Table: Up, Up, and Away

Five strategies for successfully using your flyer miles:

PLAN AHEAD

Most award seats are capacity-controlled, so popular destinations go quickly. Reserve early--up to 11 months in advance at some carriers.

BE FLEXIBLE

Choose several travel dates and destinations before calling to redeem miles. Try connecting flights, alternate airports, or partner carriers.

USE PROMOTIONS

The airlines frequently put destinations on "sale," usually off-season or for new routes. These require fewer miles for a free ticket.

GO PREMIUM

Book coach seats that require up to twice the miles but have fewer capacity controls and blackout dates. Or try pricey awards in business or first class.

PAY UP

Don't waste miles on flights costing less than $300. Buy those cheapies and save your miles for more expensive itineraries or family emergencies.

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