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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR JANUARY 19 TO 31, 2012
Turkish Airlines: How to Give Istanbul as a Valentine's Day Gift
Turkish Airlines has been quietly building its presence in the United States, thanks to some new nonstop flights and its heightened visibility via the Star Alliance. Now comes an intriguing promotion: $599 roundtrip in coach, including all of the taxes, to Istanbul for Valentine's Day. The deal is available for the same price from all of the four nonstop Turkish gateways in the United States: New York/Kennedy, Washington/Dulles, Chicago/O'Hare and Los Angeles. Although the promotion is pinned to Valentine's Day, the travel window is actually the entire month of February. The only restriction besides a $20 service charge is that two people must travel together, which is sort of the point of a Valentine's Day promotion, don't you think? But you have to hurry: Tickets at this price must be purchased by January 23. Information. the Valentine's Day Campaigne page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
Ritz-Carlton: Stay Twice, Get a Free Night. And We Won't Sniff Too Much.
Back in the day when Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons were actually somewhat exclusive, they used to sniff at discounting and promotions. But Ritz-Carlton is part of Marriott now and even has a frequent-guest program. So that means Ritz is discounting and promoting--and not sniffing too much. The current Ritz-Carlton promotion, via the Ritz-Carlton Rewards plan, is fairly simple: Complete two stays at a Ritz property between February 1 and April 15 and you'll receive a free night at one of its Tier 1-3 hotels. (That includes the vast majority of Ritz hotels and resorts, by the way.) A few hotels aren't playing in the promotion--notably Singapore and Montreal--but, otherwise, all you need do is register by March 1. You can earn as many as two free nights during the promotion. Information: the Twice the Experience page.

Priority Club Rewards: Double Points or Double Miles for Three Months
The first-quarter hotel bonus promotions have been lackluster and Priority Club Rewards, the frequency program of the InterContinental chain, won't be breaking away from the pack with its offer. From January 23 to April 30, the chain is offering double Priority Club points or double airline miles for each stay. You have to choose either/or when you register. (You can do that here.) And if you're a regular Priority Club player, you'll recognize this promotion: It was the same one that the chain used last summer. Information: the 2X More page.

FIRST-QUARTER HOTEL POINTS PROMOTIONS TO CONSIDER
Hotels: First Quarter Points Promotions? The Story So Far.
As major hotel groups gear up for the traditionally weak first quarter, details on their regular-as-clockwork quarterly points promotions are beginning to leak out. They are more complicated, and less rich, than those of previous years. That may mean that the chains are expecting improved travel conditions or that they are tone deaf to the signs of weakness in the business-travel community. You get to decide. Meanwhile, here's what we know so far:
    Hilton HHonors, already suffering from its stealth devaluation in the fourth quarter, isn't likely to win too many fans with its first quarter offer: From January 1 to March 31, HHonors members receive 1,000 bonus points per night. A two-night weekend stay (Thursday-Friday or Friday-Saturday) will receive 5,000 bonus points. In contrast, last year's first-quarter promo offered as much as quadruple points. One benefit this year: The bonuses are stackable, so it's possible to receive the 5,000-point weekend bonus and the 1,000-point bonus for each night. On the downside, there's a lengthy list of Hilton properties that won't offer the promotion. Registration is required, of course.
    Marriott Rewards is up to its usual Megabonus game: A public promotion that is superceded by private offers to members based on their travel pattern and elite status. The public offer is a free night in a lower-priced (Category 1-4) Marriott property after two stays between February 1 and April 30. According to travelers, private offers range from 25,000 points for 15 nights of stays to 50,000 points for 25 nights of stays. Registration is required and you should check your Marriott Rewards account for your special offer.
    Starwood Preferred Guest has slated its first quarter Better by the Night offer to run January 9 to April 8. Although you can't register until January 9, here's the offer: Double Starpoints on two-night stays and triple Starpoints for three-night stays. Only 750 of Starwood's more than 1,000 properties are playing, however, and no Starwood hotel in Asia is participating. Here are the other properties that won't honor the promotion.

