Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
Note: NerdWallet strongly discourages traveling in the near future while the coronavirus continues to spread. Check the CDC and State Department websites for current guidance and travel restrictions. Please use the content of this article only to help inform future travel plans.
In light of the coronavirus, chances are that the only change of locale you’re experiencing at the moment is the move from your kitchen table to your couch, or perhaps a trip outside to the tropical paradise of the front yard.
You might not be traveling in the coming weeks or months, which might mean you put a pause on any planning or booking as well. But hear us out on why you might want to rethink that and start looking at your summer and winter vacations now so you're ready if travel restrictions are lifted.
With passenger loads running so low and consumers not focusing on travel, mileage tickets are easier than ever to come by. Not only are the chances good that you’ll be able to find the flight you’re looking for with miles, but most airlines are also offering flexible change and cancellation policies.
Europe is an extremely popular travel destination in the summer, and right now if you live in a major U.S. city, finding a flight for you and your family has never been easier. Currently, airlines are allowing as many as seven or even nine seats to be booked using your miles on certain flights.
That means that you can take not only your close family, but also your extended family on an amazing vacation overseas.
Here are some examples. Dreaming about Paris in the summer? Check out this flight from Seattle to Paris in July. We tried booking nine seats on the nonstop flight, and availability was there.
Think that it was just a one-day deal? Nope. That same price is available every day for at least a five-week stretch during July and August. Literally every day has award tickets available for at least nine passengers.
Also in business class…
If you thought that deal was only for coach tickets, think again. Just one day earlier (July 14), we found nine seats available on the same route in Delta One business class.
This type of flexibility is incredibly difficult to find, but airlines seem to be opening up more space in an attempt to fill planes, while giving you an opportunity to redeem your miles and points.
And it’s not just Delta Air Lines that’s coming out with the big deals. American Airlines is also offering some phenomenal web specials for flights.
Here you can see nine seats are available on the nonstop flight from Dallas to London Heathrow airport. Coach seats are only 17,000 miles each, while business class tickets are a low 42,000 miles each way.
We found these tickets for July 1, during peak summer travel season. Many other dates are available as well from various cities and on various routes.
Given the unprecedented levels of uncertainty in today’s travel market, you might be hesitant to book trips for the summer (and quite possibly even the winter). Luckily, a majority of airlines are offering very flexible waivers for purchased flights, fully understanding that travel plans may change.
While the options for you to change and/or cancel your flight are more varied, you could still face some challenges. Call times to airlines right now are longer than usual, and depending on when you purchased your ticket, the rules could vary. Remember that if an airline cancels your flight, you’re entitled to a full refund of that ticket.
Keep your miles active
Also, don't forget that depending on the airline and how often you earn and redeem miles, your miles could expire.
But with most programs, having some activity in your account — whether earning or redeeming — should keep your miles alive. Booking a flight using your miles can count as an activity to keep the rest of the miles active. If that flight is canceled later and the miles are deposited in your account, that also counts as activity that can extend the life of your miles.
Flying after COVID-19
Airlines have cut capacity and are flying planes with reduced loads, even blocking out middle seats and changing boarding procedures to encourage social distancing.
Airlines are also performing intense cleaning measures on their aircraft and public areas in airports. Customers will demand it moving forward, and making sure that the planes are as safe and clean as possible will be top priority for airlines.
Booking for the summer and the winter now could be a great idea for you and your family especially with flexible cancellation policies in place. Not only would it give you something to look forward to while you’re on lockdown in your home, but you could capitalize on some great availability (and prices) that might not be around as we move into 2021 and beyond.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card