UPRIGHT AND LOCKED
American Airlines has a new deal for vacationers who want to island-hop from Puerto Rico. Caribbean Explorer fares save 10 to 40 percent off round trips from San Juan to other islands. For instance: San Juan to St. Maarten and Aruba, $319 total fare (four segments); to Port of Spain and St. Lucia, $359. By contrast, you'd pay $326 for a San Juan-St. Lucia round trip and $212 for San Juan-Port of Spain (for a two-island total of $438). The American hopper deal saves you $79.
But that's a small reward for a lot of trouble. The deal requires you to return to San Juan after each island hop, spend four nights or a Saturday night on each island, buy the tickets (seven-day advance) before leaving home and fly to San Juan via American. So it's best for . . . well-heeled compulsive planners with lots of free time and an inexplicable fondness for the San Juan airport?
For more spontaneous and affordable island-hopping, consider basing in Guadeloupe or St. Martin and using ferry service to visit various Windward and Leeward islands.
Triple Your Fund?
Car rentals usually don't provide many frequent-flier miles for your effort, but a spate of current deals is rich: Hertz offers Delta SkyMiles members triple miles on certain cars in the United States and in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K., through Dec. 15 (CDP 165385; promotion code 904024 [U.S.] or 904444 [Europe]); Alamo gives triple miles to American Advantage members for rentals of four to 14 days, through March 31 (I.D. 606072, rate code AX); and Dollar awards triple miles to Northwest WorldPerks members on midsize or larger vehicles for three or more days, to Dec. 15 (code NW999). Restrictions apply, and you must cite promo codes when you reserve.
Most car rental companies have throttled back on mile programs. Note that these juicy deals target specific carriers and types of rentals; make sure you don't overpay when chasing miles.
If you're among the 80 percent planning to celebrate New Year 2000 close to home, you're in luck. Many packages for D.C. hotels are available and are reasonably priced. The just-renovated Washington Plaza Hotel (1 Thomas Circle, 202-842-1140) offers a one-night dinner/room/champagne toast package at $352 per couple. A simple double is $159. Other local stay-and-play New Year's options are in a brochure by the Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitors Association (202-789-7069, www.washington.org).
Virginia has published the fourth edition of its superb travel guide for people with disabilities, featuring 500 museums, parks, restaurants and other attractions. Each listing includes potentially trip-making or -breaking details like the grading and composition of trails, entry-door widths, location of handicapped parking, availability of roll-in showers and more. The book is in large type and is free. Call 1-800-742-3935 (TTD: 804-371-0327) or write the Virginia Tourism Corp., 901 E. Byrd St., Richmond, Va. 23219.
Bargain of the week
Those $99 coast-to-coast fares have been revived by Southwest and matched in select markets by other airlines, including US Airways, America West, Northwest and Continental. Blackout dates apply around the holidays, but seats are widely available from January through March 31. Tickets must be purchased by Dec. 15. Several airlines, including Southwest and America West, are offering even lower fares if you purchase from their Internet sites by Dec. 2.
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