Steals & Deals for May 16–May 30, 2019
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HOTELS: IN THE SUMMERTIME, WHEN THE DISCOUNTS ARE HOT(TER)
Everyone is fed up with the big U.S. lodging chains. Too many brands we've never heard about, too few perks in "revised" elite programs and an all-around disinterest in making us feel special. What's the solution? Perhaps checking out some of the smaller chains and their deals. Here are some of the most interesting ones:
ACCOR HOTELS, the French giant, is mounting its annual summer sale. About 2,800 hotels worldwide participate and rates seem to be from 20 to 30 percent off. Free breakfast is included at most properties. Reservations must be prepaid by May 24 for travel from mid-July to September, although some Asia/Pacific properties extend the sale until July, 2020.
CRESCENT HOTELS is not a name you'd recognize, but it manages some fine hotels in the United States and Canada. Its summer promotion knocks 20 percent off properties in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Toronto, Florida, Texas and elsewhere. The sale is valid for stays from from May 27 to September 2 if you book by May 31.
NH HOTELS is offering a sale from stays from June 1 until September 30 in the Americas and June 14 to September 8 in Europe. Prices are 15 to 25 percent off, plus another 5 percent off if you join the NH frequency plan. The promotion does require payment at the time of reservation and you must book by May 26.
OMNI HOTELS, like many chains, offers a discount for AAA members. The price saving is usually modest--about 10 percent--but Omni is now doubling up. If you use the chain's prepaid AAA rates the saving is 20 percent at hotels in San Diego, San Francisco and Atlanta. It's 25 percent in Washington, Chicago, Boston, New York, Providence, Dallas, Montreal and Toronto.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
ETIHAD AIRWAYS: TWO-DAY FREE ABU DHABI STAY THROUGH THE END OF THE YEAR
Etihad Airways doesn't seem to have much of a future. It is dwarfed by its Dubai-based neighbor Emirates, its strategy of buying into weakened European airlines collapsed and the royal family that owns the carrier is losing patience with endless losses. Which is a long-winded way of explaining why Etihad is desperate to figure out an angle to get Americans to fly over Abu Dhabi. The current angle: free two-night stopover in Abu Dhabi, including lodging at several of the city's excellent hotels. The stayover needs to be booked by December 1 for travel until December 31. That offer is for coach flyers, by the way. Business and first class travelers and customers in Etihad's The Residence, the over-the-top private double cabin, have their own offer. Information: the Etihad STOPOVER IN 2019 page.
HYATT: WHO STAYS IN LAS VEGAS GETS DOUBLE POINTS
Hyatt is so small compared to truly global chains like Marriott, Hilton, InterContinental and Accor that it needs to find partners everywhere. In Las Vegas, for example, it partners with MGM Resorts and now it is promoting those properties with bonus points offers. At nine MGM resorts, you'll earn double World of Hyatt points (that's 10 per $1 spent). At three others, you'll get a 20 percent bump, which is 6 points per dollar spent. The promotion runs until July 31, but advance registration is required for each offer. Information: the WIN BIG WITH MGM RESORTS page.
SINGAPORE AIRLINES: ASIA FOR LESS THAN $600 ROUNDTRIP IN COACH
It's hard to comprehend when Hainan Airlines cuts roundtrip coach fares to China below $500. It's even harder to fathom when Singapore Airlines comes close to those prices. But here we are. Singapore is currently selling San Francisco-Hong Kong nonstops for as little as $599 roundtrip. (Business class is $3,499 roundtrip.) Los Angeles-Tokyo nonstops are $699 roundtrip in coach, $1,099 in premium economy and $2,999 roundtrip in business. Using its new Seattle nonstop to Singapore, you can make connections to several destinations for as little as $599 roundtrip in coach. And from Newark Airport, where nonstops to Singapore have been revived, prices have fallen to $1,099 in premium economy and just $3,799 roundtrip in business class. But you must hurry: Tickets must be purchased by May 23 for travel on select dates throughout the year. The lowest fares are naturally most plentiful for midweek departures. Information: the MOTHER'S DAY SPECIALS page.
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES: 50,000- TO 70,000-MILE ACQUISITION BONUSES
Big credit card acquisition bonuses aren't just for the big airlines and the big banks. Hawaiian Airlines partners with Bank of Hawaii to promote the Hawaiian credit cards and the numbers are huge. You'll earn 50,000 miles for taking a personal card and spending $2,000 in the first 90 days. The business card offers 60,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. You'll earn another 10,000 miles if you also acquire an employee card and make a purchase on it. The $99 annual fee is not waived.
