If you're taking more than one short trip this spring, the three-for-two deals that have sprung up everywhere are enticing. Be sure to read the fine print and do your homework. As they say in the auction business, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

As I explained in an earlier rant on the topic of rewards cards, things are more complicated than they seem. Where the third night free package is concerned, be on the lookout for possible complexities. Don't "assume" anything while traveling these days. In the case of these deals, don't assume that you can walk in off the street and get a "qualifying night." If for example, you are planning a three night stay at a Clarion, you may not have the necessary qualifying nights for the third night to be free. In some cases, it may be necessary to book your room through the rewards program. In others, it may be necessary to go through the CIA.
I recently stayed at a Rodeway Inn (which, along with Clarion, Quality Inn, Comfort Inn and others and are part of the Choiceprivileges rewards group). Since I will be staying at a Quality Inn for several nights next week, I expected that one night would be free. I am a weary, hence reasonably wise, traveler. I called to check with ChoicePrivileges and was told that I would need a second, separate stay to qualify for the free night.

On an overnight trip last week, I stayed at a Comfort Inn. After that, I called the Quality Inn to make sure I would have a free night. They told me that I didn't have sufficient "rewards points" and referred me back to the Rewards Program. Although I had given the hotel my rewards program number at check-in, the reservation had been made directly with the hotel rather than through the Choiceprivileges reservation line, so the stay didn't count.

This doesn't mean that you can't get your third night free (I did). It does mean that you can save yourself from being disappointed by being sure that you understand exactly what's involved in getting your third night free. Even then, double-check.

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