Wondering where to go with all those frequent flyer miles? If you know where to look, the airlines will help you choose flights with seats readily accessible to mileage program members.
In response to the outcry from mileage collectors frustrated by the lack of available award seats, the airlines are attempting to steer program members in the direction of flights which are good prospects for would-be award travelers, both by listing destinations with plenty of empty seats (hot spots) and by discounting award flights to lower-demand destinations.
Some of these flights are running just half-full for good reason: they're dogs. Winnipeg in February? Thanks, but no thanks.
But among the throwaways are some real gems. Following are five award destinations the airlines are promoting for the coming month that merit special attention and are well worth your miles.
(While not all airlines currently offer hot spot lists, the suggestions of those that do should be a fairly good proxy for award availability on other airlines.)
The top five picks for June 2008:
1. Steamboat Springs, CO
Steamboat Springs is known primarily as a winter resort destination, revered for its skiing and Rocky Mountain vistas. Summer? Not so much. Which explains why it's featured on United's list of award hot spots for June.
According to the Steamboat in the Summertime website, produced by the town's Chamber Resort Association to promote off-season tourism, summertime activities include mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, fly-fishing, and golf.
And those Rocky Mountain vistas are as impressive in June as they are in January.
2. Orange County, CA
It's the O.C., baby. And whatever your age and inclination, it's got you covered.
For the athletically inclined, there's tennis, golf, all manner of water sports, cycling, skateboarding, and so on.
And for culture vultures, there's plenty to look at and listen to, whether your tastes run to the high- or low-brow.
Fly into John Wayne Airport (an airport named after an actor—how cool is that?) on either American or United.
As we warned in last month's roundup, award travel to international destinations will be tough during the summer months.
In fact, with one exception, United shows no international flights on its list of hot spots for June. The single bright spot on their list: Canada. United has award seats available on flights to Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver.
And American has plenty of award seats to Calgary.
5. Mexico City
Lastly, looking south of the border, American and United both feature Mexico City as an award destination for June.
For city lovers, Mexico City is a must-visit destination. According to the Wikipedia profile, it's the world's second-largest metropolitan area. So it's muy cosmopolitan. But it's also steeped in history. And while it's an international city, it hasn't lost its Latin vibe.