While the fall is shaping up badly for flyers—high prices and full flights—there's good news for travelers planning hotel stays between now and the end of the year.
As has become something of a yearly ritual, the major hotel chains have begun rolling out bonus offers designed to keep occupancy rates up during the traditionally slow fourth quarter of the year.
Hyatt, for example, announced the return of its annual "Faster Free Nights" promotion last week. After registering, members of the hotel's Gold Passport program will receive a free night after every two qualifying stays completed by December 30. Additionally, members charging their qualifying stays to a MasterCard will earn 2,000 bonus points.
While Hyatt boasts that "there is no limit to the number of free nights members earn by participating in Faster Free Nights, and the free nights can be redeemed at Hyatt hotels in 45 countries," there are two serious caveats buried in the offer's terms and conditions.
First, the award stays must be taken between September 15, 2008, and February 28, 2009. That's a pretty narrow window of opportunity.
The second condition is as follows:
A minimum of a three-night award stay is required for Faster Free Nights Award(s) redemption in non-resort hotels during mid-week (i.e., Monday through Thursday). One or two-night stays at non-resort hotels are available on weekends only.
So, most participants who elect to take their free nights at non-resort hotels will have to do so on weekends.
While the requirement that members log two stays before earning the free night may seem like a high hurdle to infrequent travelers, it's a goal that can sometimes be achieved even on a single trip to a single city. As do most hotel chains, Hyatt has two or more hotels in many larger metropolitan areas. And switching among them counts as separate stays.
In Los Angeles, for example, there are seven hotels operating under the Hyatt umbrella: three Hyatt Regencies, two Hyatts, one Hyatt Place, and one Summerfield Suites (Hyatt's extended-stay brand). So a four-night visit to the area could easily be spread among four different hotels, generating two free nights.
Hyatt's is just one of a number of bonus offers from major hotel chains for stays during the final four months of the year. Look for my comprehensive wrap-up of fall hotel promotions in the next week or so.