Posts in the category "Hotels":

Travel deals for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Home shopping but dreaming of travel? Here are some of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals that might get you going.

suitcase

AIRLINES

Air Canada has a long list of Black Friday fare specials available now through November 30.

Cathay Pacific kicks off its Black Friday fare sale on Friday at midnight EST, promising deals from all its US gateways (SFO, LAX, ORD, EWR, JFK, BOS) to Asia – plus a sweepstakes.

Alaska Airlines‘ most popular fare sale is Cyber Monday, and they’ll probably offer a preview a day before.

From now through December 2, 2014 Airberlin is offering $499 roundtrip flights (including taxes) starting from Chicago, New York and Miami to many cities in Europe for travel January 12 to March 22, 2015.

LAN and TAM have something planned for Cyber Monday and it’s likely other airlines will jump in with offers as well, so check around.

HOTELS

HotelTonight, which recently expanded its offering from day-of bookings to 7-day-in-advance deals, is offering $7 hotel rooms on Black Friday starting at 7 a.m. local time, till the available inventory sells out, which should be pretty quickly.

On Black Friday Expedia.com is offering 90% off a limited quantity of select hotels in New York, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Cancun and San Francisco. The offer will be avaiable from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST. Expedia will also be offering a $50 coupon off Expedia rate hotels throughout Friday, as well as some Cyber Monday deals.

Many individual hotels, as well as chains large and small, will be offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as well, so if you’ve got a destination in mind, be sure to poke around for lodging deals in that city or region.

Provenance Hotels, with a portfolio of 7 highly individual properties in Portland, Seattle and Nashville, for example, is giving each hotel’s Facebook and newsletter fans 25 percent off the best available rates through March 31, 2015 as part of a Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion. (Sign up before Friday to make sure you get the mailing.

Travel tune-up: hotel loyalty program & policy changes

10_GLobe Trotter bespoke luggage - free with hotel room

Changes in hotel frequent stay program rules, member amenities and alliances, your own travel patterns and rising room prices makes the holiday season the right time to take inventory of potential bonuses and rewards.

A recent lodging outlook from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) predicts that in 2015 industry-wide occupancy levels are expected to reach 64.9 percent, the highest since 1984.

That may give hotel operators more confidence to hike prices. And it may also be the trigger behind some recently announced policy changes for 2015 — most notably the decision by Hilton Worldwide to adopt a stricter cancellation policy.

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, “penalty-free cancellations” at the hotel’s properties “must be made by 11:59 p.m. local hotel time the day prior to arrival,” and not by 6 p.m. local time the day of arrival, currently the standard at most hotels.

The change is “designed to make more rooms available for travelers needing last minute accommodations,” said Jim Holthouser, Executive Vice President, Global Brands, Hilton Worldwide.

Still, the policy, which is reportedly also being adopted by Marriott International next year “is a decided negative for travelers,” said Tim Winship, editor and publisher of FrequentFlier.com. This could have implications for business travelers who often make last minute changes in their plans.

Winship and others expect other hotel companies to follow suit, so be sure to check the policy wording when you make 2015 reservations.

Beginning Jan. 15, 2015, Marriott Rewards members will get free Wi-Fi at close to 4,000 properties in the company’s portfolio. There is a catch, though: Travelers will only get the perk by making a direct booking on the hotel’s website, through its mobile app, 800-number or directly with a hotel.

This doesn’t sit well with travel agents who stand to lose customers and commissions. However, some direct-booking partnerships, like those offered through Concur’s TripLink solution, may offer a way to get the Marriott’s Wi-Fi perk while staying within corporate booking requirements.

Some hotel chains have recently added useful program perks, many of them technology-driven, with more planned for 2015:

Kimpton won’t talk yet about the changes it has in store to its loyalty program for 2015, but it did recently introduce Kimpton Karma Rewards. The program offers members perks ranging from free Wi-Fi and $10 credit for in-room snacks, to welcome amenities and complimentary upgrades.

In July, Marriott began using beacon technology to send geographically-targeted offers for food and beverage, golf, spa deals and more to Rewards members at several hotels. The LocalPerks program should be at work in a dozen Marriott properties by the end of this year, so keep an eye on your mobile devices as you wander through participating hotels.

Many hotels are now coming into the 21st century by using smartphone applications to lure in tech-savvy travelers.

