Hotel room (Photo: Index Open)

Unlike some first-quarter hotel promotions, Carlson's "Country Means Business" offer is limited to stays at a single brand during a period of just six weeks.

Still, it's worth a look....read more»

Hotel bed with rose petals (Photo: Index Open)

No hotel promotions period is fully defined until Marriott weighs in with its perennially recurring MegaBonus.

We received Marriott's press release last month, but held off on reviewing the offer because the promotion didn't take effect until February 1.

With the start date fast approaching, the time is right to add this promotion to the list of hotel bonus options for travel in the new year....read more»

Photo: PhotoDisc

With all the recent focus on new programs, hotel bonuses, and bonus miles for non-flight transactions, it's easy to forget the traditional staple of airline loyalty programs: bonus miles for flights.

That's partly because the airlines have been flying full. During December—typically a lackluster month, except for the week around Christmas—American's flights were filled to 80.2 percent of capacity, Delta's to 80.1 percent, Southwest's to 80.4 percent, and US Airways' to 80.8 percent, a record for that carrier.

With traffic that robust, there's no compelling reason to sweeten the deal with extra miles or other incentives. In fact, among the largest airlines, United and US Airways currently show no flight bonuses on their websites.

Still, not all routes are equally popular. And January and February are among the weakest of the weak months....read more»

(Photo: Southwest)

Reactions to Southwest's newly announced Rapid Rewards program have been decidedly mixed.

Within hours of the unveiling, the Internet was awash in comments. And for every thumbs-up, there was a countervailing note of no confidence.

Here's a random sampling of comments from travelers and travel bloggers:

  • "Noticed that you commented on the SWA Rapid Rewards program as outdated and needing to be updated. I think this comment was very narrow-minded and uninformed. I hope you take the time to review the hundreds of comments on SWA's Facebook page and realize their program was the standard that all other program should have been trying to reach. Today's announcement is a sad demonstration of change in a corporation for no good reason." Bob Z. via email
  • ...read more»

Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest is now the country's largest airline, in terms of annually flown customers, and perhaps its most popular—a notable achievement in an industry that consistently ranks among the lowest in terms of customer satisfaction.

The chink in the airline's armor has long been its loyalty scheme, Rapid Rewards.

Compared to the programs of the airlines against which Southwest competes, Rapid Rewards is notably anemic (limited options to earn points, and even fewer options to redeem them) and stingy (points that expire after two years, and cannot be extended). Hardly desirable characteristics for a program whose goal is to gain and retain customers' loyalty.

Southwest customers deserved better.

Southwest, for its part, had its sights set on both more customers and higher-paying customers.

With the launch of an altogether new Rapid Rewards, both parties will get what they wanted....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

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If miles are like money, this promotion from Bose—part of it, at least—amounts to giving away money for free.

Well, almost free. And not much money. But still ... ...read more»

Woman in orange using laptop (Photo: Index Open)

After almost three years of back-to-back hotel promotions, travelers might expect to see a cutback in the steady stream of bonuses deployed by the major hotel networks in a frantic move to fill their empty rooms.

After all, the economy is on the mend, and travel in particular is rebounding strongly.

For November, hotel research company STR reports that U.S. occupancy rates improved 9.0 percent over the previous year, and the average daily room rate was up 2.5 percent.

But even with the increases, the occupancy rate for the month remained a lackluster 53.3 percent, and the average daily rate was just $96.70.

And besides,...read more»

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