Summer is in full swing but if you’re like many Americans you still haven’t pulled the trigger on your travel plans.  According to the U.S. Travel Association and the Project Time Off study, Americans left 658 million vacation days on the table last year alone.

Industry surveys indicate that for many of us finding vacation time isn’t the biggest challenge as much as budgeting and saving for travel.

“Travel rewards programs help you score great offers as well as free or deeply discounted vacations,” said Manny Ruiz, a travel expert, Hispanic community spokesperson for Best Western Hotels & Resorts, and contributor for “The key to rewards program is loyalty and consistency so your points add up and can be put towards your vacations.”

Here are six tips and tricks to help you navigate the world of rewards programs, find the perfect fit for you and help you take your well-deserved time off from the daily grind:

1). Research Rewards Programs

There are many travel rewards programs, ranging from hotels to airlines to car rental and credit cards, but not all of them are created equal and some may fit your lifestyle better than others. Take the time to explore and compare, and most importantly, learn about how you can accrue points and use them for your next vacation.

Grandparents Taking Grandchildren On Trip In Open Top Car

2). Consider Rankings by Friends & Experts

When researching the travel rewards programs, also consider what travel experts have to say. For example, J.D. Power releases an annual Hotel Loyalty/Rewards Program Satisfaction Report℠ that scores the best rewards programs in the travel industry. Friends and coworkers are great resources too.

3). Get into Loyalty Swiping Habit

Some of the most popular rewards programs are linked to credit cards. Researching your best options should include cards linked to airlines, hotel groups and car rental companies because for every dollar spent, you could be investing towards your next vacation.

friends take a selfie in london - big ben

4). Grow Your Loyalty

Rather than open rewards programs with every travel company under the sun, research and select the ones that offer the best combination of service value and incentives and then stick with those. Learn how to grow your point tally and try to use that rewards program exclusively so you can reap the greatest benefits. Make it a part of your daily life.

5). Track Your Points

Some rewards programs have the important added bonus that your points never expire – like the Best Western Rewards program – but others do. For that reason be cognizant of your points and their expiration dates  so you’re not missing out on a chance to redeem them before they’re lost forever.

6). Beware of Fees and Strong Restrictions

A lot of rewards programs out there will try to lure you with the promise of benefits but be mindful of the small print: hidden fees or strange restrictions. While there are some rewards programs that offer tremendous benefits for an annual fee, there are countless that are free and offer just as many incentives to help you plan your next vacation.

For far too many travelling seems unattainable given the constraints of daily life. There is a travel reward program for everyone, that suits your needs as well as your wallet. These programs will facilitate the travel planning process, helping you to budget and save, and to finally take advantage of all those unused vacations days.