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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR JULY 15 - JULY 29, 2010
Hyatt: A Big, Big Bonus for American AAdvantage Players
Interested in racking up a lot of miles in the American AAdvantage program? A new promotion from Hyatt Hotels is most definitely the fast track. You'll earn 3,000 AAdvantage miles every time you stay at a Hyatt hotel until October 15. You can rack up as many as 60,000 miles during the promotion. To get the deal, make sure you register first and are a Hyatt Gold Passport member. Then provide both your Gold Passport and AAdvantage number when you book and when you check in. And make sure to request AAdvantage miles during the check-in process.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
Florida: Play Ball! How 'Bout Them Rays?
Now that baseball's All-Star break is over, the second half of the season is officially under way. And much to the surprise of some, the Tampa Bay Rays are just two games behind the mighty (and mighty annoying) New York Yankees in the America League East. If you want to get on the Rays bandwagon (and stop whining about injuries, you Red Sox fans), check out the Home Run Baseball Getaway package at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg. For prices that start as low as $169 a night, you will receive lodgings; breakfast for two; transportation to and from Tropicana Field, home of the Rays; and a "spectator survival kit" that includes a tote bag, Cracker Jack, bubble gum, peanuts and padded seat cushions. You are on your own for actual game tickets, though. The package is available on a variety of game days until the end of the season. And if you're looking for a showdown with the Yankees, look at July 30-August 1 and September 13-15. Use promotion code SPE to score the package. Information: the Deals and Packages page.
Limoliner: Everybody on the Bus Between Boston and New York
Limoliner is sort of back to the future for business travelers: a bus that plies the "shuttle" run between the New York Hilton at the edge of Rockefeller Center and the Hilton in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. But the LimoLiner is not one of those $1 cheapie jobs. The ride is sweet: 28 leather seats configured 2x1; meals and beverages; live satellite TV, radio and movies; pillows, blankets and magazines; and free WiFi access. The regular one-way fare is $89, but a special $49 rate is available on many weekday and Saturday departures. Information: the LimoLiner Web site.
Atlanta: Hello, Dali! Hey, How Could You Not Call It That?
Atlanta's respected High Museum of Art is mounting a major exhibition of the later works of Salvador Dali. Some of the 40 pieces haven't been on public display in half a century. To capitalize on the show, appropriately called "Salvador Dali: The Late Work," the two Ritz-Carlton hotels in Atlanta are bundling tickets and accommodations. The package includes overnight lodgings; valet parking; American breakfast for two; and two tickets to the Dali show. Rates start at $229 at the Ritz-Carlton on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta and $259 at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead. The Dali package is available from August 7 to January 8. Information: 404-659-0400 for the downtown property and 404-237-2700 for Buckhead.
OTHER GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS THAT ARE STILL AVAILABLE
Korean Air: Seoul, in Business Class, Cheaper--If You Book Ahead
Korean Air is trying to shed its commodity image and present itself as a high-end airline. (You've undoubtedly seen those odd television spots with the powder-blue palette.) But that doesn't mean there aren't bargains to be found, especially up front in business class. At the moment, the deal is to Seoul. It's $3,628 roundtrip from San Francisco and $3,871 from Seattle and Los Angeles. Prices from Korean's Chicago and New York gateways are higher and not quite as good. The fares are valid on weekdays until December 31 if you book your flights by August 31. Information: the Hot Deals page.
Aer Lingus: Low Fares to Dublin Up Front This Fall
There's a new terminal opening in Dublin later this year and that should give Aer Lingus a boost as it tries so reposition its transatlantic service as a starting point for a British and European itinerary. It also means continued notable deals on business-class travel. The current price is just $1,049 each way between New York and Dublin or Shannon. The fare is valid for travel between September 1 and December 15 if you book by July 30. Information: the Aer Lingus Web site.
LAN: We've Got a Secret Route and You Get a Discount
The peculiarities of global aviation regulations and the even stranger nature of how carriers run their route networks sometimes mean strange airlines flying strange routes. So that explains why LAN, the Chile-based airline, flies between New York and Toronto. But since almost no one knows LAN flies between the United States and Canada, the airline needs to offer some discounts to fill the seats. The price: $85 each way with a relatively modest 7-day advance purchase. The fare is available on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Information: the Spectacular chance page.
Air New Zealand: Cold Comfort on Winter Business-Class Fares
It's winter in New Zealand and it's cold: 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit maximum on most days, a lot less on others. The result: Big discounts on off-season business-class fares from Air New Zealand. From Los Angeles or San Francisco, Air New Zealand is offering roundtrip prices as low as $6,598 to Auckland and $100 more for onward coach service to Christchurch, Wellington or Queenstown. The fares also include free stopovers at many of the airline's other South Pacific island destinations. The prices are good for travel until August 30 if you purchase by July 13. Best of all: The fares only require a two-day advance purchase. Information: the Business Premier Special Deal page.
