Gadling’s guide to mileage running — how to find a mileage run

The first thing you need to determine before you make your run is exactly how many miles or segments that you need. Depending on the severity of the your requirements, you may want to break up the run into several smaller runs or do one long transoceanic job.

Next, you want to find the best bang for your buck. Many seasoned mileage runners book their itineraries off of mistake and sale fares. Over the course of the year they keep their ears to the ground, waiting for dirt cheap flights to Rome or error tickets to New Zealand pop up on the radar. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Subscribe to a few different active newsletters. Travelzoo and Airfarewatchdog are two great resources that publish daily fare deals and tips online. Usually if they find good tickets they pass on the savings the same day. This is particularly handy because often times sale and mistake fares sell out or are canceled in a few hours.
  • Flyertalk is an online community of flyers dedicated to all things airline. There is a specific forum dedicated to mileage running, where you can peruse any variety of fares that people have found interesting over the past year or so. You have to be patient, however, because fares only pop up once in a while. Try subscribing to the RSS feed or reloading the page a few times a day.
  • If you haven’t got the patience for the best deal to come to you, it’s always possible to find the second best deal – or the best PPM on the current market. I’ve learned that the best tool for this is Farecompare (FC). You can either go to the destination maps, plug in your home airport and find the place that’s furthest from you for the cheapest price, or you can use this nifty tool that FC created (plug in your home airport). This makes it easy to sort the list of fares by PPM; if you don’t find a fare or carrier that suits your needs, just scroll down and find somewhere that sounds appetizing.

Feel free to shop around and find less-than-ideal candidates that might serve your needs better. It may be 0.032$/mile for you to go to Omaha on Saturday afternoon, but you can go see cousin Jeremy in rehab the following weekend in Minneapolis for 0.04$ a mile. It also partially justifies the wasted fuel, money and carbon.

Consider it a miniature vacation; I’ve been to Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, DC, San Francisco and Phoenix this year for under 48 hours each and enjoyed myself every time.

Continue reading to Maximizing miles and segments