Sometimes booking reward flights or hotel stays can be quite fiddly. Finding availability for the right date and destination can take a fair bit of research. Whether it’s intentional or otherwise, websites don’t seem to be set up to make this very easy and it ends up being necessary to do multiple searches, changing the details each time to check another option – or to revisit regularly to check whether an option becomes available.
Recently I’ve been using two tools which really help with this problem for hotel bookings, and for flights with British Airways.
Open Hotel Alert is a great tool, which allows you to set alerts when a specific category of room currently showing as unavailable becomes bookable. For reward bookings this is ideal, because in some cases it only ever really makes sense to book a standard room with points (and then use cash or status to secure an upgrade). This is because the points difference on the next tier of room can often be really out of sync with the cash difference. For example with Hilton Honors I’ve seen a 40,000 points difference on a room which would only cost £30 more! The great thing about Open Hotel Alert is that, if you really needed a room and a standard room was unavailable, you could book the next tier (or another hotel) using cash on a flexible booking and set an alert for the standard room. If the standard room then becomes available you could book a reward night with points and cancel the flexible booking.
Of course having the alert set should also mean you’re the first to know, so can book quickly as soon as it becomes available.
The website generates it’s income where users book through the site, so is completely free. Obviously for a reward booking you’d be going direct, so you’d be using the tool just to highlight options. Even if you’re paying cash the tool would be useful though, although again I’d check the rate direct (as it’s an American site it also lists in dollars as far as I can see, so there may be an FX fee if you booked through it).
Thanks to American site The Mile Lion for highlighting this one.
I’ve highlighted BA Redemption Finder before, it’s another fantastic tool for finding availability.
Because British Airways flights only have a certain number of reward seats, unlike hotels (where reward bookings can be made whenever a room is bookable) it’s not possible to identify availability by looking at a standard availability calendar. This means you have to use the reward booking function of the BA website, which frustratingly only shows you a day at a time.
BA Redemption Finder allows you to choose a destination and then gives you a 12 month colour coded availability calendar. You can then scan through this to find dates which are available and head to the BA website to book. This is available on the free version. There is also a £3/month subscription version, where you can set alerts and search by date to see available destinations. This subscription could easily pay for itself multiple times over if it unlocked the information you need.
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