OpenSkies: Fill Our Business-Class Seats, Please…
Just when we thought the summer business-class sales to Europe had run their course (see below), OpenSkies drops this lovely, deeply discounted sale to Paris. From Newark or Washington/Dulles, OpenSkies will charge you just $1,408 roundtrip to fly to Paris/Orly in its BizSeat cabin. That's the all-in price, making it a truly fabulous bargain. Better yet: there are no minimum- or maximum-stay requirements and no advance-purchase restrictions. There's plenty of time to buy seats (until July 24) and you can travel until September 10. Naturally, the price is capacity-controlled, but I saw decent availability. Tickets are non-refundable with a $450 change fee. And you know what I always tell you: Charles Aznavour wrote a song explaining that August in Paris is best, no matter what that other song said about April. Smart fellow, that Aznavour. Good singer, too. Meanwhile, go here to score your seats.
Finnair: Fly Us to India and China. Really. No Kidding.
Okay, everyone who thinks Helsinki when they are planning a trip to India or China, raise your hands. Yeah, I thought so. And it explains why Finnair is offering special fares from New York to Delhi, Shanghai or Beijing via its Helsinki hub. The price: Just $3,199 roundtrip in business class to Delhi and $3,599 roundtrip to Beijing or Shanghai. Although the fares are capacity controlled, there seems to be no other travel restrictions. Information: the Fly in style page.
OTHER LODGING BARGAINS THAT ARE STILL AVAILABLE
Hilton HHonors: First Out of the Box With a Third-Quarter Promotion
Hilton continues to inherit the wind for its massive devaluation of Hilton HHonors at the beginning of the year. Hilton promised that the devaluation would come with a step-up in promotions, but the company's efforts have been rather pedestrian. The latest one from HHonors--double points or miles for each stay--isn't much more interesting, but it does have a benefit: It's the first third-quarter promotion announced by any of the major chains. The offer runs through September 30 and you must register and choose either double HHonors points or double airline miles.
Hilton Garden Inn: $10 a Night in 'Fun Bucks' on Weekends This Summer
As hotel chains struggle to get their nightly rates up and attract customers, the battle of choice this summer is value-added perks. Marriott's brands have been using gift cards (see below). Hilton Garden Inn, on the other hand, is going for its own scrip. If you are an AAA/CAA member and book a weekend AAA/CAA rate, Hilton Garden Inn will give you $10 of "fun bucks" each night. The scrip is good for purchases in the chain's 24-hour "Pavilion" food shops or the on-site restaurants--or even for in-room, pay-per-view movies. The promotion is valid for stays on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights until September 5. By the way, the AAA/CAA rate at Hilton Garden Inn is usually the lowest price available except for the chain's advance-purchase, prepaid promotions Information: the Summer Bucks page.
Courtyard by Marriott: We Got a Weekend Gift Card Offer, Too!
Why doesn't this surprise me? Courtyard by Marriott is giving $20 Visa gift cards for weekend stays this summer. I mean, all of Marriott's other brands are going the gift card route this summer (see below) as a way to maintain its supposed "rate integrity." Now that Courtyard is in, the entire Marriott Family is playing. Courtyard's offer is valid for weekend stays between June 18 and September 6 if you include a Friday or Saturday night stay. To score the a card, however, you must book by July 30 and reserve at least seven days in advance. You can earn a $20 card for each weekend night up to $40 a stay. Use code CYS. Information: the Celebrate Summer page.
Marriott: Gift Cards, That's What We Got
Marriott continues to try to "protect" its posted daily rates by eschewing so-called "naked" discounting and loading up on value-added offers. Just as its limited-service brands have gone the gift-card route this summer (see below), 300 of the chain's Marriott and JW Marriott hotels in the United States and Canada have a card offer. If you stay a weekend and pay with a Visa card, you'll get a $25 Visa gift card. And the deal is better than it seems: The offer is per room per night, which means a two-night weekend stay will get you $50 worth of cards. The promotion is valid on Friday and Saturday nights until September 6 if you book by July 16. A 14-day advance reservation is required and you must use code V12. Information: the Stay the Weekend page.
Marriott: $20 Target Gift Card With Summer Weekend Stays
Marriott has been resolute (if not always successful) in attempting to keep its published nightly room rates high during this serious economic downturn. Its weapon of choice: gift cards rather than so-called "naked" price discounting. The current offer from four Marriott focused-service chains (Fairfield, Residence, SpringHill and TownePlace) involves a $20 Target gift card for summer weekend stays. Qualifying stays must fall in the May 28-September 6 period and include a Friday or Saturday stay. Reservations must be booked by July 16 using code BPY. As always with this kind of offer, a caveat: Check carefully to make sure that the there aren't lower prices available than the rate that includes the gift card. Information: the Summer Gift Card Promotion page.
