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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR JULY 24-AUGUST 7, 2014
Hyatt: Introductory Rate in Jamaica--and Don't Call Us Ritzy
Hyatt Hotels is carving up the former Ritz-Carlton Rose Hill in Montego Bay and turning the Jamaican resort into two all-inclusive properties: the family-friendly Ziva and the couples-only Zilara. Both are due to open on November 1. To goose occupancy at the Ziva property, Hyatt is offering 50 percent off the normal rate for the first year if you book quickly. The promotion is valid from November 1, 2014, until December 1, 2015 when you book by October 31, 2014. There are blackout dates and a three-day minimum stay during the upcoming Christmas holiday. Information: OFFERS page.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
Marriott Rewards: 70,000-Point Acquisition Bonus, Low Spend Requirement
Got a thousand dollars in credit-card spend available? Then grab a Marriott Rewards Premier card from Chase. Taking the card will earn you a 70,000-point acquisition bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. The card has no annual fee in the first year and is bundled with a free night in a Category 1-4 Marriott property and enough elite credit for Silver status in Marriott Rewards. Information: the EARN 70,000 BONUS POINTS page.
Hilton HHonors: A One-in-Three Chance You Can't Have This Promotion
Hilton HHonors has been so devalued that even its promotions aren't reliable and a slew of the chain's own franchises don't want to play. The new points deal offers double points on weekdays and triple points on weekends between August 1 and October 31. But more than 1,300 Hilton Family properties, the vast majority of them in the United States, won't even honor the promotion. You can see the astonishing list of opt-outs here. If you want to play in the hobbled promotion, you must register in advance here.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
Airlines: ICYMI, the End-of-Year Business Class Sales to Europe
The Star Alliance and SkyTeam carriers have posted their Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year business-class sales to Europe. There are complete details, prices and analysis here.
Airlines: Delta, JetBlue Offer Big Bonuses for Caribbean Flights
Airlines always look to goose up traffic on Caribbean routes during the "shoulder" months of autumn, but the deals are usually in the form of fare reductions. However, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines are also battling with frequent-flyer credits. The Delta SkyMiles promotion offers from 2,500 to 10,000 bonus miles for flights to Mexico, Costa Rica, the Bahamas and the Caribbean islands. Tickets must be booked by September 30 for flights from September 2 to December 11. The JetBlue TrueBlue offer covers its Caribbean cities, the Bahamas and flights to Colombia. It's for 5,000 points. You must book by September 2 for travel between September 2 and December 11. Advance registration is required, of course.
SAS: One More Chance to Fly Premium to Europe This Summer Even if you have no interest in a last-minute summer holiday to Europe, let's give props to SAS Scandinavian. Long after every other carrier has closed the tap, SAS is still out there promoting a premium-economy and business-class sale. And the rates, at least to Scandinavia, remain extremely attractive. From Newark, Chicago or Washington/Dulles, fares begin at $1,619 roundtrip in premium economy and $2,609 in business. From San Francisco, premium-economy fares start at $1,959 and business fares begin at $3,029. Fares are a bit higher than that from Los Angeles. The midweek rates are available until September 4 with a 3-day minimum stay. Information: the SUMMER SALE page.
Cathay Pacific: A First-Class September Sale to Three Cities As I've mentioned lately, Cathay Pacific has ramped up its promotions dramatically now that it has so much capacity into the United States. This week's special is very carefully targeted--one month of travel to only three cities--but it is literally and figurative a first-class sale. In the month of September, you can fly in first from four Cathay gateways (New York/JFK, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles) to Beijing, Shanghai/Pudong or Singapore. The price: $8,000 roundtrip plus taxes or about $8,400 total. That's about what you'd pay for a business-class ticket, so we're talking a free upgrade into Cathay's superlative first-class cabin. Tickets can be purchased until August 31, but there is a 30-day advance purchase restriction. The tickets must be purchased at the Cathay Pacific Web site.
Virgin America: Please Join Our Frequent Flyer Program
When there was real competition in the airline industry, there was real competition in frequent flyer plans, too. There used to be bonuses for things like joining and bonus credit for taking your first flight. Those have long passed from the scene, but Virgin America is reviving them in hopes of getting attention from flyers "trapped in a dysfunctional relationship" with another carrier. If you join Virgin's Elevate plan, you'll get a 500-point bonus for signing up and 2,500 to 7,500 points (depending on class) after your first flight. The promotion lasts until December 31. Information: the LOYALTY MADE ME DO IT page.
