Unemployment Special: Travel Steals and Freebies

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Travel news, deals and updates for the week of March 16, 2009


Paradise Found. The Bahamas' Nassau/Paradise Island is offering a $200 air credit to visitors who book at least three nights at one of 17 participating hotels. Save more money by taking advantage of hotel packages: at the Wyndham Nassau Resort, for instance, guests who book two nights get an additional two nights free, plus $100 in food or drink credits; nightly rates start at $309. Check the Nassau/Paradise Island website for participating properties and specials, and download the form you need to get your rebate check. Book airfare and hotel stays by April 6 for travel through Dec. 15.

Fly Now, Pay Later. If you have an American Airlines–branded credit card, you can use it to purchase a ticket on AA.com and defer payment for six months, with no interest.

Experience vs. Youth. A study of Canadian air-traffic controllers published in this month's Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that an aging brain is just as sharp as a young one — at least when it comes to surveying the skies. While older controllers, aged 53 to 64, were slower on simple memory or decision-making tasks not directly related to air-traffic control than their younger peers, aged 20 to 27, they did equally well on tests that directly simulated the tasks of an air traffic controller. The study's lead author theorizes that decades of experience and expertise allowed the older controllers to compensate for their poorer memory and response time. In the U.S., air-traffic controllers must retire by age 56 — a majority of the controllers currently working for the Federal Aviation Administration are coming up on mandatory retirement age — but maybe there's no reason to push them out the door.

Delta's Nonstop Delays. FlyersRights.org's new report on tarmac delays gives Delta Airlines the "When You Are on the Ground, They Treat You Like Dirt" award, for having had the longest delays — up to 10 hours on the tarmac — and the most delays over three hours in 2008. According to the watchdog group, Delta kept passengers on more than 300 flights waiting on the tarmac for three hours or longer last year. Southwest was given the "My Heavens" award for putting into action a plan to move passengers stuck on the tarmac off the planes and for providing food and water to those stranded. The group takes a strong stand against tarmac delays not just because they inconvenience passengers but also because they compromise safety. "I wonder if heroic Captain Sullenberger and his crew could have performed as they did after hours on the tarmac," says the group's director, Kate Hanni.

Twin Cities Connection. Southwest Airlines has extended service to Minneapolis–St. Paul, with eight daily flights to Chicago's Midway, where you can pick up connecting service to other destinations, including San Francisco, Denver and Philadelphia.

Miles Swap. Delta and Midwest airlines will begin offering reciprocity between their frequent-flyer programs, plus each will grant access to the other's domestic-airport lounges by the end of the year. Earn and redeem frequent-flyer miles on either airline's network through the Delta SkyMiles, Northwest WorldPerks and Midwest Miles programs.

In-Flight Oscar Lineup. Virgin America is adding 25 new films to its on-demand service, including the latest Oscar winners and nominees — Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt, The Dark Knight and Tropic Thunder. If you'd rather provide your own entertainment, wi-fi is available on nearly half the airline's fleet (you can check on which flights are enabled when you book online). Virgin America plans to have wi-fi on all flights between Washington and L.A. by April and on fleet-wide service by summer.

Olé, Olé! Spain's Air Europa will provide daily service between New York's J.F.K. and Madrid's Barajas International Airport starting June 1. The introductory summer fare is just $490 round-trip on the airline's 299-seat Airbus 330 planes. After high season, the round-trip fare drops to $159 for tickets (not including taxes or fees); purchase tickets (midweek flights only) online for travel from Oct. 29 to Dec. 13.


