Steals & Deals for August 9-23, 2018
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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. One 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 a thousand 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 around the word. 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.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
DELTA AIR LINES: Revived Osaka Flights at Something of a Coach Discount
Delta Air Lines is reviving its Seattle/Tacoma-Osaka, Japan, flights on April 1. For the first two months, it is offering an introductory fare of $1,070 roundtrip in coach if you book by August 19. That price is valid on the Seattle nonstop. Connecting flights from Spokane or Portland are a few dollars more. From other cities around Delta's network, connecting prices range from $1,112 to $1,414 roundtrip. One exception: Las Vegas-Osaka is priced at $1,006 roundtrip. Interestingly, Delta is also posting Delta SkyMiles award prices as well. It will cost you 70,000 miles roundtrip although there are many blackout dates. The good news? Delta posts city-by-city availability for the award dates. Information: the EXPLORE A NEW SIDE OF JAPAN 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
HOTELS: Simple Deals for Summer Travel at Second-Tier Chains
It's understandable that we pay more attention to the 800-pound gorillas of the lodging industry, but you can get some simple, easy-to-understand deals at some other chains. All you have to do is look. Here is what you will find.
BEST WESTERN says stay once before September 3 and earn a $20 gift card valid at any of its hotels. Information: the REWARDS RUSH page.
CHOICE HOTELS says stay two times by August 17 and receive enough Choice Privileges points to claim a $50 gift card. Information: the ONE STAY. TWO STAYS. page.
RADISSON HOTELS says you can earn a $25 Amazon or Starbucks gift card when you stay two consecutive nights at Radisson properties in the United States and Canada. Book by August 30 for stays until September 3. Information: the $25 GIFT CARD page.
WYNDHAM HOTELS will award you 7,500 bonus Wyndham Rewards points on each of two separate stays by September 1. Those 15,000 points translate into a free night at any Wyndham property around the world. The hitch? To generate the bonus points, you must pay with Masterpass. Information: the MASTERPASS page.
RADISSON: Double Points for the Rest of the Summer
Radisson is trying to remake itself again. The frequency program has been renamed Radisson Rewards and the flagship brand is being reorganized into "red" and "blue" hotels. (Don't ask. I don't know what it means, either.) The rebranding and repositioning has also led the chain to make its promotions a bit more frequent. The current offer: double points on stays of two or more nights until August 31. Information: the DOUBLE POINTS 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 September 9, 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.
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
AIR NEW ZEALAND: Cheap Seats in All Three Cabins to the South Pacific Get Cheaper
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--$2,298 roundtrip--if you travel on select dates through May. 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 bump puts business class out of your wheelhouse, Air New Zealand has a fantastic alternative: $1,098 in its well-liked premium economy. And if you're looking for deep discounts, it's $598 roundtrip in coach. All three of these fares are lower than last month. 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 August 17. You even earn frequent flyer miles. Information: the Air New Zealand FLIGHTS TO COOK ISLAND page.
HAINAN AIRLINES: China Roundtrip Below $500 in Coach, $2,400 in Business
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 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 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
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 will give you 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. Its sister firm, Budget, will do better: 1,000 miles for a three-day rental. This is 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 August 14. 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.
CREDIT CARD BONUS OPPORTUNITIES
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 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: 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.