YOUR EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
MEMBER EXCLUSIVE: 10 Percent Off Elifant Tours of Rome and Etruria
Our friends at Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours are offering two of their favorites this fall: A Taste of Ancient Rome from October 14-21 and Etruscan Places from October 21-28. The Rome itinerary is based at Hotel 47, a stylish boutique that is literally surrounded by several of the Eternal City's most storied monuments. The Etruria trip starts in Rome, then has two nights in Orvieto and four nights at the elegant Terme di Stigliano. Both small-group and personal luxury tours focus on exceptional dining and archeological discovery. Best of all, Elifant Tours offers JoeSentMe members a 10 percent discount. To examine the trips and claim your discount, surf to the Elifant Tours site and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member. The tour hosts, Italian food expert Maureen Fant and classical archaeologist Elizabeth Bartman, will take it from there.
HAWAII'S LOCAL BUZZ: 20 Percent Off Great Hawaiian Coffee and Delectable Sweets
If you've ever been to Hawaii--or even if you haven't--you know that the Islands are now home to great coffee; insanely good macadamia nuts and products made with them; and terrific local honey. The best of the coffee and the finest nuts and sweets come from small farms such as the Big Island's Paradise Meadows. Its Hawaii's Local Buzz brand turns out an impressive array of coffee, candies, cookies and honey. How good? I have to hide the shortbread to avoid gorging on it. And the mac nut-studded chocolates often disappear in an eating frenzy. To introduce you to the farm's fabulous line of local products, Hawaii's Local Buzz is offering JoeSentMe members a 20 percent discount on its entire online shop. Enter the promotional code joesentme at checkout when you order at the Hawaii's Local Buzz site.
The CircaTerra offer: Receive 15% off the price of all travel products and luggage, including sale prices.
How to claim the offer: Enter promo code JoeSentMe in the Gift Certificate or Coupon Code box on the order confirmation page when you shop at CircaTerra Travel.
Cook Travel Offer: 10% off most published base fares on SkyTeam international business tickets. 5% off on Star Alliance international business or first class tickets. Upgrades on most airlines when available to business from full-fare international coach.
How to claim offer: Call 800-435-8776. Identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
The ECBC Offer: 30 percent off all ECBC luggage purchases and free shipping except for clearance items.
How to claim the offer: Enter the code JOESENTME in the promo code box on the checkout page when you shop at http://www.ec-bc.com.
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 GroundLink.com. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases of spices, teas, rubs and accessories.
How to claim the offer: Surf to http://www.sheffieldspices.com and, when you reach the shopping cart page, enter joesentme2019 in the coupon code box.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HILTON HONORS: Stay a Lot, Get a Lot of Low-Value Points
With the possible exception of Delta SkyMiles, no major frequency currency is worth less than Hilton Honors points. Which explains why Hilton basically offers double-point promotions on a year-round basis. The latest iteration offers double points starting with the second stay between May 6 and September 8. Then there's the added fillip: a stair-step accelerator offering 10,000 points on the 10th stay, 15,000 points on the 15th stay and 20,000 points on the 20th. What's it all mean? A lot of low-value points for a lot of Hilton stays in four months. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the GO MORE, GET MORE POINTS page.
MARRIOTT REWARDS: 2,000 Bonus Points Per Stay at Select Courtyard Hotels
I asked on Twitter recently how to tell the difference between the various Marriott-branded select-service brands when they all use similar bathroom amenities, soft goods and other material. Apparently Marriott Rewards also gets that it doesn't offer much differentiation these days. Its "solution?" A 2,000-point-per-stay bonus when you book select Courtyard by Marriott properties. Use code 53M to grab the extra points. No, that won't change your world, but never walk away from extra points. Information: the COURTYARD 2K EVERYDAY page.
HOTELS: Maybe You Can Find a Room-Rate Savings With Your Credit Card
Airline fares have been relatively flat in recent months, but hotel and resort rates continue to rise, precipitously in some destinations. Possible solution: hotel discounts offered by your credit card. American Express Platinum Cards, for example, feature a Fine Hotels & Resort collection that covers more than 1,000 properties around the world. Bundled with the FHR rates are space-available room upgrades; check-in as early as noon based on availability and guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout; breakfast for two; free WiFi; and property-specific food and beverage credit or other amenity. Meanwhile, Visa Signature cards claim to offer special rates at 900 properties. Perks include space-available upgrade; free WiFi; free breakfast for two; a $25 food and beverage credit; and late checkout. Of course, all of these specials come with some caveats. Most hotels in the programs are in the luxury category. You must book directly at the card's special Web site. And you should always check that the rate you're paying is competitive with other offers.
