Here are some resources to help you get started on your travel research and planning.
Airlines and Flights:
Even if you are loyal to a specific airline and its rewards program, I recommend signing up for the rewards program of each airline – Delta, Alaska, American, United, Southwestern, Sun Country, etc.
Depending on your travel budget and your preferences for utilizing your favorite airline, consider using flight comparison websites such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Hopper.
Hate standing in line? If you’re willing to pay to avoid them, breeze through airport security with these two programs: TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR. Available at select airports. Use these programs together for the fastest possible clearance through security lines and the least amount of hassle with your carry-on items. These programs are available for domestic U.S. flight departures only.
Note: Delta SkyMiles members get discounted prices on CLEAR membership.
Sign up for reward programs with car rental companies such as National/Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Budget. There are other dealers – some chains, some independent, out there that might have cheaper rates. If you are frequent traveler, companies such as National/Enterprise and Avis allow you to skip the counter and go directly to the car aisle, pick out the vehicle you want, and drive to the gate. They also have expedited check in and free or discounted rentals as rewards.
Note: The standard age to be able to rent is 25. Ace Rent-a-Car will rent to people 18 or older. Hertz and Advantage will both rent to drivers who are at least 20, but will charge a daily surcharge.
Hotels: Just like with airlines, sign up for every hotel reward program out there – Marriott and SPG (Starwood) are now linked, Hilton, Hyatt, Choice, etc. However, unlike with booking flights on aggregator sites like Kayak, be sure to book your hotel directly on the hotel website or you will not be eligible for your reward points.
If the location to which you are traveling does not have one of your preferred hotels available, then use a site such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com, or Booking.com. Last minute travel? Try the Hotel Tonight mobile app.
Vacation Rentals: Traveling with a large party, you want more of a local feel, don’t want to spend the money on a hotel? There are lots of reason to utilize vacation rentals. Airbnb, VRBO, HouseTrip, Tripping.com, FlipKey and more.
Note: Delta SkyMiles members can earn miles with Airbnb by booking on the special DeltaAirbnb.com website. You must visit this website first, enter your SkyMiles number and you will then be redirected to the Airbnb site to book as normal.
Finding Things To Do:
TripAdvisor is an exceedingly helpful resource when looking for things to do, places to stay, and restaurants to try. I encourage everyone to utilize that site to find information as well as contribute to the reviews. I have found fantastic off-the-beaten path things I never would have found on my own. Yelp is also a great resource, but I tend to put a bit more stock in the reviews on TripAdvisor.
Create a customized Google map of the locations you will be visiting. A fee for service site called TripIt allows you to enter all your travel information – flight information, hotel, attractions, etc., and maps each location. It also allows members of the trip to contribute to the planning or see the itinerary.