When it comes to scratching the itch to travel, the choices—between destinations, airlines, and hotels—can be as overwhelming as the cost of your wanderlust. But the savviest travelers are in on a secret: There’s a big advantage to being loyal. And it is super simple from the moment you join. We’ve partnered with Hilton HHonors to bring you insider tips on how to plan the trip of your dreams by booking directly and unlocking some truly amazing benefits. Below are seven smart ways to become that friend who just gets the upside to loyalty programs.
1. Be smart from the start and book direct.
Where do you go in search of the best deals? Here’s a tip: book directly. Third-party websites aren’t always the money-saving answer you’d like them to be. More often than not, you’ll get a better deal and a better experience if you book directly with the company whose services you seek. For example, when you book your stay directly with a hotel, you often open the doors to discounts you won’t find anywhere else. Hotels chains like Hilton offer exclusive discounted rates of up to ten percent just for booking direct as a Hilton HHonors member. That means you’ll have more money to spend on things like meals and entertainment once you arrive at your destination.
2. Do your pre-arrival research.
Nowadays, you can enjoy some truly cool perks that kick in before you even step foot on a plane. At certain rental car companies, loyalty members can have their pick of vehicle inventory using the app before they arrive. At hotels, loyalty members often get access to tons of helpful tools, like the Hilton HHonors app’s digital floor plans, which let you start exploring the hotel where you’ll be staying instantly—and even select your ideal room in advance. The more due diligence you do before landing, the more excited you’ll get for your upcoming trip, and the better your stay will ultimately be.
3. Make your journey a destination in itself.
The perks of loyalty programs can make you feel like a king when you’re on your way to your destination. For example, airline loyalty programs often provide their elite loyalty program members with access to a special airport lounge with comfortable chairs, charging stations, food, and drink where you can relax before boarding. VIP car rental programs typically make upgrading to a fancier vehicle way easier. If you’re the type who loves an oceanside view, a balcony, or a cocktail waiting for you right on arrival – being a loyalty member can make it easier to turn your vision into reality. Want to pre-order a bottle of champagne and strawberries for your room to enjoy some bubbly and a fresh treat to kick-start your trip? Use the hotel’s loyalty app.
4. Take advantage of technology only available to loyalty members.
Wi-Fi and GPS are the avid traveler’s two best friends. Many loyalty members can get access to both, free of cost! For example, loyalty members on cruise ships are usually awarded free internet minutes so they can sign online to learn about exclusive offers and on-board get-togethers, and loyalty members at various hotel chains, like Hilton, receive free Wi-Fi for their stay. Hilton HHonors members also get access to the Hilton HHonors app for functions like Digital Key, which lets your smartphone serve as your keycard, or new features like Fun Finder, which invites you to find out what’s happening at the hotel through real-time push notifications, whether you’re really into surfing or you need to unwind with a massage.
Check out this video of travel experts and YouTube stars Simon + Martina testing Fun Finder at Hilton Hawaiian Village.
5. Savor experiences that will make your friends jealous.
It’s easier for loyalty program members to make each trip their own, as many such programs offer members easy access to one-of-a-kind experiences. Want to take a hot-air balloon ride over the Spanish Pyrenees or have dinner with the Barenaked Ladies during your next trip? Redeem the Points you earn for premium merchandise, free nights, and unique experiences you can’t find elsewhere.
6. Touch base with local experts during your stay.
Don’t worry about flipping through a directory to find the right number, or swinging by the front desk to request extra towels or pillows. Loyalty program members often get instant access to helpful employees who can quickly answer their questions. On cruises, for example, a special hostess with knowledge of every locale you visit is often available to help make loyalty members’ trips that much more enjoyable. If you’re more of the hotel vacation type, you can use the Hilton HHonors app’s real-time chat feature to ask questions about everything from pool hours to the nearest ATM, or use the app’s Uber Local Scene feature for recommendations of the best restaurants and nightlife venues, chosen based on their frequency with Uber riders. There’s a host of employees right at your fingertips with all the answers you’re seeking.