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JetBlue to Phase Out the Check-in Process

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, July 18, 2014

JetBlue is shaking up the check-in process as we know it.

The low-cost U.S. carrier will eliminate the online or airport check-in requirement for passengers flying in Even More Space seats starting immediately. The airline is calling this "automatic check-in." JetBlue plans to offer a check-in free experience to more of its passengers by 2015.

Instead of having to check in online or at the airport within 24 hours of departure, Even More Space flyers will now get an e-mail from JetBlue that contains their boarding passes—simple and easy. So if you don't have any bags to check and you've booked an Even More Space seat, you can just show up at the airport and go to the gate with your boarding pass. No checking in required. Better yet, passengers with the JetBlue app on their phones can use e-boarding passes at select airports, no printing necessary. (The email JetBlue sends will give details on all of these options.)

According to Blair Koch, JetBlue Vice President Commercial and Shared Development Services, "The idea of asking customers to jump an additional hurdle before their flight is an increasingly antiquated concept. By having the right systems in place, we can remove this step, and even help identify and prevent issues that can hinder customers from fully enjoying their travel experience."

Eliminating one more hassle in the flying process is a step in the right direction. It's one less thing to remember. Some carriers already offer an automatic check-in option; Lufthansa is one example. The German airline gives flyers the option to select an automatic check-in when booking flights. A few other international carriers provide automatic check-in, but JetBlue is the first U.S. airline we know of that is beginning to offer this option for its passengers.

JetBlue's current plan for Even More Space flyers is just a trial. Although automatic check-in will likely save money for the airline by helping to cut airport-service costs, we'll have to wait and see if the scheme is here to stay.

Are you onboard with JetBlue's new automatic check-in system?

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title JetBlue to Phase Out the Check-in Process.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

(Photo: Angelo DeSantis via flickr CC Attribution)

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Gorgeous Hotel Bathrooms Around the World

Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Sur Cabin at Glen Oaks (Photo: James Hall)

The bathroom is arguably the heart of any hotel room. Whether serving as a respite from frenetic city streets or as a romantic spa-like sanctuary for two, the hotel salle de bain can make or break a stay. With that in mind, we're paying homage to some of the best. Discover deep copper soaking tubs, swaths of marble, beautiful views, and soothing rain showers in these unforgettable hotel bathrooms.

While a few of these properties fit firmly in the luxury category, we've left expensive presidential suites and Las Vegas penthouses off the list. These hotels are, for the most part, within reach of the average traveler's budget.

 

(Photo: Jade Mountain)

Jade Mountain, Soufriere, St. Lucia

Chromatherapy (a healing method that uses light and color to soothe and balance) whirlpool tubs are the highlight of the huge bathrooms at Jade Mountain. Grab a glass of Champagne and relax in full view of St. Lucia's most famous vista: From the large pedestal-mounted tubs, which are partially in the open air, bathers can enjoy the sight of St. Lucia's storied Pitons. These very special bathrooms also have spacious six-head rain showers and double sinks.

 

(Photo: Tree House Lodge)

Costa Rica Tree House Lodge, Punta Uva, Costa Rica

The bathroom of the Beach Suite at the nature-focused Costa Rica Tree House Lodge looks like something built for a mermaid. Sand-colored stone forms a double shower and a large central Jacuzzi. Colorful stained-glass windows filter rays of sunlight into the vast room. A giant seahorse statue perches on the edge of the deep tub. Tropical plants flourish. It's surely a fun fantastical space in which to wind down after a day of hiking in the surrounding rainforest.

 

(Photo: Amangiri)

Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah

The designers of Utah's Amangiri clearly kept the dramatic environs in mind when they dreamed up this ethereal property. Fittingly, windows abound, as the resort sits among the colorful mesas of Southern Utah. The gorgeous bathrooms of the property's Mesa-View Suites contain deep tubs stationed in front of tall windows overlooking the magnificent landscape, which takes on rose and gold hues when the sun sets and rises. Two-person rain showers, green limestone tiles, and locally sourced artisan bath products enhance the experience.

 

(Photo: The Yeatman Hotel)

The Yeatman Hotel, Porto, Portugal

A copper tub with unparalleled World Heritage-site views sits in the appropriately named Bacchus Suite at The Yeatman Hotel. Here, the wide Jacuzzi rests steps from a freestanding fireplace, a rotating bed, and a private double terrace. While relaxing in the deep, round soaking tub, turn one way to take in views of the River Douro and the ancient cityscape (a World Heritage site), then turn another direction to face the warming fire. Now those are what we call options.

 

(Photo: The Louise)

The Louise, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Want to stargaze under an invigorating veil of warm water? Shower under the stars in the Australian Outback. In Marananga, South Australia, guests at The Louise can cleanse in private outdoor showers beneath sunny or starry skies. The lodge's Stonewall Suites are outfitted with unique open-air rain showers, plus en suite bathrooms with two-person spa tubs and additional indoor walk-in rain showers. This remote food-and-wine-focused resort is nestled among thousands of acres of olive groves and vineyards in the Barossa Valley, a popular Australian wine region.

