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November 16, 2010

A Hotel Loyalty Program for Travelers Who Hate Chain Hotels

Up in the Air
In Up In The Air, George Clooney played a miles-and-points-obsessed road warrior who would order three entrees at dinner at a Hilton just so he could rack up HHonors points. 

Earning points toward free hotel stays has gotten a dose of glam lately, and not just because of George Clooney. Ritz-Carlton and Leading Hotels of the World both started rewards programs within the past year. And the big hotel companies—the Hiltons, Marriotts, and Starwoods—have spent the recession trying to hang on to your business by beefing up their loyalty programs, making it easier for you to earn free stays, free upgrades, and the other perks that come with being a loyalty program member. 

So what do you do if you prefer non-chain hotels—historic inns, urban boutique hot spots, one-of-a-kind resorts? For you, there's now Stash Hotel Rewards, which lets you earn points toward free stays at any of 100 independent high-end hotels in the U.S., many of them Conde Nast Traveler Gold List and Hot List properties. 

Stash Hotel Rewards

Based on what I learned about Stash at the PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit today, there doesn't seem to be a down side to joining—and I would recommend doing so if you plan to stay in any of the participating hotels, as long as you keep a couple of things in mind:

Continue reading "A Hotel Loyalty Program for Travelers Who Hate Chain Hotels" »

November 11, 2010

Thinking About Atlantis in the Bahamas? Five Reasons to Stay at The Reef

View from Reef balcony rm 21910Note the absence of theme-park insanity in this view from my 21st-floor balcony at The Reef, one of the five hotels that comprise Atlantis in the Bahamas. 

Just back from my second visit to Atlantis, the behemoth Bahamian waterpark resort that practically every East Coast family ends up at for one school break or another. The biggest question most families face: Which of the five hotel towers to choose? I spent my first visit wishing I was staying at The Reef.  I spent my second visit actually staying there. Here are the five reasons why I think it's the best choice for most families:

1. It's an oasis from the crowds and craziness.

The Reef is situated at one far end of the Atlantis complex--the less built-up end. When you need to venture into the hubbub--say, the restaurants and shops of Marina Village--you can just hop on the resort's shuttle bus. There's a shuttle every 15 minutes. And the supervised kids' club, Atlantis Kids Adventures, is only about a 10-minute walk from The Reef.

2. You get your own kitchen--plus a grocery store and Starbucks.

This saves you from having to spend a fortune on restaurant meals. If you're like my family, you won't even need to purchase a dining plan. Just an elevator ride from your room, in the lobby, is a well-stocked Starbucks that sells not only breakfast foods but also sandwiches and salads for lunch. Also in the lobby is a small store where you can buy milk, bread, cold cuts, ice cream, and the like. Prices are expensive compared with the

Continue reading "Thinking About Atlantis in the Bahamas? Five Reasons to Stay at The Reef" »

March 04, 2010

Secret Codes for Snagging The Best Luxury Hotel Deals

ts_mondrian_100304.jpg
You can get 30% off at The Mondrian in Los Angeles via this week's private sale on TabletHotels.com, for travel dates from March through May.

"If you want access to the very best hotel deals out there, you'll need to harness the power of a new set of digital tools."

That's the advice from my latest Perrin Report, in Conde Nast Traveler's March issue, about how to nab those exclusive travel discounts that are increasingly being marketed to certain narrow groups of travelers via hidden online channels. In my column I stress the importance of gaining access to the private sales run by Jetsetter, Tablet Hotels, and VoyagePrive

Since so many readers have e-mailed me asking how to gain such access, I figure I ought to provide the necessary entree. So below are special custom links embedded with the code that will allow you to become a member of these by-invitation-only sites: 




Happy hotel-deal hunting!
October 01, 2009

Get Free Nights, Upgrades, Meals, Massages and More at Marriott Resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico

JW_Marriott_Cancun_Resort_Spa

The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, which Conde Nast Traveler readers rate so highly it's on our Gold List, is one of nine Marriotts offering giveaways on Twitter every day this month.

by Wendy Perrin

Usually the Halloween mood doesn't strike me till the end of October, but this year it's already struck, thanks to Marriott Resorts' over-the-top "Trick or Tweet" promotion.  Like most innovative, fun, money-saving hotel promotions these days, it's happening on Twitter. 

