Travel Bargains to Consider
May 6 to May 31, 2020

THE BIG DEAL THIS WEEK

Tuscan House: 3-5% Discounts For Joe Sent Me Members
If you're one of those people--you know, Italy or bust--may I point you in the direction of TuscanHouse.com? The site offers an impressive spread of carefully chosen vacation homes in Tuscany. Not run-of-the-mill joints, but the right places with the right perks at fair prices. I've stayed in some, visited others and each is at least as good as the site description and the photos. Best of all, I've convinced the principals--a multi-lingual Finnish architect and a globe-trotting former airline executive from Australia--to offer Joe Sent Members 3% off weekly rentals and 5% off two-week stays. As always, I receive no fees or commissions of any kind if you deal with Tuscan House. I do deals strictly for your benefit and because I believe in and use the product myself. To claim the special discount, contact Zak when you make a reservation and mention that you're a Joe Sent Me member.

OTHER GREAT NEW DEALS TO CONSIDER

Capital One: Savor Cashback With a $300 Statement Credit
Capital One has come roaring back in the wallet wars with a fine points-transfer option and generous acquisition bonuses on its flagship Venture card. But I'm convinced the best card offered by Capital One is Savor. It offers 4% cashback on all dining and entertainment spending. It also offers 2% cashback on grocery spending. It is a compelling offer for a card with a $95 annual fee. Now there's another perk: a $300 statement credit when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. With in-person dining and entertainment venues coming back, now may be the time to focus on your spending in these two categories. Information: the SAVOR REWARDS page.

Aer Lingus: Fall and Winter Business Class for $2,000 Roundtrip
Aer Lingus can claim credit for being the first transatlantic carrier to mount an honest-to-goodness sale for fall and winter travel. At the moment, the system is New York/JFK, Boston and Chicago to Dublin. And prices are great: $1,999 roundtrip in business class from JFK, $2,199 from Logan and $2,299 from O'Hare. As you may recall--you know, back when we flew places--Aer Lingus has a terrific business class. Seats are fabulous (the same as the JetBlue Mint product). The satellite WiFi is free. Food and wine are cleverly curated. And the flight crews are great. Travel is valid from September 1 to March 31. Restrictions are minimal: a 3-day minimum stay and a few holiday blackouts, but nothing unexpected. So what's the catch? You need to hurry. The sale is scheduled to end at 7pm ET on Friday, May 7. Information: the BUSINESS CLASS PAGE.

TAP Air Portugal: Europe Business Class for $999 Roundtrip
I expected blowout fares to Europe as the continent began to reopen, but I was shocked at TAP Air Portugal's opening offer: As low as $999 roundtrip in its perfectly lovely business class to nearly two dozen cities over its Lisbon hub. It also posted a sale to four Africa destinations for just $1,499 roundtrip. And in a pricing strategy only airlines can love, TAP nonstops to its hometowns of Lisbon and Porto start at $1,899 roundtrip. Fares are valid for travel until September 15--and therein lies one of the rubs. The posted super-low prices seem almost exclusively available in May and June, which may be before Europe reopens to U.S. travelers. (There's also the issue of the Trump-era ban on travel from Europe ...) If you want to go in the height of summer, expect to pay upwards of $2,000 for a connecting itinerary and about $2,500 for nonstops to Porto and Lisbon. Those are fabulous fares, of course, but not what TAP is promoting. Traditional restrictions are modest (three-day minimum stay, 14-day maximum stay and a Saturday stay). No-fee changes are permitted 21 days before departure, otherwise it's $300. There's a $250 fee if you cancel before departure. You must book by May 11, well before we have clarity on travel. Information: the TAP SPECIAL PRICE page.

United/Chase: 100,000 Miles and Lots of Useful Perks
The world probably doesn't need another airline card, but that doesn't dim the luster of the new Chase United Quest Visa Signature. The initial acquisition bonus is huge--80,000 miles for $5,000 in purchases in three months--and there is a follow-up offer of 20,000 more miles if you spend $10,000 in six months. The ongoing spend proposition is good, too: three miles per $1 spent on United and two miles per $1 spent on other travel, dining and even some streaming services. There is also a $125 statement credit on United spending to help offset the $250 annual fee. Considering the other perks it offers, the Quest card might actually be the best value in the Chase/United portfolio. Information: the LAUNCH OFFER page.

American/United: Cheap Transatlantic Awards With Real Availability
United and American Airlines both threw some lowball transatlantic award prices into the market during the pandemic. But both now seem to have opened huge amounts of transatlantic capacity in the late fall and winter at their lowest restricted business class levels. On American, I am seeing flights to London, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam and Munich for as little as 57,500 miles one-way in business class. And we are talking American Airlines flights. That means no $1,000+ surcharges for flying on British Airways. The only upcharges are the legitimate taxes. To ensure you don't get trapped in the BA surcharge scam when searching for awards, make sure to select "American Airlines only." Meanwhile, United is offering similar pricing--starting as low as 60,000 miles one-way--for business class on its own metal to Europe. The overwhelming majority of seats are from Newark, but, obviously, connections are available. There are seats from United's other transatlantic gateways, too, just not in great volume.

