Steals & Deals for July 28-Aug. 11, 2016
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POST-POLITICAL: With 100 Days to Go, Plan Your Getaway Now
With the Republican and Democratic conventions out of the way, there's 100 days to go before Election Day. And approximately half of the nation is going to be disappointed in the result. And, believe it or not, the cruise industry is ready for you. If you lean left, The Nation magazine is hosting a liberal cruise between December 9 and December 16. The voyage, on a Holland America ship, departs from Tampa and makes stops in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. Among the liberal lights along for the ride are Katrina vanden Heuvel, Victor Navasky, Dennis Kucinich and John Fugelsang. Prices start at about $1,500 a person depending on your choice of cabins. If you lean right, the National Review has also rounded up a Holland America ship for a conservative cruise between November 13 and November 20. This cruise will depart from Fort Lauderdale and calls at Grand Cayman, the Bahamas and Mexico. Conservative lights along for the ride include Jonah Goldberg, John Podhoretz, Charles C.W. Cooke and Ramesh Ponnuru. Prices start at $1,999 per person.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
MARRIOTT REWARDS: A Huge Acquisition Bonus and Elite Status for $85
Silver Elite status in the Marriott Rewards program isn't fabulous and usually requires 10 nights of stays a year. But the Marriott Rewards credit card from Chase will comp it for you in exchange for its $85 annual fee. There is also a free night in Category 1-5 hotels each year you maintain the card. But now there's another interesting fillip: an 80,000-point bonus if you charge $3,000 in the first three months. The big bonus is good for two free restricted nights at Marriott's best hotels (Category 9) or four restricted free nights in the chain's mid-range (Category 5) properties. Information: the Marriott Rewards EARN 80,000 POINTS page.

BRITISH AIRWAYS: Let's Do That AARP $400 Discount Deal for Another Year
The still-inexplicable British Airways sale late in October was sweetened by the fact that you could stack the AARP discounts atop the already ridiculously low fares. The AARP deal was slated to end on October 31, but much to the surprise of some observers, it's been extended for another year. That means you can score $400 off a first or business class fare, $130 off a premium economy price and $65 off in coach. Those discounts are for roundtrip prices, of course. No one-ways or open jaws need apply. But the discounts also apply to BA's code-shares with American, Iberia, OpenSkies and Finnair. Naturally, you must be an AARP member (go ahead, spring for the minimal annual fee) and you do have to book through the approved AARP portal. As we learned during the October bonanza, however, all of BA's fares are there. This year's deal is scheduled to expire on October 21. Information: the TRIP OF A LIFETIME page.

AVIS: 500 American AAdvantage Miles for Three-Day Rentals
Mileage offers are drying up everywhere else, but there continue to be relative gold mines in the car-rent arena. The latest from Avis is 500 American AAdvantage miles on virtually any rental worldwide. However, you will have to do a three-day rental for those miles, which isn't nearly as generous as the previous 500-mile-per-day offer. Use coupon code #MUAA062 for rentals that begin by August 31. If this promotion sounds familiar, Avis and American have been announcing and extending it for more than a year. Information: the Avis DRIVE FOR MILES page.


EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS
AER LINGUS
Now a part of IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, Aer Lingus has created a spacious and sophisticated transatlantic business class service to Dublin from many North American gateways. It has also built an extensive European network from its Dublin hub and hometown.
The Aer Lingus Offer: Receive a free roundtrip coach ticket to any Aer Lingus destination in Europe when you purchase an Aer Lingus business class seat to Dublin. Travel is permitted until August 31 from any Aer Lingus gateway in the United States or Canada. Stopovers in Dublin are permitted.
How to claim the offer: Surf here for complete details and information.

GROUNDLINK.COM
As the ground-transportation landscape has changed, we have a wide range of new global choices to get us to, from and around airports and cities. I favor Groundlink because it blends the traditional comfort, reliability and professionalism of black-car service with the price benefits and convenience of app-based ride-hail operations.
The Groundlink Offer: Receive 20 percent off rides when you book them using the GroundLink app.
How to claim the offer: Download the GroundLink app from the Apple or Android stores or the GroundLink.com Web site. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride. The 20 percent discount will be applied to your ride price.