WALDORF/CONRAD HOTELS: $50 a Day in Statement Credits at Hilton's Luxury Digs
When you affect luxury--as Hilton's Waldorf and Hilton brands do--rate cutting is frowned upon. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course, but it is frowned upon nevertheless. The preferred method of lowering the price is by gimmicks. The current gimmick? A $50 statement credit for each night you spend in participating Waldorf and Conrad hotels. Three-day advance reservations are required and there are blackout dates. And as I always say with deals like this, always check to see whether a cheaper rate is available than the promoted gimmick. A two-night minimum stay is required. All Waldorf properties honor the promotion and 27 Conrad properties are participating. Waldorf is calling its $50-a-day BEST OF WALDORF. The Conrad promotion is called COMPLIMENTS OF CONRAD.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
KLM: Under-the-Radar Business Class Sale Rates Worldwide
Even though KLM kicks in about 80 percent of the profit of the combined KLM/Air France, the Dutch part of the partnership remains distinctly under the radar when it comes to publicity. In other words, prepare to fly over its Amsterdam/Schiphol hub if you're looking for business class bargains. From New York, sample prices include $2,020 roundtrip to Madrid, $3,148 to Accra, Ghana, and $2,714 to Delhi. From Miami, it's $2,446 to Athens roundtrip and $3,574 to Mumbai. From San Francisco, it's $2,548 roundtrip to London, $2,917 to Chennai and $3,842 to Cape Town. There are also similar sale prices from all 12 of KLM's U.S. gateways. The KLM site offers a handy month-by-month bar chart of the fares and then a day-by-day breakdown of availability. It's a slick way to find the lowest fares. Information: the KLM'S BEST OFFERS page.
QATAR AIRWAYS: 'Prix Fixe' Business Class 'Sale' Apparently Becomes Permanent
Several times this year Qatar Airways has offered up putatively "prix fixe" business class sales to destinations around the world. Either it worked or Qatar Air's marketing team has run out of ideas because the promotion has apparently become a comparatively permanent part of the carrier's fare structure. In case you've forgotten, Qatar claims that is has set a fixed-price business class fare structure: $2,450, $2,950, $3,450, $3,950 or $4,450 roundtrip. But, of course, there's much less there than meets the eye. Qatar falls back on "starting at" verbiage that means every ticket is, um, "market price." Still, there is a smattering of seats at each price point. Sample fares: $2,450 roundtrip on Atlanta or Miami to Delhi; $2,450 from New York/JFK to Tbilisi, Georgia; $2,950 on Los Angeles-Da Nang, Vietnam, or Chicago-Manila; $3,450 on DFW or Atlanta to Johannesburg or Miami-Hong Kong; and $3,950 between Philadelphia and Kathmandu. The best prices are available for midweek travel between July 29 and January 1. A seven-day minimum stay is required. And a reminder: All trips operate via Doha, Qatar Air's hub. Information: the Qatar Air BUCKET LIST EXPERIENCE page.
CATHAY PACIFIC: A Modest Sale With Modest Prices on a Great Business Class
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific continues to offer targeted bargains on its exceptional transpacific business class. The newest sale is modest in travel window (depart by June 15), modest in price (fares start at around $3,600 roundtrip from Seattle to Vietnam but are much higher from Washington/Dulles and Chicago), modest in restrictions (7-day advance purchase) and modest in opportunity (you must book by May 31). Prices from Cathay Pacific's San Francisco gateway start below $3,900 roundtrip and are as low as $4,150 from New York. Depending on gateway, your return can be as late as three months or six months after departure. Poke around and, depending on your gateway, you might find something great. Information: the Cathay Pacific BUSINESS CLASS SUMMER OFFER.
LAN: Some Rare Business Class Discounts to South America
Nothing's harder to score than a business class discount to South America. U.S. carriers serving the routes mostly use domestic first class configurations to South America, not exactly a palatable choice. And the Latin carriers aren't the savviest marketers. That said, here's something of note: A smallish sale from LAN, which flies a legitimate business class with lie-flat beds. The bargains at the moment: $963 roundtrip from New York to Guayaquil, Ecuador; $1,239 from Miami to Lima, Peru; and $1,990 from Los Angeles to Lima. Fares to Lima are available for travel between May 5 and July 4. The New York sale is valid for travel between May 8 and July 8. Look to book in I class. Information: the LAN PREMIUM BUSINESS page.
