Savvy travelers take advantage of loyalty programs - FOX 18 Quad Cities News and Weather

Savvy travelers take advantage of loyalty programs

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(ARA) - As travelers look to stretch their dollars further than ever while hitting the road this summer, loyalty programs are becoming a smarter way to enjoy a getaway without breaking the bank.

Experienced travelers already enjoy free night stays, Internet service, rental car upgrades and waived baggage fees, but the savings don't need to stop there. Whether it's a summer vacation with the family or a quick trip geared around landing that big deal, loyalty programs can help weary travelers keep costs down.

Major hotel and travel companies like Carlson offer great perks for their hotel loyalty members, but with so many options out there, how do you determine what's best for you?

Here are four tips to get you started on your trip to savings:

* Stay informed - It is important to stay informed and determine which loyalty programs best maximize benefits for you. There are many websites that highlight the pros and cons of different travel loyalty programs such as flyertalk.com or loyaltytraveler.com. Websites like DoTheMathSite.com allow consumers to compare how quickly they can earn free nights with many of the major hotel brands.

* Find upgrades that count - A better view or a bigger room can go a long way while traveling for business or pleasure. Look for upgrades that can make a big impact without having to spend big.

* Review redemption and earning options - With free stays and the flexibility to use reward points acting as the anchor of a good loyalty program, it's important to know when and where your points can be redeemed. For instance, global hospitality and travel company Carlson, which operates the Radisson, Country Inns & Suites By Carlson, Park Inn by Radisson and Park Plaza brands, offers its Club Carlson members redemption opportunities to maximize their travel needs. Through partnerships with Club Med, members can receive savings on 80 upscale, all-inclusive resorts worldwide. CWT Vacations provides U.S. members savings on cruises and independent hotels in top vacation destinations including Hawaii, Las Vegas and ski resorts.

* Control spending with prepaid cards - It's all too easy to let your impulses get the best of you while traveling. To control spending, look to prepaid gift cards to make sure expenses can be easily managed. Members can often use loyalty points to invest in a wide range of prepaid cards.

With warmer weather right around the corner, now is the best time to start lining up your travel plans. As loyalty programs continue to offer members more redemption options and comparison resources, there has never been a better time to find a program that fits your personal travel style.

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