American Airlines: Asia Bonuses Just Like Our Europe Bonuses
American Airlines' small (and newish) slate of flights to Asia--Chicago to Shanghai and Dallas/Fort Worth to Hong Kong and Shanghai--aren't profitable. So American has adopted the formula it uses in Europe (see below): Ply you with miles in hopes of getting you to fly. The structure is the same, too. Fly in discounted coach and earn a bonus of 5,000 AAdvantage miles for a roundtrip. Fly higher-priced coach and get a 10,000-mile roundtrip bonus. Fly first or business class and earn 25,000 miles roundtrip. The promotion is available through December 6 and requires advance registration. You can earn as many as 100,000 points during the promotional period. Information: the EARN UP TO 100,000 BONUS MILES page.
JetBlue Airways: Dunkin' Coffee Connection Gets You 20 Percent Discounts
JetBlue Airways has a deal to serve Dunkin' Donuts coffee on its flights and now the operation is expanding. Thanks to a summer promotion, buying a pound of Dunkin' coffee or a carton of its K-Cup packs will get you a code valid for 20 percent off a JetBlue roundtrip. Tickets using the code must be booked by September 1 for travel between September 8 and October 30. Tickets must be booked via a special portal and there are a few blackout dates. Information: The BOOK IT OUT OF HERE page.
LAN: The Crazy-Quilt Business-Class Sale to South America Returns
With premium-class flight deals to South America so rare, we must be thankful for the bargains from LAN, the pan-Latin powerhouse. Yes, deals are scattershot, with varying restrictions, some infuriating regulations and odd travel windows. But you'll find some fabulous bargains. Current business-class deals of note from New York: $1,201 roundtrip from New York/JFK to Guayaquil and $1,159 to Quito, Ecuador. From Miami, it's $983 roundtrip to Bogota, Colombia, and $1,138 to Quito. In many cases, the lowest fares must be purchased by December 31. There's also a 7-day minimum stay on most routes. Information: the PREMIUM BUSINESS SALE page.
Oneworld Alliance: Big Bonuses If You Pay Big Fares to Europe This Summer
When business travelers had the metaphoric hammer, airlines would slash premium-class fares to Europe when business travel slowed down in the summer. Now, not so much. And Oneworld Alliance carriers are making it clear that they have the hammer now and their preferred inducement is American AAdvantage miles. If you fly to Europe on American, US Airways, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair or OpenSkies before August 31, you will receive 5,000 to 25,000 miles for each roundtrip. Biggest bonuses apply to highest first- and business-class fares and scale down to 10,000 miles for premium-economy travel and 5,000 miles for full-fare coach. To qualify, you must register in advance with code NA014. Make sure to look at the qualifying fare classes carefully before booking. As many as 100,000 miles may be earned during the promotional period. Information: the FLY TO EUROPE page.
HOTEL BARGAINS WORTH NOTING
Starwood Preferred Guest: Big Conversion Bonus to American, US Airways
Starwood Preferred Guest has always been liberal with points transfers to airlines, especially U.S. carriers. The normal deal is 20,000 SPG points transfers to 25,000 airline miles. Through July 31, however, SPG is throwing in an additional 5,000-mile bonus when you port the points to the American AAdvantage or US Airways Dividend Miles programs. In other words, transfer 20,000 SPG points, earn the standard 5,000-mile bonus and an additional 5,000 miles for a total of 30,000 miles. Whenever you are getting a 1:1 transfer between programs you use, it's a great deal. Starwood's decision to double up in July is pretty fabulous. Remember to convert in 20,000-point increments to get the full benefit of the promo. Information: the American CONVERT YOUR STARPOINTS and the US Airways EARN 20% BONUS MILES pages.
Hilton: 33 Percent Off Summer Rates--But Don't Tell The Americans
Hilton was once divided into U.S. and global firms that occasionally had a frosty relationship, but it's been a combined company for years. Yet the British branch of the family still sometimes goes its own way. Case in point: the 33 percent off summer sale it is promoting for stays in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Nightly rates include 87 pounds at the Hilton Istanbul, 89 pounds at the Hilton Cape Town, 139 pounds at the Waldorf Astoria in Rome, 95 pounds at the Hilton Berlin and 63 pounds at the DoubleTree Lisbon. The prepaid rates are available most days, although there are weekend or weekday blackouts depending on property. There are also some differences in purchase-by deadline (September 1 or September 30, depending on property) and validity dates (until September 30 or as late as October 5). Happy hunting--and remember the pound is currently trading at about US$1.70. Information: the SUMMER SALE page.
