Sigh. Yes, they’re back. Lucky us.
This week saw the return of the endlessly long (okay, 5 weeks, but it feels like forever) Daily Getaways promotion, brought to us as always by the U.S. Travel Association.
For those of you who may not know about Daily Getaways, every day from now through April 22nd there will be an “exclusive” travel deal of some sort available at an “incredible” discount, resulting in great “savings” for buyers who want to travel to “exotic” locales like Las Vegas and stay at “renowned hotels brands” such as Circus Circus.
This is now the 6th year of the Daily Getaways promotion and, if you’re anything like me, you care about them a little less every year. Some folks argue most of the “deals” were never that great to begin with, but you could sometimes find some diamonds in the rough. Yet Daily Getaways still manages to grab the attention of the Conventional Wisdomers year after year, even while the worthwhile deals become ever less apparent.
Why am I so down on Daily Getaways? Aren’t there good reasons to go after whatever few diamonds are left? A deal is a deal, even if you have to chase it, right?
Okay, since you asked, let’s find out, shall we? What? You didn’t ask? Well… too bad, we’re finding out anyway.
A 10%-50% discount? Based on what?
Let’s start with the good news, at least according to the USTA, who proudly announced that this year “all card types are eligible to receive the same great savings.” Of course the USTA didn’t proudly announce that this is only because American Express is no longer a sponsor, thereby eliminating the additional 10% discount you could get in the past by using an Amex to pay for deals. So this year’s deals are 10% worse across-the-board, but hey, everyone is being treated equally badly!
The USTA also likes to claim that you can save “upwards of 50% on deals from the world’s leading travel brands.” This is true only in the same way that you can walk into a Ford dealership and, if you are a human being breathing oxygen and with a properly operating brain, most likely receive a substantial discount off the price listed on the sticker in the car’s window. In fact, there should be a legal warning on that sticker that reads “For entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you love are actually considering paying this much for this car, exit the dealership and seek help immediately.”
Daily Getaways deals are essentially the same thing. For instance, this Friday, March 27th, you’ll have the chance to buy 100,000 Hilton HHonors points for the low low price of just $500. According to the USTA, this is a 50% savings off the “estimated value” of $1,000! Wow!
Except who in their right mind estimates the value of 100,000 Hilton points at $1,000?
Seriously, does anyone here think Hilton points are worth 1 cent each? Though Scott values them at 0.6 cents each, I personally don’t even think they’re worth the half-cent each that you could buy them for under this promotion. I certainly wouldn’t stockpile 100,000 of them at that price, nor would I recommend doing so unless you think Hilton is finally going to wake up from their drunken devaluation binge and realize perhaps they’ve made some choices they shouldn’t have.
So are any of these deals worthwhile?
I could go through and do the math on all these Daily Getaways deals to see if I should consider any of them, but I don’t have the patience for it. Fortunately Scott here at Travel Codex and Greg over at Frequent Miler have much more patience than I do. Scott has analyzed the Week 1 deals and Greg has gone through all 5 weeks. They’re both much better at it than I would be anyway since they’re good with numbers and stuff. Also, I suspect Greg drinks a lot less gin than me. Scott, on the other hand, can give me a run for my money.
Scott feels some of the hotel deals in the first week are worth considering, though mostly marginally. Greg is more pessimistic, calculating that out of 25 Daily Getaways deals there are exactly five that might be worth buying. That’s five. Or put another way, 20%. Or put yet another way, the other 80% of these deals are useless.
Great. So let’s take a quick look at those 5 deals…
Both Scott and Greg like this Alamo one. Unfortunately it’s already sold out. OK, that one’s on me. I write my column on Thursdays and this deal was up on Monday. So sue me.
Greg estimates Choice points have a Fair Trading Price of .55 cents each. So you’re saving a little more than one-tenth of one cent per point. Since you can buy a maximum of 80,000 points at the best price of .4 cents per point, that means if you go for this deal you can save yourself around $120.
Apparently this is a good deal, but Hertz math always confuses me. I think it’s because I’m afraid of the color yellow.
A nice buy for the 8 people who are going to Busch Gardens in the near future. Seriously USTA, make these Disney tickets and we’ll talk.
Even I’m smart enough to realize this is probably a good deal if you’re staying at a Marriott. So I’ll give you this one.
That’s it. So we’ve got 2, maybe 3 available deals that are definitely worth it. In 5 weeks.
Are you starting to see why I’m a bit underwhelmed by Daily Getaways?
OK, so what’s it gonna take to snag one?
Simple — a ton of luck and having no life. Because even if you agree with Scott and see some value in the hotel points deals in the first week, or you have your eyes on the few deals Greg mentioned, inventory is rather limited. Actually, “limited” is a generous description. In fact there are exactly 130 Hertz points packages and 793 Marriott eGift cards.
When the deal opens, those 130 Hertz packages will be gone in less time than it took me to type this sentence. And while 793 Marriott eGift cards sounds like a lot, with thousands of people gunning for them all at once, those will also be gone in minutes if not moments.
Some folks also think the deal on April 10th to buy 24,000 Hyatt points at $260 or the other similar Hyatt offers are also worth considering. I say you can manufacture over 24,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and turn them into Hyatt points for just $167 with an Ink card at Staples, and that’s on a non-rebate week. So I’m not sure why this is a great deal. Not to mention there are a total of 125 of those Hyatt point packages, which means they’ll be snapped up faster than $200 Mastercard gift cards during a Staples rebate week like this one. Seriously, guys, at least leave a couple on the gift card rack for me, will you?
And there you have it, folks. Daily Getaways 2015!
Look, everyone likes a sweet sale, but most of the deals Daily Getaways offers are just not that alluring, and the few deals that are worth it are nearly impossible to acquire. Quite frankly, you’d almost get better odds playing the lottery than trying to pick up a great deal from the USTA.
The fact is there are more than a few actual excellent travel deals out there, so there’s no reason to settle for a lame annual promotion that’s more about marketing than low-cost travel. Stick to the credit card bonus game, OTA discount codes, manufactured spend, and the like and you’ll have a lot more cash left in your wallet at the end of the day.
Now someone get me out of this Ford dealership before I pay too much for a Mustang.Devil’s Advocate is a weekly series that deliberately argues a contrarian view on travel and loyalty programs. Sometimes the Devil’s Advocate truly believes in the counterargument. Other times he takes the opposing position just to see if the original argument holds water. But his main objective is to engage in friendly debate with the miles and points community to determine if today’s conventional wisdom is valid. You can suggest future topics by following him @dvlsadvcate on Twitter or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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