COOK TRAVEL
Owned by a journalist and operating for nearly 40 years, Cook Travel specializes in discount international business and first class fares and supplies premium seats at a substantial savings. Cook Travel also offers upgrades from full-fare coach on many international airlines. It also has net fares for substantial savings on last-minute travel.
The Cook Travel Offer: Receive 10% off published fares on SkyTeam international business and first class tickets. Receive 5% off published fares on Star Alliance international business and first class tickets. Complimentary upgrades on most airlines when available to business class from full-fare international economy. Booking fees for international tickets waived.
How to claim the offer: Call 800-435-8776 and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.

SHEFFIELD SPICE & TEA COMPANY
Sheffield has a shop in Las Vegas, where it has won raves for its unique products, offerings, recipes and service. But it has also launched a gorgeous Web site and has been winning customers from around the world. There are literally hundreds of products on offer: a dazzling range of carefully chosen teas, familiar and exotic spices, custom blends and rubs, chilis, oils and vinegars, sugars and accessories. In other words, everything a business traveler with taste needs to eat and drink better.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases.
How to claim the offer: Surf to SheffieldSpices.com and when you reach the shopping cart page, enter this code in the coupon code box: joesentme2016


HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
STARWOOD HOTELS: Big (If Nebulous) Discounts in Hawaii and French Polynesia
If you're interested in a South Seas holiday, Starwood has posted a convoluted, but possibly useful, sale for travel through mid-December. Fourteen properties in Hawaii and French Polynesia offer as much as 40 percent off rates. Starwood Preferred Guest members receive an additional 5 percent discount. As usual, however, the rates come with serious strings: full prepayment at the time of reservation, blackout dates and capacity controls. The sale dates are August 9 through December 20. Prices seem to start at $199 a night. As usual, though, it's smart to check the so-called sale prices against other prevailing rates with less onerous conditions. Guestrooms must be booked by August 19. Information: the PACK FOR PARADISE page.

HYATT GOLD PASSPORT: 10 Percent Back on Award Redemptions This Summer and Fall
Hyatt Gold Passport is effectively lowering the prices of awards until October 31. The deal, claim any award by that date and you'll get 10 percent of your redeemed points deposited back into your Gold Passport account after the stay. You must register for the promotion by August 31. You can book either all-points or Points + Cash awards and get the 10 percent discount. One caveat: Your stay must be completed by October 31. One big restriction: You must also have a Hyatt Chase credit card to get the discount.

LOEWS HOTELS: A Bundle of Goodies to Go With Your Giants Tickets
The San Francisco Giants are back atop the National League's Western Division and, if you've got tickets to a game, the Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel has a nifty bundle for you. The so-called Game Day Getaway includes transportation to AT&T Park, the lovely bayfront home of the Giants. It also includes breakfast for two in the hotel restaurant and a pair of passes to the VIP dining area at the park. You'll also receive a baseball-themed welcome amenity. Fair warning, though: You're on your own for actual game day tickets and the package is only valid until August 31. Information: the GAME DAY GETAWAY page.

PARIS: When It Doesn't Sizzle, Hotel Chains Up the Discounts
Paris has yet to shake off the negative publicity surrounding the recent terrorist attacks and that has led two major U.S. hotel chains to lower their rates. Hyatt Hotels in Paris now offers 20 percent off two-night stays and 30 percent off stays of three nights or more. The deal is available until September 11, but reservations are nonrefundable and cannot be cancelled. Meanwhile, Marriott properties in Paris offer bargains on stays of three nights or more. The discount is 25 percent off four-star properties and 20 percent off five-star hotels. Valid through September 11, the deal includes breakfast for two, no small benefit in Paris, where in-hotel meal prices are astronomically high. Prepayment is due at the time of booking.

RED ROOF INN: Stay Three Times This Summer, Get a Free Night
If you're a fan of Red Roof Inns, one of the few remaining independent chains, you'll be interested in the current 3-for-1 promotion. Three stays before August 31 will earn you 6,000 RediCard points bonus, enough for a free stay. Advance registration is required and you must be a RediCard member, too. Information: the STAY 3 page.

