Three for Free promotion at 18 Hyatt hotels

If you’re staying at a Hyatt hotel this fall and you want a little extra pampering, you’ll want to know about their Three for Free promotion.

What’s included? A free night, room upgrade, and daily breakfast. The free night is based on either a three-, four-, or five-night stay, depending on the specific hotel.

Unfortunately, it’s not available at all of their hotels–only 18 of them. Two international hotels are available, though: Aruba and Cancun. The other domestic locations range from Kauai to Chesapeake Bay.

And if you become a fan of the promotion on Facebook, you can get an additional welcome gift as part of your stay.

The promotion is valid for travel from September 8th to December 18th, 2009.


Status seekers pulling back

It’s not just the travel companies’ bank accounts getting hit in this market – loyalty programs are getting spanked, too. The management consultants, investment bankers and attorneys – now fewer in number than a year ago – who accumulate elite status quickly aren’t spending as much time on the road. With considerably less travel time being logged, the folks who used to have platinum status on multiple airlines and in multiple hotels aren’t hitting the same levels they have for the past several years.

A study by Colloquy, which conducts marketing research for loyalty programs, showed that loyalty program membership dropped 28 percent in the travel industry. In 2007, the average traveler belonged to 2.8 of these programs. Now, it’s down to merely two. Lower- and middle-income men are being cited as the source of the decline, as they’ve been hit harder by layoffs.

Additionally, active participation in loyalty programs is down almost a third. This year, the average traveler is participating actively in 1.5 programs – a year ago, it was 2.2. Among the wealthy, this type of engagement fell 13 percent – from 2.3 programs down to two.

According to Colloquy, travelers are focusing on fewer programs and looking to get as much as they can out of them, rather than spread around their travel with the knowledge that they’ll have enough to reach and maintain high statuses with several travel companies.

Spin a hula-hoop, get an upgrade

Forget about singing for your supper. How about hula-hooping for your hotel upgrade?

If you can spin a hoop for 20 seconds, that’s enough to earn you a room upgrade at Kimpton Hotels. Not civilized enough? Okay, how about Rock, Paper, Scissors?

The get-in-touch-with-your-inner-kid approach is part of Kimpton’s Summer Playground promotion. Some freebies at wine hour are tailored to the kid in us: ice cream, or virtual Wii golf, baseball, or tennis. Others are more adult favorites: wine, sangria, and appetizers.

They’ve also put together a Summer Playground package: accommodations, $25 food/beverage credit, and complimentary in-room movie/popcorn. Rates start at $199/night, depending on the location and availability. Book on the phone and mention Summer Playground, or online and use the promo code PLGD.

The promotion is available at Kimpton Hotels’ 47 US and Canada properties through September 7th.

The top 5 myths about getting upgraded

Business class. The promised land in the front of the aircraft with wider seats, free drinks, meals and checked bags. Who wouldn’t want to take the opportunity for a free upgrade once in a while?

Yes, it is possible to purchase a coach ticket, work the system and get upgraded to the front of the airplane. Is it easy? No. Is there an inexpensive shortcut? Not really. Contrary to many empowering articles out there, upgrades are a tightly controlled, regimented benefit that are doled out to only a few deserving passengers.

Many of the oft repeated tricks to sneaking up front have expired with new technology, prolific resources on the web and plain old common sense. So we’ve compiled the top five myths about getting upgraded to save you time and embarrassment at the airport. Read on for the details.1. Dress to impress: We’re well past the days when passengers dressed up for the pleasure of flying on an airplane. Any ticket agent, gate agent or flight attendant knows that people from all walks of life fly in business class. There are days when the Fortune 500 CEO wears a hooded sweatshirt and buys a first class ticket and days when the neighborhood plumber has enough miles to upgrade. Either way, if you dress nice thinking that you’ll be selected for an upgrade, you’re probably just going to be uncomfortable in coach.

2. See an empty seat? Grab it. Flight attendants have manifests that show which passenger is sitting in which seat and whether or not they got upgraded (haven’t you ever seen Executive Decision?). So if you happen to find a seat up front that hasn’t been taken and are able to slip in, they’re going to notice during the preflight checks and you’re going to get the boot.