 

(Photo: The 1900 Inn on Montford)

The 1900 Inn on Montford, Asheville, North Carolina

Although an image of the bathroom of the Fitzgerald room has gotten a lot of attention on Pinterest, we also love the pretty and enormous bathroom of the Cloisters room at The 1900 Inn on Montford. In addition to the remarkable tub in this 1,300-square-foot guest room, there is a six-by-eight-foot rain shower that is enclosed by etched glass and has seats for those who wish to take a steam bath. There are even speakers in the shower!

 

(Photo: Hotel Particulier Montmartre)

Hotel Particulier Montmartre, Paris, France

Wash away your cares in the attic of an old, elegant French mansion. Each artist-designed room at this Parisian boutique hotel is unique. And each room, of course, has its own twist on luxury bathing. Our favorite: Hotel Particulier Montmartre's top-floor deluxe suite, artistically named "Curtain of Hair." The loft space in the attic of this once-private mansion offers priceless panoramic views of Paris. And a beautiful Napoleon III claw-footed bathtub, which sits smack in the middle of the suite, affords bathers the suite's magnificent Parisian city sights. For privacy, head to the en suite bathroom, which contains a shower and has a sliding door.

 

(Photo: Hotel 1000)

Hotel 1000, Seattle, Washington

When you arrive in your guest room at Seattle's Hotel 1000, you'll notice a regular-looking spacious bathtub. But this isn't just any bathtub. It's a "fill from the ceiling" bathtub. In the property's luxe rooms, a glass wall divides the main room from the bathroom, where, at the touch of a button, water flows from the ceiling into a very roomy freestanding pedestal tub.

 

(Photo: Mainport)

Mainport, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Private saunas, sweeping views, spacious bathing areas, and sleek, minimalist design—Mainport's guest rooms have it all. The property's sauna and spa rooms, in particular, wow with over-the-top bath and spa amenities. In addition to availing of walk-in showers, mirror-mounted TVs, and Jacuzzis, guests get to relax in the soothing steam of their own private saunas.

 

(Photo: James Hall)

Glen Oaks Big Sur, Big Sur, California

An affordable Big Sur property with unforgettable guest cabins and bath facilities, Glen Oaks Big Sur is as unpretentious as it is luxurious. At the lodge's Big Sur Cabin, two outdoor soaking tubs sit side by side in front of a fire pit in a private courtyard. A forest of skyscraping redwoods rising above the courtyard's wooden fence creates a breathtaking scene. To put it simply, this setup allows you to take a bath next to your favorite person in the middle of a redwood forest. Better yet, Glen Oaks is one of the more budget-friendly options for accommodations in the area.

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10 Amazing Vacation Rentals Around the World (Sponsored)

 

 

This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Gorgeous Hotel Bathrooms Around the World.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

12 Must-Pack Essentials for Your Summer Carry-On

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, July 11, 2014

Savvy travelers know how to pack a week's worth of wardrobe changes into one carry-on year-round, but even the most packing-challenged among us can do it like a pro when summer rolls around. See ya later, bulky sweaters and jeans, make room for gauzy tops and easy dresses. Summertime shoes and sandals are light, so you can always get away with bringing an extra pair. The key is zeroing in on pieces that work together and in different ways. We've packed a carry-on full of ideas that will take you from the beach to the museum to dinner, with enough room left over for a few little luxuries.

(Photo: Helen Kaminski Australia)

Keep on Top of It

Whether you're stretched out at the beach or beating the big-city pavement, a physical shield between you and the sun not only keeps you cool and shaded, it's an absolutely necessary barrier that prevents sun damage. (And, we admit, hats really come in handy on those less-than-perfect hair days.) We love the rollable, packable, crocheted raffia Helen Kaminski Caicos Hat ($195), with its rounded crown that offers SPF 50-plus protection and a casual, angled brim. It comes in several colors and has a detachable lightweight cotton lining in the crown, a sateen elastic inner band for a secure fit, and hand-rolled raffia string for adjusting the size.

(Photo: Sundance)

Free and Breezy

If you're looking for a piece to pull double duty day in and day out, a cotton tunic is as versatile as it gets. It can go from poolside, where you can throw it over a bikini as a cover-up, to a casual dinner, where you can wear it with leggings. If yours is a little longer, pair it with sandals or flats for an easy dress. One of our favorite looks is a tunic worn over wide-legged pants for a casual-but-polished outfit. We're crazy about this Moroccan Dreams Tunic ($118), with its bold colorful accents, twisted ties, and sequined medallions for a little extra kick.

(Photo: Novica)

It's a Wrap

Who knew anything this simple could be so indispensable? Whether called a pareo, sarong, or shawl, this large oblong stretch of cotton is the do-all workhorse in your luggage. On the plane, you can wrap it around your neck for warmth. Once you land, it hits the ground running, too. It's a quick cover-up over a swimsuit—just wrap it around and tie or tuck it in the front. Wear it as a shawl in the evenings. We even use ours to sit on for impromptu picnics and, in a pinch, as a towel. Best of all, you can simply wash it out and hang it up and it will be dry in a matter of minutes. We like the crisp white Shadow Fish Cotton Shawl ($62.99) because it goes with so many different items in our bag.

