Year-end lists you might find useful

By Ed Perkins, Tribune Content Agency

The hotel loyalty programs that provide the highest dollar value of benefits are from the Wyndham, Radisson and La Quinta chains. Alaska Airlines serves the best in-flight food. Ireland is the safest country to visit. And when you climb on an airline, you’re 100 times more likely to catch a cold than in your ordinary life. Those are headline conclusions from four “best” or “worst” lists I’ve received over the last few weeks. And although none warrants an entire column, each has some useful results.

Hotel Loyalty Programs

WalletHub prepared an exhaustive report on hotel loyalty programs, based on a bunch of individual factors, and the overall winner is Wyndham Rewards, with a score of 74 points out of a possible 100 total. Closely behind are Best Western Rewards and Radisson Rewards, at 72 points, followed by Marriott Rewards, Choice Privileges, World of Hyatt, and Hilton Honors, in the 61-62 range. La Quinta Returns and Drury Key Club score in the 50s, and IHG Rewards Club, at 45, is at the bottom.

Although the overall scores reflect a lot of factors, including ancillary benefits and elite levels, for most travelers the most significant metric is the “rewards value,” or the dollar value of benefits — largely in award rooms — compared with how much you have to spend to earn the rewards. Here again, Wyndham is tops, at $14 for every $100 you spend, along with Radisson and La Quinta. As you go down the list, the other program values decrease slowly to $11 at Hilton, but drop dramatically to $7 for IHG.

As with airlines, you generally benefit the most by concentrating in one program. But my take-away from this is that until you get to IHG, hotel choice based on price range, location, and other personal factors is more important than the minor chain-to-chain loyalty program differences. But IHG is an outlier at the low end — low enough to suggest that you look elsewhere for a go-to hotel chain. IHG clearly needs to bolster its program. Check for full details.

Airline Food

Diet Detective checked in with its annual survey of airline in-flight food. The results are a composite of a health score and individual scores for calories in meals, snack boxes, individual snacks. Star ratings, out of a maximum of 5, are Alaska 4.25, Delta 3.7, JetBlue 3.55, Air Canada 3.45, American 3, United 2.75, Hawaiian 2.65, Allegiant 2.1, Southwest 1.6 stars, Spirit 1.1, and Frontier 0.85. Note that the four lowest scoring lines don’t do much in the way of meal services at all. Calories scores are obvious; health scoring gives high marks to fruits and vegetables, low marks to carbs and fats.

I would never select an airline based on its food service; to me, hard product — seating and in-flight entertainment — are more important. But if food is your thing, here are the numbers.

Safe Places

Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection rates the 10 safest places for Americans and Canadians to visit are, from the top down, Ireland, Australia, Iceland, Switzerland, Scandinavia, British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Italy, Benelux, Britain and the Bahamas. Composite scores are based on responses to a survey of travelers, along with a “Global Peace Index” and a low State Department Travel Advisory Level. Most of the 10 countries are at State Department Level 1; several European countries are at Level 2 due to ongoing terrorism threats, and the Bahamas are at Level 2 due to crime. See the report

What happens on a plane

Paul Hudson of compiled some reports about flying risks you might want to consider. Compare Travel Insurance in Australia says you’re 100 times more likely to catch a cold on a flight than in ordinary life. Auburn University reports that disease-causing bacteria can survive up to a week on a passenger plane. CNN reported that onboard water poses a contamination risk, even when used to make coffee. Compare Travel Insurance says you’re subject to oxygen deprivation. The British Government warns of exposure to cosmic radiation on long flights. Does all this stuff make you think about a staycation?

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at Also, check out Ed’s rail travel website at

(c) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.– December 24, 2018

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