Club Carlson: Triple Points Per Stay, But a Small Window of Opportunity
Give Club Carlson credit: Its first-quarter promotion of triple points for stays at Radisson, Country Inns, Park Plaza and Park Inn hotels is the richest of all this year's promotions so far. But nothing comes easy in business travel these days, so you'll have to accept that the trade-off for triple points is a truncated window of opportunity. Club Carlson's promotion ends on March 16 and didn't start until January 10. Which means triple points, but only for a two-month "quarter." And don't forget to register to earn the bounty.

Wyndham Rewards: Stay Twice, Get a Free Night (Sorta)
If you're a player in Wyndham Rewards, the frequent guest plan of that strange grab bag of hotels with about a dozen separate brands, you will be interested in this promotion: 6,500 bonus points for each pair of stays you complete by February 1. Wyndham is pitching the deal as two stays equaling a free night, but those 6,500 points will only get you a "tier one" night--and I'm not sure frequent travelers want to stay in the group's tier one hotels. So proceed with appropriate caution. Wyndham also offers 1,000 bonus points when you book through Wyndham's proprietary Web site addresses. Registration is required and not all of Wyndham's properties around the globe are participating. Information: the Gift Me page.

YOU WANT MILES AND POINTS? THEY GOT 'EM...
American AAdvantage: Three Airlines, Big Bonuses, High Fares, Second Chance
Now-bankrupt American Airlines is once again busily promoting its joint venture with IAG, the so-called International Airlines Group that is the parent firm of both British Airways and Iberia. So it is reviving its so-called AAdvantage Boost promotion launched last year. And if you can pay the fares--full economy, business or first--American is offering a lavish transatlantic bonus scheme until March 15. The first transatlantic roundtrip on any of the carriers earns 25,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. The second earns 35,000 miles. The third and all future roundtrips earn 45,000 miles. Better yet: There's no limit to the number of bonuses you can earn before the end of the promotion. The bonus is also available if you fly in BA's premium economy cabin, called World Traveller Plus. The only caveat? You must register and fly on the appropriate fares, which are clearly noted on the promotion's site. Information: the AAdvantage Boost page.

Southwest Airlines: Double Elite Points For All and For Some Even More...
Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards program is out with a double-barreled double-points promotion. All Rapid Rewards members earn double elite-tier points for each flight flown until January 31. In six markets--New York/LaGuardia, Newark, Orlando, Boston, Manchester and Providence--travelers will also earn double points on flights through February 15. You have to register for each promotion separately, however. Do that here for the double-elite miles deal and here if you're flying in those six cities.

American AAdvantage: Double Elite Miles. Everywhere. Until January 31.
Given American's bankruptcy, this shouldn't surprise you. Desperate to hold on to flyers, the airline is offering double elite qualifying miles (EQMs) on any American or American Eagle flight until January 31. That means you'll have a chance to top off or improve your elite status in 2012 for any flights you have left this year and get a month of double EQM credit in January for the 2013 membership year. The only restriction? You must register before you fly. (Do it here.) Better news: Any flights you've already booked do qualify so long as you register before you fly. Best news of all: If you've received a geography-specific double-EQM offer, this systemwide deal is "stackable," which means they both can be used together to bulk up your AAdvantage balance.

Marriott Rewards: 2,000 Miles Per Stay for Four Months
If you're into frequent flyer miles and don't care much about frequent guest points, Marriott Rewards has just the promotion for you: 2,000 bonus miles per stay between January 1 and April 30. You can collect the miles in any of more than two dozen airline programs, including Delta SkyMiles, United MileagePlus and US Airways Dividend Miles. You have to register in advance, of course, and choose miles as your designated earnings preference. The bonus miles kick in with the second stay and you can earn as many as 50,000 miles during the promotion period. Information: the MegaMiles page.

