Steals & Deals for Sept. 13-27, 2018
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OXFORD: Your Annual Shot at Becoming a Rhodes 'Scholar' ...
So you never got to be a Rhodes Scholar? Fear not because there is always The Oxford Experience, the extraordinarily popular summer session at Oxford University that offers dozens of week-long courses to travelers of all ages, social classes, intelligence levels and interests. One-week packages include the tuition and lectures; lodging in Christ Church College dorms (with private bath); and three meals daily. There are dozens of courses from which to choose, ranging across traditional disciplines to modern topics such as horror novels. Courses are held in the morning, which leaves your afternoons free for touring and optional excursions and evenings for additional learning--or just goofing off like a college kid again. At the end of the week, you even get a farewell dinner and something like a diploma. All-inclusive prices start at about $2,000 a person. Weekly sessions take place from July 7 to August 17. Among the 66 offerings for 2019: Delve into 200 years of British murder mysteries or 1,000 years of English gardens. You can learn about the post-Victorian British monarchy, which, surprisingly, is only four kings and the current Queen. Or you could do week-long dives into Dickens, the Beatles or Shakespeare. Chaucer, Tolkien, French opera and Victorian detective novels have courses, too. Plus physics, politics and even broadcasting. How about a week delving into the centuries-long rivalry between Turkey and Iran or the so-called "special relationship" between the United States and the United Kingdom? Or a course that discusses Oxford College itself! Online registration opens September 24, but act quickly since many courses sell out immediately. Information: The OXFORD EXPERIENCE page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
HAINAN AIRLINES: China Roundtrip Below $500 in Coach, $2,300 in Business
We are now used to seeing $250 roundtrip transcontinental coach fares and airfares below $400 to Europe. But sub-$500 roundtrip fares to China? That's, well, insane. Yet here we are. Hainan Airlines, which serves Beijing and Shanghai and also "secondary" cities in China's interior empire, has plenty of seats to sell. And its preferred method: Eye-catching fares on select days. And by eye-catching, we mean crazy cheap. How about $465 roundtrip in coach from Seattle to Beijing or Shanghai? Or $509 roundtrip between San Jose and Beijing. It's $500 roundtrip from Chicago to Beijing. To Chengdu, Chongqing and Changsha, the key cities in Hunan and Sichuan provinces, coach roundtrips are in the $600-$700 range. The prices are even more shocking in business class: as little as $2,307 roundtrip from Los Angeles, $2,500 from Chicago and $3,100 from New York. Fares are generally available until June 30, 2019, but restrictions vary and, obviously, seats at these knockdown prices are limited. Information: The Hainan Airlines OFFERS

AMERICAN EXPRESS: Lots and Lots of Points to Take a Hilton Card. But, Um...
American Express really, really wants you to take one of its four Hilton cards. And the lure, as always, is a bigger acquisition bonus: from 75,000 to 150,000 Hilton Honors points. The problem? Hilton Honors points have very little value, even in the ridiculously devalued travel world. Getting a half-cent return is often a victory in Honors, which is now completely revenue-based and ludicrously overpriced for everything but a standard room. (And sometimes not even then...) But if you find value in Hilton, at least one of these four cards will be useful and perhaps two should be on your radar. The no-fee Hilton Honors Amex will give you 75,000 points for $1,000 of spend in the first three months. The sweet spot is 125,000 points, available for Amex's two Hilton cards with a $95 annual fee. Information: the Amex UPGRADE YOUR STAY page.

AIR NEW ZEALAND: Cheap Seats in All Three Cabins to the South Pacific
Sometimes it's just flat-out fun to follow these extraordinary deals as airlines test and figure out how to fill an aircraft. As you surely know by now, Air New Zealand has regularly promoted exceptionally cheap business class fares to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands using its nonstop flight from Los Angeles. The eye-opening initial price was just $1,998 roundtrip. The deal has been regularly revived at prices fluctuating between $1,800 and $2,200. Now it's back at a higher price--$2,493 roundtrip--if you travel on select dates in the next year. The higher price is justified by the fact that Air New Zealand is now operating the route with its latest lie-flat business class beds. But if the price increase puts business class out of your wheelhouse, Air New Zealand has a fantastic alternative: $1,393 in its well-regarded premium economy. And if you're looking for deep discounts, it's $793 roundtrip in coach. But there's still only one flight a week in each direction, departing late Saturday nights from LAX and late Friday nights from Rarotonga. Still, for a South Pacific trip at such a low price, those aren't tough conditions. Tickets must be purchased by September 25. You even earn frequent flyer miles. Information: the Air New Zealand FLIGHTS TO COOK ISLAND page.

