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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to


Before getting started I would like to offer my congratulations to the nominees and eventual winners of the Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards. Earning a nomination in this tough and competitive market is an outstanding achievement and a tribute to your continued hard work and dedication.

Having worked with Executive Producer, Hal Eisner on this awards show in the past, I understand how tough the demands of putting together a top quality Emmy Awards program can be, especially with a group of fellow producers and colleagues sitting in the audience. Let's all take a moment when we see the man I affectionately refer to as "Uncle Hal," and congratulate him for his efforts on our behalf.

Turning to travel------most of you will, if you haven't already, take a vacation in the coming weeks. Trying to find a great destination and save a little money in the process can be difficult. For those who travel often and belong to a frequent flier program, it might be time to cash in some of those miles for a free ticket. Most domestic carriers require you to earn or accumulate 25,000 miles to be eligible for a free roundtrip ticket in coach. In most cases, the 25,000-mile threshold will enable you to travel in the contiguous 48 states, parts of Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Overseas travel or upgrades to business or first-class require additional miles, which is a topic for another article.

Cashing in frequent flier miles can be tough, but if your flexible with travel dates your odds improve significantly. I belong to several frequent flier programs including American Airlines. I monitor my frequent flier account through their website at I realized after a quick search that I qualified for one free roundtrip domestic ticket. The timing couldn't have been better since my wife and I are headed to the Bahamas next month.

My next step was to search American's website for the flights that matched the dates I wanted to fly. That was easy enough, but I ran into a snag as I prepared to cash in those hard-earned miles for my wife's ticket. The dates and flights I had chosen didn't qualify for frequent flier mile redemption. Undeterred by my initial failure, I simply changed my departure date by one day and BAM, I was now able to exchange my miles for that free ticket. All of this was done online without one single phone call to an airline representative. Now lets discuss strategy.

As I stated, flexibility was the key. Simply changing my date by one day allowed me to save $500 on a roundtrip ticket. My wife is not a member of American's frequent flyer program, but on American, as with most domestic carriers you are allowed to purchase a ticket with your frequent flier miles in the name of a family member. Since I didn't have enough miles for two tickets, I went ahead and purchased mine. Why?----because I was able to earn more frequent flier miles. Had I purchased my wife's ticket and used the frequent flier miles on myself, her ticket would not have counted towards accumulating any free miles for me. And as an added incentive, American was offering 1,000 free bonus miles to anyone who booked on line. So not only was I able to get 1,000 bonus miles, I earned 4,500 additional miles by paying for my ticket. As I stated earlier, cashing in on awards isn't always easy, so here are a few additional tips to help you accumulate and redeem those miles:

1. Make sure when you book a flight, whether it's online, over the phone or through a travel agent, you give them your frequent-flier account number.

2. Manage your account online or through the statements you receive in the mail. Your mileage will usually be credit to your account within a month after you take the trip. Keep all receipts and boarding passes until your account has been updated.

3. Be flexible. Airlines impose blackout dates around major holidays and on other heavily traveled flights. A limited amount seats are available on each flight for frequent flier redemption, so it's best to book early if possible.

4. Determine if there are any restrictions. Some airlines have Saturday-night stay requirements. To find the restrictions go online to your respective airlines website.

5. If you haven't earned enough miles, several carriers let you purchase miles to make up the difference. Make sure the cost of purchasing miles is worth it.

Lastly, be careful how you spend your miles. Why spend your frequent flier miles on a flight that would cost you a couple of hundred dollars or less. Instead, save those miles for flights that cost you $500 or more. Coast-to-coast flights, destinations monopolized by a single carrier or smaller airports with higher costs are your target for frequent flier miles. If you want to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii, save those miles, chances are you can find a roundtrip ticket for about $300. But, if you fly from New York to Hawaii that's an entirely different ballgame altogether and will probably be worth cashing in those miles.

And the same is true if you fly from Los Angeles to Europe. Next week, we'll discuss how to upgrade from coach to business or first class, the amount of frequent flier miles it takes to travel overseas and all the programs where you can accumulate frequent flier miles without having to fly.

Did you know that several carriers, including American Airlines allow you to earn miles by flying on other carriers? I'll explain next week. ENJOY THE EMMYS.