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May 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Frequent-Flyer Diver

from the May, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

On the plane home from a diving trip, Im not only reliving the best dives but dreaming of my next trip. But for me, this is more than dreaming. I start planning most dive trips long in advance. Thats about the only way you can effectively use your frequent-flyer miles anymore. The good news is that if you can plan 10 to 11 months in advance, the major airlines will actually let you use those miles.

Weve all noticed how the airlines have ridiculously limited the number of seats theyll allocate for free tickets, often making it virtually impossible to use them for international travel, or at least requiring you to use double the standard amount of miles. The only way around it is to do some advance planning.

Most airlines open up frequent flyer reservations about 330 days in advance. I use Northwest miles, which also work on Continental and Delta, two airlines with lots of Caribbean and Latin American flights. American is another. Another tip: When I fly Continental or Delta, I put the miles on my Northwest account so they are concentrated in one pot.

By booking close to that opening gate, Ive been able to get the exact or approximate dates to the locations I want in the Caribbean, using 35,000 miles. If I have to cancel or change a trip, Northwest charges $50 to get my miles back. Not a bad penalty to risk. Other airlines have different rules on cancellations. By doing my booking way ahead, I havent paid for a ticket to the Caribbean in years.

- - M.A.

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