A MEMBERS-ONLY DEAL FROM AER LINGUS
AER LINGUS: Free Flights to France, Spain, Italy and Amsterdam
Aer Lingus continues to target JoeSentMe members with special deals that, honestly, surprise even me. The latest: Free flights to Spain, France, Italy and Amsterdam when you purchase a business class flight to Dublin from any Aer Lingus gateway in the United States or Canada. The promotion runs from August 1 to October 31 for outbound flights with return travel complete by November 15. It is valid on any published business class roundtrip fare and can be used to arrange a free roundtrip coach flight between Dublin and Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Milan or Amsterdam. Complete details and how to claim the deal are available here. JoeSentMe members can also bring along a companion on the same itinerary.

YOUR EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
HAWAII'S LOCAL BUZZ: 20 Percent Off Great Hawaiian Coffee and Delectable Sweets
If you've ever been to Hawaii--or even if you haven't--you know that the Islands are now home to great coffee; insanely good macadamia nuts and products made with them; and terrific local honey. The best of the coffee and the finest nuts and sweets come from small farms such as the Big Island's Paradise Meadows. Its Hawaii's Local Buzz brand turns out an impressive array of coffee, candies, cookies and honey. How good? I have to hide the shortbread to avoid gorging on it. And the mac nut-studded chocolates often disappear in an eating frenzy. To introduce you to the farm's fabulous line of local products, Hawaii's Local Buzz is offering JoeSentMe members a 20 percent discount on its entire online shop. Enter the promotional code joesentme at checkout when you order at the Hawaii's Local Buzz site.

THAILAND: Ted Carter's Special Villa With a Special Perk for JoeSentMe Members
Ted Carter is best-known in the travel world for a series of fabulous travelogues for British Airways and for The Point, the five-star resort he crafted in the Adirondack Mountains. Ted lives in Thailand now and he's behind the White Elephant House, a glorious private villa in Kantharalak. He's accepting guests and offering a bundle of accommodations, three meals a day and all the Ted trimmings. You can book a stay via White Elephant House's Airbnb listing, but Ted is offering a special perk for JoeSentMe members: roundtrip taxi service from Ubon Ratchathani, the nearest airport. That's a US$64 value. To claim the perk, book via Airbnb and then contact Ted directly and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
circaterra      The CircaTerra offer: Receive 15% off the price of all travel products and luggage, including sale prices.
     How to claim the offer: Enter promo code JoeSentMe in the Gift Certificate or Coupon Code box on the order confirmation page when you shop at CircaTerra Travel.

cook      Cook Travel Offer: 10% off most published base fares on SkyTeam international business tickets. 5% off on Star Alliance international business or first class tickets. Upgrades on most airlines when available to business from full-fare international coach.
     How to claim offer: Call 800-435-8776. Identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.

ecbc      The ECBC Offer: 30 percent off all ECBC luggage purchases and free shipping except for clearance items.
     How to claim the offer: Enter the code JOESENTME in the promo code box on the checkout page when you shop at http://www.ec-bc.com.

groundlink      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 GroundLink.com. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride.

sheffield      The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases of spices, teas, rubs and accessories.
     How to claim the offer: Surf to http://www.sheffieldspices.com and, when you reach the shopping cart page, enter joesentme2018 in the coupon code box.

PACKAGE DEALS TO CUT YOUR COSTS
CATHAY PACIFIC/SWIRE HOTELS: All in the Family Discounts in Greater China
Let's start with the competing realities: Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific is one of the great carriers in the world. And it is in the fight of its life against the growing array of Chinese competitors. One way it can fight back is to get help from the family--in this case, hotels operated by Hong Kong's Swire Group. The result? A useful offer worth about $500 when you bundle Cathay flying with Swire's super-deluxe House hotels or its new-wave East properties. Business class fares start at $4,191 roundtrip and include lodging offers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. A sample offer: When you bundle Cathay flights with a stay at Shanghai's Middle House, you'll receive free breakfast and a spa treatment. At Hong Kong's Upper House, one of the five or six best hotels in the world, you'll receive free breakfast, a food and beverage credit and a room upgrade to an 850-square-foot accommodation. You must book by September 16 (an extension from August 31) for travel until December 31. Use promo code SWIRE. Information: Cathay's LUXURIOUS BUSINESS CLASS page.

HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HOTELS: Maybe You Can Find a Room-Rate Savings With Your Credit Card
Airline fares have been relatively flat in recent months, but hotel and resort rates continue to rise, precipitously in some destinations. Possible solution: hotel discounts offered by your credit card. American Express Platinum Cards, for example, feature a Fine Hotels & Resort collection that covers more than 1,000 properties around the world. Bundled with the FHR rates are space-available room upgrades; check-in as early as noon based on availability and guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout; breakfast for two; free WiFi; and property-specific food and beverage credit or other amenity. Meanwhile, Visa Signature cards claim to offer special rates at 900 properties. Perks include space-available upgrade; free WiFi; free breakfast for two; a $25 food and beverage credit; and late checkout. Of course, all of these specials come with some caveats. Most hotels in the programs are in the luxury category. You must book directly at the card's special Web site. And you should always check that the rate you're paying is competitive with other offers.

OMNI HOTELS: Stay Longer This Summer, Save More Dollars
Omni Hotels only has several dozen U.S. and Canadian properties so it doesn't get the publicity of the bigger chains. But its hotels tend to be lavish country properties or top-notch urban facilities. And they do creative promotions. This summer, there's a stair-step promo: You'll get 10 percent off one-night stays; 15 percent off two-night stays; and 20 percent off three-night stays. There are blackout dates and capacity controls, but the sale rates are valid until September 30. Information: the SUMMER STAY & SAVE page.

WALDORF/CONRAD HOTELS: $50 a Day in Statement Credits at Hilton's Luxury Digs
When you affect luxury--as Hilton's Waldorf and Hilton brands do--rate cutting is frowned upon. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course, but it is frowned upon nevertheless. The preferred method of lowering the price is by gimmicks. The current gimmick? A $50 statement credit for each night you spend in participating Waldorf and Conrad hotels. Three-day advance reservations are required and there are blackout dates. And as I always say with deals like this, always check to see whether a cheaper rate is available than the promoted gimmick. A two-night minimum stay is required. All Waldorf properties honor the promotion and 27 Conrad properties are participating. Waldorf is calling its $50-a-day BEST OF WALDORF. The Conrad promotion is called COMPLIMENTS OF CONRAD.

GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
LA COMPAGNIE: Roundtrip to Paris for $1,600 in Business Class for Fall and Winter
Paris-based La Compagnie is the last of the boutique carriers plying the North Atlantic and its sole route--Newark to Orly--seems to have solidified. Its (mostly) twice-daily service using Boeing 757s offers a 74-seat business class with angled-flat beds and simplified meal service. Still, for the quoted rate of $1,600 roundtrip how can you go wrong? Seats at those prices seem available for most of the fall and winter starting in October. Information: the La Compagnie SPECIAL DEALS page.

AFRICA: Sure, It's a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insanely Low
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But KLM and Qatar Airways have some eye-poppingly low prices--albeit in coach. From KLM, how about Atlanta to Marrakech for as little as $851 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $694 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $764 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $921 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all 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. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has posted fares like $902 roundtrip from New York to Addis Ababa; $978 from Chicago to Nairobi; $893 from Miami to Khartoum; and $1,060 from Houston to Lagos. Qatar's restrictions are a 14-day advance purchase with a 7-day minimum stay. All travel is via Doha, of course.

FINNAIR: Cheap Business Class This Summer? How About Russia and Finland?
Finland remains what it has always been: a middle ground between Europe and Russia. And Vantaa Airport in Helsinki remains what it always has been: a fabulous place to change planes en route to Russia. See where I'm going with this? Finnair is offering great deals in business class over its Helsinki hub to Russia. Prices are valid for travel until well into next spring if you can hit the admittedly stiff (60-day) advance-purchase restriction. Sample fares: Yekaterinburg for $2,276 roundtrip; Moscow for $2,286; and St. Petersburg for $2,296. Oddly, if you're actually headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $2,583. Elsewhere in Finland, it's $2,696 to Oulu and $2,743 to Rovaniemi, capital of Lapland. That last one is if you're interested in hanging with Santa in summer, I guess. Information: the Finnair FLIGHT OFFERS page.

