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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR JANUARY 14-28, 2010
Aer Lingus: Extraordinarily Low Business-Class Prices--and Europe, Too
When in doubt--and boy is there doubt about the future of Aer Lingus--slash your fares. And Aer Lingus has done that--and a hell of a lot more. Let's start with the eye-opening price: $,1878 roundtrip in business class to Dublin or Shannon from New York/Kennedy, Boston or Chicago. Then add perks: lounge access and three free checked bags. And clinch the deal with an outstanding extra: a free roundtrip coach flight from Dublin to almost two dozen European destinations. The exact cities where you can fly vary by your U.S. departure point and logical connection times, but all the best European cities (Rome, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, Madrid, Vienna, Munich, Krakow, Lisbon and Edinburgh) are there. The travel window is huge: until August 31. The major restriction: You must purchase nonrefundable tickets by 7 p.m. Eastern time on January 29 and include a four-night minimum stay. By the way, if this deal sounds familiar, it's the same offer Aer Lingus rolled out briefly in November. This new deal has a much wider travel window, however, and is less than $100 more roundtrip. The only caveat: You have to book your trip on Aer Lingus.com or via phone at 800-IRISH-AIR.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
OpenSkies: We're Still Here! Fly Us! Record Low Prices! Again!
Less than two years after it launched, OpenSkies is no longer the hey-look-at-us newbie generating lots of publicity simply because it is the boutique offspring of British Airways. And it hasn't helped that the airline is down to one route (Newark to Paris/Orly) or that BA tried to peddle the carrier last year. Still, OpenSkies remains unique, with terrific pricing on its two flavors of business class. And when it adds a promotional fare, well, attention must be paid all over again. This time the offer is for spring travel in its BizSeat class, which offers 2x2 seating in wide, comfy cradle chairs; 52 inches of legroom; personal audio/video players; and lots of other extras. The price: $655 each way, which is very close to the lowest fare the airline has ever offered. When all the taxes and fees are added, that's only $1,429 roundtrip, an astounding bargain. You must book by February 28 and travel between March 15 and May 31. Information: the Sweet Spring in Paris page.

SAS: A Nordic Summer, Amazingly Cheap in Business Class
It probably was predictable: Once United Airlines broke its summer business-class sale (see below), other Star Alliance carriers were sure to follow. But the sale from SAS is a dazzler, not just because you can lock in summer business-class travel now, but also because prices are far below usual sale prices to Nordic countries. If you can travel between July 5 and September 5, SAS will fly you from Newark to Copenhagen or Stockholm for $889 each way. It's $100 more each way to Oslo or Bergen and $1,097 each way to Helsinki. Prices from Dulles Airport near Washington are $100-$200 more each way. Prices from Chicago are $200 more each way. And from Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, fares are $1,289 from Copenhagen or Stockholm; $1,389 to Oslo or Bergen; and $1,497 from Helsinki. Roundtrip, nonrefundable tickets must be purchased by March 1. Information: the Sale page.

Lodgings: Two More Chains Roll Out 1Q Frequent Guest Promotions
Hotel chains are now engaged in a high stakes game of chicken over the timing of their first-quarter frequent guest promotions. Three hotel families rolled out their deals before Christmas (see below), giving them a jump on travelers who book based on the richness of the offers. But better late than never, Hilton HHonors and InterContinental's Priority Club have now chimed in with their promotions. Hilton HHonors is offering a free night for every four paid stays or 10 paid nights completed by March 31. You can earn as many as three free nights and they can be used within the next year. Register for the deal here. Meanwhile, the Priority Club promotion offers 1,000 bonus points for each night stayed between February 1 and April 30. As many as 20,000 points can be earned. Register for that one here.

Marriott: 20 Percent Off Worldwide Weekends This Winter
Hilton stole Marriott's thunder on a worldwide weekend sale, offering both deeper price reductions and letting you book an entire year of weekend stays (see below). But if you're a Marriott player, you should pay attention to this: 20 percent off weekend rates at 2,500 properties between January 22 and March 21. You must book your stays using rate code F5X by January 22. Information: the Global Rate Break page.