(Photo: Sesto Meucci)

Jute Rocks

Espadrilles are a summertime classic, evoking sailboats, tanned legs, and Greek islands. We particularly like the way Sesto Meucci has gussied up the traditional kicks with his Jose Metallic Espadrille Wedges ($95), by adding a 1.75-inch heel and stretchy silver metallic fabric where the utilitarian canvas cloth used to be. The relatively modest heel height makes it sporty enough for day (with pants and casual dresses), and the metallic glint lends some pop to nighttime dressing.

(Photo: Ray-Ban)

Shady Business

Do you know anyone who has only one pair of sunglasses? We don't either. But if we had to choose just one to put in our bag, it might very well be these Ray-Ban Cat-Eye Sunglasses ($145). These sturdy but stylish glasses have a more sophisticated look than the brand's classic Wayfarer style, making them a strong choice for casual and dressy occasions. And unlike some trendier styles, these are flattering to most face shapes. And let's not to forget how these soft-brown-colored lenses will make your eyes go "ahhhhh" with relief the second you slip them on.

(Photo: Anthropologie)

Dress Success

We're going to assume that wherever you're headed, you're probably going to take a sundress with you. And since you can easily roll a sundress up into the size of a deluxe burrito, it leaves room for a dress that's classy enough to take you from day to night. This Capuchina Dress ($138) by Vanessa Virginia flatters almost every figure, with a V-neck that's not too plunging, sexy straps that cross in the back, a sash that self-ties at the waist, and draping fabric that hides almost all bumps and bellies. It comes in both tried-and-true black and a gorgeously rich blue print. For daytime, add some cute flats and simple earrings, and step it up for night with metallic sandals and bold jewelry.

(Photo: Supergoop)

Skin in the Game

The best thing about buying travel-sized toiletries is that it allows you to test products before going "all in" and paying for the full size. One to try is Arcona's Basic Five Travel Kit ($87), part of a skin-care regimen that promotes fresher, glowing skin. Golden Grommage scrub and White Tea Purifying Cleanser are particularly popular, and the kit also includes Magic White Ice moisturizer, Gentle Solution nighttime treatment, and Desert Mist for hydration. Need a lift after a long flight? Klorane's Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk ($9) has been a bestseller for more than 40 years: A few well-placed sprays of this all-botanical formulation will lift out oil and restore volume to your jet-lagged locks. And we always throw in a few sticks of Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil ($3.30) to add moisture and just a touch of color to lips. Last but not least, make sure you bring along a good sunscreen, such as Supergoop's SPF 50 Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist with Vitamin C ($13 for three ounces).

(Photo: EMU)

Where the Leather Hits the Road

When we travel, we want sandals that not only look great but are as pleasing to our toes as they are to our eyes. Flats, wedges, chunky heels—choose the style that works best for you, but whatever you do, wear them a few times to make sure the pair you take isn't going to chafe or give you hot spots after a full day of sightseeing. (Providing the fit is right, we like a sandal with a toe thong because it helps keep the foot from sliding in the footbed, which can cause blisters.) These Burnberry Zip Sandals ($114.95) from Emu Australia fit our sandal criteria to a T: seriously stylish, with textured nappa leather contrasted by oiled-leather straps. As for road testing, we put literally dozens of miles on these, and they only got softer and more comfortable with time—so we bought another pair.

(Photo: Michael Stars)

The Long and Wide of It

Skinny jeans are a staple of most closets, but they're not always the best choice for travel, especially if you'll be hand-washing your garments in your resort or hotel room. That's why we opt for a pair or two of wide-legged cotton or washable linen pants. And of course, they're as easy to wear as they are to care for—they look equally smart with silky camis or boho blouses or tunics. Michael Stars makes his Solid Linen Drawstring Pants ($128) in a heap of colors, so consider buying one pair in a neutral shade and one in a fun, bright hue.

(Photo: Philippa Roberts)

Pretty Little Things

Just because you're traveling light doesn't mean you can't travel pretty. Statement necklaces and chandelier earrings are good for a bit of drama but can feel a little heavy when the weather heats up. Oakland-based Philippa Roberts crafts just the kind of jewelry we want to wear all summer long, especially from her Fig Collection. The green amethyst on a gold vermeil chain ($156) casts a lovely light-green or light-blue reflection, depending on the light, and the gold vermeil drop earrings ($110) complement it perfectly. The watery-blue chalcedony and silver earrings bring a little bit of the beach with us wherever we are.

(Photo: Mophie)

Juice to Go

If there's one thing more frustrating than helplessly watching your smartphone or tablet bleed its charge before your very eyes, it's the mad search for the nearest place to plug it in. That's why we never leave home without the Mophie Powerstation Duo ($99.95). With two USB ports, it can simultaneously and fully recharge both a smartphone and a tablet (or any other device with a USB charger) in an hour or less—while you're on the go. Trust us: At under 12 ounces and just slightly larger than a deck of cards, this sleek little beauty has proven to be a lifesaver many times over.

