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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR DECEMBER 12-26, 2013
Hotels: It's Time for the Next (Tired) Tranche of Promotions
For all the talk about how the hotel market is ratcheting upward in rate, major chains continue to open far more rooms than most markets can comfortably absorb. The result? Endless frequent guest promotions to keep us interested in booking one chain or another. After a while, however, it gets harder and harder to create intriguing earnings opportunities. So if it seems that you've heard of these before, you probably have. Only the validity dates change.
CHOICE PRIVILEGES, which covers a panoply of lower-cost brands such as Comfort, Clarion and EconoLodge, is offering 3,000 bonus points after every two stays. You can earn as many as 50,000 extra points during the promotion, which runs until February 19. Register here.
HILTON HHONORS, which has been hopelessly devalued in recent years, is routing promotions through its less-hated credit card partners. When you pay for a stay at a Hilton Family hotel with a Citi Hilton Visa card, you'll earn 2,500 bonus points. Register here to earn the bonus until February 28. If you use a participating American Express card and spend $175 or more at about 300 Hiltons, you'll receive four bonus Membership Rewards points per dollar. Register here to earn until January 31.
IHG REWARDS CLUB, the frequency program of InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo and other brands, is reviving its Big Win promotion between January 1 and April 30. This is a customized offer based on number of stays, number of brands you visit and other factors. The promotion goes live on December 16 here. The promo code to register is 829.
STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST is offering a minimalist winter promotion called Bring on the Nights. You'll earn a relatively meager 2,500 bonus points after every five nights and 5,000 more points after the 25th night. The promotional period is January 7 to April 30. Register here.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
American Airlines: Big Transcon Bonuses When You Pay Big Fares
American Airlines is rolling out a new plane (the Airbus A321T) on transcontinental routes between New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco. And American has retained first class while its legacy competitors have eliminated the up front cabin. So to promote the putatively premium nature of its transcons, American is rolling out large bonuses for AAdvantage flyers. First- or business-class flights will earn 7,500 bonus miles each way while full-fare economy travel will earn 5,000 bonus miles each way. Higher-priced discounted coach fares will earn 2,500 bonus miles each way. The bonuses can be earned between January 9 and March 31. Registration is required, of course, and you can do it here.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
OpenSkies: Still the Best Premium-Class Bargain Across the Atlantic
OpenSkies, British Airways' boutique carrier, once had dreams of a network of routes connecting the United States and continental Europe. Nearly six years after its launch, however, it seems pigeonholed with just two routes, from New York/Kennedy and Newark to Paris' Orly Airport. But OpenSkies continues to deliver fabulous value in its premium-economy cabin, which offers 2x2 seating with an industry-leading 47 inches of legroom. The current sale price is impressive as well: Only $1,296 roundtrip if you fly before May 14. The catches: you must book 45 days in advance and fly Monday to Thursday. Information: the MOST COMFORTABLE page.
Lufthansa: Cheap Flights to India, If You Can Handle the Back of the Bus
Even with the business slump in India, cheap business-class seats are scarce. But if you can brave the long ride in coach, Lufthansa is offering some eye-opening prices to the subcontinent. Fares start at just $809 roundtrip from Chicago to Mumbai and include $889 (Los Angeles-Mumbai), $1,009 (Houston-Mumbai) and $1,279 (New York/JFK-Chennai). The travel window is wide (January 7 to May 15 for departures and until September 15 for returns) although tickets must be purchased by December 31. The lowest fares are available Monday to Thursday, otherwise a $30 each way weekend surcharge applies. Itineraries can also be booked using Lufthansa's Star Alliance partners such as United, Air Canada, Brussels Airlines and Swiss. Information: Lufthansa's BE ENCHANTED page.
