Great vacation tip No. 5: Join the hotel loyalty program

My latest value trick is an old-but-good one: Join the hotel loyalty club.moscowriver

I rarely manage enough points with any one hotel brand to get a free stay. But hotels often offer discounts for members and include extras, like Wifi, for members. Twice recently I found discounts far deeper than what I could get via AAA, AARP or online sites by joining the hotel chain loyalty club and booking directly on its website. And let’s face it: Who doesn’t like a deal?

There is a trade-off: Your information and a flood of new emails in your box. My information is already in the giant universal meta database, just by virtue of the fact that I exist. Handing my address and email to one more company isn’t going to make much difference, I figure. (I never allow them to store my credit card info, just to be extra safe.) As for the extra emails…that’s where comes in. (Check previous posts for details.)

If you travel a lot on business, of course, those hotel points can quickly add up to free stays. But even if you’re an occasional roadside motel / family traveler, take a look at loyalty programs. Choice Hotels include 11 familiar brands – including Clarion and Comfort Inn; most years they run summer specials where a handful of stays will earn you a free night. At, 10 nights in any hotel booked on the site will earn you a free night. Other chains and booking sites have similar programs.

So what’s that free night worth? Maybe not so much if you’re roadtripping to Georgia. But if you’re heading to the other Georgia, that could be a free night at a Tbilisi hotel like the Radisson or Marriott that normally charges around $275.

On my last trip to Copenhagen, my free night was worth more than $250 in high season. Not a bad deal.