(Photo: Ultimate Ears)

Sound Advice

There are times when you just don't want to—or can't—put your headphones on. The UE Mini Boom Bluetooth speaker ($99.99) is one of our favorite travel luxuries, and at a mere 10.6 ounces, there's no reason not to pack it. A tough rubberized shell protects the speaker, which comes in several fun colors (we're partial to the cheerful green), and the up/down volume controls are big and easy to adjust. We use it to listen to live radio or podcasts (using the Stitcher app on our smartphone or tablet) while getting ready for the day, or we set it to an iTunes playlist while poolside with friends.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 12 Must-Pack Essentials for Your Summer Carry-On.

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

21 Clever Little Air-Travel Tips

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You, our readers, have the tendency to surprise us with ingenious, out-of-the-box travel tips. And we love it! Air travel is no exception: You're upgrade-grabbing, airport-conquering, seat-selecting gurus, with lifetimes of advice to share. So we thought we'd put your collective wisdom in one place. The following are some of the best air-travel tips left as comments on our site.

Airlines

"The Dubai stopover offered by Emirates has been a wonderful way to break up very long trips from Phoenix to southern Africa. After one long flight from L.A. or Houston to Dubai, Emirates provides a transit visa, hotel (ah, the joys of getting horizontal after a long flight), shuttle, dinner and breakfast, and a night to start getting the body acclimated to the new time zone before setting out on the second leg of the journey. Thank you, Emirates!" —Papa Dave C., Best Airlines for Free Stopovers

"On the surface, Spirit looks like a cheaper flight, but they charge not only for luggage but carry-ons as well, and even here, you have to prepay online to get the 'low' baggage fee of $30 and $35 for the carry-on, then they get you for more money if you do not pre-check in online. In flight, the plans were as basic as you get, no entertainment at all, no snacks or even a soda. The difference between Spirit and JetBlue in the up-front price was only about $60 on the round-trip; by flying Spirit it ended [up] costing me twice that amount, and I took advantage of the online savings on the baggage. You know what they charge for a bag at the gate? $100!" —William C., Nine New Airlines You Haven't Heard of Yet

Booking Flights

"Big tip! If you can find multicity flights [when flying to Europe], do it! U.K. has the second-highest departure tax in the world! For me, it is around $200. When I fly using miles, I fly on American, into London, to Paris on Eurostar, stay awhile, then leave from [Paris]." —Jeannie G., 10 Cheapest Airlines for Flying to Europe

"A good amenity comparison for flights is found on Routehappy.com. It recently helped me weed through dozens of choices to find the 'happiest' flight from the U.S. to a small European city. Happiness included seat size, swiftness, service, entertainment, Wi-Fi, flyer rating, and price." —Pat L., 10 Consumer Issues in Travel That You Need to Know About

Seat Reclining

"When I fly with my husband, we buy window seats, one in front of the other. I have a bad back, so I sit in front of my husband, who doesn't mind if I recline into his space." —Pat G., 10 Signs You're the Worst Person on Your Flight

"Whatever happened to letting the person know the issue and politely asking if he/she would be willing to readjust the seat just a little so you would have more air space? If you are afraid to do it, you can ask the flight attendant to ask the person if he/she would be willing. I've done this, on occasion, and have never been met with a rude response." —Sandy M., 10 Signs You're the Worst Person on Your Flight

How to Treat Flight Attendants

"Never argue with or ignore a flight attendant's instructions when boarding a flight. Whatever the flight attendant says is the rule you have to abide by, whether it's an FAA rule or not. Arguing your point once on board is futile and just creates ill will." —Sandy M., 10 Things Your Flight Attendant Doesn't Want to See (or Hear)

"I love to hear it when a passenger says good morning to me … it shows they acknowledge my existence on Earth … and as far as bags, I have to work to make money, and my airline does not pay me for an injury on a policy that I have broken … so I choose not to help … because in the end, if I get injured and work doesn't pay me … I highly doubt the passenger will." —Zach M., 10 Things Your Flight Attendant Doesn't Want to See (or Hear)

Staying Safe

"Register with step.state.gov so that if you get into trouble abroad (like losing a passport or becoming a victim of crime) the nearest embassy or consulate will already have all of your information at hand." —Gregory W., Best Ways for Travelers to Prevent Identity Theft

"You've all seen how long it takes to board a plane with all the carry-on items people are bringing on board these days. The only way to evacuate quickly [in the event of an emergency] is not to take anything with you. Rummaging for your things in overhead bins can waste too much time and slow down the whole process, putting yourself and others at unnecessary risk. … If you ever find yourself in such a situation, move quickly to the exit and down the slide, but leave everything. Your life or your seatmate's life is worth more than the value of your purse or your laptop. Just get out immediately." —Donna C., How to Survive a Plane Crash

In-Flight Snacking

"I fly about once a month within the U.S. and always have my own food. Veggies like celery, carrots, radishes; apples or cherries; a box of raisins; some sliced baked chicken; nuts; trail-mix bars; a small bag of chips; etc. It helps to put it into a restaurant carry-out box that looks like you picked it up at the airport! I have an empty plastic bottle I fill with water after security. I also keep a plastic fork in my little box. No sauces or condiments." —Patsy D., 10 Flight-Friendly Recipes You Can Make Yourself

