Rants from the road: Third night free - buyer beware

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.