Marriott: A $50-a-Night Weekend Credit at Three Downtown Chicago Hotels
Three Marriott properties in downtown Chicago are offering a $50-a-night credit for weekend stays through September 7. The credit can be used for in-hotel dining, spa services, parking and other services. The participating hotels are the JW Marriott, the Marriott Magnificent Mile and the Renaissance Downtown. For this promotion, weekend stays extend from Thursday through Sunday so long as a Friday or Saturday night is included. The promo code is P91. As always with these value-added promotions, check the lowest rates available to make sure you are booking the best deal on your stay. Information: the HOTEL DEALS page.
Ritz-Carlton: A $500 Inducement to Visit Amelia Island, Florida
I'm a fan of Amelia Island, a tranquil spit of land just off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. There's a cute village (Fernandina Beach) at one end of the island and a pair of nifty beach resorts (the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island and the Omni Amelia Island Plantation) at the other end. And the Ritz-Carlton is discounting this summer by way of a $500 resort credit when you book a three-day midweek stay. The so-called Weekday Breakaway promotion is valid for stays on Sunday through Thursday in July or August. And this seems to be a genuine value-added promotion since it is valid without an upcharge on the resort's lowest-priced rooms ($349 a night) or on suites. The credit can be used in resort restaurants or room service, in resort shops or the spa or for activities such as children's programs, water sports or fitness classes. Information: the WEEKDAY BREAKAWAY page.
Best Western: Three Spring/Summer Stays Yield One Free Night
Best Western is out with still another promotion. This new one is its familiar three-stays-equal-one-free-night deal and runs from May 19 until September 1. When you complete three separate stays, you'll receive a voucher for a free night, which can be used until January 31. Only one freebie can be earned and registration ends August 10. No credits for any stay completed before registration. Information: the CLICK. SWIPE. TAP. page.
Marriott Rewards: Double Points--or Maybe Not--for Summer Stays
With hotel occupancy climbing, major lodging chains don't feel great pressure to mount big, flashy promotions to get you to book additional rooms. Which explains Marriott's wan Getaway Bonus: double points between June 1 and August 31 starting with the second stay and capped at 25,000 points. As always with Marriott, however, the published deal is not the only offer on tap. Depending on your mass-customized status, you may be offered 20,000-30,000 points for a specified number of stays (12-20) and as many as 25,000 additional points for additional stays. The only way to know what you qualify for is to check your Marriott Rewards promotions page. For the public offer, surf here and register by July 31.
Vienna: Third Night Free (and More) at the New (Old) Park Hyatt
It's hard to say a hotel is "new" when it is housed in the 100-year-old building. But when the new Park Hyatt Vienna opens in the former headquarters of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarch Bank, it will be the newest property in the Austrian capital. To pump up the opening, the hotel is offering the third night free when you book two at the introductory rate of 375 euros a night. You'll also receive a 25 percent discount at the property's four food and beverage outlets and a 25 percent discount at the property's spa. The deal is valid from June 2 to August 31 when you book at Hyatt.com and use promo code OPEN. Information: the PARK HYATT VIENNA page.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
Avis: As Many as 5,000 AAdvantage Miles for Rentals This Summer
In a world turned upside down--in other words, when the fools at American Airlines decide to charge a bag fee to full-fare flyers and give a free bag to buyers of cheaper fares--I'm no longer surprised that rental cars are again a potent force for racking up frequent flyer miles. Which explains why Avis is offering as many as 5,000 AAdvantage miles until August 31. One- or two-day rentals generate 1,500 miles. You'll get 3,000 miles for a three- or four-day rental. Rentals of five or more days get the 5,000 miles. Use promo code MUAA004. Information: the MAKE A STATEMENT page.
American Airlines/National Car: 200 Miles a Day for Rentals
Let's be honest: 200 miles won't change your life. But given how few miles car rentals generate and how frequently we rent, it's probably not wise to sneeze at the new promotion from American Airlines and National Car Rental. You'll earn 200 miles a day when renting from any participating National location in the United States until December 31. You must rent a compact through full-size vehicle. Information: the EARN 200 MILES page.
