Some countries and cities generally have good award availability, as they're not crazily popular destinations. We've highlighted some of our favorite places to visit using airline and credit card points, these all frequently have award seat availability
The pleasures of Spain are almost too numerous to list. Filled with history, incredible scenery and some of the world's best food and wine, Spain is the country where everyone can find something to enjoy. The buzzy nightlife of Madrid and Barcelona. Some of the world's best football (or soccer if you prefer). Tapas that vary by region, by city and even by restaurant. The incredible art, history and archictecture of the Sagrada Familia, the Prado, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and the magical Alhambra outside of Granada. The list goes on. Flights are relatively easy to find to Madrid (MAD) and Barcelona (BCN), but seats can sometimes be found to Palma de Mallorca (PMI), Valencia (VLC) and Malaga - Costa del Sol (AGP)
The Cradle of Western Civilization. We're not kidding. Greece is a cultural gem. The capital Athens (ATH) actually has great award ticket availability (except for August, peak holiday time for Europeans), and makes for an excellent multi-day stopover en route to the islands and beaches. The history, museums, architecture, shopping and food of Athens would take a lifetime to explore. A couple must-see tips: head to the Parthenon early in the morning to beat the heat and the crowds, then take a leisurely lunch around Monastiraki. The best way to visit the islands is by ferry from Piraeus, an Athens suburb. The Greek Islands are as numerous as they are varied. From the white sand beaches of Antipaxos off the coast of Corfu, the mysterious Minoan ruins in Crete, to the beach clubs of Mykonos and Ios, an entire summer could be spent travelling from island to island before taking an award flight home from Athens.
Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood exemplify the great nation of France, in its people, its food, its outlook on life, power and work. France is the most visited country in the world, and for great reason. With some of the world's greatest historical monuments, richest museums, most delicious food, France is also one of the most beautiful countries on earth. From the narrow alleyways of Paris's Left Bank, to the graceful Dordogne, to the yachts and summer beach parties on the Riviera, to the French Alps and the wine countries of the Loire Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux, France delights the eyes as well as the rest of the senses.
In the last few years, Colombia has undergone a renaissance. The wars and crime of the 80s are long gone, and the country is filled with adventure, smiling people, incredible natural beauty and great low-cost tourism. From the Caribbean marvel of Cartagena (CTG), home to the famous walled city and a jumping off point to the incredible Tayrona National Park, to the lush coffee region (Zona Cafetera) around Salento and Perreira. Bogotá (BOG), the capital, boasts excellent restaurants, some of the world's most creative street art, and the Museo de Oro, the largest collection of pre-colonial treasures in the world. But Medellín (MDE) - the City of Eternal Spring - is many travelers' favorite. With a lush setting, scores of restaurants, salsa clubs and cheap yoga classes, Medellín is the "startup capital" of the country, and home to many digital nomads.
Japan is a land of contrasts. Beautiful untouched nature in the midst of cities of millions. Quaint traditions alongside quirky modern fashion. Miso Soup and Bubble Tea. Incredible shopping and consumerism juxtaposed with shrines and temples. Neatness, politeness and civility reign supreme in this surprising country that makes a fantastic year-round getaway for all types of travelers. And with one of the most modern transportation systems in the world, Japan is very well served by all major international airlines and is an outstanding award redemption.
Most famous perhaps for the Inca wonder of Machu Picchu, Peru boasts incredible beaches, some of the world's most innovative culinary experiences, and adventures ranging from the Amazon region to Lake Titicaca to incredible Colonial history. Most visitors fly into Lima (LIM), the bustling capital city, and head straight to Miraflores, the beach town just to the south. With incredible ceviche and causas, amazing sea views and unique shopping, Lima is well worth a few days to explore. Award flights are often easy to find from Lima to Cusco (CUZ), the incredible Colonial town high in the Andes, and the jumping off point for the Inca Trail. Stay in Cusco for a few days to get used to the altitude (over 11,000 feet or 3400 meters!), and then head to Machu Picchu. If you are lucky enough to have a trekking permit (obtained 6 months in advance), you can enjoy the spectacular 5 day hike through Incan paths high in the Andes. Or take the train a few hours to Aguascalientes and stay for a night or two to take day trips up the hill to the ruins.
More than a destination, Bali is a state of mind. Long a tropical getaway from the Hippie Trail, Bali remains a stylish spiritual retreat for all walks of life. With beautiful people and Hindu culture, the island provides entertainment, relaxation and enlightenment to its many visitors each year. With yoga retreats, surf camps, family resorts, peaceful rice paddies and scores of pagodas, everyone can find a sense of discovery and awe in this tranquil beautiful gem in the Lesser Sundra Islands.
The capital city of Buenos Aires (EZE) is most travelers' introduction to the massive and amazing country. Stroll the grand boulevards, reminiscent of European capitals, and stop in for espresso made by many of the Italian immigrants which flavor this city. In the evenings, dine on some of the world's best beef at the many parilla restaurants (remember to eat late!), and then dance then night away at the unique tango clubs that dot the city. A great place to spend the day is the colorful neighborhood of La Boca. Leaving Buenos Aires, popular destinations include the wine country around Mendoza, home to myriad vineyards and some of the world's best Malbec grapes, and Ushuaia, the jumping off point for Patagonia.
The Land of Smiles. Thailand is the most popular traveler destination in Asia, and for good reason. Most visitors fly into Bangkok (BKK or DMK), served my hundreds of airlines, so it's a great city to look for award flights. Bangkok is city packed with fun. From taking a boat along the Chao Praya river to see the numerous Wats and the famous floating flower market, to sampling the incredible variety of street food, to diving in to shopping in the cities' mega malls or tiny corner antique stores, it's easy to spend several days in the capital. Many visitors head south to the beaches, perhaps flying into Phuket island (HKT) or traveling to Koh Samui or perhaps the full moon party at Koh Phangan. Or perhaps they head north to Chiang Mai (CNX) or Chiang Rai (CEI) and explore the mysterious mountainous north and head deeper into the Golden Triangle where Thailand meets Laos and Burma. Thailand is an excellent place to begin your South East Asian adventures.
The rich history of Constantinople and Ephesus. The nightlife and culture of Istanbul. The beaches and coastline of Bodrum and Antalya. Turkey is a fascinating, economical country, with some of the most unique and tasty cuisine in the Mediterranean, amazing shopping and smiling, friendly people. Most award travelers will begin their sojourn in Turkey in Istanbul, a phenomenal city of mystery, heritage and hidden bazaars. The brand new İstanbul Havalimanı airport (IST) is very well served by most international carriers, and can be a particular sweet spot for award travel as the hub for Turkish Airlines.
Exotic and beautiful Vietnam is an incredible travel destination. From the prospering modern city of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), to the beautiful beaches of Phu Quoc, across to the mountanous north inhabited by Hmong Hill People, Vietnam is a feast for the eyes and the senses. With some of the most delicious food in the world, very reasonable prices, and a very tourism friendly government, Vietnam is fast becoming a key stop on many travelers' South East Asia itinerary.