Steals & Deals for Early May, 2016
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HOTELS: Here are Your Spring/Summer Hotel Promotions
Hotel chains are all over the map now when it comes to points promotions. They no longer rigidly do them quarterly--or in lockstep. Hyatt, for example, unleashed its deal for stays beginning April 1 (see below). More are coming through now. Here's the snapshot.
Club Carlson is offering a stair-step promotion valid for stays through July 31. Two nights of stays at Radisson, Country Inn and Park hotels will yield 5,000 bonus Gold Points. Complete five nights of stays and you'll receive 10,000 more. Get to ten nights and it'll be another 10,000 points. If you reach 15 nights, you'll receive an additional 25,000 points for a total of 50,000 Gold Points. Advance registration is required.
Hilton HHonors is offering a straightforward double points promotion through the heart of the spring and summer. You'll earn double base points on every stay anywhere in the world between May 1 and August 31. You can receive credit for as many as two rooms per stay and an unlimited number of points during the promotion period. Advance registration is required.
Starwood Preferred Guest is offering a so-called Triple Up promotion available between May 9 and July 31. You'll receive triple points for stays at Sheraton Hotels. Stays at other brands earn double points. Third prong: a 1,000-point-per-stay bonus for weekend stays. But the three-way is not quite as rich as it sounds because only stays of at least two nights qualify for the bonuses. And not every Starwood property participates. Registration opens on May 3.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
AIR FRANCE: A Buy Now, Travel Later European Premium Economy Sale
Air France's premium economy cabin is sleek, comfortable and, during this sale, quite inexpensive. From New York, roundtrip fares are as low as $1,628 to Paris. But connecting fares are even cheaper. It's $1,537 to Helsinki and a few dollars more to Madrid, Copenhagen or Barcelona. From Boston, fares are as low as $1,448 roundtrip to the same cities. And from Los Angeles, it's an incredibly reasonable $1,771 roundtrip to Paris and even less to Madrid, Copenhagen or Barcelona. The fares require a Sunday stay and must be purchased by May 5. You can travel between August 23 and October 24 or December 16 to 23. Information: the Air France DISCOVER OUR DEALS page.

MARRIOTT: Third Night Free at a Baker's Dozen of Paris-Area Hotels
With visitor numbers to Paris sagging after the November terrorist attacks, airlines and hotels are making sporadic attempts to stimulate business. Marriott, for example, is offering a third-night-free at a baker's dozen of properties in the Paris area. The promotion is valid when you book two nights between Thursday and Monday and include a Friday and a Saturday night. The deal is valid until May 16 when you use the promo code C9E. You also must use a Visa card to pay. As always with these types of promotions, make sure there aren't other, cheap rates applicable during your stay. Information: the Marriott 3 FOR 2 IN PARIS page.


EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS
AER LINGUS
Now a part of IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, Aer Lingus has created a spacious and sophisticated transatlantic business class service to Dublin from many North American gateways. It has also built an extensive European network from its Dublin hub and hometown.
The Aer Lingus Offer: Receive a free roundtrip coach ticket to any Aer Lingus destination in Europe when you purchase an Aer Lingus business class seat to Dublin. Travel is permitted until August 31 from any Aer Lingus gateway in the United States or Canada. Stopovers in Dublin are permitted.
How to claim the offer: Surf here for complete details and information.

GROUNDLINK.COM
As the ground-transportation landscape has changed, we have a wide range of new global choices to get us to, from and around airports and cities. I favor Groundlink because it blends the traditional comfort, reliability and professionalism of black-car service with the price benefits and convenience of app-based ride-hail operations.
The Groundlink Offer: Receive 20 percent off rides when you book them using the GroundLink app.
How to claim the offer: Download the GroundLink app from the Apple or Android stores or the GroundLink.com Web site. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride. The 20 percent discount will be applied to your ride price.

