NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) -
Move No. 1: Forget flying for free.
With three of the seven biggest U.S. airlines entering 2006 under bankruptcy protection, major carriers are making it harder for frequent fliers to earn free seats. So use your miles for hotel stays or rental cars, which have few restrictions.
Alternatively, spend miles with an airline's foreign partners, which may have less competition for awards.
Move No. 2: Focus on the discounters
Major airlines like Delta are cutting back domestic routes, but carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest are rapidly expanding, fueling low-cost carriers' loyalty programs.
You could land a free ticket more quickly than you would with a major carrier, especially if you travel short distances. Any eight round trips on Southwest, for example, will earn you a ninth. But miles expire on most low-cost airlines. And while AirTran and Spirit offer upgrades, not all discounters do.
Move No. 3: Join the jet set in turin
Hotel rooms are selling out fast in Turin, host of February's Winter Olympics. But you can still snag a decent room and cut your costs if you stay outside the city.
Pay as little as $2,200 for a four-day, three-night stay 20 minutes south of Turin at a three-star hotel, with tickets to one event included. (You'll have to take public transportation to the city.)
That's half the price of a comparable in-town package. As for the actual events, the cheap seats are gone and the most popular events, like women's figure skating, are sold out.
But you still may be able to snap up tickets at the last minute, says SmarterTravel.com's Ed Perkins. Check for updates at torino2006.org/tickets or with Co-Sport, the only authorized seller of Olympic tickets and hotel packages in the United States, at cosport.com or 877-457-4647.
More moves for 2006...