Slow and Steady Reserves the Room- Weekly Travel Hints

17 06 2010

Earlier I brought you “Top Five Travel Hints of the Week” Well frankly five is a bit too many on a weekly basis.  Instead I will be bringing you a Weekly Travel Hint and provide an ample amount of input and advice.  If you are an aggressive traveler you reap benefits rather quickly.  However for many of us out there we travel frequenty and ask ourselves “Hey wheres that free round trip flight?”  The answer may be in your decision making.  Our readers typically range from mid 30’s and 20’s working professionals  to young soon to be college kids.   However you will find that over your lifetime (especially in your early 20’s when your friends are getting married and/or you’ve got extra cash to travel with) you will start to use different travel vendors.  I hope you find this week’s advice as useful as I did once I was informed.

What do Hilton Hotels, Motel 8, Southwest Airlines, AirTran, Hertz Rental Car and several other vendors all have in common? ALL of them have a preferred customer program.  Any company in the travel industry REGARDLESS of the specific sector all have programs that reward their frequent customers.  We see this often with our parents getting free flights to Hawaii or in movies like Up in the Air.  Both your parents and George Clooney do one thing: They stick to one networkPlease allow me to explain.  If you want to earn free hotel nights, free flights to vegas to rock out with old friends, or park for free at your local airport you have to follow the golden rule of traveling: Use the same network repeatedly.  Do you know what four flights on four different airlines gets you? Four complimentary soft drinks and maybe some peanuts. When you decide to stay in the same network in all aspects of your travel you will see those glorious emails enter your inbox reading “Congratulations You’ve earned..”  I will provide a few examples;

Hotels: Each Hotel is more than likely in a network with several others.  Check out: www.hhonors.com That is the website for the Hilton Network including hotels such as; Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Doubletree, etc…  If you stay at a hotel in the network you accumulate points for use in any hotel within the network.  Ex) You stay at Hampton Inn a few times you earn a free night at a Hilton Hotel of your choice.  Sound easy? It is.  Just make sure to enroll in the program.  All programs are free and they last a lifetime.  Even if you are a casual traveler you should be contributing to your account.  Hilton is NOT the only one who does this.  There are also great programs such as Marriot Rewards and Priority Club that cover several hotels.  **Also hotels will frequently run promotions such as “Stay with us 4 nights this month and earn a free night!”  That is always something to keep an eye for.**  Marriot has a nice line-up of hotels and Priority Club is Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza (Knoxville Tits), etc.  Also each network has a credit card of such that usually doubles points for qualifying stays.

Airlines: Very similar to the hotel structure, but there are not networks EXCEPT: Star Alliance (which is dominating the airline industry).  Now you can use the same frequent flyer number for several airlines: US Airways, United, and Continental, check out all of them: http://www.staralliance.com/en/about/airlines/.  The key to airline programs: Do your research. You need to find out what airline has the major presence at your local airport. Ex) In Nashville, TN Southwest Airlines is very predominant.  In Charlotte it is US Airways BIG TIME.  Join the network best for you and start earning free round trips.  Don’t get discouraged if it takes a few trips.  Also airlines process points in TWO WAYS: 1) Miles (the amount of miles you fly gets put into a bank and 25k miles may equal a roundtrip flight) 2) Segment points (Southwest uses this and you receive points for flights…this may be the best option if you travel short distances such as 400-700 miles).   Like hotels, Airlines have credit cards usually offering a free round trip after first purchase but BEWARE they are usually backed with high interest rates.  Free trips are also subject to black-out dates, be sure to refer to the airlines website regarding that information.

Rental Cars: Probably the biggest flop in the travel industry.  Each company offers a preferred program.  Several companies including National and Hertz offer free rental after so many paid rental days.  These are harded to build, but it is still a good option to join-up. Quick rental car tip: If you make a reservation, they owe you a car.  If they “Lost your reservation” or “We are out of cars” then you better make sure you don’t pay.

Final pieces of importance: 1) Stay with the same program.  Make sure to truly look at the price difference before making a decision.  Ex) If you are a American Airlines member and their flight is $20.00 more than the competitor, choose AA to accumulate the miles.  Choosing the same travel vendor will pay dividends. 2) Do your research.  Where you live and often travel to dictate which program is the best for you. 

Happy trails.

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