1) For extra cash back, go through a deal site like Ebates. Every time I’m going to buy a ticket, book a hotel, or rent a car, I go through that site. Each Delta booking pays $1.50. Hotels and car rentals usually pay around 4%. It may not sound like much, but I’ve gotten $170 from Ebates just for clicking through to things I was purchasing anyway.
(And, yes, if you sign up via that link we each get $5. Win.)
2) Sign up for loyalty programs whenever you can. Airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and car rental companies all offer them. Who cares if they start sending you email? Unsubscribe. This is another case where I’ve found I’m accidentally collecting points or miles just by using those services. Many hotel programs let you convert your points to frequent flier miles, too.
3) Use Foursquare. Tourist destinations are really getting in on this, and many venues offer benefits. If you don’t want to check in all the time, just look up the place you’re going to and see if their special is worth it. In Vegas, we got 2-for-1 drinks more than once just for checking in at casinos. Foursquare can also be great for tips and recommendations.
4) READ REVIEWS. I can’t say this enough. That hotel’s website will make it look like the greatest paradise to ever exist, but reviews might tell you otherwise. And two reviews aren’t enough: find a volume of them, because one person’s crappy experience doesn’t necessarily mean you should write it off. I prefer TripAdvisor for this, because you can research any aspect of travel, including tours and activities.
Things to look for in particular: bedbugs (this is getting to be a big issue everywhere you go), cleanliness, customer service, and location. Those are all make-or-break items for me.