Every day throughout October, a group of nine Marriott resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico will post a twitter message (or "tweet") announcing a different giveaway at one of the resorts. The giveaways will range from a free night's stay to $100 in meal credits to room upgrades to spa treatments to rounds of golf.  Follow Marriott Resorts on Twitter and you can collect all 27 giveaways, in the form of vouchers that you download and then redeem at the specified resort any time through December 20, 2010.

If you'd like to know who else to follow on Twitter, I listed 21 essential twitterers to follow -- for travel deals, perks, and advice you'll find either only on Twitter or on Twitter first -- in my Perrin Report column in Conde Nast Traveler's October issue (on newsstands now).

September 30, 2009

A New Site For Exclusive Travel Deals

Bauer_Hotel_Venice_Italy

Rooms at Venice's Bauer Hotel, which Conde Nast Traveler readers have voted one of their favorite properties in the world, can be booked on Jetsetter.com for $250 to $300 per night, vs. the rack rate of $384 to $589 per night.

by Wendy Perrin

For years our only online options for booking top-rated hotels and resorts at steep discounts were pretty much limited to Luxury Link and Tablet Hotels. That's why I'm happy to see Jetsetter land on the scene. Jetsetter is a flash-sale site that negotiates with noteworthy hotels, cruise lines, and other luxe travel suppliers to offer slashed rates unavailable to the general public. It just launched in beta a few hours ago and, I must say, it's refreshing to see a travel booking site that not only caters to sophisticated travelers--a group that has been grossly underserved in the online travel space--but is also, thanks to its large photos and uncluttered layout, actually appealing to look at.

Like its parent company Gilt Groupe, Jetsetter is a members-only site. You need to be invited to join. Lucky for you, I've finagled just such an invite, specifically for Perrin Post readers: Click on this custom link to register, and every night at 8 p.m. you'll receive an e-mail announcing the latest sale. Each sale should include no more than a handful of select travel experiences -- hotels, resorts, yachts, luxe cruises and tours -- that will be available at a significant discount for either a two-day window or until dates are sold out.

Continue reading "A New Site For Exclusive Travel Deals" »

July 23, 2009

Free Nights at Fairmonts in North America

Check out Condé Nast Traveler's Kate Maxwell exploring the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, where you can get your third night free through the end of September.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Daily deals If the videos we shot in Canada last month have inspired you to make a run for the (northern) border, take note: Fifteen Fairmont properties, mostly in Canada, are offering reduced rates and free nights through September.  With this deal, you get 20% off the rack rate for the nights of your stay, plus your third or fourth night free.  The participating properties and starting room rates are listed here

Note that, if you book online, the total amount you see will not reflect the free night; this amount will be subtracted at checkout.  So let's say you book a three-night stay at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C., in August, when the best available rate without this promo is $228 per night: Your total might appear to be $549 (or $183 per night) when you make the reservation, but at checkout you would be charged only $366 (or $122 per night).   

Condé Nast Traveler-approved: 8 of these 15 properties were on our 2009 Gold List.

Book by: This Monday, July 27.

For travel through: September 30.

Book through: Fairmont's reservations line at 800-830-1411, or online.

May 26, 2009

Hotels with Pools in Rome, Florence, and Venice

Grand Hotel Villa Medici, Florence By Kathryn Maier

Seeking hotels with swimming pools in Italian cities? You're not alone. Perrin Post reader Vnarod wrote in with this question:

"My family will be visiting Rome, Florence, and Venice June 3 - 16.  We are traveling with our 3 sons, ages 14, 9, and 6.  I am looking for great deals on luxury hotels with pools to keep the boys happy.  Our budget is about $500 per night.  I would greatly appreciate if you could suggest any properties!"

Hotels with pools aren't very common in Italian cities, but here are a few that might suit your needs: 

Rome: Try the Westin Excelsior.  As Julia wrote earlier this month, it's offering a third or fourth night free. Instead of the usual $489 per night, you pay $326 per night for three nights or $366 per night for four nights, including tax.

Florence: At the Grand Hotel Villa Medici (pictured above), rooms start at about $410 per night in June. The hotel is offering a 20% discount on stays of four nights, and a 15% discount on three-night visits.