COOK TRAVEL
Owned by a journalist and operating for nearly 40 years, Cook Travel specializes in discount international business and first class fares and supplies premium seats at a substantial savings. Cook Travel also offers upgrades from full-fare coach on many international airlines. It also has net fares for substantial savings on last-minute travel.
The Cook Travel Offer: Receive 10% off published fares on SkyTeam international business and first class tickets. Receive 5% off published fares on Star Alliance international business and first class tickets. Complimentary upgrades on most airlines when available to business class from full-fare international economy. Booking fees for international tickets waived.
How to claim the offer: Call 800-435-8776 and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.

SHEFFIELD SPICE & TEA COMPANY
Sheffield has a shop in Las Vegas, where it has won raves for its unique products, offerings, recipes and service. But it has also launched a gorgeous Web site and has been winning customers from around the world. There are literally hundreds of products on offer: a dazzling range of carefully chosen teas, familiar and exotic spices, custom blends and rubs, chilis, oils and vinegars, sugars and accessories. In other words, everything a business traveler with taste needs to eat and drink better.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases.
How to claim the offer: Surf to SheffieldSpices.com and when you reach the shopping cart page, enter this code in the coupon code box: joesentme2016


HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HYATT GOLD PASSPORT: A Big Points Promotion After a Long Quiet Period
Hobbled by a computer transition that took months longer than planned and still isn't completely glitch free, Hyatt and its Gold Passport program have been off the promotional map for what seems like forever. But it comes roaring back in the second quarter with an extremely rich stair-step offer. Stay five nights between April 1 and June 30 and you'll earn 5,000 bonus Gold Passport points. Stay 10 nights and earn another 10,000 bonus points. If you stay 15 nights during the promo you'll earn another 15,000 points. If you're having trouble with the math, that a 30,000-point bonus for 15 nights of stays. Kick it up to 20 nights and you'll receive 20,000 more points. If you make it to 25 nights, you'll get a 25,000-point bonus for a total of 75,000 bonus points. Of course, that's atop your normal earnings--five points for every dollar spent--and any elite-status bonuses. Registration is required, of course, and you can do it here.

STARWOOD: Stay Three Times at a Design Hotel, Get a Free Night
Starwood is slowly integrating the Design Hotels Collection into the Starwood Preferred Guest program. And now it's trying to goose your knowledge and use of these independent properties. The incentive? Stay a total of three nights at any of 40 participating Design Hotels and you'll receive a free night at any SPG property worldwide in Categories 1-5. You can earn as many as two free nights when you register by May 15 and complete your paid nights by May 31. The free stays are valid through September 30. Information: the STAY OUT OF THE ORDINARY page. (Note: You may be required to provide your SPG number before you can see details of the promotion.)

BEST WESTERN: Not a Lot of Dough, But a Lot of Chances to Earn a Little Dough
Best Western Rewards has upped its game a little bit from last year with its spring promotion. Two stays between February 8 and May 8 will earn you a $25 Best Western gift card. That's chump change, of course, but this time Best Western is allowing you to earn the bonus as many as five times during the promotional period. Advance registration is required. Information: the REWARDS WORTH CELEBRATING page.

HYATT: A Modest Sale for the Unofficial Start of Summer
Hyatt properties in the United States, Canada and Aruba are promoting a Memorial Day rate about 20 percent below the chain's normal pricing. The deal is available for stays between May 26 and May 31 when you book by May 17. A 14-day advance reservation and full prepayment is also required. That last restriction is critical since there's no guarantee that there won't be a similar rate that won't require prepay. Plan accordingly. Information: the HIT THE HIGHWAY page.

GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
AIRLINES: Deep (Coach) Discounts to Asia From the West Coast
'Tis the season to think about Europe travel for most Americans. Which is too bad because the discounts now seem to be to Asia, at least from the West Coast. And while business and first class seats still seem out of reach, there are plenty of deep discounts in coach.
      DELTA AIR LINES is discounting heavily from its Seattle-Tacoma hub. It's $793 roundtrip to Shanghai and $838 to Hong Kong. From LAX, it's as low $911 roundtrip to Shanghai. The valid travel dates vary, but tickets must be purchased by May 18.
      HAINAN AIRLINES is selling nonstops from San Jose to Beijing for $943 roundtrip. Travel is permitted between May 1 and June 30.
      SINGAPORE AIRLINES has nonstops from Los Angeles to Tokyo for $846 roundtrip. Departures are permitted until December 31 on Flights 11 and 12.

