There have never been more ways to collect-or spend-airline miles.
Virgin Atlantic frequent fliers can score a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon for 20,000 miles, a round-the-world airline ticket for 300,000 miles or a seven-day Greek islands cruise for four people for 500,000.
"Airline miles aren't just for free flights anymore," says Randy Petersen, who publishes InsideFlyer magazine. "Several programs are very innovative about the way you can spend your miles. And the number of things you can do with your miles is increasing all the time."
Delta Air Lines offers occasional mileage auctions for vacation packages. Past rewards have included fishing vacations in Florida and tennis-themed getaways to London.
If an auction is too risky, Lufthansa lets frequent travelers practice handling a sports car "in extreme driving situations" at a BMW Driver Training school for 225,000 miles. Or you can "take off" in the same flight simulator in which Lufthansa's pilots are trained for 125,000 miles.
American Express cardholders can cash in their points for everything from a Sony Mini-Stereo (30,000 points) to a 3Com Palm V personal digital assistant (89,800 points). That's a far cry from the magazine subscriptions once offered to mile-rich travelers-all the more reason to collect rewards points.
Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at www.elliott.org.