Travel That Pays
Traveling can be a truly rewarding experience. Rife with culture and an array of new experiences, vacationing provides a well needed reprieve. Separating ourselves from everyday life and immersing in a new culture makes for some great character building. A great vacation can lead to exceeding gratitude. We often return home, grateful for things we once took for granted.
That said, travel, especially “good” travel, can be expensive. It takes a lot of planning and essentially yields no monetary value. In fact, vacationing is centered on spending, and while experiences are invaluable, they cost money.
Spending on a vacation is at its best when it pays you back. As a designated travel planner, I have become somewhat versed in making effective savvy plans that in themselves reward me for my tedious work. Here are a few basic tips on planning a rewarding holiday.
Search One And Done. It really is that easy. Kayak gives you comparative access to almost every national and international carrier (more than 550 in fact). I’ve been using the site for just about 6 years. The constant skeptic, I relentlessly compare Kayak’s prices with those on the airline’s site. While the prices are the same, some carries (such as JetBlue) don’t display all available times and my preferred European carrier-Virgin Atlantic- no longer displays flights on the site. I have never found Expedia to be a fiscally fare site and the options are consistently limited. Priceline is also a fair site but their search items are displayed by their preferred carriers (often American). In addition, Kayak completes a comparative search with Priceline with every search. Prices are always $1 or less a part. I’ve never found a cheap ticket on Cheaptickets.com and the other travel sites (Webjet, Orbitz, and CheapOAir for example) aren’t worth mentioning. Kayak is simply the best and the easiest way to book a plane ticket. Disclaimer: The App. absolutely sucks. I’d suggest you search one and done on the full site.
Accommodations should be made on sites that reward you. This reward often comes at the price of loyalty, and that’s perfectly fine. It simply means you have to do some sifting before you find the accommodation site that works for you. Planet earth’s number one accommodation site, Booking.com has awesome commercials! But that’s pretty much as far as the accolades can go. The site provides way too many search options. Booking.com’s search engine yields results for every type of accommodation and then permits the use of a filter. It’s just to much work and there’s no reward program. Hotels.com has been my preferred go-to site for accommodations. The site is very friendly, the mobile app is even better, and for every ten nights you’ll get one night free (up to $150) value! That’s a lot for a site that already gives great discounts and allows you to cancel a reservation up to 24 hours before check-in. The company recently added an additional option to delay payment until arrival to the hotel. Even without the rewards, Hotels.com is the obvious choice for your hotel stay. If you are content with a single hotel chain, mentionable reward programs include Hilton HHonors, Starwood Preferred, InterContinental Priority Club and Hyatt Hotels Gold Passport.
I have never been one for Vacation Packages. This convenient combination is built on a lot of background negotiation that in one way or another ends up costing you. That said, if you like your vacations neatly wrapped and long for the obsolete travel agent, Travelocity provides the best packages. If you attempt to book the items separately, chances are you’d find that the Travelocity options are quite a deal. In addition, the flights are equally paired with the accommodation. That is, the non-stop flight with the five star hotel is $****, while the two-stops flight at the same hotel is $***. Travelocity displays both options and allows you to maneuver packages based on your budget. The site also offers a points program exclusively through American Express. There’s an annual fee of $39 but it’s pretty easy to rake up points.
The Pièce de résistance of rewarding travel asks, “What’s in your wallet?” Many airline carriers offer great mileage programs. In fact American Airlines’ AAdvantage has paved the way in terms of excellent mileage plans. Just last week, CNN solidified this estimation. Other notable airline programs include Delta’s SkyMiles and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards. The problem with these programs is they are tailored to provide frequent flyer miles. They strip you of the ability to bargain hunt for a ticket and pigeonholed you to a single carrier. I don’t know about you but I can’t possibly imagine being inclined to purchase a ticket on American for $800, when I can get one for Virgin for $650.
So what’s the alternate option? A card that truly pays.
The Capital One Venture Card is a traveler’s Godsend. Fly any airline and stay at any hotel, at anytime. The best part is you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on absolutely anything (from your children’s textbooks to an order of chicken nuggets). That means your $1500 trip to Europe automatically earns you 3000 miles/$150. With the venture card there’s no limit to the amount of miles you can earn and they never expire. Upon qualifying for the card, cardholders receive a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once they’ve spent a total of $2,000 within the first 3 months. The venture card has received a deserving 4 star rating across many review sites. What they don’t share is the awesomeness that is their rewards program. They have a nifty tool called the “purchase eraser” that allows you to use points to remove any purchase made. The only downside to this card, is that almost excellent credit is required to qualify. For more information on the best rewards cards visit CompareCards.com.
Get a rewards card (preferably non-airline), search for flights on Kayak, book your hotel through hotels.com and watch the free nights, miles, and dollars pile up!