Virtually all of the chains have some type of program -- even Super 8 and Microtel have rewards programs. Obviously Hilton and Marriott are going to offer more opportunities for a luxury vacation, but free hotel and plane trips are there for virtually anyone. For example, one of my children has 40,000 airline miles, over half of which were earned by playing games where I logged in every day to the airline website during a special promotion.
Here's a post from the flyertalk.com website, where a new Marriott Rewards member describes kicking off his new membership with a two-week stay and 110,000 points. He is informed to hold out for the 270,000 point air+hotel award, which during certain times can include 180,000 airline miles. That can be enough for three round-trip tickets to Europe plus a week's stay in a good hotel! I have to confess I didn't know about this deal until reading this thread.
A story of status and maximizing points...
So Jan 1st I found out I was going to stay in a Marriott for two weeks. I quickly went over to Flyertalk, looked for promotions, and all sorts of other good stuff.One thing to remember in collecting airline and hotel points. Don't use your points on a cheap airline seat or hotel room. Use your airline miles on on a last-minute ticket or a ticket to Europe, Hawaii or someplace you wouldn't be able to afford the ticket to without the miles. Save your hotel points for a top award offering the best deal. but whatever you do, if you are entitled to hotel or airline points, make sure you are getting them.
I signed up to be a Marriott rewards member.
Then I got the Marriott Premier credit card. But thanks to FT, I was able to get the 50000 signing bonus instead of the normal 30000.
Then I signed up for that instant gold status in 90 days HSBC promotion. Boom, instant gold. Also thanks to FT.
Then I stayed in a Marriott for two weeks. Got a 25% bonus on points, giving me 20k points from my stay. Gold status was now extended for a year.
Then I found out there was a megabonus promotion that I missed (stay two times and pay with a Visa = 1 free night). I called and asked, and they gave me a free 20k points since I was a good customer.
I also signed up for the current megabonus promotion - stay two times in Feb-Apr and get a free night.
I'll be staying another two weeks in Feb, thus giving me another 20k points and a free night due to the megabonus.
Giving me a total of 50k points from card + 20k from first two week stay + 20k from second two week stay + 20k from calling customer service + 1 free night certificate from credit card for signing up + 1 free night for Feb megabonus stays.
I'll be using these for a 5 day stay in San Diego for free. Leaving me with 40k points, enough for 2 nights at a cat 4.
Pretty awesome, I have to say.