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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR LATE MARCH, 2010
Hyatt Gold Passport: First Out of the Box With a 2Q Promotion
As the major hotel family with the smallest number of properties, Hyatt has to be nimble and quick with its promotions, so it won't surprise you that it is first out of the box with a second-quarter offer. The Big Welcome Back offers 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points or a free night award after every two paid stays between April 1 and June 30. There is no limit to the number of awards or bonus points you can earn and the free award nights can be redeemed between April 1 and August 31. Expect all of the other hotel families--Starwood, Hilton, Marriott, etc.--to roll out their second-quarter promotions within the next few days. To qualify for the Big Welcome Back promotion, you'll have to register your preference for either the points or the free nights. Registration opens on the Gold Passport Web site on March 26.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
OpenSkies: A Bed in Business Class for a Relaxed Fare
British Airways' never-say-die boutique carrier, Open Skies, is about to resume its growth. On May 3, it adds a Washington/Dulles-Paris/Orly route to accompany its Newark-Orly run. And now it has launched a summer sale in its so-called Biz Bed class. That's the cabin with lie-flat beds, albeit the first-generation BA business-class beds. But who's going to quibble when they hear the prices: as low as $1,109 one-way from Newark and $1,209 from Washington. The fare is good for travel between June 1 and September 10. The catch? You must purchase roundtrip tickets by March 31. Information: the Early Summer Sale page.

Qantas: Sit in the Back, Buy in Advance, Save a Lot
After years of sitting on the deals sidelines, Qantas is suddenly discounting like crazy in an attempt to fill its seats to the lands Down Under. The current offer in coach: as low as $678 roundtrip to Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The catches? You'll pay as much as $200 more in extra charges and you must book your tickets by March 31. The valid travel dates are April 19-June 8 and July 24-September 21. Flights from New York, where Qantas has a so-called "behind gateway" connection, cost $200 more. You can also fly to Auckland for $798 roundtrip from Los Angeles or San Francisco or $998 from New York. The valid travel dates are slightly different for the New Zealand service. The applicable fare codes are OQF6BA for Australia and OQF2EZ for New Zealand. Information: the Hop. Skip. Jump. page.

BUSINESS-CLASS BARGAINS AROUND THE WORLD
Air France: Oh, Yeah. We Forgot. We've Got a Summer Business-Class Sale.
Even after its merger with KLM, the Dutch carrier, Air France is, well, French. For all the good and bad that represents. So it shouldn't surprise you that it is just now getting around to telling people about its Europe summer business-class promotion. That leaves you only a few days to lock in the summer discounts before the March 31 booking deadline. The parameters are familiar--travel June 29 to September 5; a 7-day minimum stay; a nonrefundable roundtrip purchase--with one typically Gallic quirk: Travel to France itself is only available July 30 through September 5. The prices are fairly good: New York-Paris for $1,109 one-way; Boston-Brussels for $959; Houston-Zurich for $1,009; Los Angeles-Rome for $1,509; and many more. But one reminder: Air France's hub at Paris/CDG is considered one of the least convenient places to change planes, a consideration if you are planning a connecting itinerary. Information: the Up to 75% off Business Class page.

ANA: We're Japanese. We Hate Discounting…
The only people who seem to hate discounting more than the Germans are the Japanese, so you shouldn't be surprised at the extraordinarily limited opportunity to take advantage of this All Nippon Airways business-class bargain. If you can travel between April 10 and May 8, ANA has cut business-class fares as low as $4,013 roundtrip. That price covers flights from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya. It's $100 more if you want to travel from Chicago and it's $4,613 roundtrip if you're flying from New York/Kennedy or Washington/Dulles. Oh, as if that wasn't targeted enough, you'll have to purchase your tickets by March 31. Information: the Limited Biz Value Fares page. (Well, at least they were honest in naming the page…)

Continental Airlines: Better Late Than Never, The Summer Sale
Continental Airlines is the unquestioned creator of the summer business-class sale to Europe, but this year it was beaten to the punch by some of its Star Alliance partners, United and SAS (see below). Still, Continental seems to understand the market best and its fares this year, to a few markets, are even lower than last year. From Continental's Newark hub, prices are as low as $759 one-way to Birmingham, England. It's $859 one-way to Belfast, Northern Ireland; Edinburgh, Manchester and Brussels. It's $909 one-way to Amsterdam, Geneva, London, Lisbon, Munich, Stockholm or Zurich. But prices are notably higher this year to Italy (Rome and Milan) and Spain (Barcelona and Madrid). At slightly higher fares, the sale is also valid from Continental's Cleveland and Houston hubs and on connecting service through Newark. The travel window is a few days smaller than last year (July 5 to September 3 to Europe, return by September 9), the restrictions are modest (a Saturday-night stay) and the 60-day advance purchase rule is not particularly relevant since we're talking about summer travel. Information: the BusinessFirst to Europe page.