BRITISH AIRWAYS: The AARP Deal, Reduced Again, But Extended Another Year
British Airways isn't only hacking away at the quality of its in-flight product and its reputation as a premium carrier. It's also reducing the classic deals you can use to get discounts. Take its long-standing AARP deal. BA once offered as much as $400 off roundtrip. Now first and premium class discounts have been jettisoned and we're left with $200 roundtrip off BA's outdated business class and $65 off its newly "densified" coach class. Also gone: the opportunity to twin the AARP discount with other BA promotions. Still, $65 or $200 off is better than a stick upside your head. And the current deal is now valid for travel until the end of 2019 when you book by January 31, 2019. The cost of entry: the $12 fee required to join AARP. And you must enter through the AARP portal to score the discounts. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS page.

TAP AIR PORTUGAL: The Free Portugal Stopover Can Now Be Five Days Long
In the early days of transatlantic jet travel, free "stopovers" in the country of arrival were a standard perk. Now the practice has virtually disappeared and airlines will charge you separately if you don't make your onward connection within hours of your transatlantic arrival. But TAP Air Portugal, revitalized under the leadership of a consortium fronted by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, has brought the perk back. Last year it revived a free, three-day stopover in Portugal as part of roundtrip, transatlantic nonstops to Lisbon and Porto. Beginning with travel in September, however, stopover privileges will be extended to five days. There are also other perks attached to the stopover, including hotel discounts, free museum and attraction admissions and free wine with meals. TAP and its partners have even created a "stopover app" to help guide you around the country via smartphone. Information: PORTUGAL STOPOVER page.

GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back--With Two Cool Twists
Sometimes the classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's iconic 12Free promotion. Two rentals of a midsize car by February 28 earn a free rental day that you can use by June 13. As has been the case in recent years, the points-based system offers 300 points per qualifying rental. It takes 600 points for a freebie. And as usual, National has thrown in a few wrinkles to pique your continued interest. This year, National really wants you to book on your phone. You'll receive 25 points for downloading the app, 75 points when you book using the app and 50 points when you complete a transaction on the app. Another big twist this year: Enterprise, National's parent company. You'll receive 200 points each time you rent from a local (i.e., non-airport) Enterprise location. You can claim that one up to three times. You'll also receive 300 points if you use Enterprise in Europe. There are plenty of other points-adding touchstones this year, too. Advance registration and Emerald Club membership are required, of course. Bottom line: The additions and attendant restrictions make the 12FREE promotion a little more complex than in years past. But you'd be crazy not to put National at the top of your rental mix during the fall and winter. The payback is too good to ignore. Information: the EARN TO THE MAX page.

AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 5,000 Bonus Miles
Mileage earning from car rentals has had a strange history. In the early days of the frequency programs, they were gushers of cheap miles. Then the car rental firms realized they were paying plenty to the airlines for miles without moving the market since all the companies were doing the same thing. So for decades car rentals were earnings deserts. Lately, however, the airlines and rental firms have been working out relatively exclusive deals. The latest example? Avis and Budget, which are sister firms, will give you 5,000 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. This is a revamp of a deal that Avis and Budget have been offering on and off for the last few years. This deal is valid for rentals that begin by October 15. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS page.

UNITED/HERTZ: Worst-in-Class Providers Offer Really Big Bonuses
What do Hertz and United Airlines have in common? Lessee, both operations run poorly. A former top United exec was ousted as Hertz chief executive for doing a lousy job. And United once actually owned Hertz. Other than that? Both are desperate for new customers. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even two-day rentals. Until September 30, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com for at least two days and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. That means as many as 2,750 miles for rentals as short as two days. Sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction, extension and slight rejiggering of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered for about three years. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.

NATIONAL/SOUTHWEST: Quadruple Rapid Rewards Points for Weekly Rentals. Again.
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer a bigger payoff for rentals if you need a vehicle. Instead of the standard 600 Rapid Rewards points, a two- or three-day National rental will earn 1,200 points. Rentals of 4-6 days will earn 1,800 points. Weekly or longer rentals will score 2,400 points. To score the points, use Contract ID code 5030510. The bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, with a one-day advance reservation. By the way, if this sounds familiar, it is exactly the same deal that ran all of last year. Information: the RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS page.

