Every now and then we get a call like this: I want to go on the xxx trip with The Women’s Travel Group. I am trying to get a frequent flier ticket for this trip and will let you know when I get it. Then time moves on and we get this follow up call: I was not able to get the ticket, how much is the flight now? Answer: The trip is now full, sorry.

Way back when the frequent flier program was started, it felt like we were being given a prize: free airplane tickets? And for everything we bought on a credit card or flew on an airline? WOW   Today these tickets are hanging over our heads like too much sugar: we want them but cannot stomach the work they now take.

Here are a few ways to use miles: but don’t miss out a great trip because your miles did not work.

+++++++Try smaller airports or secondary ones: Newark for instance, has fewer business travelers than does JFK, so presumably fewer high level ff passengers.

+++++++Try going part of the way: Sicily trip for instance: use your miles to London or Paris round trip, then buy a separate ticket to/from Italy. That way you get to save the Transatlantic portion of the ticket. Besides the flights in Europe on expedia type sites, try EasyJet, Flybe, RyanAir and other discounters which do not appear on these sites. Google is fast catching up on its flight searches so put in your Google search something like this: direct flights between Rome-Palermo.

+++++++Try everyday for the ticket; but first erase the cookies in your browser so the airline site does not recognize your search.

Whatever you decide, do NOT let frequent flier miles determine your vacation destinations. This is the tail wagging the dog or the Groupon for the service you did not need. We are not saying give up on your miles, but be smart, flexible, and diligent about trying to use them.

Tips from The Women’s Travel Group, specialists in solo travel with no single supplements.