How to Get Around Blackout Dates

Sidestep blackout dates with these helpful tips

A few weeks ago I started planning a trip to visit a friend living in Spain. I was looking for the perfect flight that fit both my budget and busy schedule. But as I was about to book my seat, I realized that I had overlooked one very important detail – blackout dates.

From airlines to hotels, most loyalty programs across the travel industry put together a list of blackout dates to make sure there is plenty of availability around holidays, peak travel times and other special events. Since demand is high during that time, airlines and hotels can rest assured that they’ll find enough paying customers to sell out rooms and seats – which means for loyalty rewards travelers like you and me, blackout dates can be a hassle, especially since they often fall on days when everyone else is most likely to also travel.

But while I originally thought blackout dates might derail my vacation, a bit of research proved me wrong. Here are two easy ways to get around blackout dates no matter where or when you travel.

Fly to nearby cities

Last year, those who signed up for the US Airways Premier World MasterCard received a wide range of benefits, including 50,000 bonus miles and priority boarding. But perhaps most importantly, cardholders were also awarded a companion certificate, which allowed them to bring along up to two friends or family members on their next trip for just $99 each.

Unfortunately, the companion certificate was accompanied by blackout dates that limited travel to specific cities during peak travel times and special events. Companion certificates, for example, were not eligible on US Airways flights to Phoenix for Super Bowl 49. One way around such restrictions is flying to nearby airports and then driving into town for the big event.

Say you’re interested in attending next year’s Kentucky Derby, but can’t find the option for a rewards flight to Louisville for that weekend. Rather than getting frustrated about blackout dates, use your miles and points to book a flight to nearby Lexington. From there, you can easily rent a car and make the two-hour drive to Louisville. As an added bonus, most airlines give you the opportunity to earn miles when you do business with one of their car rental partners. For example, American Airlines rewards AAdvantge members with 500 miles if they rent from Avis or Budget – two of their preferred car rental partners.

Sign up for a travel rewards credit card

When it comes to airline and hotel loyalty programs, top tier members are often rewarded with the freedom to book vacations whenever they’d like, to wherever they’d like. For example, Hyatt Gold Passport members have the opportunity to redeem their points for a free hotel stay any day of the year. Working your way up the loyalty ladder enough to bypass blackout dates, however, can take some time.

If you’re eager to skip blackout dates on an upcoming vacation but don’t travel as much as an elite loyalty member, look no further than signing up for a travel rewards credit card. From filling up your gas tank to checking out at the grocery store, travel rewards credit cards give you the chance to earn miles and points on everyday purchases, everywhere you go. In many cases, necessities such as groceries and gas lead to more earned points than other purchases. Those miles and points can then be redeemed for airfare and hotel stays where and when you want – regardless of blackout dates.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example, awards cardholders two times the points on travel and dining along with one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. The Chase travel portal will then allow you to redeem those points for a free flight or hotel without worrying about a specific airline’s list of blackout dates. The same goes for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card, which helps you sidestep blackout dates and other restrictions that could prevent you from redeeming points for a well-deserved vacation.

Blackout dates don’t have to control your travel plans. By following the tips I’ve outlined above, you can travel wherever and whenever on your loyalty rewards.