the mountains can make dreams come true. Even staying in your hometown, you can try beating the heat by the pool of your favorite hotel. Many hotel programs if they show they have regular rooms available, you'll be able to redeem your hotel frequent guest points from programs like Best Western Rewards, IHG Rewards Club or Marriott Rewards right up to the day you want to stay. Some like IHG Rewards Club have offers that can make those rewards come at a great discount. They run a promotion called PointBreaks which offers up rooms at select hotels across the globe for only 5,000 points per night. When you compare this to the regular requirement of 10,000 to 50,000 per night, you can see the potential in it!
Road trip anyone? Rent a minivan and take the family on a road trip to the closest coast. Nothing like the sweet smell of the sea to put you in a summer vacation state of mind. And some of the best point deals can be found on extended car rentals. In our experience we looked at some last minute car rental options with AIR MILES that provided huge value. In fact the dollar return per point was higher than what you would get with using those same Reward Miles for a flight. The other option is not to go the points route but walk up or call up a local car rental office the morning you want to travel, they usually have the discretion to offer great rates on a car that otherwise would just sit in their lot for that day or weekend.
Use Points for that last minute travel after you come home
Finally there are some proprietary credit card programs that let you redeem points for travel expenses after you have actually travelled. So if is 10am on Saturday morning and you want to get the heck out of Dodge and not waste anytime online trying to find hotels or flights that you can use your points at you can use one of these credit cards to buy those services. Doesn't matter if you book online or simply drive five hours and walk up to a hotel and book it right there and then. When the charge shows up on your account you go online or call up customer service and redeem your points against that charge. The beauty in this option is that you are not limited to a specific hotel, car rental company or even airline. Whatever deal you find you can book it. In fact you can take any of the options listed above (except for attractions perhaps as some may not appear as a travel charge) and use these types of points for them.