BUSINESS-CLASS BARGAINS AROUND THE WORLD
United Airlines: Wow! A Summer Business-Class Sale Already!
Had enough of the cold weather? Well, don't head to Europe now because its weather is worse than ours and most Europeans have even less tolerance for it than we do. But here's an intriguing idea: Europe in the summer, when it is (or should be) warm. And, shockingly, United Airlines has already launched a summer fare sale to Europe. Prices are not insanely low, but they are good and it might be wise to book now if you're the kind of person who likes to plan in advance. The outbound travel window is July 5 to September 5 and return travel must be completed by September 9. Sample prices: Washington/Dulles to Brussels for $1,075 each way; Chicago-Paris for $1,225; Denver-London for $1,325; and San Francisco-Frankfurt to $1,325. The restrictions: roundtrip, nonrefundable purchase and a Saturday stay required. Information: the Summer in Europe page.

Qantas: Reasonable Business-Class Fares Down Under Are Here to Stay
Qantas has generally been tone-deaf on fares, especially in business class. But times are tough and competition has heated up with two new carriers (V Australia and Delta) bucking the old Qantas-United duopoly. So Qantas is now discounting aggressively. The latest sale, available for purchase until January 29, is noteworthy and just $500 more than the super-low rates Qantas posted late last year. From Los Angeles or San Francisco to Sydney or Brisbane, the business-class fare has been cut to as low as $4,940 roundtrip. From New York, the fare is just $5,444 roundtrip. (These fares require a 50-day advance purchase, same as previous sales.) But Qantas still can't help itself. Its business-class prices to Melbourne are, inexplicably, $1,000 higher roundtrip than its Sydney or Brisbane fares. And its add-on fares from other United States cities are equally out of step: almost $400 more roundtrip from San Diego than LAX or SFO, more than $900 more from Dallas/Fort Worth and, most insane of all, almost $1,600 roundtrip more from any other East Coast city besides New York. So word to the wise: Take the deal to Sydney or Brisbane from New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco and forget the other stuff. Quoted fares are available for departures on Monday-Thursday. Information: the Visit Australia page.

THE MOST NOTABLE FREQUENT-TRAVEL PLAN PROMOTIONS
Lodgings: The Big (and Inevitable) 1Q Hotel-Chain Promotions
After a horrific year of plummeting room rates and sagging occupancy rates, the hotel industry is facing another huge challenge: the first quarter of 2010. And the first quarter is when room rates plummet and occupancy rates sag. In other words, the major hotel chains will be falling all over themselves with promotions to win your business. Here's a look at the ones that have already been announced:
    · Starwood Preferred Guest will offer double points for one- or two-night stays; triple points for three-night stays; and quadruple points for stays of four nights or more. There are no limits to the number of bonus points you can earn and you'll earn the bonus for each night of your stay. The deal is valid on stays until April 15. You must register for the offer.
    · Carlson Hotels offers as many as 50,000 bonus miles on stays until February 28. Goldpoints plus members who register here will receive 5,000 bonus points for two stays; 7,500 more points for the third stay; 12,500 points for the fourth stay; and 25,000 additional points for the fifth stay.
    · Marriott Rewards members are being offered as many as 60,000 bonus points for stays from February 1 to April 30. The exact formula is apparently known only to the bureaucrats at Marriott Rewards and the promotion is customized on a member-by-member basis, but here is a representative offer. If you're an existing Marriott Rewards member, check the promotions area of your home page after logging in.

Red Lion: Six Hotel Stays Earn 25,000 Airline Miles
Red Lion, once an iconic West Coast hotel brand, is trying to rebuild its reputation and visibility among business travelers. And what better way to do it than giving a bushel of airline miles? Red Lion's offer is 25,000 miles big and can be earned in the frequent flyer program of four airlines: American, Alaska, Delta or Hawaiian. Here's how it works: You join Red Lion's loyalty program called the R&R Club. Then you book and complete six stays at the Super Mega Miles rate by January 31. You'll receive 2,000 miles for each of your first five stays and a 15,000-mile bonus for your sixth stay. Make sure you use the promotional code MEGMIL when you book. Information: the Red Lion Web site.

Hyatt Gold Passport: The Next Big Thing Is Bigger Than Faster Free Nights
The single best--and most awaited--frequent travel promotion of most recent years has been Hyatt's Faster Free Nights deal, which offered a free night for every two Hyatt stays. Incredibly, Hyatt has improved the deal this year and renamed it The Next Big Thing. The offer: Get a free night for each two stays or receive 3,000 bonus Gold Passport points for each stay, starting with the second stay. And then there is this new fillip: Every stay during the Next Big Thing promotional period will count double towards earning Gold Passport elite status in 2010. This year, the eligible period for piling up free nights at Hyatt, Hyatt Place or Summerfield Suites hotels extends to January 31. As always, you can earn an unlimited number of free nights with no blackout dates and the free nights can be claimed between October 15 and March 31. If you choose the 3,000 bonus points per stay instead, you can earn them until January 31. The only major caveat: You must register for the promotion and choose free nights or bonus points when you register. Information: the Choose Your Reward page.

