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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR MAY 3-MAY 17, 2012
Cathay Pacific: A Summer Business-Class Sale to Hong Kong
Had enough of all those summer business-class sales to Europe? Scared of London during the Olympics? Don't believe Aznavour when he sings that August in Paris is better than April? Afraid of Athens or Madrid, where there are regular uprisings against the austerity measures? Finally believe me about avoiding August in Rome, when even the Romans flee? Good, then you're ready for this rarity: A summer business-class sale to Hong Kong. Even rarer? The sale is from Cathay Pacific, which doesn't have a habit of discounting. The price is decent, too: as little as $4,727 roundtrip including all taxes and fees. The fare is good from either Chicago or New York/Kennedy. The travel window runs from June 1 to August 31 if you buy tickets by May 31. There is a 30-day advance purchase requirement, but no minimum stay. The fare seems bookable mostly on midweek flights, with weekend travel a few hundred dollars more. At least right now, availability on Cathay's nonstops is good, too. Information: The Cathay Business Class Fare Sale page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
Starwood Preferred Guest: When 'Nice Choice' Becomes Crazy Convolution
Starwood Preferred Guest has a new promotion called Nice Choice. But there is a point where choice becomes convolution and Starwood probably has reached it here. First, you have to choose from three earnings periods--90-day chunks from May 1 to September 30. Then you have to choose from among four earnings styles: SPG points, free nights, merchandise credits or elite-status credits. Finally, you have to choose your benefit: everything from 500 points a night at Sheraton properties to free weekend nights. I wish I could help you figure out what to choose, but it really does matter when you're traveling this summer, whether you prefer point or free nights or if you need extra elite-status qualification. Besides, it all made my head hurt. There is a bit of good news: All Starwood properties are playing in this one. No matter what you're planning on doing, you must register by June 30. Oh, by the way, one more annoying thing: You can't even see your options until you enter your SPG membership number. Information: the Go Ahead, Be Choosy page.

Hyatt Gold Passport: Earn Up to 24,500 Airline Credits Instead of Points
Hyatt Gold Passport's summertime promotion suggests that you might want airline credits instead of Gold Passport points. If you do, then you can choose one of a baker's dozen of U.S. and international carriers on which to earn upwards of 24,500 miles, points or kilometers. Hyatt's general rules work like this: For the second and third stays between May 1 and August 31, you'll earn four times the standard amount of airline credits that Hyatt offers. On stays four through eleven, you'll earn five times the normal amount of airline credits. You can only choose one airline to earn with during the promotion. You must register your choice of carrier in advance and give your frequent flyer number at each check-in. Among the participating airlines are American, Delta, Southwest and United as well as British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa. More information and the registration process are at the Make Your Next Stay 5X More Rewarding page.

Marriott Rewards: Our Summer Promotion, Private and Otherwise
Marriott Rewards continues to play peek-a-boo with its rewards promotions. Its summer deal, prosaically named Summer Bonus, publicly offers a free night after every second stay between June 1 and August 31. But as anyone who plays the Marriott Rewards program knows, their metaphorical mileage is sure to differ. Marriott targets and tailors its promotions and you really don't know what you're being offered until you check your account page. Some travelers are offered better or worse free room offers, others are induced with points. The public offer will allow you to earn up to three free nights at Category 1-4 hotels during the promotional period. You must register by June 30 to play. The free nights are valid for a year after you earn them. Information: the Imagine More page.

Maui: There's a Small Hotel With a Yoga Class
Rodgers and Hart did not write a suave song about a small hotel with daily yoga classes, meditation, ocean views and organic breakfasts. But the newly opened Lumeria Maui is kind of what they were talking about in their 1935 tune. The six-acre property, carved from an historic estate, is located on Maui's North Shore near the cute town of Paia. The 24 guestrooms and suites are located inside renovated buildings that once were part of the Baldwin Sugar Plantation. And while the property's opening rate is $299 a night (including breakfast, yoga and daily meditation), there's a 30 percent discount on many summer days. That brings you to about $210 a night, not too shabby by Maui standards. Information: the Lumeria Maui Web site. Normally, I'd say tell 'em Joe sent me, but the song was actually in the movie Pal Joey. So tell 'em Sinatra sent ya.

