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UNITED MILES - Tips getting to Rome in Oct

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We have been extremely frustrated with United Airlines. They suck you into using their card and accumulating miles, but then make it just about impossible to use them.

We want to go to Rome, Florence and the Cinque Terra next October. Anyone have tips for actually getting a flight? We tried 6 months in advance for last May but gave up. I hear that you can start requesting flights about 330 days in advance.

There must be a secret! I have almost 160,000 miles, but want to use the cheapest 55,000 miles tickets. To make things more complicated, we are two couples each trying to use miles.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Leslie

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