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 that are good prospects for would-be award travelers, both by listing destinations with plenty of empty seats (hot spots) and occasionally 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.
Two special notes on November's picks
First, United has apparently stopped issuing its monthly list of recommended award destinations, leaving only American and US Airways with published award hot lists. Nevertheless, those should be a fairly good proxy for award availability on other airlines.
Second, the predictable falloff in travel during the fall months is being exacerbated by the slumping economy, resulting in a welcome increase in award availability overall. So over and above the following specific recommendations, this is an especially good time to cash in miles.
The top five picks for November 2008:
2. Grand Cayman
On both airlines' lists of recommended award destinations: Grand Cayman.
Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, just to the south of Cuba and west of Jamaica, in the Caribbean.
If sun and clear waters aren't lure enough, there's Cayman's storied Seven Mile Beach. Be sure to pack the swim fins and the sun block.
Looking for a south-of-the-border experience? There's always Mexico.
Cancun and Los Cabos are featured award destinations by both American and US Airways this month. US Airways also recommends Guadalajara, Guaymas, Hermosillo, Mazatlan, Mexico City, and Puerta Vallarta.
For those looking to use miles for a European getaway during the off season, an award trip to Milan or Venice on US Airways might be just the ticket.
5. Tokyo, Japan
And finally, looking east, American is featuring Tokyo on its November hot list.
Iki masho (translation: Let's go)!