THE MASKS-FOR-MEMBERS DISCOUNT

Masks: Lower Prices, More Colors, Still American-Made.
When the mask mandates hit last spring, a Joe Sent Me member stepped up with a supply of washable, high-quality face coverings at a fine price. Now that a renewed federal mandate for airplanes, trains and buses extends to mid-September, he's stepped up again with a new supply of American-made, 100% cotton face coverings. This time there are colors--and the price is lower, too. Four-packs of masks are just $12 for Joe Sent Me members--and that includes all taxes and shipping. You can choose from a four pack of black masks; a dark set (navy, charcoal, white and black); or a light set (turquoise, purple, white and tan). As always, I've negotiated this special deal strictly for your benefit. I have no financial interest of any kind if you purchase masks. You can examine the mask details and order from a members-only page HERE.

HOTEL POINTS & PRICE PROMOTIONS

Chains: Modest Promotions for Spring and Summer Stays
As more travelers consider, you know, traveling, hotel chains are jockeying for the business that's out there. World of Hyatt, for example, is offering 2,000 bonus points for every two nights stayed until June 15. Hyatt cardholders earn 500 more bonus points for every two nights. After 10 nights, you earn a free night valid for 180 days at a Category 1-4 property. The so-called Hyatt Bonus Journeys requires advance registration, of course, and you must do it by May 15 to qualify. Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors promotion, More Nights, More Points, is slightly more generous than recent offers. Hilton points are so devalued that it routinely offers double points on each stay. More Nights, More Points offers double points, of course, but escalates to triple points on stays of three days or more. The promo runs until September 6 and advance registration is required.

TOURS AND PACKAGES

Oxford University: A Travel Evergreen Returns in 2021
The pandemic has changed a lot about travel, but it is heartening to know that the Oxford Experience will return in 2021. And the week-long evergreen of learning travel will be held in the third quarter of the year, when (we hope) many of us will have been vaccinated. The 2021 edition of the summer learning event at Oxford University offers seven tranches of week-long courses between July 4 and August 15, the start date of the last batch. Among the six dozen or so offerings for 2021: 200 years of British murder mysteries; the French Revolution; the life and music of Brahms; survey courses on English gardens and British country homes; the history of "fake news;" and the history of the English language. The course fee (about $2,100) includes a week of classes; accommodations with private bath; most meals and a final gala reception. Along the way there are pub walks, whisky tastings and even Morris Dancers. Because, really, what's Oxford without Morris Dancers? Information: The Oxford University OXFORD EXPERIENCE page.

CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES

Air France/KLM: 50,000 "Free" Points in Worthy Back-Up Program
The Air France/KLM World Elite Mastercard from Bank of America is worth getting just for its acquisition bonus: 50,000 Flying Blue points for $2,000 in spend within 90 days. Even better: the $89 annual fee is offset with a $100 statement credit for the $2,000 spend. The Air France KLM Flying Blue program is useful for a raft of reasons: While it charges co-pays of as much as $300 one-way on international business class tickets, you can often find forward-cabin seats to Europe for as little as 53,000 points one-way. That is substantially cheaper than dealing with Delta's rapacious SkyMiles program. In fact, you can sometimes find business class seats on Delta using Flying Blue for half the number of miles that SkyMiles itself charges. Moreover, you can move American Express and Chase points into Flying Blue on a 1:1 basis. Capital One points transfer at an even better rate ($1 spend converts to 1.5 Flying Blue points). Information: the Bank of America LIMITED-TIME OFFER page.

Sonesta Hotels: Up to 90,000 Points for Minimal Spend
When 2020 began, Sonesta had fewer than 100 hotels worldwide. But one of the chain's owners got into spats with InterContinental and Marriott and has shifted about 300 properties to Sonesta's flags. Sonesta then purchased Red Lion, which has about 1,000 properties, most of them at the lower end of the lodging spectrum. At 1,300 hotels--all but a handful in the United States--Sonesta becomes an interesting larger-than-a-niche player. So it probably wouldn't hurt to have its credit card (issued by Bank of America) in your wallet, especially since the acquisition bonus is huge. You'll earn 60,000 Sonesta Travel Points for spending $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days and 30,000 more at the end of the first year if you spend a total of $7,500. Designated a World MasterCard, it even waives the $75 annual fee in the first year. One caveat: Integration of properties has been slow and you can't even automatically book awards online. Information: The Sonesta EXCLUSIVE OFFERS page.