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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR EARLY AUGUST, 2010
OpenSkies: Paris, Cheap Again, But Not Quite as Cheap (or Plentiful)
Full marks to tiny OpenSkies, the British Airways boutique carrier to Paris/Orly. It continues to roll out stunningly good deals for travel in BizSeat class, its plush and spacious cabin with 2x2 seating, business-class legroom and cradle seats that I find every bit as relaxing as seat beds. An earlier promotion offering autumn travel from Newark or Washington/Dulles for just $650 each way and $1,400 all-in roundtrip has expired, but the carrier is back with another offer: $700 each way with taxes and fees of about $115, bringing the total price to about $1,500 roundtrip. The purchase window is wide (until August 24) and the travel period is gigantic: from September 11 through March 31. But there is a catch: There seems to be extremely spotty availability in the fall, although there are plenty of seats around in the first quarter of 2011. Might be a good time to stock up. Information: the Early Fall Sale page.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
Starwood Hotels: Second Night at 40-50 Percent Off, Because It Looks Hot
As hotels struggle with low nightly rates and even lower occupancy rates, the marketing gurus at the major lodging chains continue to churn out promotions to entice added traffic. Starwood's current ploy: 40 percent (and sometimes as much as 50 percent) off on a second-night's stay. Now if you do the math, that's actually 20 percent off each night, which isn't necessarily great when you consider the restrictions: Your two-night stay must include a Thursday, Friday or Saturday arrival at hotels and a Sunday-Wednesday arrival at resorts. In other words, this is an off-peak promo and 20 percent isn't earthshaking. Use promotion code or ZBT or ZB4. The deal is available through December 30. Information: the Better Tomorrows page.
United Airlines: Would You Like a Glass of Wine With That Extra Legroom?
About the only post-bankruptcy success for United Airlines has been the Economy Plus seating, which offers 3-5 extra inches of legroom at the front of the coach cabin. Launched before the bankruptcy, the product kept a disproportionately large number of United flyers loyal as the airline contracted and got even dumber than its various pre-Chapter 11 incarnations. United is making another push to sell Economy Plus seating on a per-flight, a la carte basis and it has another "perk" to offer. If you're buying into Economy Plus (or have the right to it based on Mileage Plus elite status), you'll get a free alcoholic beverage from August 6 to August 16. This is not an earth-shattering deal, of course, but, hey, anything that numbs the pain of flying United is good news. Information: the Economy Plus page.
Southwest Airlines: Go East, Young Discount Carrier
For all of it obvious advantages, Southwest Airlines remains largely a mythical beast for a lot of East Coast travelers. That's a remnant of the decades when Southwest resolutely refused to compete at crowded airports on the Right Coast. But now Southwest is coming east fast and its latest Rapid Rewards promotion is targeted to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington-area flyers. If you register, you'll receive double Rapid Rewards credits for each flight into and out of Philadelphia International, Baltimore/Washington and Washington/Dulles. If you book the carrier's Business Select fares, you'll receive 1.25 extra credits on short-haul flights and triple credit on long-haul service. You must register and book your tickets by August 11, but travel is permitted until September 30.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.