It used to be that the only way to earn a frequent-flier mile was to actually get on an airplane and fly somewhere.
Now, you can earn miles when you buy a car, use a credit card, or send flowers.
With the proliferation of 'nonflight' frequent flier miles, it is increasingly difficult to book award travel. The savvy traveler knows that award seats are released anywhere from 300 to 350 days out, depending on the airline. The trick is to call your airline and find out when it releases its award seats, then count backward from your desired departure date, set the clock for midnight, and call the airline at 12:01 a.m. to book your trip.
This is particularly important if you want to travel to such hot spots as Hawaii or Orlando, Fla., and need a family-size block of seats.
If that type of advance planning isn't your style, call the airline and ask to be put on its waiting list.
Finally, if you're really daring, you can wait until the last minute. If the airline has not sold all its seats, it may release unsold inventory for award travel.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society