ALASKA AIRLINES: Double Miles on Coast-to-Coast Flights Through 2019
Alaska Airlines continues to try to forge a new identity on the coast-to-coast flights it assumed in the Virgin America buy. Shorn of their white seats with 55-inch pitch and mood lighting, Alaska's flights are relying on a more-than-generous 41-inch pitch and lots of upgrades. Now another tactic: double miles on transcontinental flights until the end of the year. The only restriction: advance registration before your first transcon run. The double-miles offer is valid between Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose and East Coast airports from Boston/Logan to Fort Lauderdale. That includes New York (Kennedy and Newark) and Washington (BWI, Dulles and National) airports. The deal is also offered on routes where Alaska Air had flights before it purchased Virgin America. Information: the DOUBLE MILES COAST2COAST page.
FINNAIR: Cheap Business Class This Summer and Fall? How About Russia?
Finland remains what it has always been: a middle ground between Europe and Russia. And Vantaa Airport in Helsinki remains what it always has been: a fabulous place to change planes en route to Russia. See where I'm going with this? Finnair is offering great deals in business class over its Helsinki hub to Russia. Prices are valid for travel until well into next spring if you can hit the admittedly stiff (up to 60 days) advance-purchase restriction. Sample fares: Yekaterinburg for $2,295 roundtrip; Moscow for $2,294; and St. Petersburg for $2,299. Oddly, if you're headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $3,481. Ticket are nonrefundable and no stopovers are permitted. Information: the Finnair FLIGHT OFFERS page.
HAINAN AIRLINES: Are You Not Going to China at These Coach and Business Class Fares?
There are precious few bargains to European cities this spring and summer, but if you're looking for someplace, how about China? Hainan Airlines is basically giving away seats to fill planes on its fast-expanding network. Best of all, Hainan doesn't just fly to Beijing and Shanghai, but also operates nonstop to places such as Xi'an, Chengdu, Changsha and Chongqing. Coach fares start as low as--wait for it--$376 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Shanghai. (Other samples: $633 roundtrip from Boston to Beijing and $502 from Seattle to Beijing.) Business class seats start at just $2,319 roundtrip between Los Angeles and Xi'an. (Other samples: $2,710 from Chicago to Beijing and $2,855 from New York/Kennedy to Chengdu.) Seats at those prices are limited, of course, but they're available in decent numbers. Travel is valid through September 30. Information: the Hainan OFFERS page.
ALASKA AIRLINES: Okay, But If You'd Like Status ...
If you are going to chase status, maybe consider the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plus. It is the only U.S. program with a mileage-based system, which has proven more lucrative than the diluted revenue-based schemes adopted by other airlines. It also has expanded its route network via the Virgin America acquisition and offers awards on a wide range of international partners. It's the Virgin purchase that has led Alaska Air to offer a status challenge to flyers on the East and West Coasts. Residents in ten states and the District of Columbia earn entry-level MVP status for two coast-to-coast roundtrips by May 31. You'll earn MVP Gold status if you do four roundtrips before May 31. Advance registration is required for the promotion. Information: the COAST-TO-ELITE CHALLENGE page.
LA COMPAGNIE: Business Class to Nice for $1,300 Roundtrip This Summer and Fall
Now that it's owned by a larger and more stable travel outfit, all business class La Compagnie of France is beginning to make some sense. Its sole route--Newark-Paris--has moved to Orly, the close-in Paris airport that makes sense for the airline's point-to-point customers. The schedule seems more reliable, too, and new aircraft are on the way. The airline also is adding a smart new run: a seasonal nonstop between Newark and Nice in the south of France. The service will operate between late May and late October and La Compagnie will use Boeing 757s configured with angled-flat beds in a 2x2 configuration. The introductory price was a startling $1,200 roundtrip and the current price is just $1,300 roundtrip. Seats at that price still are available for few select days in July and August with solid availability in September and October. Information: the La Compagnie DESTINATION FRENCH RIVIERA page.