Hilton announced recently that by the end of this year, guests will be able to use their mobile devices, tablets and computers to check-in, choose a room and order items delivered to their room at more than 4,000 properties worldwide.

Starting in 2015, Hilton HHonors members will be able to access their hotel rooms via mobile-key technology at all U.S. properties across four of the company’s brands, said Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president and global head of digital at Hilton Worldwide.

The HHonors app will also unlock other rooms that typically require room keys such as the fitness center, executive floors, elevators and parking facilities.

And earlier this month Starwood Hotels and Resorts rolled out SPG Keyless, at the first 10 hotels that will allow Starwood Preferred Guests to use the SPG app on their phone as a hotel room key.

Additionally, hotel loyalty programs are also expanding their partnerships with airlines.

Starwood recently announced a strategic partnership with Emirates that gives members added benefits and earnings when they stay Starwood and fly Emirates. “Other loyalty programs, like Delta/Starwood and United/Marriott have linked up as well,” says travel writer Ramsey Qubein.

“Just be sure to link you accounts via the hotel programs websites and always monitor your account to make sure stays post properly,” he added.

At the end of the travel day, “If you feel like the loyalty is going both ways then you should stick with that program,” said Brian Kelly of ThePointsGuy.com. “Many programs under-promise and over-deliver, but some programs do the opposite.”

(My story about 2015 changes in hotel loyalty programs first appeared on CNBC)

Win an Airbnb stay in a converted KLM airplane

Now here’s a great way to spend the Thanksgiving weekend: inside an “airplane apartment.”

klm shleve

From now through November 20, you can enter a contest to win an overnight stay – on November 28, 29 or 30 – inside a recently retired KLM MD-11 airplane parked next to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The plane has been turned into an apartment with 116 windows, large living room, a master bedroom, an extra room with two beds, a kitchen and eight (!) small bathrooms. There’s also Wi-Fi, library, first class chairs, a game console and plenty to see outside the cockpit window.

KLM AIRBNB PLANE

Sound like the kind of Airbnb digs you might like to try out?

The KLM contest will pick one winner for each of the three nights and each winner may bring up to three guests. Even better: winners also get roundtrip flights on KLM to Amsterdam and a 500 EUR Airbnb gift card.

If you win a night on the airplane there will some rules:

*No flying.
*Don’t use the inflatable emergency slide.
*Smoking is not allowed when the non-smoking sign is on.
*No marshmallow roasting with the jet engines.

There’s more information – and details on entering the contest – in the Airbnb listing.

Tune-up tips for travelers

TRAVEL SUITCASES

Even the savviest traveler can use a few new tricks each year, whether on the road for business or leisure.

So here are some of the expert tips I gathered for a recent CNBC Road Warrior piece.

Fly Frugally

Before the end of the year, take inventory of your frequent flier miles. Claim credit for any missing miles and decide if you can top off—with an extra flight, hotel stay or mile-generating purchase—accounts where you are close to getting elite status perks for the following year.

When shopping for new flight reservations, sign up for fare alerts, enlist helpers such as Kayak’s price forecasting tool and remember the “24-hour reservation requirement” put into effect in January 2012 by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The rule requires carriers to hold a flight reservation for 24 hours without payment, or allow a reservation to be canceled within 24 hours without penalty if the reservation is made one week or more ahead of the flight’s departure date.

“If you see an airfare you’re comfortable with, book it,” said Kayak spokeswoman Maria Katime. You can continue your research and, if you find something better, go back and cancel.

Reasonable rental cars

When it comes to cars, reserve once you know your dates and have done some shopping, but recheck prices closer to the time of travel. “Prices can drop last-minute, depending on the actual availability of cars versus what the companies anticipate,” said travel expert Carol Pucci, who saved more than $100 with this method on the Big Island of Hawaii. “It was easy to do because I hadn’t prepaid, which is hardly ever a good idea given the chances of prices falling,” said Pucci.

To make sure a rental car company doesn’t charge you for scrapes, scratches or dings already on the car you’re issued, “take pictures of the car before you drive it away and when you return it,” said Joe Brancatelli, publisher of the business travel website Joe Sent Me.

“Rental firms are getting extremely aggressive about these charges and since the cars in the fleet are older these days than they used to be, there’s more of a chance you’ll be given a car with a ding and/or scratches,” he said.

