Holiday travel can be overwhelming, and airlines’ often confusing frequent flyer loyalty programs can make it even more so. But everyone deserves a bargain or two while they’re preparing for the holiday rush, so below are some tips for making the most out of your airline miles this year.

Book off-peak: Frequent flyer miles aren’t a free-for-all, so most airlines will have restrictions on when and for which flights you can redeem your travel points. One of the best ways to avoid being disappointed is to book off-peak flights, which airlines are more likely to allow you to redeem. Flexibility while booking flights can pay off, with cheaper tickets being available around the mid-December mark, and return tickets less expensive in the week following New Year’s Day.



Book in advance: If you’re reading this now, chances are you haven’t followed the early booking advice for the 2015 holiday — but it’s not too late to begin thinking ahead for 2016. It’s best to book your flights as far in advance as possible, but if you’ve left things until the last-minute scramble, keep checking for open flights. You could get lucky and stumble upon a good deal.

Check value: Typically, the value of one mile is one cent for many airlines, so if you’re hoping to use the miles to fully cover the cost of the ticket, ensure you’re getting the best value for your money. If you’re spending 30,000 miles, for example, the ticket should cost roughly $300. Otherwise, you may prefer to keep saving up miles.



Upgrade: But sometimes the best value from frequent flyer miles can come from upgrades, as the popular website Frequent Flyer Academy advocates. If you don’t have enough miles to completely cover the cost of a ticket, you might at least be able to redeem them for first-class tickets.

Gifts: Remember that frequent flyer miles don’t have to be useless this season if you’re not traveling anywhere special. Points can be redeemed for goods and services, which can be helpful if you’ve left your holiday gift shopping as late as many travelers leave their flight booking.