Taj Hotels: Bring Your Jag for Free
Sometimes goofy promotions have a backstory and this is one of them. The three Taj Hotels in the United States--Taj Boston, The Pierre in New York and Campton Place in San Francisco--will give you free parking with your stay if your car happens to be a Jaguar. Why such a weird and specific offer? The Taj Hotels chain is owned by the Tata Group, the gigantic India-based conglomerate that also recently purchased Jaguar from Ford. Of course, Tata also owns Corus, the company that used to be known as British Steel. So look for a Taj promotion that includes some kind of value-added offer if you show up with a length of Corus rebar. Meanwhile, the free parking for your Jaguar offer is valid through September 6. Information: 866-969-1825
PACKAGE DEALS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Ireland: When JoeSentMe Members Package Travel, We Get a Discount
JoeSentMe member Jon Kiger is organizing a ground package surrounding November's Traditional Music Festival in Ennis, Ireland, and he's offering other JoeSentMe members a $100 discount. The package, from November 11-16, includes four nights at a four-star hotel in Ennis (County Clare); a night in an airport hotel in Dublin; ground transportation between Dublin and Ennis; two dinners and daily breakfast; admission to three nightly concerts at the festival; and a half-day tour of Dublin. Before the JoeSentMe member discount, the bundle costs $1,295 a person based on two people traveling together or $1,495 for single travelers. If you arrive in Shannon rather than Dublin, the price is $125 less. Information: the Irish Music Tour Web site.
Argentina: Good Food, Good Wine, Time to Relax--and Learn Spanish, Too What if I told you that you can rent a studio apartment for a week in Mendoza, the stylish capital of the Argentine wine region? What if they threw in breakfast and lunch during the week, too? What if they included airport transfers? And then added three hours of lessons a day during the week in a program called "Spanish for Grown-Ups." What if the weekends were free for tourism, dining and wine tasting? And what if the price was only $425 a person per week? Too good to be true, you say? If I didn't know the sponsors, I'd agree with you. But I do know them. One is even an award-winning journalist. Both are ex-pat Americans who've lived in Mendoza for years. In other words, this is a nearly perfect opportunity to relax, learn some Spanish and catch up with the wines of Argentina. The $425 price is based on two people in a studio (they are complete with private bath and kitchenette) and only in the month of September. There's a two-week minimum and you're free to make your own flight arrangements. Information: the Spanish for Grown-Ups page. And tell 'em "Joe Sent Me."
FREQUENT TRAVEL PROGRAM PROMOTIONS OF NOTE
American Express: Triple Membership Rewards Points for Airline Purchases
Buying an airline ticket? American Express wants you to use your Amex card and it is offering a card-based version of "triple miles." If you register and your Amex card gives you Membership Rewards points, you'll get three times the points for airline purchases until September 30. You can earn as many as 15,000 bonus points during the promotion. You must register using code 17677001. Information: the Bonus Points page.
Starwood Preferred Guest: Three Stays Earn You a Free Weekend Night
Starwood's Preferred Guest program whiffed on the traditional second-quarter frequent stay promotions, but it unleashed a free-stay deal that straddles the rest of the spring and early summer. In a nutshell, stay three times at any on of the chain's hotels and you'll earn a free night. The qualifying period is between now and July 31 and the free stays can be earned for Friday-, Saturday- or Sunday-night stays until December 19. There's no limit to the number of free weekend nights you can earn. And there is one caveat: Category 7 hotels and some others in the Starwood system are not available for free stays. You need to register here to play.
Marriott Rewards: Just Like the Starwood Weekend Deal, Only Different
In the world of frequent guest programs you never know if great minds think alike or they just love ripping each other off and beating each other to the promotional punch. Just hours after Starwood Preferred Guest unleashed its free-weekend-night deal (see above), Marriott Rewards announced a similar deal. Its promotion requires three stays before August 31 and will reward you with a free weekend stay through December 31. Marriott will only give you a total of two free weekend nights, however, and only at Category 1-4 hotels. On the other hand, Marriott adds Hertz discount coupons, which might have some value for you. Register here to participate.
Priority Club: Simple Bonus (Points or Dollars), Really Complicated Rules
Priority Club Rewards, the frequent stay program for InterContinental, Holiday Inn and several other brands, has an interesting new promotion called Hit It Big. You can earn double points or $500 in gift cards for stays until August 31. Simple, right? You can choose either the extra points or the gift cards that are valid at 300 retailers. It's the rules that are complicated. Some hotels allow you to accrue the bonus with the first stay, others with the second and some of the awards are only available based on weekend stays. It's really complicated and I counted almost 900 words that explained how and when and why you earn. I leave it to you to figure out if you play in Priority Club. All I know is that you have to register here and choose either the bonus points or gift vouchers.
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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.