CREDIT CARD BONUS OPPORTUNITIES
AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: At Least 190,000 Miles for $190 in Credit Card Fees
We recently discussed the "smash and grab" strategy for earning lots of miles by scoring acquisition bonuses from banks desperate to put airline-affiliated credit cards in your wallet. This strategy has extra piquancy at American Airlines since it has two banks peddling cards tied to American AAdvantage. Even better, the banks compete, so they'll both give you cards at the same time. Best of all, because one of the banks (Barclay) doesn't require big spend for the bonuses it offers, you can really score. How big? By my calculation, 190,000 or more miles for $190 in annual fees and about $4,000 in spend over four months. Here's how to do it. Grab Barclay's AAdvantage Aviation Red card. For a $95 annual fee, it'll give you 60,000 miles after your first purchase. At the same time, pick up Barclay's AAdvantage Aviator Business card. It has just posted a 60,000-mile acquisition bonus in exchange for a purchase and the $95 annual fee. Meanwhile, Citibank's CitiBusiness Platinum Select AAdvantage card has a 70,000-mile bonus when you spend $4,000 in the first four months. Its $99 annual fee is waived in the first year. So for a cost of $190 and spend you'd probably do anyway (let's say $4,200 if you charge $100 to each Barclay card), you'll earn at least 194,200 AAdvantage miles (the two 60,000-miles Barclay bonuses, the 70,000-mile Citi bonus and the 4,200 minimum miles you earn on the spending). All in all, a ridiculously good strategy for the creditworthy traveler who also pays bills on-time without rolling over.

CAPITAL ONE: Eat More Than You Fly? Here's 4 Percent Cash Back for Dining
If your travel spend is skewed more toward dining than hotels and airlines, the refreshed Capital One Savor Rewards card should get a slot in your wallet. If you've given up on airline and hotel awards, the Savor Card might be just the ticket, too. Its major perk: a 4 percent cash back reward for dining and entertainment spend. You'll also receive 2 percent cash back at grocery stores. Other spending earns a 1 percent return. And, yes, there's an acquisition bonus: $500 if you spend $3,000 on purchases during the first three months that you have the card. The annual fee of $95 is waived in the first year, too, and there are no foreign transaction fees. The only major chink: the promised 2 percent return on grocery shopping does not apply at "superstores" such as Walmart or Target. Information: the SAVOR REWARDS page.

CHASE/HYATT: 60,000-Point Acquisition Bonus for the New Hyatt Card
After Hyatt replaced its much-admired Gold Passport program with the chintzier World of Hyatt program, many travelers decided the small chain simply wasn't worth the effort. Hyatt has yet to recover despite several modest make-good efforts. Now its credit card partner, Chase, is trying to goose up the action, too. The new World of Hyatt Visa Signature card comes with a fairly compelling acquisition bonus: 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months and 20,000 more points when you spend $6,000 in the first six months. That 60,000 points is good for two nights at Hyatt's best hotels (Category 7) or a dozen nights in 5,000-a-night Category 1 properties. Standing perks on the card: four points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and two points per dollar spent at restaurants, on fitness club and gym memberships and on local transportation. You'll also earn entry-level elite status plus five nights credit toward mid-level status. You'll also get two additional nights credit for each $5,000 you spend during the year. The annual fee: $95. Information: the 60,000 BONUS POINTS page.

CHASE: 80,000-Point Bonus to Take an Ink Business Card
As the airline frequent flyer programs get less generous, smart travelers are banking their miles with banks. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, offer a 1:1 transfer to United, Southwest, several international airlines and some hotel chains, too. There seems to be less risk by banking points with Chase and moving them to your programs as the good deals--or award availability--warrant. One of the current stars in the wide Chase portfolio? The Ink Business Preferred Card. For the $95 annual fee, you'll receive an acquisition bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 during the first three months. You'll also earn three points per dollar spent on travel expenditures; shipping charges; payments for Internet, cable and phone services; and certain advertising purchases. Information: the 80,000 BONUS POINTS page.

This column is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2018 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.