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Airfare Deal – from Boston to Guangzhou $794 on ANA

Airfare Deal – from Boston to Guangzhou $794 on ANA

Departure from: Boston (BOS)

Destination: Guangzhou (CAN)

Stops: Washington, Tokyo, Chicago

Airline(s): ANA

Sample dates: Oct 16 – Nov 3

Total miles flown: 17,944 miles

Fare class: L, K

Cost per mile flown (the lower the better): 4.4

Bookable on cheapoair.com

Use our guide How to find the cheapest flights with ITA Matrix to find available dates.

Want to pay even less? Get $440 off your travel purchase after signing up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases **

** Only available after card approval. Minimum spend of $3,000 in the first 90 days required. Points redemption only available for purchase made with eligible travel merchants.

© Bluusun Media LLC 2014

Airfare Deal – from San Francisco to Ponta Delgada $724 on Sata and Virgin America

Airfare Deal – from San Francisco to Ponta Delgada $724 on Sata and Virgin America

Departure from: San Francisco (SFO)

Destination: Ponta Delgada (PDL)

Stops: Boston

Airline(s): Virgin America, Sata

Sample dates: Nov 4 – Nov 14

Total miles flown: 10,200 miles

Fare class: unknown

Cost per mile flown (the lower the better): 7.0

Bookable on cheapoair.com

Use our guide How to find the cheapest flights with ITA Matrix to find available dates.

Want to pay even less? Get $440 off your travel purchase after signing up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases **

** Only available after card approval. Minimum spend of $3,000 in the first 90 days required. Points redemption only available for purchase made with eligible travel merchants.

© Bluusun Media LLC 2014

Airfare Deal – from Los Angeles to Muscat, Oman $777 on Air Canada and SWISS

Airfare Deal – from Los Angeles to Muscat, Oman $777 on Air Canada and SWISS

Departure from: Los Angeles (LAX)

Destination: Muscat (MCT)

Stops: Toronto, Istanbul, Dubai, Zurich

Airline(s): Air Canada, SWISS

Sample dates: Feb 11 – Feb 16

Total miles flown: 18,490 miles

Fare class: unknown

Cost per mile flown (the lower the better): 4.2

Bookable on Orbitz.com

Use our guide How to find the cheapest flights with ITA Matrix to find available dates.

Want to pay even less? Get $440 off your travel purchase after signing up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases **

** Only available after card approval. Minimum spend of $3,000 in the first 90 days required. Points redemption only available for purchase made with eligible travel merchants.

© Bluusun Media LLC 2014

Photo Review Santo Domingo (Zona Colonial)

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Santo Domingo gets a lot of bad rep for its chaotic traffic, high crime rate and pollution. For my 3 nights I therefore mostly concentrated on the Zona Colonial and kept my expectations low.

The Zona Colonial is a rather compact area with beautiful houses from the last 500 years. Santo Domingo is host to the Americas' oldest church which was started in 1502. It also has a host of colonial buildings – some in ruins; some beautifully restored. There is currently a major construction underway to make the small roads more pedestrian-friendly. It's about halfway done right now. It was hard to reach my hotel by taxi because of the construction work. On the flip side, there is zero traffic there right now and I was spared almost any traffic or pollution. The Zona Colonial is actually right at the ocean so while it was really hot, the air was clean.

While there is a constant stream of cruise ships and daytime tourists, the touts give up at sundown and the city is used by the locals again. Culinary offerings aren't rich but I eventually found two little eateries and coffee shops that I really loved. It was also crazy-cheap (one dollar per set menu 2 course meal). However, it took me several days to find them and they are off limit to most tourists.

I met a number of people who had money or electronics stolen during their time in Santo Domingo and Boca Chica. There is also a large number of tourist touts during the day. The city does not feel dangerous but you get the feeling that things could 'go south' around the next corner (especially at night in eastern Santo Domingo).

Spanish is a must here – speaking in English gets you stares but no directions, food or drinks.

The areas in western Santo Domingo around Avenidas Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin are much more modern in contrast and reminded me of Singapore, albeit a poorer version. There isn't too much for tourists to see but the restaurants and coffee shops would compete well in most American cities.

So I'm a bit torn – yes the city has lots of traffic, is hot and (some) locals chase you for your money. But it's also not as touristy, is charmingly picturesque and – if you find the right spots – crazy-cheap and delicious.

It's certainly a place to discover – not necessarily to just enjoy.

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© Bluusun Media LLC 2014

How to (not) rent a car in the Dominican Republic with Avis

How to (not) rent a car in the Dominican Republic with Avis

I have rented hundreds of cars in dozens of countries. While it is usually a straightforward process, there is always a risk involved. Rental companies may not be what they seem and the car is a big asset that you are responsible for over so many days.

My go-to rental car company is Avis and for my hire last week the price was $32 for a compact car at Punta Cana International Airport in the Dominican Republic.

Road conditions – read irresponsible other drivers – are a hazard in the Dominican Republic, but the eastern peninsula isn't too crowded so I was looking forward to spending a day in a well-cooled car, driving around the east coast.

However, when picking up the car at the Avis airport station, things started to unravel quickly.

