Holiday travel schedules can be quite a balancing act. You might have roots in opposite ends of the country or world and may find yourself traveling long distances over the holidays. And sometimes you might just want to plan a destination holiday – such as a ski trip – to take advantage of the time off school or work.

One thing to keep top-of-mind when planning holiday travel is staying within a budget. Airfares tend to spike around any major holidays, which makes it even more important to find the best deals. Using your travel loyalty programs is a great way to save along the way. Here are some tips for you to use points and miles to travel during the holidays without breaking the bank. 

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Use your travel rewards credit card to get around blackout dates

Top-tier loyalty program members often have the added benefit of not running into blackout dates when booking flights or hotel stays, which is especially helpful during the holiday season, as it tends to be one of the peak times for blackout dates. For example, Hyatt Gold Passport members can redeem their points for a free hotel stay 365 days a year. However, not everybody is an elite traveler so if you’re looking to cash in on travel rewards and avoid blackout dates, a travel rewards credit card might be the best option for you.

Travel rewards credit cards can be used for purchases everywhere you go – from gas and groceries to dining out and booking travel. And with each purchase, you earn valuable points that can be used toward your next adventure – including holiday travel. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders receive two times the points on travel and dining, along with one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. The Chase travel portal allows members to redeem any earned points for a free or discounted flight or hotel, without worrying about a specific airline’s list of blackout dates. The BankAmericard has a similar offering, helping cardholders which helps you avoid blackout dates and other restrictions, making holiday travel easier and more cost efficient.

Be flexible with your travel plans

Each flight has a limited number of award seats available and during the holiday season, these seats tend to fill up fast. Not only should you book your travel as soon as possible to snag award seats when they’re available, but you should also consider booking flights separately. For example, with a family of four, if there are only two award seats available, grab those two seats while you can and pay for the other two seats separately. Although you won’t end up with four award seats, you will continue to earn points and miles for the seats you pay for, especially if you use a loyalty rewards credit card.

You can also save by being flexible with your dates and destinations. While traveling on the weekend might be ideal, consider mid-week flights on either end of your holiday travel, as they tend to be more affordable  – and might offer more options for awards seats. Also, if rewards seats aren’t available at your intended airport, consider flying into a different airport. If your final destination is New York, you might have a better chance at booking award seats out of Newark International Airport than Laguardia or JFK.