4 Reasons To Love Hotel Rewards Programs
Are you sick of frequent flier miles? The airlines have done a great job of squeezing the value out of these valuable programs, which were once an easy path to free flights. Yet when most people think about credit cards that offer travel rewards, they tend to still picture ones that offer airline miles. By looking beyond airline frequent flier programs, you can earn more versatile, and valuable travel rewards than you may have thought possible. Here are some of the major advantages hotel points have over airline miles.
Superior award availability
While airlines have been raising the number of miles required for an award flight and cutting the number of seats they offer at the lowest mileage levels, most hotel chains have maintained blissfully simple programs that offer awards that are easy to redeem. For example, the programs offered by Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton, and Wyndham guarantee that you can redeem your points for any unsold standard room, with no blackout dates or capacity controls. This means that you can use your points for rooms at Times Square on New Year's Eve, or in the host city during the Super Bowl, as long as they are still selling standard rooms. In contrast, many airline programs will offer few, if any, award seats at the lowest mileage levels, especially during peak travel periods.
Easy ways to earn points
Major airlines such as Delta and United no longer offer miles based on the distance flown, which was the whole point of calling them frequent flier miles in the first place. Instead, they changed their programs to offer miles based on the dollars paid, using a formula that results in fewer miles being awarded to most travelers. Meanwhile, hotel programs offer huge numbers of points to guests, with tremendous bonuses for holding elite status and using their co-branded credit cards. For example, the IHG Rewards Club (the loyalty program for Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, and other properties) can offer as many as 20 points per dollar spent to members who have their highest elite status and use the IHG Rewards Club Select credit card from Chase.
Better credit card offers
Credit cards that offer points with hotel programs can do much more for you than most airline credit cards. For example, the IHG Rewards Club Select credit card from Chase offers all cardholders Platinum Elite status, while Hilton offers four different versions of its HHonors credit card from Citi and American Express, each with Silver or Gold elite status. Having elite status with a hotel program can offer tangible perks such as room upgrades, late checkouts, and even free breakfasts.
Great non-hotel awards
When you want to use your airline miles for something other than flying, you might have a few choices, but they tend to be unattractive. But when you accumulate a bunch of hotel points you can have many great options—the IHG Rewards Club offers a Rewards Concierge that can help members redeem points for tours and other travel reservations. And with the Starwood Preferred Guest program, you can transfer points to miles with over thirty different carriers, so you can choose the program that offers the best reward options for your needs.
This article was written by Jason Steele, Credit Card Expert at CompareCards.com.
The Best Days to Fly for the Holidays
With domestic airfares down around 9 percent, two-thirds of Americans plan to fly for the holidays. Here's how to beat the crowds and save some bucks: Thanksgiving: Orbitz reports that Wednesday Nov 25 is the busiest day to fly. To avoid those looooong airport lines (and possibly save on airfares), fly on the 24th or on Thanksgiving Day (visitors to BudgetTravel.com tell us they love the peace of flying on holidays). Head home on Monday Nov 30, the quietest travel day. Christmas: Avoid Dec 23, the busiest day. Fly on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for fewer crowds. The 27th will be the quietest day at the airport. When to buy: Expedia confirms the longstanding rumor that Tuesday is the best day to get a deal on airline tickets. (Because airlines often release new fares early in the week.) 57 days before your trip is the ideal window for a domestic flight. (Yes, that means book your Christmas flight next Tuesday!) And remember... To get the inside scoop on airfare deals, follow all the major US carriers on Twitter and sign up for their e-newsletters.
