Steals & Deals for April 26-May 10, 2018
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HOTELS: Lesser-Known Chains May Be a Viable Option This Summer
With Marriott's decision to do a big-bang merger of its three frequency programs and its choice to hide its award chart (and a devaluation), you may be searching for lodging options. Or, even better, just interested in booking the hotels you like. If either is true, consider the sale prices offered by NH Hotels and Accor Hotels, two chains based in Europe. Neither has a particularly good frequency program, but both have interesting hotels, especially Spain-based NH Hotels. It's offering 3=2 deals (book three nights and pay for two or a 33 percent discount) for stays until September 9 in Europe and South America. The so-called 3x2 This Summer promotion does require payment at the time of reservation and you must book by May 6. Meanwhile, Accor Hotels, based in Paris, is offering an "up to 40 percent" sale at chains such as Fairmont, Sofitel, Banyan Tree, Swissotel and Fairmont. But the "up to" is a bit slippery. The sale actually ranges from 20 to 40 percent depending on the region and brand. Travel is permitted until at least September 30 and as late as mid-December at some properties. There's a blizzard of region-specific fine print, but, generally, this so-called Private Sale must be booked by May 3 and payment must be made at the time of reservation.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER BIG DEALS
DEATH VALLEY: May the Force--and a Location Tour--Be With You
Star Wars, yada yada. May the Fourth (May 4th) be with you, yada yada. In other words, without falling into the Star Wars myth trap, here's the deal: The former Furnace Creek Resort is now called the Oasis at Death Valley. Death Valley, of course, is where some desert scenes of the Star Wars movies were shot. See where we're going? Book two nights at the Ranch at Death Valley, part of the Oasis complex, and you'll also receive a $50 food and beverage credit and a three-hour Jeep tour of locations used in Star Wars. The deal is only available in May. And, yes, the deal is called the May the 4th Be With You STARS package. Information: the THE FORCE IS STRONG page.

HILTON HONORS: Double Points for Spring and Summer. Of Course, They're Not Worth Much
Marriott's revised program, which is hiding its upcoming devaluation by withholding the new award chart, has nothing on Hilton Honors. Hilton has been devaluing constantly for nearly a decade. So when it offers double points between May 1 and August 31, it's hardly meaningful. The points aren't worth much especially now that the chain has moved to revenue-based redemptions. Still, getting twice as many is better than not, so make sure to register here. And a notable exception: Hampton properties in China are not participating.

HAINAN AIRLINES: It's Come to This: China Roundtrip Below $500
We are now used to seeing $200 roundtrip transcontinental coach fares and airfares below $400 to Europe. But sub-$500 roundtrip fares to China? That's, well, insane. Yet here they 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 $443 roundtrip between Seattle and Shanghai? Or $490 roundtrip between San Jose and Beijing. It's $598 roundtrip from New York to Beijing. To Chengdu, Chongqing and Changsha, the key cities in Hunan and Sichuan provinces, coach roundtrips are in the $700-$800 roundtrip range. Prices are valid until the end of the year when you purchase by the end of June. Information: The Hainan Airlines OFFERS page.

LUFTHANSA: Premium Economy As Low As $1,379 Roundtrip to Europe Right Now
Coach fares to Europe this spring remain at historic lows. So where does that leave premium economy cabins? At fare levels around where coach once sold. Lufthansa, for example, is now at $1,379 roundtrip for its premium economy, which offers 38 inches of legroom, footrests, upgraded meals and other perks. That fare is only on one route--New York/Kennedy to Lufthansa's Frankfurt hub--but other runs are being offered at equally gentle rates: Miami to Florence for $1,729; and Los Angeles to Budapest for $1,779. You need to hurry: Tickets must be purchased by May 3. The cheapest prices are for midweek travel, of course, and weekend surcharges are about $100 each way. A Saturday stay and 7-day advance purchase are required. Information: the EXPERIENCE PREMIUM ECONOMY page.

YOUR EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
aerlingus AER LINGUS: $200-$300 Off Business Class and $50 Off Coach This Summer
Summer business class bargains to Europe are hard to find. And coach deals are even harder to find because fares are already pretty low. But Aer Lingus has come through again. Its exclusive offer for members: $200 or $300 off roundtrip business class fares to Ireland, Germany, Britain, Scotland and several other destinations. Coach fares get a $50 roundtrip discount. Here are the specifics:
      $300 off roundtrip in business class from Seattle-Tacoma and $200 off roundtrip from Aer Lingus' 12 other gateways in the United States and Canada. Or $50 off roundtrip from any Aer Lingus North American gateway.
      Travel is permitted to Ireland and, with a Dublin connection or stopover, to England (Manchester, Birmingham, London/Heathrow or London/Gatwick); Scotland (Glasgow or Edinburgh); Germany (Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg or Stuttgart); Amsterdam; or Barcelona.
      Valid travel dates are July 1 to August 22 if you purchase tickets by May 25.
      Tickets must be purchased at AerLingus.com. Use promotional code JOESENTME18.