3. Ask the flight attendant for an upgrade. Flight attendants have no control over who gets upgraded when – there always might be one last business class passenger coming down the jet bridge right before departure, so they can’t give away a seat. After the boarding door is closed? Maybe if you’re discreet, but with everyone watching, the flight attendant will most definitely say no.

4. Ask the ticket agent to put a special code on your e-ticket. This just doesn’t happen. Any request for upgrades are managed by a different system that’s independent of your reservation. If they add anything to your ticket or boarding pass it’s going to be SSSS.

5. Be charming and polite. While airline employees will surely appreciate your kind behavior, any deviation from the set upgrade process shows favoritism and is something that the agent could get nailed for. Shouldn’t you always be charming and polite anyway?

It’s important to remember that behind paid upgrades, the entire engine behind getting moved up front is fueled by elite status, the preferential treatment that one earns after flying a certain high volume of miles — usually over 25k. If you’re close or you think that you’ll get close to that limit this year, you should check out Gadling’s Guide to Mileage Running.

So the fact of the matter is, 90% of upgrades are managed by a computer system that automatically upgrades those who pay for an upgrade and elite passengers that worked hard to earn them. The other 9.5% of upgrades are handled by gate agents at the airport who sweep up any elites or paid upgrades that fell through the cracks. That remaining 0.5%? That’s your window of opportunity. Better think of a creative approach.

How to look like an experienced traveler at the airport (even if you are not)

Summer is quickly approaching, which means a large number of you will be heading to the airport for your summer vacation. If you are one of the many people in the country that only visits the airport once a year, then chances are you are going to be quite unprepared for what the airport has to offer.

In this article, you’ll find some simple ways to arrive at the airport, and not look like a once-a-year traveler. In fact, with these tips, you’ll appear to be the kind of person who gets on and off planes on a weekly basis.

Know how to pack

Planning for your trip, and being prepared for the airport starts at home, so the first couple of tips all take place long before you head for the airport.

This one may sound really stupid, but if you have not been paying attention to developments in airport security, you may still be packing full sized bottles of toiletries in your carry-on, and spreading all your stuff between 4 suitcases.

Check the web site of your airline to see what their most up to date luggage rules are. You’ll be surprised how many airlines are now charging for checked luggage. Even the big carriers want to see some cash before accepting your bags. A family of 4 may see airport luggage fees as high as $200, which would make a pretty big dent in your vacation budget before you even reach your destination.

Leave all those stickers on your luggage

Since this article is all about appearing to be an experienced traveler, you’ll want to do anything you can to create the appearance that you are a seasoned world traveler.

So, when you dig your suitcase out of the garage, don’t peel all the stickers from previous trips off the bag. Do remove any old checked luggage tags, as they will only confuse the bar code scanners at the airport.

If you still have airline logo tags or priority tags on your bag, leave them on, the same goes for hotel stickers or anything else that shows how often you are on the road.

Sign-up for the frequent flier program

Even if you only plan to use your airline once, be sure to sign-up for their frequent flier program.

Being an entry level member of the airline won’t get you a single perk, and most airlines won’t even bother sending a membership card until after your first flight with them, but every mile earned may come in handy one day.

In a really rare event, the airline may pick you if they are looking for people to upgrade, but that would only be in the event they don’t have any elite members to select from.

Online check-in is your friend

It has been a long time since a trip to the airport involved walking up to a counter to check-in. Sure, some airlines may still have a couple of desks with a real person, but the terminal long line of manned desks disappeared years ago.

If you want to be an experienced traveler, get on your computer and check-in the day before your flight. The advantage of this is that you’ll be able to pick your own seat, and may even be offered an affordable upgrade to a slightly better seat.

Before you actually pick that seat, be sure to visit Seat Guru to check out a seat map of your plane (you’ll find the plane type during your check-in screen). Many of these seats have some descriptions, and really bad seats come with warnings. Seat Guru will also let you know where to find exit row seats, because your chance of getting an exit row seat assigned at the airport is next to nothing.

