Planning travel isn’t for everyone – in fact, it can sometimes represent the biggest challenge for some. They might not know where to start, or they might not necessarily have the time to figure it out.
That’s why, traditionally, they might go to a travel agency for someone to plan everything for them.
However, for many of us who love travelling, planning trips is part of the fun. The more we plan, the better at it we become.
Inevitably, word spreads amongst family and friends, and before we know it, we’ve become “unofficial” travel agents offering pro bono services for everything from giving out travel information to planning and booking.
In this article, I’d like to share some insight into the most common types of travel bookings, and how to go about booking travel for others in ways that you might be rewarded for your time and effort.
In This Post
- Why Book Travel for Others?
- Hotel Bookings on Points
- Hotel Bookings with Cash
- Flight Bookings on Points
- Flight Bookings with Cash
- Activities and Tours
- Possible Caveats
Why Book Travel for Others?
Most of us who book travel for others do so mainly to help friends and family. Other times, we may be travelling with a group, and it simply makes sense to have one person organize and book the trip for everyone, for the sake of efficiency.
If you happen to be a duly-licensed travel agent, then there’s also a monetary motivation, as you can earn commissions on travel bookings. Your travel agent credentials may also entitle you to incentives, discounts, and benefits for yourself and your clients alike.
However, even if you’re an “unofficial” travel agent, then you can still benefit from strategically booking travel for friends and family.
Some examples of this include cash back and rewards portals, earning elite nights towards status at hotels, and points earned through spending on your credit cards.
Hotel Bookings on Points
Frankly, it’s quite tricky to book hotels on points for others. However, there are a few strategies you may employ, such as:
- Gifting a rewards reservation directly
- Transfering points between members on a one-to-one basis
- Pooling points, which allows several members to contribute
With any of these strategies, you’ll have to abide by each hotel loyalty program’s own rules and restrictions. Below, you’ll find a quick summary of which programs participate in each method.
IHG One Rewards, Hilton Honors, and Marriott Bonvoy allow you to add a second guest to a reservation made with points. Marriott Bonvoy officially allows you to book a reward stay in another member’s name up to five times a year.
Best Western Rewards and Choice Privileges also allow gifting of award stays, but only to immediate family members.
On the other hand, Free Night Awards, certain Suite Upgrade Awards, and Points + Cash Awards may be gifted by any World of Hyatt member.
Accor Live Limitless and Wyndham Rewards are two programs that explicitly don’t allow gifting of any award bookings.
Officially, most award bookings made for others won’t earn the gifting member or the receiving member any elite nights or points. Recipients should also not expect to receive the elite status benefits of the donor or their own on gifted stays.
However, your mileage may vary – my most recent gifted reservation through Marriott Bonvoy happened to earn elite nights.
World of Hyatt’s “Guest of Honor” booking is the only official exception, whereby the recipient of a gifted award booking will be granted all the status benefits of the Globalist member during their stay. The donor member also receives elite night credits.
Barring this exception, gifting reservations works well if the beneficiary doesn’t have any elite status, so they won’t lose out on any status perks they’d normally be entitled to.
If your guest has elite status with a program, then the best option is through points transfers or points pooling, as detailed below. This way, the booking can be made under their name and elite member profile, and consequently, their elite benefits will be honoured during their stay.
Points Transfers and Points Pooling
Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, and Best Western Rewards all allow complimentary points transfers to another member. IHG One Rewards charges a fee based on the number of points transferred, while Accor Live Limitless doesn’t allow points transfers at all.
Hilton Honors is the only hotel program that allows points pooling amongst a group of up to 11 members.
Keep in mind that each program may impose limits on the number of points that may be transferred each year, and be aware of the time it takes for the transfer to be completed.
For example, Marriott Bonvoy allows you to transfer up to 100,000 points to another member each calendar year, and you can only receive up to 500,000 points total each year.
Hotel Bookings with Cash
If you’d rather save your points for yourself, there’s the much simpler option of booking hotels with cash. Here are some options for you to choose from.
Up until recently, the only site I used to make cash hotel bookings for others was Hotels.com. The site is easy to navigate and perform searches with, prices are usually comparable to other big travel sites, and refundable options are often available.