SWISS: Holy Moley! It's a First Class Sale--With Lots of Holes, Of Course
There aren't many first class cabins to Europe left, so finding a first class sale is just this side of a miracle. But maybe we should discuss the holes first: It's on Swiss, which has a limited route network. It's on Swiss, which means you're connecting via Zurich. It's on Swiss, which has a good, but not stupendous, first class product. And flights are only available for travel at the sale price starting in late July. Still, it you can thread the needle, you can find some excellent bargains. Samples from New York/JFK: Rome for $6,052 roundtrip, Naples for $6,090 and Barcelona for $6,621. From Boston, it's $5,812 roundtrip to Copenhagen. From Miami, you'll find a $6,083 roundtrip to Barcelona. And one bonus: $8,587 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. Information: the SWISS Web site.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: The AARP Deal, Reduced Again, But Extended Through 2020
British Airways isn't only hacking away at the quality of its in-flight product and its reputation as a premium carrier. It's also reducing the classic deals you can use to get discounts. Take its long-standing AARP deal. BA once offered as much as $400 off roundtrip. Now first and premium economy class discounts have been axed and we're left with $200 roundtrip off BA's outdated business class and $65 off its newly "densified" coach class. Also gone: the opportunity to twin the AARP discount with other BA promotions. Still, $65 or $200 off is better than a stick upside your head. And the current deal is now valid for travel until the end of 2020 if you book by January 31, 2020. The cost of entry: the $12 fee required to join AARP. And you must enter through the AARP portal to score the discounts. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
UNITED/HERTZ: Worst-in-Class Providers Offer Really Big Bonuses
What do Hertz and United Airlines have in common? Lessee, both operations run poorly. A former top United exec was ousted as Hertz chief executive for doing a lousy job. And United once actually owned Hertz. Other than that? Both are desperate for new customers. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even two-day rentals. Until October 31, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com for at least two days and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. That means as many as 2,750 miles for rentals as short as two days. Sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction, extension and slight rejiggering of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered for about four years. Information: the BOOK YOUR CAR THROUGH UNITED.COM page.
AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 500 Bonus Miles
Mileage earning from car rentals has had a strange history. In the early days of the frequency programs, they were gushers of cheap miles. Then the car rental firms realized they were paying plenty to the airlines for miles without moving the market since all the companies were doing the same thing. So for decades car rentals were earnings deserts. Lately, however, the airlines and rental firms have been working out relatively exclusive deals. The latest example? Avis and Budget, which are sister firms, will give you 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. This is a revamp of a deal that Avis and Budget have been offering on and off for the last few years. This deal is valid for rentals that begin by June 30. Information: the 500 BONUS MILES page.
NATIONAL/SOUTHWEST: Quadruple Rapid Rewards Points for Weekly Rentals. Again.
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer a bigger payoff for rentals if you need a vehicle. Instead of the standard 600 Rapid Rewards points, a two- or three-day National rental will earn 1,200 points. Rentals of 4-6 days will earn 1,800 points. Weekly or longer rentals will score 2,400 points. To score the points, use Contract ID code 5030510. Bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, 2020, with one-day advance reservation. By the way, if this sounds familiar, it is exactly the same deal that ran all of last year. Information: the RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS page.
CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: Honest, Sapphire Preferred Is Better Than Capital One Venture
The decision of Capital One to get into the points-to-airline transfer game has rattled Chase Bank, whose Ultimate Rewards points are the gold standard of bank currency. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has suddenly upped its acquisition bonus to 60,000 points and it is clear that Chase wants to make sure you don't defect to the Capital One Venture card. How do we know? The promotion page for the acquisition bonus is literally a comparison chart between Chase and Capital One. You should have a Sapphire Preferred card, so grab one now if you don't have one. Sixty thousand points is too good to pass up. The annual fee is $95, which Chase's chart has to admit isn't as good as Capital One's first-year fee waiver. Information: the EARN 60,000 BONUS POINTS page.
AMERICAN EXPRESS: Lots and Lots of Points to Take a Hilton Card. But, Um...
American Express really, really wants you to take one of its four Hilton cards. And the lure, as always, is a bigger acquisition bonus: from 75,000 to 150,000 Hilton Honors points. The problem? Hilton Honors points have very little value, even in the ridiculously devalued travel world. Getting a half-cent return is often a victory in Honors, which is now completely revenue-based and ludicrously overpriced for everything but a standard room. (And sometimes not even then...) But if you find value in Hilton, at least one of these four cards will be useful and perhaps two should be on your radar. The no-fee Hilton Honors Amex will give you 75,000 points for $1,000 of spend in the first three months. The sweet spot is 125,000 points, available for Amex's two Hilton cards with a $95 annual fee. Information: the Amex UPGRADE YOUR STAY page.
CHASE: 80,000-Point Bonus to Take an Ink Business Card
As the airline frequent flyer programs get less generous, smart travelers are banking their miles with banks. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, offer a 1:1 transfer to United, Southwest, several international airlines and some hotel chains, too. There seems to be less risk by banking points with Chase and moving them to your programs as the good deals--or award availability--warrant. One of the current stars in the wide Chase portfolio? The Ink Business Preferred Card. For the $95 annual fee, you'll receive an acquisition bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 during the first three months. You'll also earn three points per dollar spent on travel expenditures; shipping charges; payments for Internet, cable and phone services; and certain advertising purchases. Information: the 80,000 BONUS POINTS page.
This column is Copyright © 2019 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2019 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.