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.

HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
MARRIOTT/STARWOOD: Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.
Marriott may be slow-walking the full-on merger of the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest plans, but you couldn't tell it by the quarterly promotions. They're moving in lockstep already. On the Marriott side, you will earn 750 bonus miles per night between April 18 and July 20 starting with your third night. On the Starwood side, it's 250 points per night during the same period. (Although the earnings are numerically different, Starwood points are worth three times more than Marriott points when you transfer between accounts.) You must register for each program separately by June 30. You can earn a maximum of 12,000 SPG points and 36,000 Marriott Rewards points. And take note: ExecuStay, Marriott Executive Apartments and Marriott Vacation Club are not participating and there is a list of SPG properties that award the bonus points.

CHOICE HOTELS: The Heavily Restricted Two-for-One Deal Is Back Again
Choice's lightly regarded Choice Privileges program is once again rolling out the heavily restricted two-earns-one promotion. For two separate stays between April 2 and May 25, you'll receive enough points to claim a free night at about a thousand of Choice's properties. There are lots of gimmicky rules and nasty restrictions (not to mention advance registration), so read carefully before you commit. Information: the BOOK. STAY. REPEAT. page.

WYNDHAM: Stay Twice, Get Enough Points for a Free Night Anywhere
Wyndham, a sprawling and mostly mediocre group of hotel chains, has a unique frequency program. Wyndham Rewards prices all free nights at 15,000 points. That means the good (Wyndham, Dolce, Tryp) and the garbage (Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Travelodge) cost the same per night regardless of quality. To goose new travelers to join Wyndham Rewards, the group is offering 15,000 bonus points after two stays at any Wyndham property. There are a few caveats, of course: You have to be a member of the program, must register in advance and complete your qualifying stays by July 1. Information: the YOUR KEY TO A FREE NIGHT 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
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.

SINGAPORE AIRLINES: Notable Business Class Savings on a Grab Bag of U.S. Routes
No international airline serving the United States has a more interesting--okay, totally bizarre--route network than Singapore Airlines. With its Singapore hub difficult to reach, and management apathetic to the need for U.S. nonstops, Singapore Airlines has settled for so-called fifth freedom nonstops to other cities. The result: Singapore has to discount to keep those "secret flights" filled. Which explains why you can fly its excellent business class nonstop from New York/Kennedy to Frankfurt for as little as $2,369 roundtrip. Nonstops from Los Angeles to Tokyo and Seoul are selling for as low as $3,530 and $3,430 roundtrip respectively. Restrictions are minimal and fares are valid for departures until March 31. One other note: Singapore Air now flies nonstop to Changi from San Francisco (16.5 hours in the air) with new Airbus A350 aircraft. The carrier is also discounting that route with a $4,243 roundtrip business class fare. It's available for midweek travel until December 31 with a 21-day advance purchase. Information: the BUSINESS CLASS FARE DEALS 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
AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 500 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/Budget will give you 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. Still, that's not as good as the 1,000-mile offer that existed through most of last year. This deal is valid for rentals that begin by June 15. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS 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, 2019, 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.

UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, 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 one-day rentals. Until March 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. 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 for almost two years. By the way, check your MileagePlus account. You may qualify for a promotion that offers up to 5,500 miles per Hertz rental. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES 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 29. You will find some holiday blackouts, but, otherwise, it's open season for cheap cars. Information: the Enterprise $9.99 WEEKEND SPECIAL page.

CREDIT CARD BONUS OPPORTUNITIES
CHASE: 80,000 IHG Points for the New Credit Card
Chase controls the Marriott and Hyatt cards and they are generally considered the gems of the hotel portfolio. But Chase also has the rights to InterContinental's IHG Rewards cards and the bank is clearly trying to up the heat. The newest offering--the clumsily named IHG Rewards Club Premier Card--is promoting 80,000 points with $2,000 spend in the first three months; 10 points per dollar charged on IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar spent at grocery stores; restaurants and gas stations; and Platinum Elite Status. You also receive a free night at some hotels each year you hold the card and a fourth night free at some hotels when you redeem a three-night award. The MasterCard has an $89 annual fee, which is not waived in the first year. Information: the EARN 80,000 BONUS POINTS page.

CHASE/MARRIOTT: A 75,000-Point Acquisition Bonus With No Annual Fee
As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, Marriott/SPG is now working with both Chase and American Express to create a new portfolio of credit cards. Which means you should jump on any deal that comes along on existing cards. And right on schedule comes a 75,000-point acquisition bonus for a Marriott Rewards Premier Card. Best of all, no annual fee during the first year. So the only requirement is the modest $3,000 spending requirement during the first three months you hold the card. Seems like a quick and painless way to score Marriott points for free while you wait for those new cards. Information: the MARRIOTT REWARDS PREMIER 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.