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Summer Travel Promotions Feature Packages and Perks

As usual, travel suppliers continue to float various offers and promotions designed to attract you—and your money. And especially in this lousy economy, many of them try to keep their posted prices low and try to make it on the extras. Here’s a rundown of some current ones that came to my attention.

Hawaiian’s bundled package. Add Hawaiian to the list of airlines re-bundling extra-price options for some features that were formerly covered in the base fare. “Coach Plus” bundles up to two checked bags, a waiver of the change fee on modified itineraries, and a 25 percent discount on a future interisland flight. Is it a good deal? I checked a mid-June round-trip from San Francisco to Honolulu. The all-up regular round-trip fare was $652; the round-trip with Coach Plus was $762—a difference of $110. Checking one bag each way would cost $46; two bags would cost $112. The future 25 percent discount on an interisland flight would be worth $25 to $100, depending on when and where. And changing a ticket costs $50 to $150. My conclusion: Coach Plus is a good deal if you check two bags, you check one bag and plan to use the future discount, or you figure you might have to change a flight. Hawaiian, of course, expects that this deal will bring in more revenue than the unbundled charges, but if you really use the features, it can be a good deal. {{{SmarterBuddy|align=left}}}I’ve previously reported on United’s new bundled packages. Look for other airlines to follow: In airline matters, “Me, too” rules!

European rental cars. Bob Bestor at Gemutlichkeit has published an excellent 16-page overview about the ins and outs of renting cars in Europe. Download it free at Although it’s a bit self-serving—Gemutlichkeit arranges European rentals—most of the content applies no matter where or how you rent. Make sure to read the surprising details about surcharges on rentals you pick up at airports or rail stations, and the hassles of driving into Eastern Europe.

New “auction” site. I just received a press release from Off & Away, a new outfit that plans to auction off suite stays at high-end hotels and resorts. The basic approach is the “pay to bid” system: You buy packets of bids costing $1 each, which you can then use in a real-time auction. Each bid costs the $1; a losing bid returns nothing. However, if you’re outbid, you can apply 110 percent of your unused bids toward a firm reservation at “the Web’s best published rates.” Pay-to-bid has earned something less than a stellar reputation in other marketplaces, but it might work here. If you’re interested, check Off & Away. I certainly can’t recommend it, however, until I’ve seen some real results.

Meanwhile, if you like the idea of spur-of-the-moment visits to top-rates hotels and resorts, you might be better off with JetSetter, a nominally “membership” operation that features highly discounted prices for short purchase windows. The current offerings include a standard room at the Marcel at Gramercy boutique hotel in New York starting at $145 per night (Expedia rate for the same date is $269). Other deals the week I’m writing this range from Virginia to Switzerland.

Hit those bypass lanes. The Enterprise car rental empire (Enterprise, Alamo, and National) announced rental cars with stickers that allow you to pass through “fast lane” cashless collection systems on toll bridges and highways. “TollPass Automatic” will be available starting August as an option for rentals in Northern California, Colorado, Florida, and Texas. You pay whatever toll charges you ring up, plus $2 a day or a maximum of $6 per rental. Less automatic systems are available at other locations. And you can hope that the fully automatic system will be available soon in the toll-happy Northeast.

Speculation. Now that local conditions seem to have quieted down a bit, I expect to see some attractive promotions for Greece and Thailand. Keep your eyes open.

What kinds of deals are you seeing lately? Will you take advantage of any of these offers? Share your thoughts and advice by submitting a comment below!

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