IT'S SUMMER BUSINESS-CLASS EUROPE SALE TIME AGAIN
The annual summer business-class sales to Europe are now in full swing. We have all of the details, restrictions, sample prices and the appropriate links. Click here for deals from Aer Lingus to Virgin Atlantic.

AIRLINE BARGAINS THAT MERIT YOUR ATTENTION
LAN: A Weird Business-Class Latin Sale is Better Than None at All
Business-class sales to Latin America come around so rarely that attention must be paid when LAN, one of the biggest players South of the Border, posts specials. Even when the pricing is weird, the restrictions odd and the Web site running at the speed of molasses. Among the current all-inclusive sale fares: $799 roundtrip from Miami to Guayaquil; $1,561 from New York/JFK to Quito; and $2,199 from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Lima. Most of the sale fares are good for midweek travel until mid-December, but tickets must be purchased by May 14. Pay attention to the fine print of each offer because details differ wildly. Information: the Fly Business Premium page.

Air Tahiti Nui: Kids Fly Free. Adults Have to Pay.
When I was growing up in New York back in the day, a vacation was the 180-mile trip to Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains. Or, if we were lucky, a quickie road trip to Washington. But that is clearly walking-five-miles-in-the-snow thinking thanks to the latest promotion from Air Tahiti Nui. It'll fly two kids free from Los Angeles to Tahiti when two adults travel with them. The price: as low as $1,631 roundtrip for each adult in the low season (May, November and early December). The promotion is valid for flights at a slightly higher price at other times. Information: the Tahiti Family Special page.

Southwest: 2,000 Bonus Rapid Rewards Points for Business Select Fares
Southwest Airlines has been targeting business travelers for years now, but this the most direct appeal yet. The airline will give you 2,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points whenever you purchase a one-way Business Select fare and travel before May 29. Buy a roundtrip Business Select fare and you'll receive a total of 4,000 bonus points. The bonuses are atop the standard Rapid Rewards credits you'd receive for your fare. Registration is required, which you can accomplish here.

American Airlines: Business-Class Deals Throughout Latin America
We finally know what motivates the legacy carriers to offer substantial discounts in business class: bankruptcy. For years a laggard in the discount game, especially up front, bankrupt American Airlines is suddenly alive with deals. Last week, it was Asia. This week, Latin America. In fact, there are two sales running concurrently, one specific to Colombia and Ecuador and the other for Central America. (An aside: American calls the latter sale "Central America and Panama." I dunno where AA learned geography, but isn't Panama part of Central America?) The Colombia/Ecuador sale is for travel by December 8 if you purchase seats by May 9. Prices include $480 each way from Raleigh/Durham to Bogota; $622 from New York/JFK to Quito; and $418 from Miami to Medellin. The Central America sale requires travel to begin by June 9 and returns to be complete by June 15. Prices include Houston-Managua for $532 each way; Dallas/Fort Worth to San Jose, Costa Rica, for $504; and $555 for Boston to Belize City. Click here for the Central America sale and here for details on the Colombia and Ecuador sale.

British Airways: Age (or at Least an AARP Card) Has Its Privileges
Discounts for AARP members are fairly standard in the travel industry--at least on the ground. But AARP has also swung a deal with British Airways. The discount isn't an opaque "percent off" or "special price" promotion. It's a simple dollars-off deal on any fare you can find. As an AARP member, you'll receive $400 roundtrip off any first or business-class ticket. World Traveler Plus flyers receive $150 off roundtrips to Britain or $200 off a connecting ticket beyond London. There's even a deal for coach flyers: $75 roundtrip to Britain and $100 on connecting flights to Europe or beyond. Discounts are valid for travel until March 31, 2013, if you book by October 31. Information: the Save page.

HOTEL FREQUENT-GUEST PROMOTIONS TO CONSIDER
Hyatt/Chase: Elite Status and a Free Hyatt Credit Card for a Year
The Hyatt Visa Card from Chase may not be the richest credit card on the market now, but it is a compelling acquisition: You receive two free nights after your first purchase, three points per dollar charged at Hyatt and instant Platinum Level status in the Gold Passport program. (Yeah, I know, platinum status in a gold program...) The Hyatt Card is also one of the first with the "smart chip" technology so popular overseas. It doesn't charge foreign exchange fees, either. All in all, a good deal. But it's even better now that Chase is giving you a $75 statement credit when you take the card and that effectively offsets the card's $75 annual fee in the first year. Information: the Two Award Nights page.

