Do you travel so much that you’ve stopped even bothering to put your suitcase away? Or maybe your budget doesn’t quite support your level of wanderlust, and you’re always on the hunt for more economical excursions. Whether you’re looking to maximize perks for trips you’re already taking or increase your access to cheap vacation destinations and travel hacks, joining a traveler loyalty program may be a great way to stretch your funds and optimize your experience. With so many options out there, it can be hard to choose, so we’ve done a little research to help you find some of the best travel programs to check out as you plan your future adventures!
There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting a “frequent flyer” program. How frequently do you travel? What airlines provide service at the airports closest to you? How diverse will your destinations be? What benefits are most important to you? You can find a list of top-ranked options here, and we definitely encourage you to compare them to see which one(s) might be the best fit for your needs.
However, if your goal is to see as much of the world as possible, you might want to take a look at American Airlines AAdvantage program. American currently flies to 95 domestic destinations and 95 international destinations in 55 countries and has a large network of participating partner airlines. Money Under 30 blogger Elizabeth Helen Spencer lists AAdvantage as one of the “best travel rewards programs for beginners” and mentions that miles can be redeemed for items including flights, upgrades, hotels, car rentals, and even some retail items. Miles do expire after 18 months…but that’s just a little extra motivation to not let too much time go by between trips!
As with airlines, hotel customer loyalty programs each have pros and cons. Maybe you’re someone who’d rather spend every spare moment exploring your destination, and you really only need a hotel room for showers and sleep. Or maybe the hotel is an important part of the travel experience for you, and you’d prefer to stay somewhere higher-end where you can enjoy a breathtaking view from your balcony, order amazing food through room service, and book spa treatments.
You can check out some popular options here, but if you want a “something for everyone” program, you may find what you’re looking for in Marriott Rewards. With over 6,500 participating hotels in more than 100 countries, you’ll have a lot to choose from, and with affiliated brands ranging from no-frills Courtyard by Marriott to the luxury-defining Ritz-Carlton, you’re likely to find lodging that meets your needs AND lines up with your priorities!
Credit Card Programs
This one is a little tricky, because we would never encourage you to accumulate debt, but if you have the income (and, let’s face it, the self-discipline) to pay off your credit cards regularly, you may be able to earn a lot of points to help support your travel habit.
While many cards have great rewards programs, one that really caught our eye was the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card not only offers double points for travel expenses such as flights, hotels, rental cars, etc., but also for dining purchases worldwide…which includes the restaurants you frequent in your hometown. There are also no foreign transaction fees with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which can be a huge benefit if you’re an international traveler.
The bottom line is, as long as you’re not spending more than you can afford, credit card rewards can be a great way to supplement your travel funds!
More Travel Hacks
In addition to loyalty programs, there are a lot of other ways to potentially spend less while traveling more.
• Check some of the best travel deals sites compiled by NerdWallet to compare prices, find coupon codes, etc.
• If your schedule allows, consider traveling during less popular times of the year…for inspiration, here’s a list of destinations that might be even better in the off season!
• If you’re planning ahead and have a little time to work with, think about downloading an app like Hopper to get alerts when the best prices on flights, hotels, etc. are available.
We hope this guide helps you make the absolute most of your travel plans in the coming year!
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