ALASKA AIRLINES: Double Miles For Flying BA Between Seattle and London
One of the strengths of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, besides its decision to stick with miles-based earnings, is its spread of international partners. The latest promotion: double miles for flying British Airways between Alaska Air's Seattle-Tacoma hub and London. The miles bonanza is available until September 30 when you register in advance. Information: the EARN DOUBLE MILES page.

LA COMPAGNIE: One Airline, Two Routes, Real Pressure on Business Class Prices
What can I say other than La Compagnie continues to keep the pressure on U.S., British and French carriers on the runs to Paris and London. The boutique carrier is now offering its all-business-class flights for less than $1,400 roundtrip. That's far less than half the price of the major carriers' lowest fares and about a fifth of their walk-up prices up front. Yes, La Compagnie only has the two routes--Newark to Paris/CDG and Newark to London/Luton--and, yes, the business class isn't state-of-the-art perfect. But it's $1,600 roundtrip to London and $1,700 roundtrip to Paris. Two going together to London can even buy a duo for just $2,790 roundtrip. Really, what else is there to say--other than the fact that you have to lock in the fares by the end of April for travel through June. Information: the DEALS AND SPECIAL OFFERS page.

MERIDIANA: Bargain Nonstops to Naples and Sicily This Spring. Nice Work If You Can Get It.
I've lost track of how many airlines have been folded into Meridiana, which started life as Alisarda, a carrier launched by the Aga Khan to fly to Sardinia. Although almost unknown in the United States, Meridiana (often under the name EuroFly) has flown from New York to Rome, Naples, Milan and Sicily. Nonstop to Naples and Palermo, Sicily, I'll have you know. And fares to Naples or Palermo are eye-poppingly cheap in April and May--about $650 roundtrip in coach and $1,560 in the better-than-you'd expect business class. The trick to getting the fare on Meridiana's once- or twice-weekly nonstops? Making sense of the chaotic, quintessentially Italian Meridiana Web site, which, ironically enough, is still called EuroFlyUSA.com. As the Italians say, Allora!

FINNAIR: Please, Somebody, Fly Us to Russia This Summer and Fall
For decades, Finnair has been the go-to carrier between the United States and Russia--and the Soviet Union before that. Its comfortable, compact hub at Helsinki has been a perfect place to change planes and reach a variety of Russian destinations. But what happens when no one is flying between the United States and Russia? Traffic now is almost as bad as during the bad old days of the Cold War. So faced with a nasty political impasse and a plummeting ruble, Finnair is doing the only thing it can do: slash prices to the bone. It's selling flights for as little as $570 roundtrip to Yekaterinburg, $585 to St. Petersburg and $590 to Moscow. Travel on Sunday through Thursday from August 16 to December 14. A seven-day minimum stay is required. Information: the OFFERS page.

IAG: A Year of Business Class Fare Sales on a Chart
IAG and the carriers it effectively controls--British Airways, Iberia, OpenSkies and Aer Lingus--now post a year's worth of business class fare sales for nearly two dozen destinations in Great Britain and continental Europe. Some examples: $2,856 roundtrip from New York to Lisbon from May through August; $2,811 roundtrip from Boston to Copenhagen in August; $2,995 roundtrip from Chicago and Paris from August through January; $2,492 from Miami to Madrid from April through next February and $3,666 roundtrip from San Francisco to Barcelona this month. All of the fares include a 7-day stay requirement, but expect advance-purchase and other rules to apply on a market-specific basis. You can also assume travel could include flights on American Airlines and other Oneworld partners. Best of all, the year-ahead grid allows you to plug in any departure and arrival cities as well as your proposed number of days and find your business class prices. Information: the BA OUR CHEAPEST FARES page.

KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insane
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing albeit in coach. How about San Francisco to Cairo for as little as $807 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $745 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $828 roundtrip? Or even Boston to Johannesburg for as little as $807 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available between now and September and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all of the itineraries include a stop in Amsterdam, but that shouldn't surprise you. Restrictions are minimal, too, requiring only a 7-day and Sunday-night stay. Even more interesting? This is a repeat of a fare sale run earlier this year and most prices are lower than they were several months ago. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.

AUSTRALIA: Big Mileage Bonuses From the Land Down Under
There's no truth to the rumor that I made these Australia bonus offers from Delta SkyMiles and American AAdvantage the deals of the week just because I wanted to link to Men at Work's banging, 35-year-old video for Down Under. I mean, what would you think of me? The deals can stand on their own. American Airlines, for example, is offering 5,000 miles for each roundtrip discounted coach flight, 15,000 miles for full-fare coach or premium economy flights and 30,000 miles for first and business class roundtrips. You can earn the promotional miles up to three times for as many as 90,000 miles on flights until May 31 on American or Qantas to Australia. Advance registration is required, of course. Meanwhile, Delta SkyMiles is offering a straight-up double miles promotion for Delta or Virgin Australia flights between Los Angeles and Sydney or Brisbane until May 31. That means you'll receive 10 miles per dollar spent plus any Medallion bonuses. Advance registration is required here, too. Meanwhile, I hope someone offers a promotion to Vienna, Austria, soon. There's a fabulous episode of Taxi featuring the Billy Joel song Vienna I want you to see. Oh, wait...

BRITISH AIRWAYS: Let's Do That AARP $400 Discount Deal for Another Year
The still-inexplicable British Airways sale late in October was sweetened by the fact that you could stack the AARP discounts atop the already ridiculously low fares. The AARP deal was slated to end on October 31, but much to the surprise of some observers, it's been extended for another year. That means you can score $400 off a first or business class fare, $130 off a premium economy price and $65 off in coach. Those discounts are for roundtrip prices, of course. No one-ways or open jaws need apply. But the discounts also apply to BA's code-shares with American, Iberia, OpenSkies and Finnair. Naturally, you must be an AARP member (go ahead, spring for the $12 annual fee) and you do have to book through the approved AARP portal. As we learned during the October bonanza, however, all of BA's fares are there. Information: the TRIP OF A LIFETIME page.

GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
AMTRAK: Double Points on Rides for Two Months
If only Amtrak's trains ran as reliably as the promotions for the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. As it does every year for the first few months of spring, the so-called Double Day promotion has appeared. In short, you get double Guest Rewards points when you travel between March 21 and May 21. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the DOUBLE DAYS page.

AVIS: 500 American AAdvantage Miles for Three-Day Rentals
Mileage offers are drying up everywhere else, but there continue to be relative gold mines in the car-rent arena. The latest from Avis is 500 American AAdvantage miles on virtually any rental worldwide. However, you will have to do a three-day rental for those miles, which isn't nearly as generous as the previous 500-mile-per-day offer. Use coupon code #MUAA062 for rentals that begin by May 31. Information: the Avis DRIVE FOR MILES page.

UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
I can't think of two suppliers doing poorer jobs right now than United Airlines and Hertz. But they are marketing partners these days--in fact, a failed former United C-suite executive runs Hertz--and they seem desperate for your custom. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even one-day rentals. Until July 31, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. So that means 2,000 to 2,750 miles for rentals as short as a single day. Does this sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction and extension of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered since October. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.

