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 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.
Among the throwaways, however, 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.
Note - If you haven't already booked an award trip for November, there's no longer any reason to let the prospect of exorbitant rush fees deter you, at least if you're a Mileage Plus member. United has eliminated their fees for award tickets booked within 21 days.
The top five picks for November:
1. Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by a group of Mormons, led by Brigham Young.
While a recent census found that over half the city's residents were Mormons, travelers will find plenty of secular attractions to warrant a visit.
Take a sunset dinner cruise on the Great Salt Lake. Visit a dinosaur museum. Search for your family's roots at the Family Search Center. World-class ballet, opera, symphony ... Salt Lake has them all.
And like Reno (see below), Salt Lake has eight ski resorts within easy driving distance.
If you've done Vegas, maybe it's time to try Nevada's other gambling mecca, Reno.
The self-proclaimed "Biggest Little City in the World" is big on casinos (it was once the country's gambling capital) but retains its small-town ambiance.
If blackjack and the slots don't ring your bell, there's nearby Lake Tahoe and, for skiers and snowboarders, eight major ski resorts.
Reno is on US Airways' list this month.
Once again, Canada is a featured award destination.
Montreal is on American's hot list, and Vancouver is a US Airways recommended award destination.
Although United didn't provide a list of suggestions for November, it listed no fewer than 12 Canadian cities just last month, and those flights are bound to be open for award travel this month as well.
With award travel so readily available to so many Canadian cities, travelers should be singing "O Canada!"
Another repeat appearance: Mexico.
The country's continuing drug-related violence makes travel in Mexico a calculated risk that many travelers have opted not to take. But that risk also makes it a terrific potential value.
While the airlines have cut back on their Mexico flights to compensate for the falloff in demand, they still have plenty of empty seats.
United in recent months has listed multiple Mexico destinations. And this month, American is featuring Cancun, Mexico City, and Los Cabos; while US Airways has seats to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.
The hotels are also feeling the pinch, so great room rates abound.
Lastly, both American and US Airways list Nassau among their recommended award destinations for the month.
For geographers, Nassau is the capital, largest city, and commercial center of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. And for historians, it's a former pirate republic, once frequented by the likes of the notorious Blackbeard. More to the point, Nassau sits on New Providence Island, smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean. That means beaches and beach weather. 'Nuf said.
Redeem those miles and pack the sunscreen.