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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR NOVEMBER 15-29, 2012
OpenSkies: Paris When It Doesn't Sizzle at a Very Hot Fare
It's okay if you've lost track of OpenSkies, the boutique British Airways carrier that has gone through a half-dozen remakes since its 2008 launch. These days, it runs as a three-class carrier from Newark and New York/Kennedy to Paris/Orly. And it has just served up its lowest price for premium-class service in several years: just $1,227 roundtrip. That's for travel in the newish Prem Plus class, which offers 2x2 seating with 47 inches of legroom on a Boeing 757. The fare is only available on the EWR-ORY run, but the travel window is fairly wide: until December 16 and from January 8 to March 20. There are some modest restrictions on the non-refundable fare: a 7-day advance purchase, no Friday or Saturday travel and a Saturday-night stay. Still, for around $1,200 all-in roundtrip, it's cheaper than some meals and a few bottles of wine at a few three-star Michelin joints in the City of Light. Information: the Best Deals page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
Chase: Earn 50,000 Points With a Much Lower Minimum Spend
Chase doesn't talk enough about Ultimate Rewards and even less about UR's best benefit: 1-to-1 transfers of points to the frequency programs of United and Southwest airlines and Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental hotels. The best way to rack up a lot of Ultimate Rewards points fast? Take the Chase Ink Bold, a charge card available in either Visa or Mastercard flavors. There's no annual fee for the first year and you'll earn 50,000 points after spending just $5,000 during the first three months. That's half the minimum-spend requirement in effect just a few weeks ago. The card's other cool benefits: no foreign-exchange fees, double points for spending at hotels and gasoline stations and five times the points on spending at office-supply stores, cellular or landline bills, Internet fees and cable-TV service. By the way, if you don't like charge cards, Chase offers the same deal on the Ink Plus credit card. Information: the Earn 50,000 bonus points page.

Accor: Up to 50 Percent Off Rooms This Winter
Accor, the French lodging chain where the number of properties and the brands it run are always in flux, is running another of its deep-discount rate sales. At around 2,000 of its properties worldwide, Accor will knock 40 percent off the normal walk-up rate for stays between mid-December and late March. The discount jumps to 50 percent if you are a member of the chain's Le Club frequent-guest programs. There are the usual caveats you'd expect on these big winter sales: pre-payment is required, not all days are available and some properties end the discount offer in mid-February. But the big restriction is the booking window: You've got to lock in stays at participating properties by November 22. Information: the Hotel Super Sale page.

Red Lion: Two Stays Before Late January Earn a Free Night
The Red Lion chain was once a respected Western regional hotel group, then it was a subsidiary of Hilton and now it's a struggling lodging operation in search of profit, a buyer, business-travel customers and an identity. Given the flux, it's no surprise that the chain is running a late fall/early winter deal that essentially gives you a free night after two paid stays. Technically, the offer is a 5,000-point bonus in the Red Lion R&R Club program for every stay until January 31. Since 10,000 points earns you a free room night at any Red Lion, however, that's the equivalent of a free night after every two stays. To score the deal, you must use promotion code MYRATE01. A one-day minimum advance booking restriction applies. (By the way, the deal's promo page says that it has been available since September 15, but Red Lion didn't actually put it into its booking system until this week. And because you couldn't have known about the MYRATE01 code before this week, no previous stays would qualify.) Information: the Fall into Savings page.

HOTEL FREQUENT-GUEST PROMOTIONS TO CONSIDER
Hilton HHonors: A Weak Fourth-Quarter Points Promo With Lots of Limitations
No hotel chain's fourth-quarter points promotion is particularly noteworthy this year and Hilton HHonors, late to the game, is no exception. It is offering 1,000 bonus points per night, but not for Tuesday or Wednesday night stays. The earnings period is brief (November 1 to December 31). Worst of all, there is a long, long list of Hilton Family properties that aren't playing. (See the opt-out hotels here.) Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the 1,000 Reasons page.

Club Carlson: Up to 5,000 Bonus Points a Night This Fall
Club Carlson isn't everyone's kind of frequent guest program--after all, Radisson, Country Inn and Park Inn/Plaza properties aren't often top of mind--but it does run good promos. Its fall offer is tiered so that you earn more points as you add stays. During the promotion period that runs until December 31, you'll receive 2,000 bonus points a night when you stay a total of one to five nights. Stay six to nine nights and you earn 4,000 points per night. It's 6,000 points a night when you stay more than 10 nights. There is a bit of a downside, though. Bonus points don't post immediately because the amount depends on the total nights stayed, so it takes until mid-January to get your payoff. You can earn as many as 120,000 points during the promotion. Registration is required. Information: the Stay more nights page.

