Click fast: 99-hour sales in the Caribbean & Mexico

By JD Rinne
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="">laratada/myBudgetTravel</a>

It's high season in Mexico and the Caribbean, which means people are flocking to the warm sand and sun down south—doesn't that sound nice, especially with this huge snowstorm moving across the country?

The good news is that deals don't disappear during the high season—sometimes, you just have to dig a little to find them. One strategy is to sign up for online newsletters, which often offer exclusive savings on packages and hotel stays. If you're looking for deals just in the Mexico and Caribbean, try signing up for's newsletter. has these 99-hour sales that happen so fast, even we have trouble keeping up with them. The sales happen weekly, starting on Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern and ending Friday at midnight. You can save up to 70 percent on vacation packages in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Riviera Maya in Mexico, and plenty more.

And now, if you sign up for the free newsletter, they'll release the sale to you in advance. So you get a few hours' head start on all the other people hoping to book.

Currently, the "Groundhog Day" 99-hour sale features packages like a 7-night stay with airfare to the Barcelo Maya Caribe and Beach resort in the Riviera Maya, starting at $799 per person. Next week's theme is Valentine's Day, followed by Mardi Gras.

Not sure where to go? Our Nonstop Caribbean tool shows all the nonstop flights to the Caribbean from major U.S. cities, so you can get to the beach faster. And for more trip ideas, check out our Real Deals section, currently with 148 deals to destinations around the world, from $24 a night.

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Travel Tips

Super Bowl travel, without a super-high cost

Want to travel to see the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, but don't have thousands of dollars lying around to pay for the ticket and trip to Miami? Don't worry: You don't have to settle for watching the big game from the couch. You can spend the weekend in an atmosphere just as exciting&mdash;and not nearly as expensive&mdash;as the one in south Florida, with a getaway to the homes of the two teams competing. Both New Orleans and Indianapolis are welcoming travelers with deals on food, lodging, and activities. Best bets for both Omni hotels in both cities are embracing the competitive spirit with the Go Indy, Go Big Easy package, featuring rooms starting at $144 (in honor of Super Bowl 44). Under the promotion, if the Colts win, the fans staying at Indianapolis's Omni Severin Hotel will get their room free Sunday night, compliments of the Omni Royal Orleans in New Orleans. And if the Saints win, the fans staying at the New Orleans Omni stay free Sunday night, courtesy of the Indy Omni. (There's also a friendly wager between management at the two properties: If Indianapolis wins, the GM of the New Orleans hotel will have to parade around the French Quarter in Colts gear, cheering for his rival; if New Orleans wins, the GM of the Indy hotel will have to do likewise in Mardi Gras attire at the city's Soldiers and Sailors Monument downtown.) The celebration will continue into the next week: If the Colts win, the Indianapolis Omni will send Indy-style Just Pop In popcorn (in Colts colors) for guests to enjoy at the New Orleans Omni; if the Saints win, the New Orleans hotel will send king cakes to guests at the Indy Omni. Another wager pits the Indianapolis Museum of Art against the New Orleans Museum of Art: If the Colts win, NOMA will loan Claude Lorrain's 1644 painting, Ideal View of Tivoli, to IMA. If the Saints win, IMA will send J.M.W. Turner's work from 1800, The Fifth Plague of Egypt, to NOMA. Big Easy deals The Marriott New Orleans is offering the Finish Strong package starting at $179 a night, including accommodations, two Saints hats, and a game-day snack pack with a Saints cooler, four Abita beers, and a large bag of Zapp's Who Dat? chips (to book, use rate code SPE). During the game, the hotel's bar will have food and drink specials, as well as giveaways, prizes, or drawings for every touchdown New Orleans scores. Saints' fans can watch Sunday's game in the French Quarter with a team legend at Deanie's Seafood, which is hosting a Flying Pigskin Party. Former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert will be broadcasting his pre- and post-game radio shows live from the restaurant, where $125 gets you an all-you-can-eat prepared menu and an open bar throughout the game. Visitors to New Orleans will also get a taste of Mardi Gras. It's the first weekend of the festival, and six parades are set for Saturday (parades previously set to roll during Sunday's game have been canceled or rescheduled). And regardless of the game's outcome, fans can cheer on Saints quarterback Drew Brees as the king in the krewe of Bacchus's parade on February 14. (See full Mardi Gras details at the New Orleans tourism Web page.) Also while you're in town, check out the Audubon Nature Institute, which is giving fans wearing Saints gear half-price admission on Saturday and Sunday to its zoo, aquarium, and insectarium. Here's a roundup of other hotel deals in New Orleans for the weekend, up to 40 percent off in some cases. And for more on what-to-do and where-to-watch specials, keep an eye on the convention and visitors bureau website, which is being updated as new offers come in. Indy specials For die-hard Colts fans (or just those who want to bask in the football frenzy), you can't visit Indy without a trip to the Colts-themed Blue Crew Sports Grill, which is packed with Colts memorabilia dating back to the arrival of the team in 1984 and, fittingly, has a horseshoe-shaped main bar. This weekend, the bar is bringing in a huge heated tent with tables, TV monitors, and a beer draft truck, with live entertainment both Saturday and Sunday before the game, as well as drink specials and prize giveaways. Expect an authentic fan experience: The owner of the bar is the president of the Indy Blue Crew, a group of super-loyal Colts fans and expert tailgaters. Those wishing to get a little gambling in and to possibly make the vacation pay for itself can head over to Hoosier Park Racing &amp; Casino, northeast of Indianapolis, which will raffle $500 every 15 minutes during the game. Also, all-day Sunday, Mellow Mushroom, a pizza shop in nearby Carmel, is offering 18% off all deliveries and takeout orders, in honor of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who wears #18. This weekend also coincides with the city's Devour Downtown Winterfest, which lasts through Saturday. More than 40 participating restaurants are offering three- or four-course meals for $30 each. ELSEWHERE Both Super Bowl cities are welcoming travelers with deals on food, lodging, and activities. Check out their tourism websites: New Orleans and Indianapolis. AdLand has archived the top Super Bowl ads since 1969