"A delicious [plane snack] is snap pea crisps (Harvest Snaps). They are made out of 70 percent green peas with 100 calories and very low salt! So good and crunchy." —Rose S., Healthy Plane Snacks Under 250 Calories

At the Airport

"One thing I have learned is that the best and most knowledgeable agents are usually assigned to the airline lounges. And they have a lot of freedom in how much time they can spend on helping you with your flight arrangements. I have had one agent spend 30 minutes on a sticky overseas-travel ticketing challenge. Imagine having that luxury at the ticket counter! That to me is one of the unheralded advantages of membership in the lounges." —Robert W. A., Seven More Dirty Little Secrets of the Travel Industry

"Recheck available seats at a kiosk upon arriving at airport. Bulkhead and other prime seats are sometimes released shortly before departure time." —Ben H., How to Get a Better Seat Next Time You Fly

"Get to the airport early for that early first flight of the day. TSA seems to understaff and often open late. Plus they are still having their morning coffee and chatting with coworkers much like [at] your office." —David G. W., 101 Clever Travel Tricks for 2014

Checking Baggage

"It is a good idea to take pictures of your luggage before handing it off at the airport or when boarding or disembarking a cruise ship, so that if it goes missing you have pictures to show." —Vickie L. L., Worst Travel Mishaps (and How to Avoid Them)

"One warning. If your flight includes a plane change and your carry-on had to be gate checked (when the overhead bins were full), it may not arrive at your final destination." —Jane S. B., 10 Cures for the Chronic Overpacker

Missed Flights

"Good advice about calling the airline while waiting in line because of a canceled flight. I did that once and snagged the last open seat on the next flight. In fact, it opened up while I was on the phone." —Sherri S., Worst Travel Mishaps (and How to Avoid Them)

"Like almost everything in life, 'attitude determines altitude.' Sometimes you have to recognize that you have no control over events such as a delayed or canceled flight. Just go with the flow!" —Geraldine T., Airport Amenities That Make Everything Better

Getting Upgrades

"If there are open seats in first class or business, don't hesitate to ask the flight attendant. The gate agent is in charge of collecting for upgrades while the aircraft is on the ground, but once you're in the air, the crew owns the plane … and if you're pleasant, they often have no problem moving you forward." —Don A., How to Get a Better Seat Next Time You Fly

"Just make sure you never ask in front of customers who have paid for those seats. You'd be surprised how often people make this mistake, and when that happens, the answer always has to be no. A letter from a paying customer demanding his upgrade payment back because flight attendant X was giving nonpayers the same seats for free can cause a lot of problems for that attendant, so most won't stick their necks out and risk this." —Donna C., How to Get a Better Seat Next Time You Fly

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 21 Clever Little Air-Travel Tips from Our Readers.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

These Awesome Airlines Will Make You Love Flying Again

Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, July 7, 2014

Can flying be fun? The answer depends on your carrier of choice. Certain airlines are shaking up the industry with creative flyer-friendly amenities, comfortable cabins, and pleasant service—and they're keeping prices low too. Some are rolling out onboard magicians. Others are reinventing economy cabins. All in all, it's some really cool stuff. Find out which airlines, from small carriers to major international ones, are infusing air travel with comfort and joy.

Turkish Airlines

I flew on Turkish about a month ago. I couldn't get enough of the special little touches that distinguish the flying experience on this Star Alliance carrier, which flies to more countries than any other airline on the planet (257 destinations in 107 nations). High-quality onboard service includes a varied array of special meals cooked by fancy-hat-wearing sky chefs and a seatback screen system that allows passengers to check email and send text messages. One of the airlines' most exciting innovations is its recently expanded state-of-the-art business-class lounge at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. It is, arguably, the world's greatest airline lounge. The two-story megalounge is outfitted with a playground, showers, massage beds, a golf simulator, food stations serving fresh regional foods, and even private little rooms with beds for naps. It's worth repeating: nap beds!

Porter Airlines

Picture a plane with 32-inch economy-class seat pitch and no middle seats. Throw in amenities like lounge access for all passengers (Porter lounges have free Wi-Fi) and complimentary beer and wine. At this point, economy class—normally a hell on earth of sorts—isn't looking so bad. Furthermore, fares are consistently affordable: Porter regularly offers percentage discounts on already-low base fares. In the past, we've seen promotions featuring 45 and even 50 percent off ticket prices. Given all this, is anyone surprised that Conde Nast Traveler picked Porter as the world's best small airline in its 2013 Readers' Choice Awards?

Emirates

Emirates is on its way to becoming the world's largest airline within a decade. However, the ever-expanding international juggernaut manages to balance profits with pizzazz, promising an upscale, comfortable experience for passengers of all classes, despite its size. This is especially true for those flying on the airline's awesome jumbo jets. On the Emirates Dallas-to-Dubai route, for example, double-decker A380 planes feature premium-class onboard lounges, shower spas, and complimentary wine and cocktails for even the economy set. Emirates' commitment to customer-friendly travel extends to families, too. From a wide array of children's TV shows to complementary activity backpacks for kiddos to a special frequent-flyer program for young travelers, Emirates makes an effort to improve the air-travel experience for flyers big and small.

