From frequent flier miles to hotel loyalty programs, travel rewards abound. How do you determine which ones best fit your budget and your lifestyle?
First, get an idea of the vacation you want to take, then research a program that will get you where you want to go. Here’s a run down of popular loyalty programs to consider based on the type of traveler you are and the kind of getaway you’re looking to plan.
If you like to travel to new and different places each year, you’ll want a travel rewards program that offers plenty of options. One example is the Wyndham Hotel rewards program. Top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report, the Wyndham program offers a large amount of destinations — over 7,800 worldwide. Unused hotel nights can also be rolled into the next year, so if you miss one vacation, you’ll have more time to use your rewards.
If you travel with a group larger than the standard two adults and two kids, you’ll soon realize how much of the hotel universe is set up to accommodate a group of two or four. For those who need bigger spaces when traveling or more than one hotel room, checking into family-friendly rewards programs may be worthwhile. The Travel Channel mentions Hilton’s Embassy Suites as a pretty sweet choice. This line of all-suite hotels offer suitable space, complimentary breakfast and an all-around family-friendly setup.
Have you always wanted to explore Alaska? Or would you love to honeymoon in Hawaii? If you have a specific spot in mind, searching for a rewards program can take on a narrower focus. Remote destinations like Alaska may work best when you sign up for rewards programs with companies like Alaska Airlines that provide service to your dream destination. If the steep cost of flights to Hawaii are cutting into your travel budget, then it may make sense to join an airline rewards program. When you fly to other destinations throughout the year, you’ll earn reward miles to reach the needed amount for a longer flight across the Pacific.
Some travelers want to explore the world and discover new things to see every year. Others just want to travel somewhere to have fun and relax. For those who thrive on familiarity, consider a travel rewards program focused on one particular resort. Disney has the reputation of providing a great family vacation and a rewards program that encourages customer loyalty. They offer a vacation club, which is like a timeshare with special services and discounts for members. The Disney Rewards credit card is another option. As you charge the card throughout the year, you’ll earn “dream dollars” to put toward your Disney vacation. Cardholders also receive access to private events and merchandise discounts.
Customer satisfaction is another important part of a travel rewards program. With all the fine print and frequent changes to rewards systems, your goal may be to find a program that’s simply … well, simple. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting an hour to talk to an associate on the phone, only to find out your top 10 choices for vacations are currently booked. For those who don’t have the time to manage a complex rewards program, try Marriott, which was one of the top-rated rewards programs by J.D. Power for ease of earning and redeeming points.
Maximizing travel rewards does require some amount of strategic planning, but the benefits are often worth the extra time. For example, if you’re a frequent business traveler staying at the Marriott, you may want to consider applying for their rewards credit card. Between both programs, you can earn free vacations and upgrades, as long as you stay in the Marriott network. But not every travel program works well for every traveler, so it’s a good idea to decide what type of vacations you prefer before you sign up for a new credit card or commit to a certain program.