Getting the most of frequent-flier miles


May 06, 2007|By McClatchy-Tribune

I'd like to use my frequent-flier miles on United Airlines for travel to Honolulu, but every time I try, no seats are available. Any ideas?

Booking award seats can be difficult for two reasons: Airlines typically make only a few seats available per flight, and destinations such as Hawaii are the most popular for travelers looking to redeem miles. Still, a United spokeswoman told us that "every flight has award seats available."

You'll fare better if you're willing to redeem more miles for an unrestricted ticket.

United's Mileage Plus "saver" awards (called restricted awards) require fewer miles, but there aren't many seats and they're snatched up quickly. United's "standard" (or unrestricted) awards allow you to fly any time there's a seat available.

Some suggestions from Tim Winship, editor of Start looking 331 days before your date of travel; that's the earliest frequent-flier seats are put into airline computers. If you can't find a seat online, call the airline; they'll charge you $15 for ticket handling, but reservations agents may have access to seats you won't find online.

I'm hoping to travel to Finland with my dad. When is the best time to avoid snow and crowds?

The window for warm weather in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is small. The warmest month is July, when the average high is 70 degrees and the average low is 52. In June, the average high is 68; in August, it's 67. But August is also the wettest month of the year.

Don't expect to avoid crowds, though. In the summer, you'll find plenty of festivals -- including the popular Wife-Carrying World Championships, part of the three-day Sonkajarvi Festival -- and plenty of people. Boating, biking, hiking and nordic walking attract visitors. Or consider renting a car and seeing the country on your own. Find more ideas at visit, the Finnish Tourist Board's Web site.

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