Wyndham Rewards: Double Points and a Night at the Movies
Wyndham Rewards, the frequency program of Wyndham, Wingate, Baymont and a passel of economy brands, has a second-quarter promotion with a twist. Each stay will earn double points and two stays will also earn you a pair of movie tickets. The promotion is pointing you in the direction of the Avengers flick that opens next month, but the tickets are actually valid for any film showing in the participating theaters. The promotion period runs until July 8 and registration is required. Information: the Stay 2 Get 3 page.

Hilton HHonors: A Double-Points Promotion With Lots of Hotel Opt-Outs
Hilton HHonors has been devaluated so dramatically and so surreptitiously lately that I'm not sure any promotion has any real value. But if you still collect HHonors points, here's the second-quarter deal: double points or double miles if you're collecting airline miles on stays. The chain also continues to permit a massive amount of "opt-outs," which is jargon for hotels in the system that won't award double points or miles no matter what the chain is doing. The deal, which runs April 1 to June 30, has more than 325 opt-outs--at least 100 more than last year. Of course, registration in required.

Sheraton: 1,000 Bonus SPG Points on Club Level Stays
Sheraton continues to insist that it has upgraded its Club Level rooms, lounges, products and services to the tune of $100 million. Sharp-eyed guests have been hard-pressed to find much difference, but there are, at least, more Sheratons with more Club Levels in more cities worldwide. To induce visitors to spring for the upgraded accommodations (which come with lounge access, continental breakfast and afternoon snacks), Sheraton is now offering 1,000 bonus Starwood Preferred Guest points for each Club Level stay through May 31. You must use an American Express card to score the bonus, not to mention be prepared for the $75-a-night average premium Club Level rooms command. Be sure to use promotion code CL1 and book the DAILYFS or SICLUB rate. Information: the 1,000 more reasons page.

THE BEST CURRENT HOTEL DEALS AND DISCOUNTS
Hyatt: A Free Night, Free Breakfast and Late Checkout All Year
About 100 Hyatt Hotels have very quietly launched a promotion called Free Time that includes a clutch of nice perks: a free third night after a two-night stay, free breakfast for two each day of your stay and a 2 p.m. checkout. Better yet, the deal is available through the end of the year at the participating U.S., Caribbean and Canadian hotels. (A slightly different offer is available to guests of the other participating Hyatt hotels.) Some other nice bits: You have until November 30 to book and the appropriate rate (coded FRTIME) does not require pre-payment. As far as I can tell, Free Time rates seem to be pricing out about $25 a night higher than the standard tariff at most Hyatt properties. So that means you're paying about $50 for the "free" night and "free" breakfasts. That's probably as close to "free" as you're actually going to get in today's lodging environment. Information: the Free Night Into Free Time page.

Hotels: Best Western and InterContinental Offer $50 Rebates
The Best Western and InterContinental chains are both out with $50 rebate offers, but the terms and conditions are radically different. At Best Western, you'll have to complete three separate stays before June 3. At InterContinental, you'll get your reward if you complete a two-night stay at a participating property by August 2. Best Western will deliver your rebate electronically. At IHG, however, you'll have to complete paperwork and do a mail-in to receive the MasterCard branded rebate card. Naturally, both chains require you to register in advance. Click here for details and terms of the Best Western offer. Click here for the InterContinental terms.

Chase: 60,000 Bonus Points When You Take a Priority Club Card
Chase is a travel affinity card powerhouse, issuing the credit cards for United, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt, British Airways and several other firms. And it frequently pumps up interest in the cards with massive "acquisition bonuses" that make savvy travelers sit up and take notice. (Not to mention apply for the card.) Latest to get the big-bonus treatment: the Priority Club Rewards Select Visa. Chase is currently offering 60,000 points the first time you use the card. That's the equivalent of four free nights in some Holiday Inn and most Holiday Inn Express properties. The card itself also isn't bad on a continuing basis: no foreign-exchange fees; five points on charges at Priority Pass hotels; two points on gas, grocery and dining charges; gold priority status; a 10 percent rebate on points claimed; and no annual fee for the first year. Information: the Immerse yourself 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.