Country Inns & Suites: Stay Two Consecutive Weekday Nights, Get a Freebie
Carlson's smallish, mid-priced Country Inns and Suites chain is an aggressive promoter and this fall's offer is pretty good: Stay two of more consecutive weekday nights between October 1 and November 29 and you'll earn a free one-night stay that can be claimed from December 15 to February 15. For the purposes of the promotion, a weeknight is Sunday through Thursday evening. Qualifying stays must be booked at least three days in advance. Information: the Free Night Fall Offer page.

Starwood Preferred Guest: Better by the Night, Even Better Via the App
Starwood's fourth-quarter points promotion is fairly drab: double Starpoints points for stays of one or two nights or triple points on longer stays. But you'll do better if you book at SPG.com (250 more bonus points) and even better if you use the SPG app for iPhone (500 more bonus points). But there's a long list of hotels that aren't playing in this quarter's promotion, including many in Germany and China, four key properties in Manhattan and more than half a dozen in Chicago. The earnings period runs October 1 to December 20 when you register by November 30. Information: the Better by the Night at its best page.

Choice Hotels: A Free Night After Two Stays, Sorta, Kinda...
It's hard enough to tell Choice Hotels brands from Wyndham Hotels brands, but if you can figure out which ones are which, you can then move on to Choice's latest promotion. Complete two stays before November 14 and you'll earn between 5,000 and 8,000 Choice Privileges points. That kinda, sorta is worth a free night--at least at 1,500 of the chain's properties. (Again, if you can figure out which properties are which.) Some of the hotels require a minimum two-night stay for the bonus points. Elite members of the program get a whole 100 bonus points for each stay during the promotional period. Assuming, of course, you haven't already chosen to stop reading this. Advance registration is required. Information: the Take Two page.

THE YEAR-END HOLIDAY EUROPE PREMIUM-CLASS DEALS
Europe: A Premium-Class Christmas Is Getting Much Pricier
As airlines cut back transatlantic winter flights, it's getting harder and harder to find deeply discounted business-class tickets for a Christmas and New Year's jaunt. In fact, if you can find them at all, the going rate is now well above $2,500 roundtrip. Example one: Virgin Atlantic, where holiday travel in business class starts at $2,548 to London/Heathrow from New York/Kennedy or Newark. It's around $200 more roundtrip from Boston, $400 more from Washington/Dulles and above three grand from San Francisco or Los Angeles. The travel period is December 17-January 4 eastbound and December 25-January 8 for a return. Prices are even higher if your goal is Italy. Alitalia is charging $2,505 roundtrip from Kennedy to Milan and nearly $300 more to Rome. Venice and Verona are a comparative bargain at around $2,530 from New York. Tickets must be purchased by December 7 from either carrier. Information: the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class page or the Alitalia Magnifica Class page.

Lufthansa: A First-Class Sale for Holiday Travel to Europe
Business-class fare sales for Christmas/New Year's travel are standard now (see below), although they aren't quite as alluring as they used to be. Now Lufthansa is adding a new wrinkle: a sale on first-class travel for end-of-the-year jaunts. Fares aren't can't-afford-not-to-fly cheap, of course, but they do represent big discounts off the front-of-the-bus comfort and perks we rarely experience. Besides, Lufthansa offers the amazing First Class Terminal at its Frankfurt hub that should be experienced as least once in your business-travel life. Prices start at $4,409 roundtrip (from New York/JFK to London) and run to about $8,000 from West Coast gateways. Departures to Europe are permitted December 17 to January 4. Returns are permitted between December 25 and January 8. A Saturday-night stay is required. Tickets must be bought by December 7 with a 28-day advance purchase. Information: The Fly First Class page.

Aer Lingus: Thanksgiving and Christmas On Sale Up Front From New York
Aer Lingus has posted its business-class sale for Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, but you will have to fly from New York/Kennedy if you want to score. The price is $2,040 roundtrip to either Dublin or Shannon. If you're headed to Dublin, you can travel for Thanksgiving (November 18-26) or Christmas/New Year (December 17 to January 1). If you're looking to go to Shannon and West Ireland, the travel dates are 11/18-26 and December 17-31. Tickets must be purchased by November 16. There's a three-day minimum stay. Information: the Aer Lingus Business Class Sale page.