JetBlue

I have to admit, I love JetBlue. The following features are likely to place you firmly in the JetBlue fan camp with yours truly: one free checked bag, free DIRECTV, friendly employees, and super-fast Wi-Fi (JetBlue calls it "Fly-Fi") on some planes. (The airline is working on installing Fly-Fi on its entire Airbus fleet by the end of the year.) But beyond all this awaits something even greater: lie-flat transcontinental seats for really cheap prices. JetBlue's new Mint class features fully flat seats on flights between New York and Los Angles, starting at the phenomenal promotional rate of $599 each way.

OpenSkies

Comfortable transatlantic flying at affordable prices—that's the OpenSkies war cry in a nutshell. Once an all-business-class airline, OpenSkies rolled out a comparatively comfortable economy class in 2012. The British Airways subsidiary, which dubs its coach section "Eco Class," offers personal preloaded iPads and leather seats for economy travelers. Furthermore, the coach section is pretty small, so it feels more like an intimate upper class than a teeming cattle car. But the best part, arguably, is the hassle-free experience at the airport. OpenSkies passengers flying out of Newark and Paris Orly get to skip longer security lines for a special, much shorter TSA security processing. And the fares? They're great. Right now, for example, OpenSkies is selling PremPlus fares (the seats recline a full 130 degrees) between New York and Paris starting at $1,299 round-trip.

Virgin America

Virgin America is a true pioneer when it comes to the flyer experience. The airline was one of the first to wow passengers with mood lighting and comprehensive onboard entertainment. If you've been on a Virgin plane, you know what I mean: There's Wi-Fi. There are plugs. There are cool tech features like touch screens that permit passengers to order drinks and food without having to wait 45 minutes for a flight attendant to pass by. And the purple lighting—whether you love it or hate it—definitely sets this flyer-friendly carrier apart from the legacy pack. New in Virgin's world is a redesigned boarding pass that easily fits into a pant pocket and a revamped website (currently in beta) that Virgin hopes will ease the booking process. And Virgin recently celebrated its first year of profitability, so with any luck, its customer-friendly business model is here to stay.

Asiana Airlines

Asian airlines often dominate Skytrax awards and readers' choice lists, and Asiana, the Star Alliance South Korean airline, is no exception. Asiana just revamped its A380 planes, adding first-class suites that have doors, closets, and beds; starlit cabin ceilings; real ovens for cooking food; and even social areas with bars and lounges. But what really sets this carrier apart from the pack is the addition of flying magicians who perform magic shows for kids. (Or anyone who wants to watch, really.) We can't think of a more joyful and unique way to pass the time on a long flight.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title These Awesome Airlines Will Make You Love Flying Again.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

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(Photo: Image Source/Getty Images)

10 Packing Mistakes You'll Definitely Regret

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, June 11, 2014

(Photo: Cultura/Getty Images)

Unexpected baggage fees and unfortunate run-ins with the TSA are just a few consequences of totally preventable packing mistakes. Avoid these 10 all-too-common slipups to ensure packing perfection the next time you travel.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Packing Mistake #1: Assuming Your Hotel Will Have What You Need

Most upscale hotels provide hair dryers. But hair-dryer availability becomes spotty at mid-scale and budget properties—especially overseas. Same goes for other little extras like irons, toiletries, bathrobes, charging stations, blankets, and adapters. So while it's probably not essential to do a ton of research if you're staying at the Ritz, tourist-class properties necessitate a quick call or email to see what's available for guest use. (Hotel websites are not always up to date, especially those of smaller, independent properties.)

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Design Pics)

Packing Mistake #2: Not Reading Up on Your Airline's Baggage Policy

Airline fees are always changing. (Don't believe me? Try keeping this airline fees chart up to date.) For that reason, it's important to check your airline's extra fees, including baggage fees, booking fees, change fees, and charges for meals, every time you fly. Airlines don't tend to release splashy announcements when they raise their ancillary charges, which leaves you at risk of paying more than you planned.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

Packing Mistake #3: Checking Your Bag Too Late

An 11th-hour check-in might cut your wait at the airport, but it also increases the odds that your bag will be lost by the airline. Airport baggage handlers need time to transport your luggage across the tarmac and get it onto your plane. You're cutting it dangerously close when you check in with 30 minutes or less until departure. Simple solution: Get to the airport with time to spare.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

Packing Mistake #4: Focusing on Size, Not Weight

I love compression bags, but these little space-savers can also make your bag impossibly heavy. Although you might manage to fit an extraordinary number of things in your suitcase, you run the risk of exceeding the standard weight limit. Your plan to travel the world with a single piece of luggage might fall to pieces the moment the desk agent weighs your bag. Most airlines levy fees when bags exceed 50 pounds, so if you've stuffed a ton of stuff into that suitcase, weigh it before you drag it to the airport.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Natalie Behring)

Packing Mistake #5: Taking a Chance on the TSA

Most people have, by now, figured out that the TSA doesn't always catch oversized containers of liquids passing through airport security. Don't confuse this exception with a customary procedure. Yes, I've gotten multiple zip-top bags of beauty products and large-sized gel deodorants through the X-ray scanner without a hitch—and so has everyone else, apparently. But there's been no official rule change. TSA agents continue to confiscate oversized liquids and gels whenever they happen to be paying attention. Don't chance it. If a security agent spots your $75 bottle of organic face oil, he just might seize it—no goop for you!