Outside of the big hotel chains, it has one of the best loyalty programs, Hotels.com Rewards, which lets you earn a free night with every 10 nights booked. The value of the free night is the average of the 10 nights booked, so essentially, you’re earning a 10% cash back.
One big advantage of the program is that you don’t have to be the one staying to earn rewards. The program allows you to make bookings under other people’s names, which ensures there won’t be any issues at check-in.
You can even secure or pay for the booking with the traveller’s own credit card for trip cancellation and interruption insurance purposes. Once they complete their stay, you’ll get credited for the stay, as long as the booking was made under your loyalty profile.
Aside from the free nights, the rooms you book also count towards your Hotels.com elite status, which has three levels: Member, Silver, and Gold.
Gold status entitles you to free room upgrades, early check-in, and late check-out at select VIP properties that participate in the program. Unlike other loyalty programs, the guest you booked for can enjoy these benefits too.
Last year, news came out that Hotels.com Rewards would be merging with other Expedia Group programs to form One Key. Unfortunately, the new loyalty program means a significant devaluation to Hotels.com Rewards.
On the US site, the merger took place in July 2023. Surprisingly, it’s yet to be rolled out on the Canadian site. Until then, you can continue to capitalize on the current Hotels.com Rewards program.
Other third-party booking sites have loyalty programs as well, but they pale in comparison to Hotels.com when you look at the earning rate. For example, Expedia’s rewards program yields a measly 1.4% cash back.
If you happen to reach the highest Gold status and book at one of Expedia’s VIP properties, then the cash back increases to 3.7%.
If you’d rather earn airline rewards than cash back, Rocketmiles is another online travel agency that could be used to book hotel stays for others.
The number of miles earned mainly depends on the cost of the stay. However, certain hotel brands and properties earn a better return than others.
Some airline loyalty programs have higher earning rates than others. In particular, Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles can yield up to 10 points or miles per dollar spent.
The best part is that you can make the booking for anyone, and the points or miles earned may be credited to anyone’s loyalty account.
Prince of Travel recently launched Prince Collection, our in-house luxury travel agency. Prince Collection has access to the world’s best hotel preferred partner programs, including Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Rosewood Elite, Mandarin Oriental Fan Club, Marriott STARS, Hilton Impresario, and Hyatt Privé, as well as a wide range of independent boutique luxury properties.
Booking through preferred partner programs gives you and your guests access to exclusive benefits, such as:
- Daily breakfast for two people
- $100 (USD) hotel credit (varies by property)
- Welcome amenity
- One-category room upgrade, subject to availability
- Early check-in and/or late check-out, subject to availability
- Additional property-specific promotions (3rd/4th/5th night free, double points, and more)
In most cases, you’ll also benefit from your hotel loyalty program’s elite status, and earn elite night credits accordingly.
Plus, as a Prince of Travel Platinum member, you stand to benefit from the Hotel Crowns Program, which lets you earn one free night for every 10 stayed. The value of the free night is the average value of the previous 10 nights.
If you’re booking multiple rooms for your group, it’s possible to earn crowns for all rooms, but one of the rooms must be booked under your name. Therefore, when you book five rooms for two nights, you’ll earn 10 crowns, which is enough for a free night for yourself.
For more information on the Hotel Crowns Program, refer to its terms and conditions.
If you’re travelling with a group of family or friends and plan on splurging on fancier accommodation, booking through Prince Collection is a great opportunity to earn a free night for yourself, while giving your travel companions an elevated travel experience at the same time.
Bank-Affiliated Travel Portals
If you’d rather earn points through your credit card program, booking through a bank-affiliated travel portal can be a good option. You may earn 5–10 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases through these portals.
Often, these portals will allow you to book for another person, but the payment typically has to be on your credit card issued by the bank.
On the US side, booking through American Express Travel using your US-issued Platinum Card will earn you 5 Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar spent on eligible flights and prepaid hotels.
With Capital One Travel or Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel, you may earn as many as 10 points points per dollar spent on eligible prepaid travel bookings.
Meanwhile, on the Canada side, you may use your TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card on the Expedia for TD portal and earn 8 TD Rewards points per dollar spent on eligible travel bookings.