SAS: Thanksgiving and Christmas Up North, Real Cheap Up Front
Airlines are playing hide-and-seek with their annual Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year business-class sales to Europe. So it's notable that we have to rely on SAS to tell us what the carriers (especially in the Star Alliance) are actually offering on some routes. For the Thanksgiving travel period (November 18-28), roundtrip business-class fares start around $2,052 from Newark, Chicago or Washington/Dulles. Fares are about $150 roundtrip more for the end-of-the-year period (December 17-January 8). Expect the rest of the Star Alliance (as well as SkyTeam and Oneworld carriers) to match on routings for Nordic travel. A perk that SAS can offer: even cheaper fares on its Economy Extra upgraded coach cabin. Prices start at $1,423 roundtrip for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year. Restrictions are modest: 3-day stay for Economy Extra and Saturday-stay for business class. Purchase your tickets by November 13. Information: the Holiday Fares page.

NOTABLE GROUND-TRANSPORT DEALS
Hertz: Up to 3,400 Delta SkyMiles Per Rental at Locations Worldwide
It takes a heap of promoting to make car rentals a rich source of airline miles these days. This Hertz offer might not exactly qualify, but it's much better than average. According to the promotion--available on rentals in North America, parts of Europe and the rest of the world--a one-day rental will net you a total of 600 SkyMiles. Medallion SkyMiles flyers will get a total of 700 miles for a one-day rental. The promo adds more bonuses for each additional day and tops out at 2,700 miles for a seven-day rental and 3,400 miles for a seven-day rental if you are a Medallion member. To qualify for the bonuses, you must reserve rentals by November 30 and pick up your car by January 31. Information: the Earn 3,400 miles or more page.

Hertz: A Small Rate for Really Small Cars for Long Weekends
Enterprise's $9.99-a-day weekend rate (see below) must have caught the attention of Hertz because Big Yellow is responding with a deal of its own. The Hertz offer is less flexible on cars--just economy or subcompact--and at a higher rate ($14.99 a day) than Enterprise. But it's more flexible on time: The Hertz offer is available starting as early as noon on Thursday and can be returned as late as Monday. Thursday and Friday rentals require a Friday-night keep, but you can also return it on Saturday or Sunday, something you can't do with Enterprise. So it's your call on which is the better rate. The Hertz deal is not available in Metropolitan New York or in Hawaii, but valid elsewhere in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Rentals at the $14.99 price are available until January 31. Information: the Hertz Weekender Special page.

Enterprise: $9.99 Weekend Special Rentals Are Back Until May
The strange operating hours of Enterprise Rent-a-Car--its "neighborhood" branches are closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday--makes for great tactical rental opportunities. The chain offers rentals as low as $9.99 per day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday when you return the rental by Monday morning. (In practice, most locations have a drop box so you can return the car sooner.) Perhaps most amazing is that there always seem to be plenty of "subcompact" and "economy" cars available at the super-cheap rate. Want a larger vehicle?: "Intermediates" go for $14.99, "standards" for $17.99 and "full-size" cars for $19.99. The deal includes 100 miles per day, but does not include taxes. Incredibly, Enterprise's fine print warns that "for certain locations, rates of less than $9.99 may be available." The promotion is valid on weekend rentals from September 7 to May 22. Information: the Weekend Special page.

Hertz: Triple Gold Plus Rewards Points for the Fall
If you're collecting Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points--and we know there must be one of you--this will be of interest: triple points on rentals in the United States and Canada and many rentals in Europe, Brazil and Australia and New Zealand. You can earn points until December 15 for any qualifying rental reserved after you register here.

National Car Rental: The Mighty One Two Free Promotion Is Back Again
With the notable exception of Hyatt's moribund Faster Free Nights, National's One Two Free promotion is simply the richest thing on the planet for business travelers. In a nutshell, you get a free rental day after every pair of two-day midsize or larger rentals in the United States. The promotion period this time runs through January 31. About the only caveats are: You must be a member of National's Emerald Club and you must elect to receive National's promotional E-mail. There isn't even a cap on the number of free days you can earn and you can use the freebies between September 10 and June 16. You must register for the promotion.

GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO PONDER
US Airways: Buy a Cheap Business-Class Award for About $1,900
US Airways' Dividend Miles program, which offers some terrific restricted business-class awards--90,000 miles to North Asia, 100,000 miles to Europe--is selling miles again. That means one more shot at buying a cheap award. This month's offer is a 100 percent bonus for each mile you purchase at 3.5 cents each. If you buy the maximum of 50,000 miles, you'll receive 50,000 bonus miles. That means you get 100,000 miles for $1,750 plus about $130 in taxes. Bottom line: a business-class award to Asia or Europe for an effective price of less than $1,900 roundtrip. The promo expires November 30. Information: the Buy Miles page.

Finnair: Europe, Really Cheap This Fall and Winter, Via Helsinki
Financially stressed Finnair also gets the very short end of the Oneworld Alliance's stick. So it's no surprise that it has to constantly promote the dickens out of its hub at Helsinki's Vantaa Airport and the flights that connect it to New York/Kennedy, Finnair's primary U.S. gateway. This time the promotion is incredibly cheap fares in coach starting at $699 roundtrip. The fare isn't just good from New York to Helsinki, either. The price includes connecting flights onward to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia and the Baltic capitals of Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn. For just a few bucks more, you can fly from New York to Helsinki and then to Italy (Rome or Milan) or Eastern Europe (Prague or Budapest). For around $800 roundtrip, you can hit Copenhagen, Stockholm, Gothenburg or Oslo. The minimum stay is modest (three days or a Saturday-night) and, depending on destination, you can travel until the end of the year or until March 31. The one constant: You must include Flights AY005 and AY006 between Kennedy and Vantaa in your itinerary. Information: the Finnair Offers page.

Alaska Airlines: Blast From the Frequent Flyer Program Past With Phone Miles
Once upon a time (uh-oh!), business travelers racked up big frequent flyer bonuses by aligning their airline with a long-distance phone company. Then we used to get miles when we lined up our cellphone provider and airline. At least for the time being, one airline (Alaska) and one mobile provider (T-Mobile, which announced a merger with MetroPCS this week) are bringing the good old days back. You'll earn 15,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles if you register and grab a T-Mobile line of service and a new smartphone. Even with the MetroPCS buy, T-Mobile is a distant fourth in the United States, but it's substantially cheaper than the other major players and works well overseas. The promotion runs until March 31. Information: the Switch to T-Mobile page.

British Airways: 10 Percent Off for Using the Visa Card You Took for the Bonus
Lots of business travelers took a British Airways Visa when Chase offered those incredible 100,000-point acquisition bonuses in recent years. Since most of us took the card out of our wallet the moment we hit the minimum-spend requirement for the bonus, BA and Chase now have an incentive to rescue it from wherever credit cards go to die. Purchase a ticket on BA for travel before December 31 and charge it to your BA Visa and you'll receive 10 percent off. The discount applies to everything: taxes, fees and even the infuriating BA fuel surcharges. Better yet, the discount is valid to any BA destination and you can apply the discount to as many as eight people flying together. Best of all, you can fly in any class. Pretty sweet for a card you probably forgot you had. There is one caveat: You must book at this special page.

Malaysia Airlines: Big Deal Up Front on the 'Secret' LAX-Tokyo Nonstop
The Japanese market has rebounded nicely since last year's earthquake, but you can still find bargains up front. Submitted for your approval: Malaysia Airlines' $3,185 roundtrip price in business class from Los Angeles to Narita Airport in Tokyo. The travel window at that price supposedly stays open until December 30, 2013, but you know there'll be plenty of blackouts along the way. Another perk: No minimum stay is required. The sale fare on this "secret route"--that's travel babble for a route between two countries flown by an airline from a third country--is about $1,800 less than Malaysia Air usually charges during its promotions and about $3,000 below the "normal" price. The rebooking or cancellation fee ($100) is surprisingly reasonable, too. If you can handle a transpacific flight in coach, Malaysia's LAX-NRT fare is only $821 roundtrip. Information: The Deals of the Day page.

Oneworld Alliance: Gigantic Bonuses on Some Transatlantic Flights This Fall
The Four Musketeers of the Oneworld Alliance--American Airlines, British Airways, BA's OpenSkies subsidiary and Iberia--have teamed up for another fall and early winter frequent flyer bonanza if you're willing to pay the right fares on transatlantic flights. The basic structure is this: Earn 15,000 miles or points for the first roundtrip, 35,000 for the second and 50,000 for the third and all subsequent roundtrips completed before January 31. You can choose either American AAdvantage miles or British Airways Avios points. The catch? You must fly at what are essentially the full-fare, walk-up coach or first-class fares or the higher-priced business-class fares. That pretty much matches last year's promotion, but there is an added perk: Flights booked in W class--which is BA's World Traveler Plus and OpenSkies' Prem Plus premium-economy cabins--also qualify and that might be the financial sweet spot of this offer. Flights on all four carriers qualify when you book the appropriate fare category and register in advance. Information: the American Airlines The More You Fly page or the British Airways Unlimited bonus Avios page.