Honing in on hotel deals

Sign up for the frequent stay program of any hotel you visit to take advantage of free perks that can include complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi and welcome amenities such as cheese plates and bottles of wine for even the first-time guest.

Research room rates and hotel property reviews online, but as a final step, call the hotel you’ve chosen. “Once I narrow down my hotel choice, I call the hotel to see if they have any better offers then what I see online,” said Rob Connors, assistant vice-president of marketing for National Car Rental. “Your membership in a club or association might get you an added discount, and many times hotels offer special rates for suppliers calling on nearby companies.”

It’s also a good idea to check city tourism sites for short-run, special promotions.

Some cities have destination marketing funds and packages designed to generate room sales during off-seasons. The inaugural Hotel Week LA runs from Nov. 29 to Dec. 14, and in 2015, more than 30 Manhattan properties are participating in the fourth New York Hotel Week from Jan. 3 to 18. The programs offer significant discounts rate for some of each city’s top, usually very pricey, properties.

Vancouver’s “Be Vancouver” promotion gives guests $125 American Express prepaid gift cards for bookings made by Nov. 16 for stays through Feb. 28, bringing rates in some upscale hotels down to less than $60.

“The offers coming from that program are the best we have on offer,” said Jim Mockford, general manager of the Listel Hotel. “They’re highly targeted in regards to time frame, so you have to be quick and flexible. So it’s always a good idea to put your name on the mailing list of your favorite hotels. You’ll hear about some great deals that you’ll never see anywhere else.”

Choosing travel gear

To get the best bang for your buck when shopping for travel gear “make a list of three to five ‘musts’ for your new bag and prioritize these as you do research,” said Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association.

“The manufacturer’s warranty policy can be an indicator of durability, but be sure to check the dimensions of new carry-on bags to avoid getting dinged by extra charges when flying,” she said.

When to use a travel agent

Modern online booking tools and mobile apps make it easy to research and reserve much of your own travel. But the customer services of a travel advisor who can quickly reroute and rebook you when there’s a travel snafu can come in handy.

“When it’s a trip that matters—family vacations, celebration travel, a destination you want to experience rather than ‘see’—that’s when you most need a travel advisor,” said Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies. “Not only will they save you precious time, they can save you money with negotiated hotel benefits and extensive firsthand knowledge to ensure that you get exactly what you expect from the trip.”

Boarding the bus

“Bus travelers typically save 50 to 55 percent versus the train and 55 to 73 percent versus flying,” said Joe Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago and author of the Traveler’s Tradeoff study comparing intercity bus, plane and train fares across the United States.

“The ‘sweet spot’ for bus travel involves trips between 125 and 300 miles. Driving can be tedious, but air travel is often not cost effective,” he said.

When to book the bus?

“As early as possible,” said Megabus spokesman Mike Alvich. “Generally customers booking 30 to 45 days in advance will see the greatest savings, but even last-minute trip tickets are still very affordable in comparison to last-minute airline travel or even the cost of filling the gas tank of your personal vehicle.”

Smarter destination choices

You may not have much choice where business trips take you, but you can save money on leisure trips and avoid crowds by heading for South Africa, Shanghai, Uruguay, Portugal or some of the other “best-value” destinations on Lonely Planet’s Best Travel 2015 list.

Choosing “almost-as-good” alternatives to classic experiences in more expensive cities can also save cash.

“European cities are stuffed full of amazing historic buildings and churches that can be seen and explored for free without the crowds of big-name things,” said Lonely Planet’s editorial director, Tom Hall. “Gorilla trekking might be an unforgettable experience in East Africa, but looking out for chimpanzees and smaller primates can be much more fun and is certainly easier on the wallet.”

Book a room, get a free suitcase

GLobe Trotter bespoke luggage

This unusual offer that certainly trumps chocolates at turndown was included in the slideshow about new luggage I put together last week for CNBC Road Warrior.

This holiday season (Dec. 15 through Jan. 5, 2015), guests who book a special suite package at the 5-star Brown’s Hotel in London will receive a custom-made 21-inch Globe-Trotter suitcase, made at the company’s flagship store located next door to the hotel.

Planning ahead is required, because three weeks before arrival, a guest will be asked to choose the colors for the outside of their suitcase, the lining, the clasps and the preferred monogramming. The bespoke suitcase (along with a fine bottle of Champagne) will then be waiting in the suite at check-in.

Rates start at £2,000, or about $3,200 per night.

 

 

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