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Tips for snagging the elusive 25,000-mile award

One of the biggest complaints of mileage collectors is the scarcity of awards at the 25,000-mile level. Yet many travelers manage to snag these free flights on a regular basis. What’s the secret to their success?

  • Book in advance: If you ask for award seats before anyone else, you have a better shot of getting them. You can often find open award seats 11 months before your desired travel date. Start looking two months ahead of time, and the seats will be picked over.
  • Be flexible with dates: Popular travel dates have less award availability than off-peak days. Weekends and holidays are bad if you want to fly for only 25,000 miles. Adjust your travel dates to include midweek flights or slower travel periods (like fall), and you’ll have a higher rate of success.
  • Try partner airlines: Your airline may not have seats available at the cheaper prices, but its partners might be wide open.
  • Choose alternate airports: The more airports you try, the more you increase your odds of finding seats. This strategy works well if one of your options is a hub city for the airline, and if you’re willing to fly in and out of different airports.
  • Use airline recommendations: Several airlines now provide lists of cities with higher-than-usual award availability. If you know you want to get away, but don’t have a specific plan, let the airlines guide you.

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