STARWOOD HOTELS: 40 Percent Off (the Second Night) at 'Select Service' Brands
Starwood wants you to know it'll knock 40 percent off the price of a hotel room at its "select service" brands such as Aloft, Element and Four Points. The hitch? The big discount is available only on the second night of a stay. In other words, we're actually talking about a 20 percent discount each night of a two-night stay. That's not bad, of course, but do check to make sure there aren't better rates available when you book. The deal is valid on stays through September 5 when you pay with an American Express card. There are also some daunting restrictions. Information: the 40% OFF page.

BEST WESTERN: Stay Twice in the Summer, Get $50 Off an Autumn Stay
Like far too many hotel chains, Best Western has fallen into a same-old-same-old promotional trap. So if this sounds familiar, you're not crazy. Still, the offer--$50 bucks off a stay--is better than a stick in your eye. To get the kickback, you must stay twice at a Best Western branded property between May 23 and August 28. You'll then get a $50 gift card that can be used against a future stay before November 15. Only one gift card can be earned during the promotion and advance registration is required. Information: the WELCOME TO TODAY'S BEST WESTERN page.

INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS: A 30,000-Point Bonus for Stays in Asia and Africa
InterContinental Hotels doesn't offer much except points in its IHG Reward Clubs program, so, if you're playing, you're always trolling for more points. Pay attention to InterContinental's new Book Direct promotion. You receive 1,000 points for registering, 5,000 points for the first stay, 9,000 points for the second stay and 15,000 points for the third stay. That's a total of 30,000 points. There are some huge caveats, however. For starters, you can only collect the points at IHC hotels in the Middle East, Africa and the Asia/Pacific Region, although lodgings in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are excluded. You must register and complete stays by August 31. And besides having to book direct with IHG (hence the purpose of the promo), you must reserve seven days in advance. If you're capable of hitting all those marks, cash in. Information: BOOK DIRECT page.

HILTON HHONORS: Double the Devalued Points This Summer
Hilton HHonors is offering a straightforward double points promotion through the heart of the spring and summer. You'll earn double base points on every stay anywhere in the world between May 1 and August 31. You can receive credit for as many as two rooms per stay and an unlimited number of points during the promotion period. Advance registration is required.

GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
DELTA SKYMILES: Award 'Sale' Prices Even Though There Are No 'Regular' Prices
Delta's ultimate diss of business travelers is the airline's supposed dissolution of award charts. We know that isn't true, of course. The airline simply hid them from view so it could play bait and switch with award prices. So what to make of Delta's claim that awards for 13,000 routes are "on sale"? How can you have a sale, after all, if there are no set prices as Delta claims? If you can get past that emotional and intellectual disrespect, some of the awards on offer include New York/Kennedy-Savannah for 7,500 miles one-way in coach and 11,500 miles in Comfort+ class; San Francisco, Oakland or Long Beach to Salt Lake City for 5,500/9,500 miles; and Atlanta to Chicago/Midway for 5,000/9,000 miles. Taxes and fees are extra, of course. Awards must be claimed by September 30 for travel between August 23 and February 10. A 21-day advance booking is required and there are plenty of blackout dates. Information: the AWARD TRAVEL DEALS page.

KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insanely Low
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing albeit in coach. How about Atlanta to Marrakech for as little as $713 roundtrip? Or New York to Casablanca for $673 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $865 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $745 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available between August and February and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all itineraries include a stop in Amsterdam, but that shouldn't surprise you. Restrictions are minimal, too, requiring only a 7-day and Sunday-night stay. More interesting? This is a repeat of a fare sale run earlier this year and most prices are lower than they were several months ago. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.

AIR NEW ZEALAND: Notably Reasonable Premium Economy Fares to New Zealand
Air New Zealand operates a top-notch premium economy cabin to its home country with excellent seat room, upgraded meals and plenty of other good perks. Now there are good prices to go with the service. From Los Angeles or San Francisco, it's $2,200 roundtrip to Auckland. From ANZ's newish Houston/Intercontinental gateway, it's $2,500 roundtrip to Auckland. Flights are available on various dates in November and late January through May 31 if you purchase tickets by August 8. There isn't even a minimum-stay restriction. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY SPECIAL page.

