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The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.


Rain, rain, go away? Book Priceline (www.priceline.com) and travel another day. Priceline just introduced an unusual new deal for hydrophobic travelers: book a vacation package through them and get your money back if it rains while you're there.

Priceline's "Sunshine Guarantee" covers trips from three to eight days in length to certain places in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe, where airfare and hotel are both booked through Priceline's vacation packages tab. You have to buy your trip by July 17, travel between July 1 and September 7, and book your package at least 12 days in advance of travel. When you're booking, look for a little sun symbol and the "Sunshine Guaranteed" logo on your specific vacation package. Those are the ones covered. Priceline will pay you automatically within 21 days if they see it rained too much, they say. You can find the full rules online.

The Sunshine Guarantee covers some startling destinations. I found it on July trips to both drizzly Seattle and to Maui, one of the rainiest places on Earth. It covered not only sunny, resorty places such as Ocho Rios, Jamaica but also city breaks in Atlanta, New York, and Toronto.

Priceline also spotlighted an August trip to Orlando, a September trip to London and a July trip to Boston as sunshine-guaranteed destinations.

The guarantee doesn't cover all popular destinations at all times. I found that mid-July trips to London, Paris. and Cape Cod didn't have the guarantee, for instance.

You don't pay extra for the guarantee over Priceline's standard package prices. Like with all sites, sometimes their packages are great deals, sometimes they aren't. Many packages use opaque airfares, which hide the details of your flights in exchange for big savings. In those cases, you don't find out your flight times or where you're connecting until you pay.

On a sample package from New York to Maui in July staying at a Westin hotel and flying on United Airlines, Priceline's price of $3,470 for two came within $20 of booking the same airfare and hotel directly through the Westin and United sites -- but United also suggested alternate flights that would have saved $140 per person if you booked directly through them.

Much greater savings appeared on a "special airfare" package with opaque flight details from Omaha, Nebraska to New York City, staying at the Comfort Inn Long Island City, a budget hotel just outside Manhattan. Priceline's price of $1,198 for two beat the lowest airfare we could find on Kayak, combined with the price from the Comfort Inn's website, by a whopping $500.

There is a catch, of course. To get your rain refund, you have to be traveling from three to eight days. It has to rain more than half an inch per day at your destination airport, for at least half the days of your trip, as measured by the National Weather Service or a comparable organization. Drizzle won't do it. One day of rain won't do it. Daily morning monsoons might do it. A steady downpour will definitely do it.

The one thing Priceline's deal doesn't cover is airline delays. If your flight is washed out, they can't help you. If that breaks your heart, keep an eye out for packages where you fly Air Canada. I've disparaged their "On My Way" customer service fee before, because it lumps in many kinds of service that should be customary. But, to their credit, if you pay the $25-35 per-flight fee at booking, they'll put you on any other flight they can find even if you have lousy weather at the airport. That should be customary in the airline industry, but it isn't.

Some destinations have weather guarantees of some form or other, but this is the first one we've seen from a travel agency. Package tour companies Apple Vacations and Chukka Caribbean, along with many resorts on Bermuda, all offer hurricane guarantees where you can get your money back if there's a hurricane approaching. But that's about hurricanes, not your average steady drip.

The Harbor Beach Marriott Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, FL offers a $50 resort credit if there's a 25 percent chance of rain on any day of your stay, as forecasted by Weather.com. You can only get one credit, no matter how many cloudy days you have. It's no refund, but it's a neat gimmick.

If you loathe rain, the Priceline guarantee seems like a great deal -- you don't even pay any extra for it. It's definitely a reason to include Priceline in all of your travel searches this summer season.