The Top Five Frequent Flyer Award Destinations for May

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.

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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.

The top five picks for May 2009:

1. Albuquerque

The city's original name, dating back to 1706, was Alburquerque, after a town in Spain. Legend has it that the first "r" was dropped in the 19th century by an Anglo-American railway employee unable to handle the word's correct Spanish pronunciation. (On another linguistic side note, I'd be willing to bet that Albuquerque is the only U.S. city whose name has two "q"s and three "u"s.)

Today, the city's Spanish heritage is evident everywhere, but especially in Old Town Albuquerque, where the original town plaza is preserved alongside the city's modern commercial center.

Interested? United has plenty of award seats available, which suggests that other airlines probably do as well.

2. San Francisco

There are many reasons San Francisco is one of the country's most popular travel destinations. Great dining. Temperate weather. Robust arts offerings, including opera.

The fabled Haight-Ashbury neighborhood boasts a vibrant street scene that harkens back to the 1967 Summer of Love. In the North Beach area, the City Lights bookstore, founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and ground zero for the beat poetry movement, is still open for business. And Golden Gate Park remains an oasis of calm amid the city's bustle.

Got frequent flyer miles? American has award seats.

3. Kona Kailua

Kona Kailua (not to be confused with the other Kailua, on the island of Oahu) sits on Kailua Bay, on the west coast of Hawaii's big island.

It's probably best known as the site of the annual Ironman triathlon, and for the premium Kona coffee bean. In spite of its international credentials, Kailua retains the charm of an unpretentious fishing village.

United will fly you there. Don't forget to pack the sunscreen.

4. Vancouver

A city bounded by waterways and mountains, Vancouver features postcard vistas in every direction.

The city is consistently ranked among the world's most livable cities and was picked to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. This would be an ideal time to find out why.

Vancouver is among American's recommended award destinations for May.

5. Paris

Springtime in Paris? 'Nuf said!

American features the City of Light on its hotlist.

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