Venice: The Hilton Molino Stucky's rooms start at about $345 per night in June, with 50% off your third night's stay.  This hotel is located on the island of Giudecca, but your boys might just love the short boat ride to and from the Piazza San Marco. 

Readers, can you recommend any other hotels with pools in these cities? We'd love to hear your picks.

April 28, 2009

Third Night Free at Twin Farms

Accomodations
A cabin at Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont. Image courtesy of the hotel.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Deal of the Day Let me start by saying that this deal is not for everyone. In fact, those who don't have deep pockets may want to pelt me with rotten fruit for even calling this a "deal." But if you appreciate that travel values don't necessarily mean bargain-basement prices, take note: The ultra-luxe Twin Farms, in Barnard, Vermont, is offering a third-night-free bonus

A three-night all-inclusive stay starts at $3,348 (including taxes and service charges), as opposed to the usual rate of $5,022. The price includes three meals a day, afternoon tea, all alcoholic beverages and activities (the property has canoes, fishing rods, tennis rackets, and bicycles), and transfers from the Burlington, Vermont, or Manchester, New Hampshire, airports. The only thing you'll pay extra for is spa treatments.

Just how nice is Twin Farms? Well, it's a perennial fixture on Condé Nast Traveler's Gold List and received perfect scores for both Design and Rooms in 2006. The 20 rooms and cottages are scattered about the 300-acre property for utter privacy and seclusion, so this "deal" is a great choice if you're looking for the ultimate romantic weekend getaway--say, if you're planning to propose or want to celebrate your wedding anniversary.

For travel from: May 8 to September 12, not including August 2 to 6.

Book through: The hotel's reservations Web site or by phone at 800-894-6327.


April 20, 2009

Third Night Free at 24 Santa Monica Hotels

Shutters_on_the_beach
Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, CA.  Image courtesy of the hotel.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Deal of the Day

Enjoy Santa Monica sunshine for less at any of 24 hotels participating in a special third-night-free promotion. The hotels range from Travelodge on up, so something's bound to suit your budget.

If you can afford a splurge, Conde Nast Traveler readers' favorite of the participating properties is Shutters on the Beach. It's been on the magazine's Gold List since 2005, thanks to its breezy casual elegance and 1920s beach-resort feel. A three-night stay that would normally cost $1,523 (including tax) has been reduced to $1,197 (including tax), saving you $326 over three nights.

For more info: A list of the 24 hotels, as well as booking details, can be found here.

Wendy's tip: As is the case with most luxury properties, you'll get the greatest bang for your buck by booking through a travel agent who belongs to a consortium such as Virtuoso that negotiates added-value benefits for travelers. Say you book through Virtuoso member Caroline Bach Wood, who's on Wendy's Rolodex of top travel specialists.  Her relationship with the hotel means you'll get a free continental breakfast, a $75 spa credit (per room, per stay), and a room upgrade based on availability.  She gets similar perks for her clients at the Casa del Mar and the Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey, which are also participating in the third-night-free promotion. (Caroline can be reached at 406-624-6976 or carolinewood@brownelltravel.com.)

April 16, 2009

Bermuda Deal: $146/Night at the Fairmont Southampton

Fairmont_southampton
The Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda. Image courtesy of Fairmont.com

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Deal of the Day

Here's another flash sale:  You've still got two and a half days to take advantage of the Fairmont Southampton's new "$99 for 99 hours" promotion.

As Wendy's said before, many "deals" aren't as they appear. Fairmont's $99 rate actually turns out to be $145.88, once all mandatory taxes, fees, and gratuities are added in. Still, since this is for stays during peak season and these rooms usually go for over $400 per night, it's a good value.

Book by: 11:59 p.m. on April 18. Good for stays through August. No blackout dates or minimum/maximum stays.   

Book through: The hotel's reservations Web site or by calling 888-920-7077 and asking for promo code 2U8NTN. 

February 24, 2009

New York City Boutique Hotel Sale

by Wendy Perrin

I interrupt this Caribbean travelogue to bring you news about hotel consolidator Quikbook's great 72-hour sale on rooms in some of Manhattan's most popular boutique hotels. If you're N.Y.C.-bound anytime before October and want rates that are 25 to 30 percent below Quikbook's already low negotiated rates, check out this sale, which ends Friday at 5:00 p.m. ET.