Enterprise: Triple Amtrak Guest Reward Points for Car Rentals
Enterprise Rent-A-Car's free-pickup service is one of the few ways to bridge the annoying gap between an Amtrak train station and a car-rental lot. Now Enterprise and Amtrak are teaming up for a triple-point promotion, too. When you use booking code AMGRTRP and book through Enterprise, you'll earn triple Amtrak Guest Rewards points. That means 150 points per day. Information: the Earn Triple Amtrak page.
Avis/Carlson: 9,000 Club Carlson Points for Three-Day Rentals
Car rentals are suddenly a valuable source of points and miles again thanks to the proprietary bonus deals that the rental chains are cutting with airlines and hotel chains. Avis, for example, has once again teamed with Club Carlson, the loyalty program of Radisson and Country Inns. The offer: three-day rentals from most airport locations earn 9,000 bonus points. Use code MUHA021. The promotion is available until December 31. Information: the ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE page.
Thrifty: Three-Day Midsize Rentals Earn 1,000 MileagePlus Miles
After more than a decade of sitting out the frequent flyer game, the car-rental firms seem to be returning to the mileage fray. The latest deal: 1,000 United MileagePlus miles from Thrifty Car Rental if you rent a midsize or larger vehicle for three days or longer. The deal is available until December 31 when you use promo code UA31. Information: the PARTNER DEALS page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
American Express: 50,000 Points for Business Gold Card
There have been bigger "acquisition" bonuses to take various iterations of American Express cards, but the 50,000-point offer for the Business Gold Amex has, until now, been a targeted, by-mail-only solicitation. Now Amex has gone public with the promotion: You'll get 50,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $5,000 on the card in the first three months. Amex will also waive the $175 annual fee in the first year. The card is particularly rich for travelers since it awards triple points for purchases from airlines and double points for business purchases such as gasoline, shipping and computers. Information: the AMEX CARDS page.
Hilton HHonors: The Price of Its 'Best' Elite Level Is Now -$5 (Sorta)
Hilton has brutally devalued the Hilton HHonors program and its most-elite level, Diamond, is hardly better than HHonors Gold, which normally requires 20 stays or 40 nights a year. Gold Elite offers free Internet, room upgrades and continental breakfast. It's arguably Hilton's best elite level. And guess what: You don't even have to stay at Hilton even once to achieve its HHonors Gold. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa card includes Gold Level HHonors status and the annual fee is just $95 a year. Citi has also upgraded the card to include a $100 statement credit if you complete a Hilton stay within three months of opening the account. So here's the best lodging strategy ever: Take the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa, pay the $95 annual fee, get Gold Level--and then stay at Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, Carlson or other hotels so you can earn elite status there. Book a Hilton Family property only when there are no other options. You'll still get Gold Level treatment and all of your other paid stays will be earning elite status elsewhere. And if you want to maximize your value, complete that one Hilton stay and you'll essentially be getting HHonors Gold status for -$5. Even in its devalued state, HHonors Gold status is worth -$5. Information: the ENJOY TWO page.
Chase: How to Get the $395-a-Year United Club Card for Free for a Year
The Chase United Club Card does well both as a must-carry credit card for perks (it includes a membership in the United Club) and one that earns lots of frequent travel points (1.5 miles per dollar spent). If the card has a drawback--besides being shackled to United Airlines, of course--it's the $395-a-year annual fee. But there is a way get the fee waived in the first year. It's pretty simple: Go into a Chase bank branch and apply for the card there. Branch bankers are empowered to waive the fee when you apply for the card in person.
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THE FINE PRINT Nobody pays their way onto this page. I post the deals solely for the benefit of members based on my perception of what is a great price or a terrific value. The prices do not include applicable taxes unless specifically stated. Assume there are weird restrictions and caveats I never thought to ask about. Unless otherwise stated, you should be able to book these deals at any travel agency or directly from the listed travel supplier. Never assume that these prices (or any price listed publicly) are the lowest that are available. You should always ask if thereís a cheaper price or better deal. Virtually everything is capacity controlled or subject to blackout days, based on availability and subject to abrupt change whenever they think they can squeeze us for a few extra bucks. Please do not suspend your inbred skepticism. Donít blame me if these deals are sold out when you try to book at these prices, but do let me know if you think that we're being scammed. It's important to expose the fakers and phonies. -- Joe Brancatelli
This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.