I usually decline the Supplementary Liability Insurance (SLI) and Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) since I have liability insurance in the US (and it is included for many other countries) and CDW is part of my credit card package.

At first the agent refused to accept my rental since the car pick-up requires a passport, a US driver's license and a credit card. I was able to convince him otherwise as he checked my stay details at the hotel.

Now liability insurance is usually included in most car rentals anywhere in the world. The US is one of the few places in the world where it is not. I could not validate before the pick-up if my US insurance would cover rentals in the Caribbean. The cost per day (!) is $13.95 at Avis and I was prepared to pay for that.

I did, however, plan to decline the additional $18.95 CDW that Avis offered. I have a MasterCard version of the Chase Sapphire and as far as I know, no countries are excluded. It's different with the Visa version where rentals in certain countries aren't weren't covered:

Losses from rental transactions which originated in Israel, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland.

The latest explanation of benefits for insurance products associated with Chase Sapphire makes no mention of excluded countries.

American Express excludes big parts of the world completely (for all cards):

Coverage- Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Coverage is not available for vehicles rented in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand (including for Business Platinum Card Members). For all other Small Business Card Members, coverage is available only within the United States, its territories and possessions. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage.

American Express even denies claims if you used a coupon as part of the payment!

…value of that coupon exceeds more than the cost of one rental day, you ARE NOT Covered by the AMEX Rental Car Protection, and your claim will be denied if you file.

Anyhow, now the agent got really worried and explained to me that he would charge (not just authorize) $2,000 to my credit card which would be refunded upon return of the vehicle in the same condition. He also pulled out several forms which had to be signed in front of a notary (!) – just across the hall – to make sure I would accept any responsibility.

At this point I just lost interest in my car rental – that was much different than even my experiences in Mexico. I walked away from the deal, hired a cab and took the local bus for the same route for $30.

Conclusion: Just because it is a familiar car rental brand, don't expect the same treatment or rules in another country. Stay away from car rentals in places that aren't really road safe.

© Bluusun Media LLC 2014

Starwood Hot Escapes – Excellent 5* deals including 69% off Sheraton Hua Hin Pranburi Villas, Thailand

Starwood Hot Escapes - Excellent 5* deals including 69% off Sheraton Hua Hin Pranburi Villas, Thailand

We mentioned Starwood's weekly hotel promotion 'Hot Escapes' back in May. This week's current deals are worth shouting about as they include:

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- 69% off the stunning 5* Sheraton Hua Hin Pranburi Villas, Pran Buri, Thailand – $157 instead of $500 (SPG rate just $149)

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- 50% off the gorgeous 5* Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Nadi, Fiji – $135 instead of $269 (SPG rate just $128)

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- 36% off the totally hip 5* W Retreat & Spa Bali – Seminyak, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia – $288 instead of $450 (SPG rate just $274)

There's dozens more hotels on sale around the world with this week's picks, but these 3 are not to be sniffed at.

Promotion rules:

- The new list is revealed on a Wednesday (so in this case, yesterday 30th July)
- You need to book by Saturday to ensure this rate (so in this case, by Saturday 2nd August – get your skates on!)
- Your booking must be for within the next 6 weeks

Don't forget that SPG members save an extra 5% and earn Starpoints.

Not a Starwood Preferred Guest yet? Join here.

Advance reservations are required – book here and use Rate Plan DAILYDI or SPGDI

Terms and Conditions

Offer is valid at participating Starwood Hotels & Resorts only
Offer is available starting Wednesday at 12:01 AM hotel local time through Saturday 11:59 PM hotel local time.
Stay period is specified on the offer for each participating property, and are subject to availability at the time of reservation.
In order to be eligible for SPG Member rates, guests must be an active member in good standing of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. Guests who are not SPG members may join the free program online at www.spg.com .
Arrival day and length of stay restrictions may vary by property.
In order to be eligible for SPG Member rates, guests must be an active member in good standing of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. Guests who are not SPG members may join the free program online at www.spg.com or at time of booking.
Length of stay restrictions apply to all hotels and resorts. For hotels, the maximum stay is four nights and for resorts the maximum stay is fourteen nights . Not all hotels will have Thursday and/or Sunday nights available and not all resorts will have Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights available.
Advance reservations are required and should be made using Rate Plan DAILYDI or SPGDI.
Advance purchase required. Credit card will be charged at time of booking. Cancellations are non-refundable; if cancellation takes place, guests forfeit total room charge plus tax.
An eligible stay is defined as 1 or more consecutive nights paying a qualifying rate in the same hotel regardless of the number of check in or check outs that occur.
Rates are per room, per night, based on single/double occupancy and availability at time of reservation and do not include additional per room, per night charges that may be imposed or state/local taxes.
Offer not applicable to groups.
Not to be combined with other special offers or promotions.
Not responsible for omissions or typographical errors.
Void where prohibited by law.
Starwood reserves the right to discontinue this offer at any time.
A limited number of rooms may be available at these rates.
Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Starpoints, SPG, Starwood Preferred Guest, Sheraton, Four Points, W, Aloft, Le Méridien, The Luxury Collection, Element, Westin, St. Regis and their respective logos are the trademarks of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., or its affiliates.

HT JOHN OLLILA @ LoyaltyLobby

© Bluusun Media LLC 2014

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