GREAT HOTEL BARGAINS AVAILABLE AROUND THE WORLD
Hilton: A Worldwide Weekend Sale for All of 2010
Hilton has been on the receiving end of a lot of ire from frequent travelers lately thanks to its 20 percent devaluation of the Hilton HHonors program for 2010. And it has yet to launch a systemwide first-quarter promotion despite its promise to be much more active in that arena. But sale prices on room rates always help deflect the anger and Hilton's worldwide weekend sale may help a little. The prices are good to fabulous--20-50 percent off stays on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights--and can be booked for weekend stays in 2010. But there are notable restrictions, including a nonrefundable pre-payment. That in itself wouldn't be so bad, but you'll have to commit to purchases by January 31. Moreover, some of the January sale rates, especially those at Hilton's focused-service brands such as Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn, aren't notably better than what you'll get without a prepayment. On the other hand, some of the discounts at Hilton's Europe and Asia properties are steep indeed and worth booking early. Information: the Weekend Pass page.

Trump Waikiki: A Fifth Night Free for the First Spring
The skyscraping Trump Waikiki hotel opened in November across the street from the Halekulani, Honolulu's current reigning dowager. The newly built Trump isn't as glitzy as the Trump name might suggest and its accommodations--spacious, fully-equipped studio apartments to insanely lavish penthouses--are refreshing, relaxed and more than a match for what's on offer at the Halekulani. And to get your attention during its first spring season, the Trump Waikiki has a notable offer: a fifth night free. Rates start at $340 a night, which brings the effective five-night rate to as low as $272 a night. The deal is available from March 21 to April 3; April 18 to April 28; and May 7 to June 15. Information: the Trump Waikiki Web site.

Country Inns: 20 Percent Off Weeknight Stays This Fall and Winter
The 500-location-strong Country Inns chain offers nice perks--including free WiFi and breakfast--but doesn't get the publicity of bigger operations such as Courtyard, Hampton or Hilton Garden Inn. Maybe this will help, though: 20 percent off two-night stays until February 25. The deal is available Sunday through Thursday evenings with a three-night advance reservation. There is a maximum stay of four days. As always with these blanket percent-off deals, one caveat: Check carefully to make sure it's the lowest rate. Given these tumultuous times, rate deals are everywhere and a specific promotion might yield a better price at a specific property. Information: the Stay 2 Save 20% page.

Boscolo Hotels: 52 Weekends in 11 Cities in Europe for One Price (€1,880)
The Italy-based Boscolo Hotels chain has invented one of the most creative promotions in years. The Boscolo Key Card costs €1,880 a year and is valid for 52 weekend stays. The stays (check in Saturday or Sunday and check out Sunday or Monday) can be claimed in 11 cities: Bologna, Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Verona and Varese, Italy; Nice or Lyon, France; Prague; and Budapest. You can stay as many as five times in each city during the year whenever a standard, superior or deluxe room is available. The €1,880 price includes the VAT tax, but not breakfast. Pretty fabulous deal if you can get enough use out of the card. Information: the Boscolo Key Card page.

OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS STILL AVAILABLE
car Alamo Rent A Car: Super-Cheap Weekend Rentals, But Act Fast
Alamo Rent A Car is quietly blitzing travelers with a super-cheap rental offer if they are prepared to book weekends until February 8. The rates are astonishingly low (from $10 a day for a compact up to $20 for a premium full-size car) and you can pick up a vehicle as early as 9 a.m. Thursday. The maximum rental period is four days and you must keep the vehicle over a Saturday night. Information: the Quicksilver Weekend Rentals page.

Oxford: Let's Be Honest. This Is Your Best Shot at Being a Rhodes Scholar.
It's never too late to be a Rhodes Scholar, but let's be honest: You've probably missed your window of opportunity. So the next best thing is the Oxford Experience, a series of week-long, live-in seminars at Christ Church College that runs between July 4 and August 7. Participants receive the course; accommodations in Oxford dorms (private rooms are available as an option); and three daily meals. The price is 1,050 pounds or about US$1,700. What can you do with your week? Study the Beatles or the Brontes. Relive the Battle of Britain or Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Study the Normans or the Romanovs, Beethoven or the Crusades. Or even get an introduction to the history and science of cosmology. The deadline for registration is May 1, but the courses fill up quickly. Surf to The Oxford Experience page.

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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 © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.