American AAdvantage: Double Miles on Qatar Airways Flights
Qatar Airways, one of the Persian/Arab Gulf carriers that are flying far above their weight, last month joined the Oneworld Alliance. And that has given Oneworld partner American Airlines a promotional opportunity. For flights on Qatar until December 19 and again between January 6 and January 31, you'll receive double American AAdvantage miles. The promotion code is QRDBL, although you must register in advance. Information: the EARN DOUBLE MILES page.
Finnair: To Russia, With a Cheap Coach Winter Fare
Russia's homegrown airlines are improving, but a lot of savvy travelers continue to rely on Finnair to get to and from the Russian Federation. And Finnair is now promoting amazing coach fares for late fall and winter flights: $690 roundtrip to St. Petersburg and $695 roundtrip to Moscow. Flights are via Finnair's compact and attractive Helsinki hub, of course. Travel is permitted until December 12 and between December 24 and March 27. There is a 7-day advance-purchase restriction and specific day-of-travel rules. Information: the Finnair OFFERS page.
United Airlines: As Usual, Late to the Party With a Seattle Bonus Offer
Weeks after Delta and Alaska Airlines got into a mileage war for control of Seattle (see below), United Airlines has belatedly (as usual) matched. You'll receive double miles for nonstop flights between Seattle and Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco or Anchorage. You must register, of course, and the bonus only applies for flights you book after registration. Tickets must be purchased by December 31 for flights until May 31. Information: the EARN DOUBLE MILES page.
Delta/Alaska: A West Coast Mileage War Between Sea-Tac Frenemies
If you've been paying attention, Delta Air Lines has bulked up in the California Corridor and built a mini-hub at Seattle-Tacoma. The problem with that? Sea-Tac is the home of Delta's titular partner, Alaska Airlines, and Alaska is already a big player in the California Corridor. The still-claiming-to-be-friends are now battling on the mileage front, too. Delta is offering double SkyMiles on three Sea-Tac routes--to/from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas--if you book your flights by December 31 and fly by October 31, 2014. (You must register, of course.) Alaska has responded with an offer of double elite-qualifying Mileage Plan credits on six runs from Sea-Tac: to/from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Rosa. This promotion lasts until May 31 when you register in advance. A word of warning: The airline frenemies still code-share on some of these routes and the carriers are not offering the bonuses on each other's metal.
Hilton/United: 1,000 Miles for Waldorf or Conrad Stays
After a rapid-fire series of gigantic devaluations, Hilton HHonors points are virtually worthless. But the good news: HHonors is now offering a 1,000-mile promotion with United MileagePlus. When you stay at a Conrad or a Waldorf Astoria hotel through December 31, you can earn 1,000 miles per night. The restriction: You must choose MileagePlus as your designated DoubleDip partner. To get your miles, register here in advance.
Virgin America: Hey, Business Traveler. Here Are Bonuses for Premium Flying
Desperately working to pump up its volume with business travelers, Virgin America is turning its attention to its Elevate frequent flyer program. When you book Virgin's first class or its Main Cabin select premium economy seats, Virgin will reward you with double points. Better yet, the bonus points will also count toward Elevate's elite status. The promotion, which lasts until December 31, requires advance registration. Information: the FEEL THE EARN page.
HOTEL BARGAINS WORTH NOTING
Boston: The Taj Boston Puts Fire on Sale
The Taj Boston, which many experienced travelers will recall as the original Ritz-Carlton hotel, has a perk few other lodgings can offer: more than three dozen suites outfitted with wood-burning fireplaces. To promote that fact during the fireplace season, the Suite Celebration is a warming bundle: 50 percent off accommodations for the second night, a complimentary continental breakfast for two, free Internet access and two daily garment pressings. The hotel's "fireplace butler" will even offer a firewood menu so your fire can be made with birch, cherry, oak, maple or a special Taj blend. The promotion is valid until April 1. For date-specific pricing and reservations, call 877-4-TAJ-BOSTON. Information: the Taj Boston FIREPLACE SUITE page.