Travel Tips

Belize: Answers to your vacation FAQs

Here's a Q&A; with Eric Wechter, the editor of Fodor's Belize, 4th edition, and Lan Sluder, the author. Wechter is also the Belize expert for Fodor's 80 degrees initiative, an interactive planner for finding a warm-weather escape best suited for your personality. Why are airfares to Belize so high, and how can we find cheaper flights? Air service is somewhat limited and is mostly from a few hubs in the United States. To find the most affordable flights, stay flexible on your dates, avoid peak holiday travel (around Christmas and Easter), and sign up for Internet specials and e-mail fare alerts on the airlines flying to Belize&mdash;currently Continental, American, US Airways, Delta, and TACA. Another option is to fly into Canc&uacute;n, which usually has good air deals, and bus to Belize. We want to spend time at the beach and also in the jungle. Where should we go? On a first and relatively brief visit to Belize, sample the best "surf and turf" by splitting your time between one of the popular beach areas&mdash;Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Hopkins, or Placencia&mdash;and the rest in the Cayo, which has the largest concentration of popular mainland activities. Is Belize a safe place to visit? The best answer is "Yes, but&hellip;" Most visitors say they feel quite safe in Belize (except, they say, in some areas of Belize City). Tourist Police patrol areas of Belize City, Placencia, Ambergris Caye, and elsewhere, and many hotels and jungle lodges have security guards. Out of the hundreds of thousands of visitors, the numbers who are victims of any kind of crime is perhaps a few hundred. So, while this is still a developing country, enjoy yourself and follow standard travel precautions: Don't wander into areas that don't feel safe; avoid deserted beaches and streets after dark; and don't flash expensive jewelry or cash. Be aware that there have been a few carjackings and robberies on remote roads or at little-visited parks and Mayan sites; travel in a group or with a guide to less popular places. Got any tips for visiting the Mayan Ruins? Altun Ha, the ruin closest to Belize City, gets crowds of cruise ship day-trippers; so if you go, try to avoid days when there are several cruise ships in port. On your visit to Tikal (in Guatemala), stay at one of the three lodges at the park if possible&mdash;you'll be able to visit the ruins early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when howler monkeys and other animals are active and most day visitors have left. What about mosquitoes? Pack plenty of bug juice with DEET. Mosquitoes are especially bad around Cerros and at the ruins near Punta Gorda. How physically fit should I be to enjoy an adventure vacation in Belize? Adventure vacations commonly are split into "soft" and "hard" adventures. Hard adventures, such as strenuous jungle treks and extended caving trips, usually require excellent physical conditioning and previous experience. Most hiking, biking, canoeing-kayaking, cave tubing, snorkeling, brief cave tours, and similar soft adventures can be enjoyed by persons of all ages who are in good health and are accustomed to a reasonable amount of exercise. A little honesty goes a long way&mdash;recognize your own level of physical fitness and discuss it with the tour operator before signing on. I want to try something fun and different, but not too challenging. Any suggestions? An activity you'll find in few places outside Belize is cave tubing. You drift down a river, usually the Caves Branch River in Cayo District, in a large rubber inner tube. At certain points the river goes underground, and you float through eerie underground cave systems, some with Mayan artifacts still in place. The only light is from headlamps. Where are the best areas for spotting exotic birds? Once you see toucans at Tikal or the hard-to-find motmot in the Cayo, you're sure to get caught up in the excitement of searching for some of Belize's 600 species of birds. Many Belizeans know all their local birds and where the best places are to find them. Crooked Tree, Chan Chich at Gallon Jug, the New River and New River Lagoon near Lamanai, and much of the Toledo District in the Deep South are wonderful areas for bird-watching; keep your eyes peeled to the treetops and don't forget your binoculars. Of all the incredible outdoor options, what's one experience I shouldn't miss? Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) is more than a caving experience. It's a visit to the Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. You'll see ancient Mayan artifacts and human skeletons. While not cheap (a guided, full-day tour starts at $82, or BZ$160, per person) and requiring a little hiking and swimming, the ATM trip is one-of-a-kind. Many visitors consider it the highlight of their entire Central American experience. Due to the risk of damage to the cave and to the priceless Mayan artifacts there, we're not sure how much longer the Belize government is going to permit access to ATM. Go, while you have the chance. You won't regret it. MORE Belize travel tips from a pro, Josh Berman On the Chocolate Trail in Belize

