Get With The Program

Sometimes the only thing making a red-eye flight to Timbuktu worthwhile is the frequent flier miles that'll bring you one step closer to earning a trip to some blissful island paradise. Unfortunately, many business travelers' big dreams are never realized. They've either selected the wrong frequent flier program or missed out on great opportunities to earn miles.

One of the biggest mistakes travelers make when selecting a frequent flier program is choosing one that doesn't offer free flights to their preferred destinations. For example, some airlines don't offer free trips to Hawaii, a popular destination for travelers cashing in frequent flier miles, or provide only limited access.

"Choose the program based on where you travel frequently and which airlines have the best options for free trips to where you want to go," advises Ed Perkins, editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter.

After confirming that a program offers desirable flights, fly the same airline as much as possible so you can rack up miles quickly and easily. Also, sign up for credit cards that earn you free mileage with every charge.

Once you've garnered enough miles to redeem them, don't waste them on short trips. Save them for a long journey requiring an expensive ticket worth the investment you've made. And if at first the airline doesn't have a seat on the flight you want, keep at it. Perkins says the best times to land frequent flier seats are several weeks ahead of time or just prior to departure.

So what are you waiting for? If you play it smart, the trip of your dreams could be just around the corner.

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This article was originally published in the January 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Get With The Program.

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