Travel Insider: The rewards programmes you don't know about, but should
You don't have to be a five-star or frequent traveller to start benefiting from travel rewards, says Pól Ó Conghaile.
Travel rewards aren't all about air miles and mega-hotel brands. Nor do you have to amass a gazillion points just to earn an extra croissant.
Some loyalty programmes don't get as much attention, but can be joined with minimal hassle, and start delivering small benefits surprisingly quickly.
Take Jurys Rewards. It offers free premium Wi-Fi, along with member-only sales and booking discounts before you've even earned a point.
Similarly, Select Hotels of Ireland (a group of 26 independently-owned hotels) has a 'Stay Select Club' offering late check-outs and early check-ins where available, along with free newspapers and exclusive offers for members - from the get-go.
It's worth checking whether your favourite Irish hotel is a member of a bigger scheme, too. Brooks Hotel in Dublin, Adare's Dunraven Arms and Cork's Hayfield Manor are members of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, for example - its loyalty club offers a free room upgrade on every booking, subject to availability.
The Dylan in Dublin and Meath's Bellinter House are part of Mr & Mrs Smith's boutique collection, too - its members get a 'Smith Extra' with every stay. At Bellinter, that's a 55-minute Les Luneides bath treatment for two.
Of course, rewards programmes should be entered into sparingly, and with your eyes open. This is a two-way exchange (hotels benefit from your data and repeat business), and nobody wants an inbox flooded with spammy offers. Tailored to your travel habits, however, it's surprising the perks a few little experiments can bring.
In the know
If you like your travel deals, one website worth a look is holidayguru.ie.
Run by four Irish people based in Germany, and part of a European network of travel bloggers, the business trawls the internet for cheap travel offers, with around 191k Irish among its Facebook following (facebook.com/holidayguru.ie).
If you're on Facebook, incidentally, check out #MagicMonday, our weekly pick of the Top 5 travel deals in Ireland. Like our page (facebook.com/IndoTravel.ie) and you'll get it in your feed every Monday at 7.45am. Not a bad start to the week!
Eat and earn
One final tip this week - if you're anything like me, one of your main outgoings will be supermarket shopping bills. That's a necessary spend, but you can leverage it for holidays, too. Supervalu's (supervalugetawaybreaks.com) and Tesco's (clubcardbreaks.ie) rewards schemes allow members to redeem points against discounted breaks, while Lidl Breaks (lidlbreaks.ie) simply does discounted holidays, without the need for points. Before you book, check in with the hotel directly. You never know what counter-offer it may make!