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Packing Mistake #6: Not Making a Packing List

Creating a packing list is a necessary ritual, your vacation-prep magnum opus. Yes, you've been on the road a thousand times, so maybe you think you can remember everything off the top of your head, no silly catalog needed. I promise, though, that you will forget some crucial item—be it underwear or floss or an umbrella—if you skip the checklist step. Make a packing list! Do it now.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

Packing Mistake #7: Getting Rid of Your Packing List

Keep that packing list. Bring it with you on your trip. Fold it up and stick it in a suitcase pocket. When you're scooping your belongings into your bag in a hotel room at the end of your trip, scan the list again to make sure you've repacked everything you brought in the first place. Voila! No longer must you inspect every inch of your guest room to ensure you've left nothing behind before final checkout.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

Packing Mistake #8: Not Protecting Containers of Liquid

Aircraft cabins are pressurized during flight, but not when they're at sea level. When cabin pressure rises gradually, the air inside closed containers expands, leaving the containers more prone to leakage. Be prepared for anything liquid in your bag (such as foundation, wine, or shampoo) to seep out of its container while in flight. That zip-top baggie provides a barrier between your clothes and the little bottles of liquids. (Thanks, TSA!) But remember to also protect liquids in checked luggage with bubble wrap, plastic bags, or even a specially designed product like WineSkin.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Valueline)

Packing Mistake #9: Attempting to Sneak Your Oversized Bag on the Plane

Some airlines are stricter in policing carry-on-bag size than others. Although you might regularly sneak your jumbo roller onto the plane with one airline, you might not be so lucky with another carrier. United, for example, promised to be more exacting about enforcement of bag fees earlier this year and even went so far as to install new bag-size measurement stations in airports. Pay attention to bag-size limits, especially when flying with an unfamiliar airline.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Creatas)

Packing Mistake #10: Checking an Anonymous Bag

Make sure your bag is carrying ID in multiple places, including on the inside. (An external bag tag can get ripped off in transit.) It's a huge mistake to check a piece of luggage that isn't labeled with identifying information, including your name and a phone number or email address via which you can be reached during your travels. If your bag gets lost or stolen, you'll be kicking yourself for skipping this crucial step.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Packing Mistakes You'll Definitely Regret.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

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10 Essential Travel Clothes for Summer Vacations

Posted by Caroline Costello on Thursday, June 5, 2014

(Photo: Summer Packing via Shutterstock)

Seaside cottages, sunny city streets, and cocktails with those tiny umbrellas await. But before you depart for your summer vacation, you need to put together a well-packed bag. So follow our blueprint for picture-perfect summer packing. Find out which 10 essential apparel and accessory items you should bring on every summer trip, no matter where you're headed.

 

(Photo: Oystein Vidnes via flickr/CC Attribution)

Hat

On a summer trip to the Galapagos, I wore this ugly hat like it was my job. Sure, I looked like a crocodile hunter. But I also avoided burning my face in the severe equatorial sun, and the neck cord kept the thing on my head while fellow travelers' brims were flying off in the wind. I definitely needed a sturdy safari-style hat for my Galapagos adventure. But there are, of course, more stylish options available, depending on what kind of trip you're taking. This pretty straw hat from H&M is a bargain at only $12.95. San Diego Hat Co. sells cute hats that come in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) and packable styles.

A more practical, though not very fashionable, idea: Magellan's BugsAway Hat (on sale for $29.98), which repels pests with "Insect Shield" technology.

 

(Photo: Vintage Swimwear via Shutterstock)

One-Piece Swimwear

Plainly, a swimsuit is a must-pack for any summer trip featuring a body of water and some sun. But for women, a one-piece suit is an especially smart thing to bring. Lots of water activities, from snorkeling to surfing, are best served by a swimsuit that will stay on your body in spite of savage waves. Bring your bikini. But tuck a maillot or, at the very least, a very sturdy two-piece into your bag just in case.

Hate tank suits? ModCloth offers a fabulous selection of vintage-inspired one-piece bathing suits that look nothing like the Speedo you wore in middle school.

Men, take note too. If your swimsuit is even a touch too large, get a new one that fits, lest rough waters turn your wake-surfing excursion into a public embarrassment.

 

(Photo: benjgibbs via flickr/CC Attribution)

Waterproof Shoes

It's summer vacation. So you might have to get your feet wet, both figuratively and literally. To the rescue: shoes that can withstand water, from packable Wellies to jellies to waterproof hiking boots. Depending on where you're going, consider packing footwear that will be comfortable to wear on soggy national-park trails, on rainy cobblestone streets in Europe, or, if you're really lucky, on a yacht off the coast of Cape Cod.