Trading Stocks. Cash in your worthless Wall Street stocks for a Caribbean vacation. Elite Island Resorts will accept your devalued portfolio as payment for stays this year at any of their seven seaside properties. The resort will take up to $5,000 worth of any of the 400 stocks — including bank, retail and tech stocks — listed on its website and give you credit based on the stock's worth as of Oct. 31, 2008. The deal lasts through Dec. 31. 866-237-1366

Recession Reprieve. Antigua's all-inclusive Curtain Bluff resort is offering a full refund to visitors who book a vacation, then lose their job. The "Life Interruption" policy asks that you give the hotel seven days' notice when canceling; the offer can be applied to bookings through Dec. 31. Currently the hotel is giving away a fifth night free with four-night stays, good for reservations from April 15 to July 30. Rates start at $925 per night, with all meals, drinks and activities included. 888-289-9898

Westin St. John Resorts & Villas is offering a similar favor: if you're laid off after booking a trip, let the resort know 15 days before your arrival and you'll get your money back. All stays include free breakfast and a $150 resort credit, plus the fifth night of a five-night stay free. Current rack rates start at $629 per night. After April, rates drop to $489 per night. Book by April 30 for travel through Dec. 19. 877-782-0149

Unemployment Bonus. When you're jobless, you've got the time but not the dough to travel. So Vermont's Rabbit Hill Inn is offering a free two-night getaway, including dinner, breakfast and afternoon tea, to six lucky laid-off workers (must be over 25 years old and have been unemployed for six months) and their guests. The owners' aim is to rejuvenate winners, so they can get back to pavement-pounding with a springier step. Send a letter or an e-mail (info@rabbithillinn.com) by June 1, 2009, explaining your story in one page or less; you'll be notified by June 30 if you're invited. Rabbit Hill Inn Getaway Giveaway, P.O. Box 55, 48 Lower Waterford Road, Lower Waterford, VT 05848

Seaside Stimulus Plan. Florida's Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort has a $1 million rescue plan for its guests. For each night that you stay at the resort, you get a $200 credit for use in the dining room, at the spa or on the golf course. Credits will be given away to guests until the resort has doled out $1 million in freebies. Rates start at $529 per night; book using the promotional code LRW. The offer's good from March 22 to April 17. 400 South Collier Boulevard, Marco Island, FL; 800-438-4373

Vegas on Sale. Your odds are probably as good in Vegas as in the stock market, so now's the time to play the tables. Check out the MGM Grand's "Spring Fling" package, which gets you a room, a $35 credit for food or entertainment, two passes to Studio 54, 25% off spa services, two cocktails by the pool and $10 to spend at the slots — all for $75 per night. Book by April 30 for travel through Sept. 30. 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South; 877-880-0880

The New York New York (3790 Las Vegas Boulevard South; 866-815-4365) and Monte Carlo (3770 Las Vegas Boulevard South; 888-529-4828) hotels are offering guests breakfast and another meal at two for the price of one, plus half-off drinks at the Brand Steakhouse or any bar at New York New York. Rates start at $59 a night, through April 12. (See 10 things to do in Las Vegas.)

Midwestern Hospitality. You don't have to lay any money down to win this one: the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago is giving one winner a two-night stay at the hotel, plus two 90-minute massages and $100 toward a meal at China Grill. Check out the website to enter by March 31; the winner will be notified by April 30. 230 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago; 312-345-1000

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago is offering a suite of rebates with its "Experience More" package. Stay in a deluxe room, and get a $150 rebate for one night or a $325 rebate for two nights. Stay in a suite and get a $200 rebate for one night or $425 for two nights. Rates start at $425. The offer is good through Dec. 31. 160 East Pearson Street, Chicago; 312-266-1000

New York City Tax Break. At the midtown Manhattan hotels Dream (210 West 55th Street; 212-247-2000), Night (132 West 45th Street; 212-835-9600), Time (224 West 49th Street; 212-246-5252) or Stay (157 West 47th Street; 212-768-3700), pay only the cost of the room tax (6% in New York City) for the fourth night of a four-night stay. Rates begin at $199 a night. Book by March 31 for stays through April 15. (See 10 things to do in New York City.)

Paying It Forward. For each three-night stay you book with the Sol Melia hotel group — which includes Paradisus Resorts in Costa Rica, ME by Melia Hotels in Madrid and Gran Melia Hotels & Resorts in Cancun — you'll get a free night's future stay at any property. Rates vary but start at about $199 to $279 per night. 888-95-MELIA

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