Flight Bookings on Points
Most airline loyalty programs allow members to use their own points to book flights for others, and some will even allow their members to pool their points for redemptions. Keep in mind, however, that every airline loyalty program has its own rules when it comes to redeeming and pooling points for others.
Air Canada Aeroplan program allows you to book flights for virtually anyone. British Airways Executive Club requires you to add individuals to a “Family and Friends” list before a ticket can be redeemed for them. Other airlines, like EVA Air, have additional hurdles, such as forms that need to be submitted for any additional passengers you’re booking for.
Some airline programs allow pooling points, like Aeroplan’s Family Sharing, Air France KLM Flying Blue’s Family Account, and British Airways Executive Club’s Household Account. These programs allow miles or points to be redeemed proportionally against the group’s balance.
Aeroplan takes the benefits one step further, allowing members of a family group to score preferred pricing on redemptions based on another member’s elite status or possession of a co-branded credit card.
Flight Bookings with Cash
When it comes to booking cash flights, the strategy isn’t much different than booking a flight for yourself. Generally, I recommend booking directly with the airline you’re flying with, rather than going through a third-party vendor.
Booking through a third-party vendor usually means you’ll have to deal through them when there’s a flight cancellation or delay, which can be a nightmare. Refunds and changes must be made through them as well.
Moreover, since third-party vendors receive slim commissions on flight bookings, they usually don’t offer much in the way of incentives.
Thus, it’s more important to strategize which credit card you’re going to use to book flights.
In Canada, the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, which is no longer open for new applications, earns 3% back in travel rewards on eligible travel purchases with no foreign exchange fees, while the American Express Gold Rewards Card and Cobalt Card earn 2 MR points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases.
If you’re into the US credit card game, the American Express Platinum Card yields 5 MR points per dollar spent on eligible flights booked through its in-house Amex Travel agency.
Meanwhile, the Capital One Venture X card earns 5 miles per dollar spent on eligible flights booked through the Capital One Travel portal, which is the only agency I recommend booking flights with.
Its pricing often reflects what you’d see on Google Flights, but you also get additional benefits, including price-drop and price-match guarantees.
Activities and Tours
Viator is my go-to site for booking tours, activities, and services, whether for my own travels or for others.
When booking through Viator, you may earn cash back or points through a portal like Rakuten or the Aeroplan eStore.
Alternatively, you may choose to earn your cash back through Viator’s in-house rewards program, which offers a 5% value to use on future bookings.
Note that Viator codes as a travel purchase, so you’ll want to use a credit card with a good travel multiplier. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re booking in the currency of your card, so you won’t incur applicable foreign exchange fees.
Based on my experience, Viator has great online support. Through its platform, you can directly message customer service and the tour company offering the activity.
For example, we had a transfer booked, and our driver was also supposed to be the guide. However, at the last minute, the company subbed in another driver, who didn’t give any commentary during the tour. When I filed a complaint with Viator, it promptly refunded the whole transfer cost, no questions asked.
Another activity provider is GetYourGuide, but it doesn’t offer a rewards program. If you book with them, be sure to book through a cash-back portal like TopCashback, which can give you up to 10% of your booking cost back.
A downside to booking with the online agencies mentioned is that they may be charging you more versus going to the provider directly. Hence, do your research, and always double-check the pricing.
The biggest drawback when booking travel for others is when changes or cancellations need to be made.
Generally, if the bookings were made from your membership or loyalty account, you’ll have to make the changes on the traveller’s behalf. These changes could potentially cause more work than you initially bargained for.
Another consideration is trip cancellation or interruption insurance for the people whom you’re assisting with travel arrangements.
Whenever possible, I use the traveller’s credit card when making bookings, so in the unlikely circumstance that they need to make an insurance claim, they can. To me, this peace of mind outweighs any points or perks that I may acquire from using my own credit card.
While booking for others can be rewarding, it still takes time and effort on your part. Hopefully, through this guide, you found some new ways for you to enjoy a small kickback for your efforts.
Whether it be extra cash back, points, or even a free hotel stay, it’s always nice to be compensated in some way for your time and effort, especially when it doesn’t come at any cost to your friends and family.