From January 2009
By Elizabeth Bailey, Geraldine Campbell and Yolanda Crous
This may be a year of tightening belts and minding budgets, but for travelers, it’s a buyer’s market. Here, T+L’s tip sheet for navigating the new travel landscape.
1. Score Hotel Perks and Deals
In an effort to increase their bookings, hotels worldwide are offering travelers significant deals. Fairmont Hotels (fairmont.com), for example, has cut rates by as much as 20 percent at all 56 of its properties through April 15. Other brands, instead of dropping prices, are offering free nights and savings packages; some are even upping the ante by tossing in room upgrades, meals, and resort credits.
2. Take to the Waters
Cruises—already known as a great value option thanks to their all-inclusive pricing—are adding even more enticements. “Every cruise line is trying to make it easier and more cost-effective for people,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of cruisecritic.com. Crystal Cruises (crystalcruises.com) is offering some of the best perks, such as stateroom upgrades and $2,000 discounts on penthouse rooms on some Asian sailings. Silverseas Cruises, meanwhile, is offering travelers who book before April complimentary airfare from 27 North American cities to departure points for 28 European/Mediterranean sailings in 2009. Booking early for a seven-day Mediterranean voyage on the Yachts of Seabourn (seabourn.com) can get you up to 45 percent off, plus a $500-per-person discount. Companies are also becoming increasingly flexible with purchase policies. Late last year, Disney (disneycruise.com), Windstar (windstarcruises.com), Norwegian (ncl.com), and Crystal extended cancellation periods and reduced deposit amounts by as much as 50 percent.
3. Be Loyal
Hotels are looking for your allegiance—and extending extra incentives to gain it. Most loyalty programs, including those of Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, and Wyndham, have eliminated blackout dates for points redemption, so you can get free nights even during peak season. Taking it a step further, the Starwood Preferred Guests club’s new SPG Flights program lets you use points to purchase plane tickets for any day of the year—even during holidays such as New Year’s and Presidents’ Day. And with Hilton HHonors Point Stretcher Rewards, you can check in to participating hotels for 40 percent fewer points.
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