DISCOUNTS TO CUT YOUR HOTEL COSTS
Ritz-Carlton: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ... Coca-Cola
The trajectory of what counts as a "Christmas tradition" sure is interesting. The Christmas tree, Christmas lights and the Advent Calendar were invented by Germans. Santa Claus, or something like him, may go back to the Byzantines. Rudolph and his red nose is a pre-war creation brought to us by Montgomery Ward. The movie Die Hard brought us the Christmas Eve shoot-em-up. Carl Barks, the legendary Donald Duck impresario, probably inserted teddy bears into Christmas mythology. And if Coca-Coca is ever successfully insinuated into the holiday, credit the Ritz-Carlton. Specifically the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, the downtown five-star hotel that is starved for guests during the Thanksgiving-to-New Year period. Its solution? For several years running, a Holiday Dreams bundle. This year's package includes: overnight accommodations; American breakfast for two; ice skating and skate rentals; valet parking; and--ta-dah!--a pair of tickets to the World of Coca-Cola, one of those pay-to-visit corporate PR vehicles masquerading as a museum and tourist attraction. All this, and a chance to skew the Christmas season, can be yours for $229 a night between November 19 and January 27. Information: the Holiday Dreams package.

W Hotels: Stay Two Days, Get the Third Free
The W Division of Starwood is trying to juice up traffic at some of its hotels and resorts. The lure: a third night free with two paid nights at several dozen of its properties. The deal is good for Thursday-Saturday stays at W Hotels and anytime at the participating W Resorts. The offer is valid until December 31. As usual with these types of offers, check to make sure a fully paid three-night stay isn't actually cheaper than the promotional rate. And please note that the promotional rate requires full payment at the time of reservation. Information: the One Plus One Equals Three page.

Swire Hotels: A Hong Kong Transplant in Beijing With A Cool Opening Rate
Swire, which owns Cathay Pacific Airways, is also building several hotel chains, including East, which premiered to raves in Hong Kong a few years back. Now East makes its way to Beijing. The 369-room East Beijing has opened in the Chaoyang District, in the Jiangtai business area just outside the city's Fourth Ring Road. The opening rate of $126 a night plus 15 percent service charge is extremely attractive for this type of property, which offers several restaurants, lounges and bars, a fitness center and indoor and outdoor pools. The rate even includes free high-speed Internet. The price is valid until December 31. Information: the East Beijing Special Offers page.

Conrad Hotels: Free Upgrade or Breakfast and 5,000 Points for Hilton Elites
The Conrad Hotels division of Hilton has 20 outposts around the world and the chain is hoping to up its visibility with both the general public and Hilton HHonors members. The result: a so-called Being Yourself promotion that offers breakfast for two or a room upgrade to the hoi polloi and 5,000 HHonors points to the chain's Gold and Diamond elites. The rate (code PBBEY1) doesn't appear to be the cheapest available on most days at most properties, so you must weigh the breakfast or upgrade and bonus points against the upcharge. Information: the Exclusive Offers page.

Hilton HHonors: The Price of Its Best Elite Level Is Now Just $95 a Year
Hilton continues to make a hash of its HHonors program by doing hidden devaluations and making unannounced changes to its terms and conditions. Hilton's latest assault has been on its top, or Diamond Level, HHonors guests. Diamonds are no longer offered suite upgrades and can no longer get a "diamond force," jargon for Hilton clearing award rooms when the freebie inventory is officially unavailable. That makes the Diamond Level hardly better than HHonors Gold, which normally requires 16 stays or 36 nights a year. Gold offers free Internet, room upgrades and continental breakfast. It's arguably Hilton's only decent elite level now. And guess what: You don't even have to stay at Hilton even once to achieve its best HHonors level. A new credit card from Citibank offers Gold Level HHonors status and the annual fee is just $95 a year. So here's the best lodging strategy ever: Take the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa, pay the $95 annual fee, get Gold Level--and then stay at Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt or other hotels so you can earn elite status there, too. Book a Hilton Family property only when there are no other options. You'll still get Gold Level treatment and all of your other paid stays will be earning elite status elsewhere. Information: the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card 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.