FARE BARGAINS THAT YOU SHOULD CONSIDER
Finnair: Up Front Over the Top of the World Under $3,000 Roundtrip
Even though it's in the Oneworld Alliance, Finnair seems to have fallen off the travel map of many business travelers. So the carrier is attempting to revive its profile at the crucial New York gateway with a steady stream of discount offers. The latest: Deep discounts in business class if you use Finnair's compact and efficient Helsinki hub to connect to Europe. Especially noteworthy are some great fares to Eastern Europe, long a forte of Finnair. For around $2,950 roundtrip, for instance, you can fly business class from Kennedy Airport to Kiev, Ekaterinburg and Prague. There are plenty of other destinations throughout Europe for less than $3,000 roundtrip. The fares require you to use Flights AY006 and AY005 between New York and Helsinki. That makes Finnair's bargains from Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles somewhat less attractive than the price would indicate. There's a 21-day advance purchase and a $20 surcharge for weekend flights. Information: the Connect page.

OpenSkies: The We're-Still-Relevant Business-Class Sale to Paris
OpenSkies has been slowly slouching toward oblivion now that it's down to one route, the Newark to Paris/Orly run. But the British Airways-owned carrier still offers a fine service in the back of its 757s: The BizSeat cabin that boasts 2x2 seating, 52 inches of legroom, good in-flight meals and club access on the ground. And to remind folks that it's still relevant, OpenSkies has revived a popular fare: $749 each way based on a roundtrip purchase. The price requires a Saturday-night stay, but that's not too onerous given the excellent price. You must purchase seats by January 24, but here's an extra perk: The travel window is open until June 15. Not every day in that period offers the $749 rate, of course, but there seems to be plenty of availability. And, you know, February, March, May and early June are at least as good as, and sometimes better than, April in Paris. Information: the Celebrate 2012 page.

OTHER TRAVEL BARGAINS THAT MERIT YOUR ATTENTION
car Avis: Rent Twice, Earn a Free Day. Repeat Until Summer.
Just as National Car Rental is wrapping up its much-loved annual OneTwoFree promotion, which launched in August and ends on January 31, Avis Rent a Car is finally getting around to matching. But Avis, which calls its promotion Free to Get Away, has added a nice fillip: You can earn a free rental day after two rentals until June 30. Of course, there is a cap: You can only earn six free rental days during the long promotion. And don't be thinking about claiming your free days in New York, the nation's costliest rental market. Your paid rentals in New York count in the promotion, but the free days you earn cannot be used at New York's airports or any rental station in the New York Metro area. Other than that, the promotion is straightforward and you'll receive a certificate for a free night after every pair of two-day paid rentals you complete. All you have to do is register, which you can do here.

Asia: Up to 50 Percent Off Starwood Hotels in the First Quarter
Starwood hotels and resorts in Asia aren't participating in the chain's first-quarter points promotion, but they do have an offer on the table: Up to 50 percent off standard rates on stays until March 31. The discount has its drawbacks--reservations must be prepaid and cannot be changed or refunded--but the deals are available at virtually all of the chain's properties in the Asia-Pacific region. One other fillip: Reservations must be booked by January 31. Information: the Red Hot Deals page.

Hilton: The Annual Weekend Sale Offers Less Off and Fewer Bonus Points
For the last few years, Hilton hotels around the world have slashed weekend rates for the entire year--if you book in January and pay when you make your reservation. This year is no exception, although the Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale isn't quite as compelling as in the past. This year, the best deal is 33 percent off going rates (it has been as much as 50 percent off) and a bonus of 1,000 Hilton HHonors points for two-night stays (compared to double points on all stays in the past). Specifically, the deal is 20-33 percent off weekend stays at Hiltons in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It's 25-33 percent off at Hiltons in the Asia Pacific region. And it's 20-25 percent in North and South America. The deal requires a two-night stay, bookings by January 31 and full payment at the time of reservation. Information: the Save Up to 33% page.

Swissotel: A Winter White Sale Like They Used to Have
Hotel groups are now so big and so diverse (and so loaded down with fractious property owners) that major systemwide sales are much harder to come by than in years past. But Swissotel, which is still small, has been able to cobble together a winter "white" sale like the old days. This year's offer: 20 percent off the chain's best available rates for bookings before February 5. A two-day minimum stay is required and reservations are nonrefundable. Information: the Seasonal Saver 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 © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.