Smart Way to Earn Air and Hotel Points

To a guerilla traveler, airfare and hotel points aren’t like magic unicorns. They are very real and very important. Every point counts and we will dive into piranha infested waters to pick one up, if it was at the bottom. Some of us will do it, just to say we did it (please don’t). So how do we find them, earn them, borrow them… steal them?

There are four basic ways and they all revolve around Loyalty (my 2nd favorite travel word, behind flexibility).

  1. Get a credit card that maximizes rewards points but don’t forget to pay off your tab at the end of the month. If your not careful, the interest alone defeats the purpose of the rewards points. Some airline carriers offer there own credit cards and you can multiply points on airfare purchases.
  2. Sign up for every airline loyalty program. If you are truly set on seeing the world, you’ll probably fly most of the airlines at some point or other. Ideally, you want to stick with one of the big three airline groups (Star Alliance, One World, Skyteam) so your miles aren’t spread all over the place. But don’t let go of anything.
  3. Sign up for hotel loyalty programs including chains like Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn and my current favorite Hotels.com.

Pros of major hotel chains: They are worldwide, reputable and generally have the best loyalty (free nights) programs. If you work your magic (pay attention to the current offers) you can actually get free night pretty quick as some nights, at different locations are offering double points for a limited time. Always check ahead.

Cons of major hotel chains: They usually aren’t for guerilla travelers and our limited funds. They can be a little pricey sometimes (but not always).

Pros of Hotels.com: Wide selection of hotel choices that meet your needs/ wants all over the world. One night you’re in a hostel, the next night you’re in the Ritz.

Cons of Hotels.com: Your free night takes a little longer than the major chains. Also, the free night is dependent on the average dollar spent for the previous 10 nights. So if you stay in $20 a night places, you will earn a $20 dollar free night. But if you stay 5 nights in a $50 room and 5 nights in a $100 room, you’ve earned a $75 free night.

The Important Part

If you want to earn hotel/ airfare points and keep your trip cheap you’ll have to see-saw between tickets and rooms. No way around it, the further you fly the more expensive the ticket. And the longer you stay, the more the room will eat your wallet. So if you travel far (earn a lot of miles) stay in a cheaper room. If you are skipping from Columbus, Ohio to Chicago splurge on the room and beef up your average free night or stay at the major chain.

Then, when the mood hits you to go “crazy talk,” travel far and and stay in the penthouse. You earned it!

4. Book for a friend! Maybe your not going somewhere but your friend is. Or maybe your friend is coming with you and they don’t fly that often (the homebody buddy). Often times you can collect the points they are earning on rooms and flights if you book it. Sometimes, the reward program allows for the transfer of points. Let’s face it, life on the road doesn’t entice everyone and that’s OK. So if they aren’t interested, let them know you are. The guerilla traveler has no shame to ask, “Are you going to eat that?” Well… unless you’re literally at the dinner table, then… maybe not.

Safe Trip and Good Travels!

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