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The 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 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. Phoenix in August? Thanks but no thanks.

Among the throwaways, however, 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.

The top five picks for January:

1. Florida

Doesn’t everyone in the country’s colder climes want to fly to balmy Florida during the winter months?

Apparently not, since Southwest is offering members of its Rapid Rewards program double credits for flights to or from Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers/Naples, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa Bay, and West Palm Beach between January 4 and March 9, 2010.

And American is featuring Ft. Walton and Ft. Lauderdale on its hot list of recommended award destinations for January.

2. Memphis

To most, Memphis conjures up images of BBQ and Elvis.

Which is part of the picture, certainly. But the city’s culinary chops go well beyond Tennessee’s take on smoked pork and brisket. And there’s more to Memphis’ music heritage than Graceland.

The historic Beale Street music scene is alive and well. The past also meets the present at Sun Studio—the self-proclaimed “Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the most famous recording studio in the world—where contemporary music groups still perform and record. And for a look back, try the B.B. King Museum and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

In case you were wondering, the locals refer to themselves as Memphians.

Memphis is featured as an award destination by both United and US Airways.

3. Savannah

You’ve probably been to Atlanta, or at least made a flight connection there. But what about Georgia’s other well-known city, Savannah?

The “Hostess City of the South” was established in 1733 and was both the first colonial capital and the first state capital of Georgia. So it’s a trove of historic buildings and monuments. Some of the city’s squares and cemeteries date back to pre-Civil War days. In fact, the entire downtown area has been designated a National Historic Landmark District.

Both United and US Airways have plenty of award seats to Savannah during January.

4. Canada

Once again, Canada is a featured award destination.

Toronto appears on US Airways’ list of recommended award destinations.

And United lists no fewer than 11 Canadian cities for the month, including Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg.

With award travel so readily available to so many Canadian cities, travelers should be singing “O Canada!”

5. London

Sure, January isn’t the ideal month to visit London. But that’s the point: to take advantage of the off-season to visit cities that are less accessible to award travelers during the rest of the year. Plus you’ll find the city refreshingly free of the glut of tourists who otherwise bid up hotel rates and compete for tables at the trendy restaurants.

You can take your chances on finding award seats to London this summer, or take advantage of low-season availability during the winter months. United has seats.

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