-- Wondering where to go with all those frequent flier 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.
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.
A special note on December's picks
The annual drop-off in travel during the fall and winter 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 December 2008:
Skiing anyone? Snowboarding? Ice skating? Snowmobiling?
Whatever your favorite winter activity, Colorado has you covered. And there are plenty of ways to get there using frequent flier miles.
2. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Fun fact about San Juan (courtesy of Wikipedia): "Puerto Rico's capital is the second oldest European-established city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, now in the Dominican Republic."
In addition to the many reminders of its storied past, Puerto Rico boasts beaches galore, and tropical temperatures to warm the bones of visitors from chillier climes.
American, United, and US Airways all have award seats to San Juan this month.
3. Cancun, Mexico
Another option for sun and fun: Cancun, which features 150 hotels, in all price ranges.
As with San Juan, Cancun is recommended as an award destination by American, United, and US Airways.
For those more interested in culture than in tropical cocktails, there's always the perennial favorite, London.
Flights to London are featured by both American and US Airways.
5. Osaka, Japan
And finally, for something on the less beaten path, United has award seats to Osaka, Japan, from its San Francisco gateway.
While Osaka is often eclipsed by Tokyo, it has much of that city's urban vibrancy, together with a dash of the Old World charm of neighboring Kyoto. And it is considered Japan's principal foodie city. (Try the okonomiyaki, a pizza-like concoction widely known as a regional specialty.)