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.

OTHER TRAVEL BARGAINS AVAILABLE AROUND THE WORLD
Hyatt Hotels: Up to 30 Percent Off and 14 Days to Book
Hyatt is rolling out a big sale for late spring travel until June 30. If you can book by April 1, the deal is as much as 30 percent off the Hyatt Daily Rate for lodging at participating Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt and Andaz properties in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. As always with these kinds of sales, you should check that the promoted special actually offers the lowest available rate, but Hyatt's previous promotions of this nature have been generally good at delivering the best price. The catch: To score the special rates, you must prepay for your stay and use offer code LT0111. Information: the Special Offers page.

Starwood Hotels: 25 Percent Off for Late Spring Travel
Starwood hotels and resorts around the world are offering as much as 25 percent off their best rates for stays until May 31. But there are some serious caveats. The rooms must be booked by March 30 and paid at the time of reservation. The rate deal is only available for Thursday to Saturday arrivals at big-city and business-oriented hotels. (It is supposedly available for arrivals any day at resort properties.) There are unspecified blackout dates, too. And you must use special number 383511 to grab the offer. For all the details, surf to the special page at StarwoodHotels.com.

Car Rental: It's Florida (and Arizona) Drive-Out Time
With car-rental fleets dramatically shrunken, it's more important than ever that the rental firms get their cars in the right markets at the proper times. In other words, as weather warms up around the nation, fewer cars are needed in Florida since vacationers no longer crave the winter sun. So the major car-rental firms all have what they call "drive out" promotions that offer you cheaper rates if you rent a car in Florida, drive it one way and drop it off in specified markets north of the Sunshine State. This year's offers--generally speaking, deals are available in April, May and June--are available from Avis and its Budget corporate sibling; from Hertz; and from Enterprise, which includes Alamo and National, too. Although Hertz claims its Florida drive-out deals start as low as $3 a day, you know all of these rates will end up costing at least $20 a day. Still a deal considering it's a one-way rental. By the way, one quirk this year: National, Alamo and Enterprise are also offering an Arizona Drive Out deal.

Air Lingus/Ritz-Carlton: Four People, Two Rooms, One Car, One Great Deal
Disastrous economic times make for strange bedfellows and that's why this Aer Lingus and Ritz-Carlton deal to Ireland is so stunning. If four people can travel together, it's one of the very best I've ever seen, in fact. It includes roundtrip business-class seats on Aer Lingus to Dublin; six nights in a suite and an interconnecting room at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt in County Wicklow just south of Dublin; six nights use of a full-size automatic rental car including free mileage and GPS navigation system; daily breakfast; and a dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Restaurant at the hotel. Until March 31, the price is $2,299 a person based on four traveling together from either New York/Kennedy or Boston/Logan. It's $50 more a person from Chicago/O'Hare. Prices rise $100 a person for travel in April. There are also slightly higher prices for travel in May through August and special pricing if it's just two people traveling. Information: the Ultimate Affordable Luxury page at the Aer Lingus Vacation Store Web site.

Westin Hotels: How 'Bout That? A Deal for Business Travelers!
Hotel chains like Westin that cater to business travelers rarely offer us a break on the rate. They usually save the discounts and promotions for the weekends, when we'd rather be back at home base. But kudos to Westin for this one: Stay twice at any Westin in the United States and Canada during the week by May 13 and they'll throw you a $100 Amazon Gift Card. You must register for the promotion by April 30, but otherwise it seems straightforward enough: Stays between Sunday and Thursday qualify and you must be a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. You can earn as many as three gift cards during the promotional period. Information: the Welcome Back to Balance 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.

Scotland: All Those Islands, the Highlands and David Rowell, Too
David Rowell, our friend The Travel Insider, puts together a few trips a year for small groups of folks who want a more customized experience. His current package is an 11-day trip that covers Scotland's Inner and Outer Hebrides and the Scottish Highlands. Besides David's personal attention (he escorts each group), David chooses the accommodations, arranges the itinerary and plays the genial host. (Well, he doesn't just play the genial host. He is a genial host!) Besides, he knows where all the good whisky is, too. (I know. On his last Scotland trip, he even found a Scotch I could drink and I don't even like whisky!) This year's tour begins on June 14. The price has just been reduced to $2,595 a person and may go lower still if the group expands a bit. Check out complete details here.

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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 there’s 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. Don’t 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.