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Ten (Almost) Free Travel Deals - 2009 Edition

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Family splashing around in cruise ship pool (Photo: NCL)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 12, 2009. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, Alamo, American, beach, Beaver Creek, British Airways, Caribbean, car rental, cruise, Europe, Hawaii, hotel, Lake Buena Vista, Liberty Travel, Mexico, New York, Orlando, Pleasant Holidays, resort, Sarah Pascarella, ski, Sol Melia Hoteles, Southwest Vacations, theme park, Universal Orlando, vacation package, Vail, winter.

You may have heard about the abundance of travel deals coming up in 2010. Believe it. Despite the recession (or maybe because of it), travel providers have slashed prices, offered value-added extras, and thrown in lots of freebies for those able to take a vacation this year. If you have some extra spending money, consider one of these offers, where "free" is the buzzword of choice. Like many trends, we're not sure how long the free travel perks will last, so take advantage of them while the getting is good.

Don't see a deal here that appeals to you? Negotiate! With so many providers competing for your hard-earned vacation dollars, call your preferred travel company and inquire about what deals are available. Be prepared and do your research beforehand. You may want to cite comparable deals you're seeing at similar properties or destinations, then request if they can be matched or if a similar offer can be added to your stay.

Read on to see our top picks for the coming year, and don't forget to share whatever good travel deals you've been seeing in the comment section below.

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Stay Seven Nights, Pay for Four in Orlando

Southwest Vacations has put together a "Stay 7 Nights, Pay for 4 In Orlando" promotion, including round-trip airfare, seven nights' lodging, and hotel taxes. Additionally, travelers who book this package have the option of adding on a seven-day Disney "Magic Your Way" base ticket for admission to the parks for the price of a four-day ticket. Travel is valid through May 7, and all packages must be purchased by March 1. With this package, you'll be getting three nights at a hotel and three days at the park for no extra charge with the minimum four-night stay. Base prices for airfare-and-hotel packages only (reflecting the free nights, without the admission ticket to the parks) start at $37 per person per night or $74 double occupancy.

Bonus Nights at European Hotels

Book an airfare-and-hotel package with British Airways and you may be able to score a free night at a variety of participating hotels in London, Paris, Rome, or other capital cities. A minimum-night stay is required at each hotel (many range from three nights/pay for two, up to six nights/pay for five), and pricing starts at $94 per night for double occupancy. Travel is valid during select periods through October 2010, varying by hotel.

Free Nights in Mexico and the Caribbean

Sol Melia Resorts has partnered with Liberty Travel to offer free nights at select properties in Mexico and the Caribbean when travelers book an airfare-and-hotel vacation package. Each resort has a minimum-night stay; prices (reflecting the free night) start at $549 per person for a four-night stay in Cozumel. Many resorts are all-inclusive and also include hotel transfers in the package price. Travel dates have not been listed for this deal; call to see when your preferred hotel is participating in the promotion.

Free Upgrades and Rental Days with Alamo

Stateside car renters may want to consider Alamo's free car class upgrade deal. Book a compact through mid-size car rental through December 31 and get upgraded to the next car class for no extra charge.

Or, if you're heading to Europe and want to explore at your own pace, Alamo is offering seven-day rentals for the price of five. Rentals are valid in France, Italy, Spain, or the United Kingdom, and can be booked for trips through March 31.

Free Stay in Athens with a Variety Cruise to Greece

Book Variety Cruises' special offer on 2010 Classical Greece sailings, and you'll get two free nights at an Athens hotel and a free half-day Athens city tour, plus a $500 discount. The cruise makes stops in Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and other ports, and departs from and returns to Athens. This promotion is available for select seven-night sailings in April, July, August, and October 2010, and all reservations must be made by February 1. Pricing starts at $2,150 per person before the discount.

Ski Free in New York State This Winter

If you're itching to hit the slopes, some of the promotions being offered in New York this winter are a great value. Several ski resorts are participating in the state's Ski & Stay deal, where travelers who ski and stay two nights get a third night of lodging and third day of skiing free. The weekends of January 9, February 6, and March 6 are eligible for the free night and skiing. Or, if you have a fourth grader, consider the 4th Grade Ski & Ride Passport Program, where eligible children ski for free at more than 25 participating resorts with a paying adult. A $19 processing fee and school documentation is required to get the passport—so while not exactly free, it's still a significant discount on daily ski passes.

Freebies in Hawaii From $429

Travelers dreaming of tropical temperatures may want to check out Pleasant Holidays' latest deals to Kauai, which include:

  • Kids' stay, play, and eat free at participating resorts
  • A free Hertz car rental with a minimum three-night vacation package
  • Free companion airfare (departures from San Francisco)

Promotional travel and booking dates vary, with most vacations valid in January. Pricing starts at $429 per person based on double occupancy.

Kids Fly Free to Vail, Plus Free Skiing

If Colorado skiing with the family is what you'd like to do this year, the resorts at Vail and American Airlines have partnered to offer a Kids Fly Free special. Book travel by February 10, and you'll get a free child's air ticket for every adult fare purchased (subject to availability). Additionally, kids can ski for free on the day of arrival and get free travel on the Colorado Mountain Express to either Vail or Beaver Creek.

Park for Free at the Airport

Heading out of town and not sure what to do with your car? Book a package from ParkSleepFly.com and get up to 14 days free parking at the airport with a one-night airport hotel stay. You may choose to take your one-night stay at the beginning or end of your trip, and participating locations include major cities throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Free Ride Access at Universal Studios

Stay at an on-site resort at Universal Studios Orlando, and get front-of-the-line access by showing your room key. As Express Pass tickets typically cost $70 per person, a family of four can get a $280 value each day for free. In addition, as resort guests, you'll also receive complimentary transportation in the parks (water taxis and shuttle buses), and free package delivery of purchases from theme park retailers to your hotel room.

Have you seen any good deals that offer free perks? Let us and your fellow travelers know by submitting a comment below!

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