CAR RENTALS: Drive North to a Colder Place for Big Deals This Spring
Consider this the reverse of the brilliant songwriter Alec Wilder's South to a Warmer Place. When the weather in northern climes improves, car-rental firms need to get their cars out of a warmer place, specifically Arizona and Florida. So they slash their rates on one-way rentals as a way to induce you to move the cars north for them. Should the geography work for you (rent in Arizona, drop off in select Western states or rent in Florida, drop off in the Northeast), the bargains are terrific. Here's what's on tap so far for this "drive out" season from major rental firms. Be sure to examine the terms and conditions carefully because they differ substantially.
Alamo is offering cars for $7.95 a day, SUVs for $17.95 and minivans for $24.95 a day if you drive them one-way from select Florida locations. Those prices are actually a few bucks lower than last year's drive-out rates. The applicable one-way rental period is from one to 21 days from April 1 to May 31. Details are here.
Avis offers Florida drive-out rates when you rent one-way from one to 14 days. From Florida daily rates start at $9.95 for cars, $14.95 for convertibles and $19.95 for SUVs. The rental period is April 1 to June 30.
Budget is playing in both Florida and Arizona. From Florida, rates are $9.49 for cars, $14.49 for convertibles, $19.49 for SUVs and $24.49 for minivans. The rental period is April 1 to June 30. From Arizona, you can rent from March 28 to May 31. Daily rentals are $11.49-$17.49 for cars and $19.49 for smaller SUVs. Rental periods are one to 14 days.

STAR ALLIANCE: Free Heathrow Express Upgrades for Gold Members
The Star Alliance isn't exceptionally strong in London, the hub for Oneworld Alliance partner British Airways. Which may be why it is offering upgrades to London-bound Star Alliance Gold members. But curb your enthusiasm. The upgrade isn't for London flights, but for trips on the Heathrow Express train that connects the airport with London Paddington station. To score the upgrade, present your full-fare coach Heathrow Express ticket and Star Alliance Gold credentials as you board the train. The promotion starts February 15. A reminder: You're Star Alliance Gold if you hold United MileagePlus Gold or higher status or Air Canada Altitude 50K status or higher. Information: the STAR ALLIANCE OFFERS page.

ENTERPRISE: The Return of the $10-a-Day Weekend Rental
Even as it has rocketed to the top of the car-rental heap, Enterprise continues to do things differently. For starters, all of its locations are company owned, astonishing in this era of franchised everything. It has expanded rapidly at airports, but its roots remain in the we'll-pick-you-up local station. And many of those local stations close on Sunday with short hours on Saturday. The result: a ridiculously wonderful promotion that offers cars as low as $9.99 a weekend day, so long as you return the car on Monday. The $9.99 rate covers economy or compact cars. Larger cars are $14.99-$19.99 a day. The rates include 100 miles per day and are valid for rentals that start on Fridays. Best of all, the prices are valid at participating local stations until May 23. Information: the Enterprise WEEKEND SPECIAL page.

NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
BARCLAYCARD: The New Premium JetBlue Card Has the Best Bonus and Package
JetBlue Airways has dumped American Express as its credit card partner and moved to Barclaycard. The best of the new cards is the Barclay JetBlue Plus. It has a modest ($99) annual fee and a good acquisition bonus: 30,000 TrueBlue points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Ongoing card benefits include six points per dollar spent with JetBlue and two points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores. You'll also get your first checked bag free and a 5,000-point bonus each year you hold the card. Information: the FLY FASTER page.

CHASE: 80,000 Points (and More) to Take the Marriott Rewards Card
The attention lately has all been on how Marriott will integrate the Starwood Preferred Guest program into Marriott Rewards. While that controversy bubbles on, Chase has rolled out an 80,000-point acquisition bonus for taking the Marriott Rewards Visa card. You'll need to spend $3,000 within three months of opening the account to score the bonus, but there's another perk buried in the fine print: a 7,500-point bonus for adding a second authorized user to the account. All in all, a pretty decent buy for the $85 annual fee. Standard benefits of the card include a free night at a Category 1-5 property each year, five points for every dollar spent at Marriott and enough elite credit to score silver-level status. Information: the LIMITED TIME page.

This column is Copyright 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.