February 02, 2009

How to Snag Low Rates at New Hotels

Mandarin_oriental_riviera_mayaMexico's Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya, which was on Conde Nast Traveler's latest Hot List, has run four auctions back-to-back on Luxury Link and should be launching another later today or tomorrow.

by Wendy Perrin

As you all know from reading my January Perrin Report on 25 tactics for saving money and traveling smarter in 2009, one strategy is to "turn the glut of new hotel rooms to your advantage by looking for low introductory rates."

The hotel construction boom--planned three to five years ago, when the economy was better--has unleashed an abundance of inaugural deals. Some of the best values are packages at brand-new properties that are running auctions on Luxury Link, the site that specializes in luxe hotel stays for up to 50 percent off and sometimes even more. (Cruises and airfare-plus-hotel packages are also offered at auction).

The site's president and co-founder, Diane McDavitt, was in my office last week telling me that there are currently 36 percent more deals on Luxury Link than there were at this time last year. And more and more of the deals have few or no blackout dates.

How to get the best rate via a Luxury Link auction? Read on.

Continue reading "How to Snag Low Rates at New Hotels" »

January 27, 2009

Hotels I'd Pay Not to Have to Stay In

Nyala_jrsuite "Pepto Bismol, anyone?" asks the blogger behind Unfortunate Hotels. (That's the four-star Nyala Suite Hotel in San Remo, Italy.)

by Wendy Perrin

I've been laughing for the past ten minutes over a blog I just discovered called Unfortunate Hotels, which collects and reviews "hotel web sites begging to be mocked." Check it out and tell me: Is this hilarious?  Or have I just been sitting in a dark office staring at airline seat maps for too long?  Either way, I'm sure most of us can point the writer (who turns out to be Christine Cantera of the side-splitting romp known as Miss Expatria) to an "unfortunate hotel" we've recently survived.

January 14, 2009

More on Negotiating Your Hotel Rate

Fourseasonscairo The Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza.

by Wendy Perrin

Speaking of getting rates lowered at top properties, I thought I should share this interesting feedback from Conde Nast Traveler reader Janice Schacter:

"Great tips in this month's issue. I just arrived from Cairo, where I was able to negotiate my room rate at the Four Seasons. Not only did I get a third-night-free deal, but I also lowered the rate by calling the hotel manager. I then negotiated the airport transfer, which was really a price gouge. The $145 airport transfer was reduced to a more realistic $55."

After the jump, what Janice learned about hotels "playing the currency market."

Continue reading "More on Negotiating Your Hotel Rate" »

January 13, 2009

What to Do When a Hotel Lowers Its Rates After You've Booked

Ritzcarltoncancun_2 I reported back in October that the Ritz-Carlton Cancun had lowered rates and introduced money-saving packages for this winter.

by Wendy Perrin

A reader named Borden has written in with an excellent question:

"I have had a trip to the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, Mexico, reserved for 3 to 4 months now. I know that prices must be lower now. How do I go about politely checking to see if I can get a better rate? I'm sure all resorts are hurting right now and need money. Won't they resist giving me a better rate because they need money and know I was willing to pay $$$$ for our suite before?"

Actually, my guess is that, if you phone the hotel and speak with the reservations manager, you won't encounter any reluctance whatsoever to give you the best rate available. Reservations desks at the finest hotels want to be fair and keep you happy. In fact, when I interviewed Ritz-Carlton's vice president of sales for the Caribbean, Bruce Siegel, for my October Perrin Report on how to get the best hotel deals, his suggestion to travelers was, upon arriving at the hotel, to "ask whether any value-added offers have become available since the time you made your booking." He also gave advice for how to get a free upgrade.

My recommendation is that you phone the on-site reservations desk to see if there is indeed a better rate or package than what you booked (check the hotel's Web site as well). If for some reason the reservations manager is not willing to give you the better rate, (1) let me know; I want to hear about it; and (2) have your travel companion reserve a room at the better rate under his/her name. Cancel your first reservation and use the second one instead.

Do any readers have any better suggestions? If so, please click on "Comments" and share your strategy! (Share your URL too!)

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