VIRGIN AMERICA: A 50 Percent Points Bonus for the Rest of the Summer
Virgin America's Elevate program isn't long for this world--Alaska Airlines has agreed to buy the airline, after all--but Virgin is trying to fend off poachers (that would be JetBlue, see below) while it still exists. The inducement: 50 percent more Elevate points whenever you book and fly by August 31. Advance registration is required.

ALASKA AIRLINES: Double Miles For Flying BA Between Seattle and London
One of the strengths of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, besides its decision to stick with miles-based earnings, is its spread of international partners. The latest promotion: double miles for flying British Airways between Alaska Air's Seattle-Tacoma hub and London. The miles bonanza is available until September 30 when you register in advance. Information: the EARN DOUBLE MILES page.

FINNAIR: Please, Somebody, Fly Us to Russia This Summer and Fall
For decades, Finnair has been the go-to carrier between the United States and Russia--and the Soviet Union before that. Its comfortable, compact hub at Helsinki has been a perfect place to change planes and reach a variety of Russian destinations. But what happens when no one is flying between the United States and Russia? Traffic now is almost as bad as during the bad old days of the Cold War. So faced with a nasty political impasse and a plummeting ruble, Finnair is doing the only thing it can do: slash prices to the bone. It's selling flights for as little as $570 roundtrip to Yekaterinburg, $585 to St. Petersburg and $590 to Moscow. Travel on Sunday through Thursday from August 16 to December 14. A seven-day minimum stay is required. Information: the OFFERS page.

GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
I can't think of two suppliers doing poorer jobs right now than United Airlines and Hertz. But they are marketing partners these days--in fact, a failed former United C-suite executive runs Hertz--and they seem desperate for your custom. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even one-day rentals. Until July 31, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. So that means 2,000 to 2,750 miles for rentals as short as a single day. Does this sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction and extension of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered since last year. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.

STAR ALLIANCE: Free Heathrow Express Upgrades for Gold Members
The Star Alliance isn't exceptionally strong in London, the hub for Oneworld Alliance partner British Airways. Which may be why it is offering upgrades to London-bound Star Alliance Gold members. But curb your enthusiasm. The upgrade isn't for London flights, but for trips on the Heathrow Express train that connects the airport with London Paddington station. To score the upgrade, present your full-fare coach Heathrow Express ticket and Star Alliance Gold credentials as you board the train. The promotion starts February 15. A reminder: You're Star Alliance Gold if you hold United MileagePlus Gold or higher status or Air Canada Altitude 50K status or higher. Information: the STAR ALLIANCE OFFERS page.

NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: 60,000 Points for Ink, a Great Companion to Sapphire Preferred
If you're collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards Points--and you should since they are so flexible--the Sapphire Preferred Card is the one to have for travel and dining charges. (See below.) But you should also have an Ink Plus Card, too. It'll give you five points per dollar spent on office supplies, mobile phone charges, Internet and cable fees. It'll also get you double points at gasoline stations. And now you'll score an acquisition bonus of 60,000 points when you charge $5,000 in the first 90 days. Information: the INK FROM CHASE page.

CHASE: 50,000-Point Bonus to Take a Card You Must Have in Your Wallet
Let's make this simple: Why the hell don't you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card? It offers two points per dollar spent on dining and all travel, including esoteric stuff like parking and commuter-train tickets. You get a 5,000-point bonus for adding an authorized user. There are no foreign-exchange charges and the $95 annual fee is waived in the first year. Plus the card is the gateway to Chase Ultimate Rewards, a program whose points transfer effortlessly on a 1:1 basis to the United, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental frequency plans. If you don't have the card, now's the time because you'll also get a 50,000-point bonus when you charge $4,000 in the first three months. Information: the NEW CUSTOMERS page.

BARCLAYCARD: The New Premium JetBlue Card Has the Best Bonus and Package
JetBlue Airways has dumped American Express as its credit card partner and moved to Barclaycard. The best of the new cards is the Barclay JetBlue Plus. It has a modest ($99) annual fee and a good acquisition bonus: 30,000 TrueBlue points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Ongoing card benefits include six points per dollar spent with JetBlue and two points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores. You'll also get your first checked bag free and a 5,000-point bonus each year you hold the card. Information: the FLY FASTER page.

This column is Copyright 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.