Your boarding pass will come out of your own printer, but even if you can’t print right away, just check-in, to lock in your seat choice and use an airline kiosk at the airport to print your boarding documents.

Your luggage says a lot about you

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that old leather luggage with spinning wheels is not of this era.

If you want to look like you are at the airport every week, then get yourself something modern.

Also remember that airlines hate luggage, and anyone in contact with passenger luggage will do anything in their power to destroy it, so be sure to travel with luggage that can survive a couple of trips.

Don’t be an amateur at the security line

One of the number one pet peeves of any frequent flier at the airport is amateurs clogging up the security line.

Help everyone from delays and aggravation by preparing yourself for the checkpoint. Empty your pockets completely. Do not assume that your massive belt buckle or watch won’t set off the metal detector. Assign a portion of your carry-on luggage for items you will send through the X-Ray machine.

Before you approach the checkpoint, go through all your pockets to be sure they are empty. Then be sure that you have your ID and boarding pass available for the checker at the security line. You may need to show your ID and boarding pass twice – so be sure you don’t pack it away after the first checkpoint.

If you are carrying a laptop computer, be sure you can get it out quickly, and place it in its own in a plastic bin (or invest in a security checkpoint friendly bag).

For several years, the TSA has prohibited passengers from carrying any liquids in containers over 3 ounces, and ALL liquids must be carried in a single quart size bag.

This “3-1-1” rule is explained on the TSA web site, so be sure to read through their rules before you pack your carry-on. Remember, this rule only applies to your carry-on, checked baggage is not included in these rules.

Be prepared at the gate

Once you reach your boarding gate (on time), take a seat and pay attention to the announcements. Many airlines use a boarding group system for getting passengers on the plane. On most airlines, this system will allow elite members of their frequent flier program to board first, followed by passengers in the first and business class cabin, followed by less elite members, then on to the regular passengers.

If you are really unlucky, you may be in one of the last boarding groups, which means it could take as long as 45 minutes from the time boarding commences to the time you can actually get on the plane. By then, it is not unlikely that you won’t find anywhere to store your luggage. Prepare for this by making sure anything important can be grabbed out of your carry-on in a matter of seconds, because unlucky passengers may find themselves in the back of the plane, with their bag in the front, and the last thing you want to do is walk all the way up front each time you need something from it.

Do everyone a favor, and don’t be one of those passengers that stands next to the boarding gate expecting to be the first person on board – a plane is not a train, and chances are you’ll only get in the way. Of course, if you are a top tier elite member flying in first class then feel free to ignore my advise.

If you carry medication, an iPod, or anything else you don’t want to fly without, pack it in your jacket. That way you won’t be in trouble if you do need to say goodbye to your bag.

Be prepared on the plane

I’m aware that not everyone gets on a plane every month, but ever since the early 1940’s, plane seating rows have been numbered, and those numbers start at 1 and go up at every row.

If you are seated in row 50, it does not make much sense to try and find your seat in the business class cabin in the front of the plane. You’d be amazed how many passengers get on board, then spend their first minutes trying to determine whether row 48 is next to row 2.

If you are in a really bad boarding group, then it may be worth paying the airline for an upgrade.

United Airlines is a good example of an airline that will try and nickel and dime you any chance they get – but on many flights, $50 may move you from the back of the plane to a slightly better coach seat.

This better seat often includes using the elite security line, and being moved into boarding group 1. You may also get an offer for an upgrade from coach to business or first class, but expect to pay several times your ticket price for that “luxury”. Save yourself some money by seeing whether you are given upgrade options at the check-in kiosk at the airport. Also, consider asking the gate agent if they have any paid upgrades available (this really only applies to United Airlines and their Economy Plus seating).

And finally – do everyone on the plane a favor, and get into your seat as soon as you possibly can. Nothing is more annoying than a single passenger taking 5 minutes to get his or her bags in the overhead bin, especially if it is delaying 100 fellow passengers.

If you can’t find a spot for your bag, sit down and keep it on your lap until a flight attendant reaches you. Don’t bother trying to walk up all 50 rows to the front of the plane, as every single thing you do will only delay boarding. Flight attendants will help you before the plane leaves the gate, so don’t worry about that bag.