In Chapter 5 of my occasionally-selling ebook, I discussed the technique of using All Nippon Airways' search tool to find Star Alliance award space. Recently, they made some changes to their award search function which makes it somewhat less convenient to use while searching for Star Alliance award space.
But it's still relatively easy to find partner award seats if you know where to look.
Step 1: United Mileage Plus
United Airlines is a US-based airline, which means most readers likely already have a Mileage Plus account. Log in, then search for a one-way or roundtrip award flight from your origin to destination and see what United comes up with.
Step 2: Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada's Aeroplan frequent flyer program has online access to partner award space on airlines that United Mileage Plus doesn't. It's slightly difficult to find their online award search tool, but just log into Aeroplan and visit this URL to get started.
Step 3: All Nippon Airlines
All Nippon Airlines has made some odd reconfigurations of their website which makes it harder, but not impossible, to search across the entire Star Alliance. You can now only search roundtrip or multi-city flights.
Once you log into your account, you can search for roundtrip or multi-city flights between any Star Alliance cities. In other words, once you find an arbitrary city pair with Star Alliance availability, you can search for availability between any other other Star Alliance cities by inputting the existing availability as the "first" or "second" leg.
Then you should be able to call and book the Star Alliance availability using whichever program you happen to have your mileage balances with.
You don't normally have to use every technique for every award booking you make; often, the first search you make will simply throw up the award seats you need. But when it doesn't, make sure you've exhausted every possibility before you consider paying cash for your seats.