Money-Saving Travel Tips From Today’s #PassionPassport Twitter Chat
I just participated in a really fun Twitter Chat hosted by Passion Passport. The topic was near and dear to our hearts: budget travel. And I think you'll find both the questions and my answers helpful in planning your next escape, whether it's a close-to-home road trip or a trek around the globe. (And if you enjoy this kind of chat, be sure to follow @BudgetTravel on Twitter.) Q1: Do you lay out a budget before setting off, or are you thrifty while traveling? (Or both?)A1: Budget for the biggies like airfare and hotel, but give yourself discretionary $ for great meals and splurgey shopping Q2: How do you start planning a budget for an upcoming trip? A2: Find the sweet spot between the region’s hotel rates and your available funds so you know how many days to plan for Q3: Is there a tool you find particularly helpful with budgeting your travels? Share it with us! A3: Diversify search @Fareness @Hipmunk @HotelTonight @Hopper. But always call a hotel directly to book and ask for a better rate Q4: What’s your biggest challenge in travel budgeting? A4: Saving in advance! Get direct deposit into a savings account at a bank that’s not near your home (for real) Q5: What strategies do you use to save money while traveling? A5: Visit museums on free days; picnic with local breads, cheeses, olives for lunches; savor local parks Q6: Share a photo from what you consider your best-budgeted trip. What did you do there that was different? A6: Point Pleasant NJ in September: The boardwalk is still open, the weather is warm, but hotel rates are way down Q7: What destination do you think is especially cost-effective? A7: Right this minute: Greece is the word Q8: How do you best save money in a typically expensive destination?A8: Shoulder Season: beach towns and Europe in fall; the Caribbean between Thanksgiving and Christmas; Hawaii in spring Q9: What is your favorite travel activity that’s free? Share a photo!A9: Your most precious travel memories may be FREE: strolling through a big city park and picnicking on a bench Q10: What kind of travel do you think is easiest to save money on? Road trips, backpacking, etc.?A10: We are champions of the great American road trip for its affordability, fun, and of course foodA10: And we have upward of 100 beautiful American road trip itineraries on BudgetTravel.com Q11: What’s your number one tip for saving while traveling? A11: Rock-bottom airfares and hotel rates are bundled into package tours, great for overseas and far-flung destinations Q12: What is your next budget travel destination?Q12: I’m making an Escape From NYC to Montreal, always a bargain, friendly, and delicious
5 Airport Hacks You’ve Never Heard Of (That Work!)
This article was written by Brittany Jones Cooper and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. Most travelers arrive at the airport with hopes of having a stress-free experience. But with long lines, high-priced dining, and cranky passengers, things rarely go as planned. While we can’t control the airlines, there are a few things you can do to make your time more enjoyable. Use these hacks the next time you head to the airport. Go to the left When you’re going through security, pick the line to the left. Most travelers are right handed, so they automatically pick the right lane. As a result, studies have shown that the left line is typically shorter. Bring a bottle Is it just us, or has water gotten ridiculously expensive at the airport? I recently paid nearly four dollars for a bottle of Aquafina at LAX. Instead, bring an empty water bottle. Without water inside, you can easily take it through security, and once you’re in the terminal, you can fill it up as many times as you want at the drinking fountain. Screenshot your boarding pass We’ve all been there: you download your boarding pass on your smartphone, but by the time you reach the boarding gate, you can’t seem to find it. Save yourself the headache and take a screenshot of your boarding pass. This way you don’t have to worry about your airline app freezing or timing out, and you can board with no delays. Related: WATCH: Brittany’s Travel Hacks—4 Tips For Breezing Through Airport Security Bring the power People are really territorial over outlets at airports. So bring a power strip, and you’re guaranteed to have a place to charge your phone. Plus, letting others charge their devices on your power strip is a great way to make friends. Get a gate guide Finally, download Gate Guru. This app will tell you everything you need to know about your airport—with tips from other travelers, info on where to eat, and maps of the airport. It will also alert you if your flight has changed gates, so you don’t end up running around the terminal. Want More Travel Hacks? WATCH: Save Your Data—Cheap Ways to Text and Call While Traveling WATCH: Brittany’s Travel Hacks: Use Your TV as a Phone Charger And More Helpful Hotel Tips WATCH: Become a Jetsetter—These Sharing Sites Let You Travel Like a Millionaire
Is Now the Best Time to Visit the Caribbean?
We've crunched some numbers and have good news for those of you yearning for a warm-weather getaway this fall: This year’s Caribbean hurricane season has been mild (as predicted), and the season is winding down over the next few weeks. October, November, and early December are great times to grab bargains in the Caribbean, before the holiday and winter crowds descend, driving up prices. Here’s a sample deal: A family of four traveling to the Bahamas in October can expect to pay around $2,300 for round-trip airfare and three nights in a nice hotel on Paradise island. The same family traveling in February to a comparable hotel would pay upward of $4,000—so that October trip delivers a savings of 43 percent. (It is possible for that family to get a package to the Caribbean around $3,000 in February, but the flight will have layovers, the accommodations won’t be as nice, and they won’t have access to as many perks.) If you're the impulsive type, we’re especially fond of JetBlue Getaways, which are often very last-minute. If you check them regularly, you can find great fall bargains on packages that include round-trip airfare and a few nights' lodging from around $600 or $700 and up to destinations like Puerto Rico, Aruba, and Curacao. You may have to book it within a day or two, but you’ll have till, say, January 1 to travel. (Deals vary, timing varies, it’s best to just keep checking and signup for JetBlue’s alerts, emails, and follow them on social media.) Speaking of signing up for alerts: We suggest that you follow all the major airlines, package tour companies, and hotel chains on social media and sign up for their e-newsletters and deal alerts. You’ll be in on the ground floor when they announce promotions and packages with last-minute booking restrictions. And, of course, for indulgent and affordable getaways, dream trips, and stylish steals, visit Budget Travel's Real Deals regularly!