Travel Tips

FedEx and UPS win as airlines hike checked bag fees

Travel CBS newsman Peter Greenberg has a saying. "There are only two kinds of airline bags&mdash;carry-on and lost." Peter always ships his bags to his domestic destinations, instead of checking them in on flights. It's convenient, of course. Both UPS and FedEx will pick up your luggage at your home and deliver it direct to your hotel. But it is too expensive, right? Often, yes. Especially at the last-minute. But given that the airlines just hiked their fees, shipping is more appealing than ever. Even Arthur Frommer, a man who needs no introduction, thinks that shipping is no longer a frivolous thing."Some travelers are giving serious thought to shipping their luggage ahead by Federal Express or UPS. It isn't that these shipping fees will be less than $50 or $70. But the greater convenience of traveling with just a small carry-on may support that decision; travelers with no heavy luggage are more disposed to using public transportation for the trip from airport into town (or vice versa) in place of expensive taxis." So when does it pay to ship instead of check your bags? Airfarewatchdog did the math, comparing the cost of shipping&mdash;under a variety of circumstances&mdash;with the cost of checking a bag. The key lesson: If your bag (or baggage collectively) weighs more than 55 pounds, it is generally just as cheap to ship your bag as it is to check it in. It's more convenient, too. Says Airfarewatchdog founder George Hobica: "As long as you avoid overnight service and ship by ground, we found that the worst case in many scenarios, that of checking or shipping a single average sized bag, is that shipping cost about the same as paying most airlines to check the bag. But shipping has advantages nonetheless: better tracking, better accountability if something is lost, less loss incidence, and less schlepping. But when you get into heavier or oversized bags, shipping wins hands down over checking, cost-wise. And when you ship, you often don't need to send your belongings in a suitcase at all. If you're staying in one place, a box will do just fine." Here's an example: One 25 lb. suitcase plus one 35 lb. suitcase for one passenger. Chicago to Orlando. Delta would charge you $55 to check the bags.* FedEx and UPS would charge you $41 and $45, respectively. Cheaper and easier. *(We're assuming you paid the checked bag fees online when you bought your ticket, $23 plus $32). How about a single, smaller bag? Surprisingly yes on many routes, if you're willing to ship your bag at least two business days in advance. Consider a New York to Chicago route. I just checked on my own and found that UPS Ground, 2-business-day service between New York and Chicago is $27 each way. FedEx Ground is about $20 each way. Delta charges $23 each way for your first checked bag, and $35 for your second. But in many other cases, it's still far cheaper to check your bag. See chart for full details. But keep in mind that, as of today, JetBlue doesn't charge for your first checked bag. And Southwest doesn't charge for your first or second checked bags. Thank goodness at least a couple of airlines aren't nickel-and-diming us to death. EARLIER Update on checked bag fees (10-plus comments)

Travel Tips

San Francisco: Get a taxi fast

Even with a plethora of transportation options in San Francisco, sometimes only a cab will do (like when you've overdone it at Union Square). But, I'm constantly appalled at how difficult it is to get a taxi in this city (particularly because I'm an ex-New Yorker). It's not unusual to wait half an hour as the dispatcher repeatedly says that the driver is "on his way." And on late nights and rainy days, cabs can seem like an endangered species. That's why I'm excited about Taxi Magic, a free iPhone app. Taxi Magic directly contacts the dispatcher of a nearby cab company (with no waiting on hold), and, using GPS, finds the closest driver to your location. Then, the cab is sent your way. The app also maps the cab on your phone, allowing you to see how far away it is&mdash;all with the touch of a button Right now, Taxi Magic has partnered with Luxor Cab, named in San Francisco magazine's Best of the Bay Area 2009, but there are plans to expand and use other companies. The app, praised the San Francisco Chronicle and named one of the top apps of the year by Wired magazine, even offers a fare estimate and lets you pay with your phone. The app is also available on the Blackberry. Just back from San Francisco? Headed there soon? Check our our San Francisco city page and leave your comments, suggestions, and questions.