I've been doing some thinking about travel loyalty programs lately. For many years I traveled and didn't bother to take advantage of any of the loyalty programs available. Well no more. In the past few years I've signed up for, and actively use, several travel loyalty programs.
I have two frequent flyer accounts. Yes, only two. I try to keep my air travel to those airlines whenever I can. Because of this I've gotten enough miles for free RT tickets for vacations and visits to family and friends. Being loyal does pay off in some cases. Along with earning miles through straight travel I've also signed up for an airline affiliate credit card. This way I earn miles for everyday purchases. It adds up quickly. No program is perfect and there are some fees involved with the "free" travel awards but it's worth it to get signed up. If you're traveling anyway there's no reason not to take advantage of these programs.
Where I've seen the biggest return for brand loyalty has been with hotel reward programs. I've earned at least a week of free nights in the past year. Now that may not sound like a lot but at an average of $100 a night the rewards become significant. Of the many frequent traveler programs you can sign up for hotel reward programs should be at the top of your list. Besides the free nights you may get access to special deals for rooms and other freebies once you're at the property.
The nice thing about a program like the one that Marriott sponsors is the various types of properties that it encompasses. Being a member of the Marriott reward program gives you a ton of flexibility. Their brands cover everything from their basic hotels to their higher end brands. Which means you can almost always find a property in your price range in any given city.
Hyatt hotels also have a really good loyalty program, Hyatt Gold Passport. I like staying at the Hyatt. They have lots of great properties and always seem to have deals available. Being part of their loyalty program is just icing on the cake. One of their best programs is their Sunshine on Sale deal, stay three nights and get the fourth night free. (That was the deal, it may have changed now) We've taken advantage of that one several times.
It pays to be a part of these programs. They offer real rewards that you can actually use. Being part of a hotel program can get you an upgraded room, free breakfast and discounted stays. And let's not forget the potential for upgrades on air travel. No matter your status within the airlines program, just being a member can get you upgrades to first class, priority boarding, free checked bags. All of these available for free or at greatly reduced prices.
If you haven't already, give these programs another look. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Before you know it you could be flying and staying for free.