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Top five award destinations for January

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. They’re doing this by listing destinations with plenty of empty seats (hot spots) and 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 January 2008:

1. Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City in January? Why not? Founded by homesteaders in the 1889 “Oklahoma Land Run,” the city is steeped in history (check out the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum). And it’s the country’s 30th largest city.

United is featuring award seats to Oklahoma City from both its Chicago and Los Angeles hubs.

2. Selected cities in California, Canada, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

Got Alaska Mileage Plan miles? If so, you can redeem 15,000 miles for a round-trip or 7,500 miles for a one-way award trip between many cities in California and Canada, Idaho, Oregon, or Washington. That’s a 5,000-mile discount off the normal round-trip coach award price, and a 2,500-mile discount off the published one-way award price.

The award discount is valid for travel through February 14.

To take advantage of the discounted awards, bookings must be made online.

3. Cancun, Mexico

For warm weather aficionados, Cancun, Mexico, is on the hot spots lists of both American and US Airways.

Si, si!

4. London

London has always been a favorite for award travel. This month, it’s a featured award destination on the lists of American, United, and US Airways.

It’ll be a bit nippy, so bring your mac and brolly. And don’t underestimate the warming effects of a pint at the local pub.

5. Shanghai

Finally, how about one of Asia’s most dynamic cities, and most exotic of this month’s recommended award destinations? Shanghai!

American and United both have plenty of available award seats during January. (If you’re not adept with chopsticks, here’s an online tutorial.)

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