Summer holidays. They’re fun, but costly. The average family of four spends £2000-£3000 every year. And with prices soaring during the school holidays, it’s no surprise that the debate about term time holidays rumbles on.
We’re big fans of self catering abroad. As well as being cost effective, we find it easier to manage with young kids in tow. While there are plenty of cheap flight options the rest of the year, unsurprisingly these tend to disappear during peak school holiday season. When I started looking at flight options for this year’s holiday to Cyprus, I was shocked. I thought if I booked early enough it might be possible to pick up a bargain. Yet when I checked Ryanair’s flight prices a mere 11 months before we wanted to fly, I was shocked. £1500 to fly all four of us to Cyprus. What?!
So how would you feel if you managed to fly your whole family out to Europe for £50 each? In the middle of the school holidays. At the most expensive time of the year. Oh, and you can all go business class too.
That’s exactly what we’re doing in a few weeks when we head out to Cyprus. Here’s how. By the way, I’m not being paid and don’t get any money from any of the companies I’ve mentioned in this article. But everyone seems so amazed when I mention how much we’re spending on flights I felt duty bound to share this with you.
TRAVEL HACK: COLLECTING AVIOS AIRMILES
Quite simply, we’re big fans of airmiles in this house. Over the past year, we probably earned about 60,000 miles. All without stepping foot near an aeroplane.
To those in the know, this is travel hacking. Without thinking about it, we simply collect points on our everyday spending. These are then converted into points which, in turn, can be exchanged for flights. All you then need to pay is any taxes or fees.
There are lots of different schemes for collecting airmiles. By far the most common is Avios, which is what we use. This post is therefore focused on collecting Avios points. These can be redeemed for British Airways flights. So, if you’re unlikely to be able to travel with British Airways, this isn’t for you.
JOIN THE BRITISH AIRWAYS EXECUTIVE CLUB
The first step to make the most of any Avios points you earn is to sign up to the British Airways Executive Club. This is open to anyone to join, and you don’t need to have flights booked either.
Then sign every member of your family up too, including the kids! They will all then have their own unique membership numbers.
Finally, make sure that you also set up a household account. This means that up to six people living at the same address can share and make use of your Avios points.
APPLY FOR AN AIRLINE CREDIT CARD
By transferring most of your everyday spending to a credit card you can earn thousands of points. This, by far, is the biggest way to make Avios points. In the last year, we saved more than 40,000 points this way. And if you need more points, it’s easy to bolster your points by applying for new cards.
This option will only be beneficial if you pay off the balance in full each month. All of these cards tend to have very high interest rates. If you don’t pay them off every month, you may well find yourself paying more in interest than you would save on flights .
WHICH AIRLINE CREDIT CARD SHOULD I USE?
There’s a full guide to the top airline credit cards over on Money Saving Expert. I’ve not recreated that list here, since the offers are constantly changing and I know that this is something Money Saving Expert are expert at keeping on top of. But they mostly offer you bonus points in return for spending a certain amount within a specified timeframe. They will also give you points on your everyday spending.
Most of the best deals are associated with American Express cards. One of the drawbacks of this is that Amex isn’t always accepted at retail outlets. We’ve had our Amex accounts for several years now. Most high street names now accept Amex without any problems. The only real limitations tend to be in smaller independent shops, which simply can’t afford the high charges Amex has associated with it.
In general, these cards are also more beneficial if you are a high spender. Personally, my husband and I share a British Airways Premium Plus Amex. We do pay a large annual fee of £195 for this. For us, this price is justified because it still saves at least £1000 every time we want to fly as a family in the school holidays. At the moment they are also offering 25,000 Avios points when you spend £3000 on the card within the first three months.
In return, we earn 1.5 points for every £1 we spend. And we also get a companion ticket every year as soon as we spend £10,000 on the card. A companion ticket gives you one free worldwide return ticket (in any travel class) when you book another. So, for this year’s holiday, we only needed enough points for three of us to fly. If you’re likely to spend more than £20,000, there is a fee free version of this card.
We use the card for all our everyday spending. All of our weekly shops, online shopping and petrol goes through the card. And we bolster the spending by putting all work and business expenses on it too. All of this then quickly adds up.
EARN AIRMILES WITH YOUR TESCO CLUBCARD
We also boost our points by transferring all of our Tesco clubcard points into Avios points. You can choose to do this in your account settings. Every £2.50 voucher is worth 600 Avios.
You should be aware that you can’t pick and choose how many clubcard vouchers to exchange for Avios. As soon as you sign up for your clubcard points to be converted, this will then happen automatically on your account. Since there are some great options for using your clubcard vouchers in everyday life, I would recommend you think carefully before signing up to do this.
As we’re currently saving as many points as possible – to cover our summer flight costs & to go towards a special trip in a couple of years – it makes sense for us to collect these additional Avios points. In the last year, we earned 15,000 points this way.
SIGN UP FOR AN ACCOUNT WITH AVIOS
The final step is to create an account with Avios. This is separate to the Executive Club and is a way to earn additional Avios points through your everyday spending.
Avios have links to more than 1000 brands. Simply by clicking through the links on Avios when you are making online purchases will earn you Avios points.
This is an excellent option if you really need to give your airmiles a boost. I made 2500 airmiles in two months alone! These points are then transferred to my Executive Club account, boosting the total amount of points I have available.
Unfortunately, you can’t also claim cashback from sites like Topcashback and Quidco if you make purchases via Avios. So you need to think carefully before using your Avios account. Ask yourself whether the other methods for collecting points will earn you enough points for the flights you need. If they will, you’re better off getting cashback on your purchases instead of using Avios.
SPENDING AVIOS – STICK TO EUROPE
Since you need to pay taxes and fees, worldwide flights with Avios don’t offer great value. However, within Europe, British Airways offer Reward Flight Savers. Starting at 8,000 points for a return flight, the taxes and fees are capped at £35 for an economy flight. The number of points you need depends on the distance you’re travelling and whether the flights are on peak or off-peak days.
The number of Avios points required for business class (Club Europe) flights is doubled, and there is a standard fee of £50. It’s debatable whether these are worth the extra number of points as the perks to travelling However, we had lots of points built up in our account. And I wanted the flight to go as smoothly as possible given we’d be travelling with a two-year-old for almost five hours! So that’s why we chose to fly business class this year.
TIPS FOR GETTING FLIGHTS
As these travel hacks gain in popularity, so too are the flights. Only limited numbers of seats are available. Here are some tips to help you get the best options:
- Book in advance. Economy seats to popular destinations go very quickly. British Airways release seats 11 months in advance. Many people book these up the minute they are released, especially for travel during August. If you’re prepared to do the same, you should be able to get the flights you want.
- Be prepared to be flexible. If you can travel on different dates or days of the week this will help.
- If there are no flights available keep checking the British Airways site regularly. They will periodically release additional flights depending on the numbers of seats they are selling for the same flight.
- Business class flights have a little more flexibility. We booked the flights up 10 months ago and there were still a lot of options available.
- If you can travel at short notice there may also be options available as British Airways will offer seats to Executive Club holders than can’t be sold.
As we plan to travel to Europe for our holidays most years, collecting airmiles & Avios points is a no brainer for us. I hope this article helps if you’re considering doing the same. And feel free to get in touch if you’d like to know more about how you can do the same.