Hyatt: 10-15 Percent Room-Rate Discounts You Don't Have to Chase
Hyatt Hotels and its credit card partner, Chase, are running an online promotion called The Chase. But you can't play unless you're a Hyatt Gold Passport member and you've been invited to participate. But the prize at the end of the chase--room rate discounts of 10 or 15 percent--doesn't seem to be restricted. So if you go to HYATT.COM and enter DISC10 (for 10 percent off) or DISC15 (for 15 percent off) in the Special Offers box, you'll probably get offered discount rates.
Starwood Resorts: Hey, That AAA Card in Your Wallet Earns Discounts
Many hotel chains offer AAA members a modest (about 10 percent) discount on stays. But a select number of Starwood resorts have a more generous deal: up to 20 percent off stays, free breakfast for two or resort credits of as much as $100. Starwood has also extended the deal to members of the CAA, Canada's auto club. The discounts are valid through December 31. Information: the It's all about you page.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
Hertz: The Never-Ending Deal for Up to 3,400 Delta SkyMiles Per Rental
It takes a heap of promoting to make car rentals a rich source of airline miles these days. This Hertz offer might not exactly qualify, but it's much better than average. According to the promotion--available on rentals in North America, parts of Europe and the rest of the world--a one-day rental will net you a total of 600 SkyMiles. Medallion SkyMiles flyers will get a total of 700 miles for a one-day rental. The promo adds more bonuses for each day and tops out at 2,700 miles for a seven-day rental and 3,400 miles for a seven-day rental if you are a Medallion. To qualify for the bonuses, you must pick up your car by January 31. If this deal sounds familiar, it's because Hertz and Delta have run variations for at least a year. Information: the EARN 3,400 MILES page.
Enterprise: The Return of the $9.99 a Day Weekend Rental
Enterprise Rent-A-Car's odd (if financially successful) model--most rental stations are closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday--has long created an inventory imbalance. Anything stuck on the lot by Saturday is going to sit unrented until Monday. Enterprise's long-standing response: Ridiculously low weekend rates if you agree to pick up a car on Friday and keep it until Monday. As with previous years, this latest weekend special starts at $9.99 a day for economy/compact cars and tops out at $19.99 a day for full-size cars. The caveats: The Friday pick-up/Monday return period must be observed; you only receive 100 free miles a day; and most airport locations don't offer the rate. Still, if you can hit those restrictions, it's the cheapest rental around. The promotion is valid for rentals until May 21, but you should expect some holiday and big-city blackout dates. Information: the WEEKEND SPECIAL rate.
National Car Rental: The Big Rental Deal Returns (Updated)
The richest car-rental promotion in history--National's One Two Free--is back and this time there's a pointy twist. As usual, a pair of two-day rentals earns you a free rental day. But this time the whole deal is based on points: Each qualifying two-day rental is worth 300 points and 600 points gets you a free night. Better yet, longer rentals now get more credit, too. You'll receive 300 points for every four days you keep the car. So a 24-day rental, for example, earns 1,800 points. The other twist: There are other ways to generate points. You'll earn 300 points for each person you refer to National's Emerald Club who completes a rental. You can make a maximum of 10 referrals. Downloading National's new app gets you 25 points. Using Facebook to connect to the promo earns 50 points. The qualifying rental period lasts until January 31 and free rental days can be used until June 16. Up to 50 free days can be earned and you can use as many as three free days per rental. Complete details and registration are here.
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. Until March 31, 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.
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.
National/Alamo: 25 Percent Off and Triple Hilton HHonors Points
Two of the car-rental subsidiaries of Enterprise Holdings, National and Alamo, have struck a deal with Hilton HHonors, the much-devalued frequency plan. Both firms are offering 25 percent off standard rental rates and 1,500 HHonors bonus points on rentals until December 31. That's triple the standard points-earning ratio. Information: the National HHonors page and Alamo HHonors page.
HOME E-MAIL JOE PRINT SEND MOBILE LINK 2013 COLUMNS DEALS ARCHIVES SEARCH
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 © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.