Packable rain boots are a great option for drizzly destinations. Try foldable Hunter boots ($140) or Target's more budget-friendly version of the knee-high rain boot ($44.99). Keen sandals for men or women are a popular waterproof shoe for hiking. Seeking something a bit more stylish? Bid adieu to soggy socks with these rainproof flats for women ($41.99).

 

(Photo: Robert Sheie via flickr/CC Attribution)

White Cotton/Linen Shirt

For both men and women, a lightweight cotton shirt in a neutral color is essential for summer travel. Whether it's a button-down, a polo, or a crisp cotton tee, it'll keep you cool in every sense of the word. I love white, which is the classic clothing color of summer and goes with everything. But if you think white washes you out or you fear food stains, try a neutral navy, black, or olive green.

For men, this Irish Linen Shirt ($79.50) from J.Crew is a perfectly packable option that'll stay in style for years. J.Crew offers lots of smart shirt options for women, too, like the Perfect Shirt in Linen ($79.50). The long sleeves offer protection from the sun and can be rolled up if need be.

 

(Photo: Helen Cook via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Scarf

Scarves are the Swiss Army Knives of accessories. A good lightweight scarf can be used to dress up an outfit, as protection from the sun, to cover up bare skin in churches or mosques, or even as a makeshift pillow or eye mask on the plane. Further, if unexpectedly cool weather arrives during your vacation, a scarf will come in handy. For a warm-weather trip, choose a breathable scarf made of cotton or linen, and seek out something in a neutral color that will go with lots of outfits. This cotton lace infinity scarf from Anthropologie (on sale for $29.95) is an elegant option for women.

You could also try a sarong, which is basically a really big scarf that can be fashioned into a cover-up. Vera Bradley offers a collection of colorful cotton ones (on sale for $43.50 each).

Men wear summer scarves too. Don't believe us? Here's proof. Guys comfortable rocking said accessories can find them at most major department stores.

 

(Photo: Stewart Black via flickr/CC Attribution)

Lightweight Jacket

Summer travelers should always be prepared for unanticipated chilly or rainy weather—especially if you're headed to coastal destinations. A lightweight Windbreaker or anorak will help keep breezes at bay. For women, something like this hooded water-resistant anorak from Target ($39.99) will work well. For men, the Classic Squall Jacket from Lands' End (select colors on sale for $49.99) is a practical option.

 

(Photo: Cristiano Betta via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Sunglasses

They make you look cool and mysterious. But, more importantly, sunglasses protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun. When purchasing a pair, look for the American Optometric Association's seal of acceptance, which means your glasses "meet AOA specifications … including blockage of UVA and UVB rays." It's an easy way to find sunglasses that get the job done.

When packing sunglasses, use a hard case to protect them from breakage. A case like this Vera Bradley one ($15.40) will help keep your glasses in one piece.

 

(Photo: keane dasalla via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Comfortable Sandals That Aren't Flip-Flops

It's flip-flop season. But that doesn't mean you should affix plastic thongs to your feet through Labor Day. In fact, if you're not at the beach, on the boardwalk, or getting a pedicure, you should opt for something other than the shoes you purchased at the drug store for $3.99. Fortunately, comfortable, affordable, and breathable summer sandals that would be as appropriate for dinner at an upscale restaurant as they would on a beach abound, from strappy flats ($68) or espadrilles ($69) for women to leather slip-ons for men.

If you're absolutely addicted to flip-flops, trade the rubber ones for something more substantial like metallic flip-flops ($118) for women or leather ones ($55) for men.

 

(Photo: David van der Mark via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Easy-Breezy Dress

The right kind of summer dress is endlessly versatile. It can be worn as a beach cover-up, donned on the plane, or dressed up for dinner with some jewelry and a pair of heels. Go for easy-breezy options like this jersey tulip dress from Gap ($59.95), Gap's chambray shirtdress ($29.99), or an ultra-affordable simple knit maxi ($13.80) from Forever 21.

 

(Photo: Man on Beach via Shutterstock)

Summer-Weight Sweater

For men or women, a breathable summer-weight sweater will come in handy on blustery boat rides, on cool evening beach walks, or while napping in a shady outdoor hammock. As I've mentioned, summer travelers should always pack a thing or two that will help them handle cooler temperatures if need be. And even if the destination you're visiting is guaranteed to be sweltering, your air-conditioned hotel room might nonetheless cast a chill. So pack the inverse of the wooly winter turtleneck: a light and airy summer sweater. For example, this linen sweater for women from Madewell (on sale for $29.99) will pair well with pretty much anything. The equivalent for men? J.Crew's lightweight rugged cotton sweater ($64.50).

What are your must-pack clothing items for summer travel? Share them in the comments.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Essential Clothing Items for Every Type of Summer Vacation.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

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8 Best Airlines for Free Stopovers

Posted by Caroline Costello on Thursday, May 29, 2014

(Photo: James Cridland via flickr/CC Attribution)

The secret to getting two vacations for nearly the price of one? Free stopovers. A lot of major airlines offer free or low-cost stops in hub cities to flyers continuing on to other end-point destinations. Tiresome layovers or breakneck connections these are not. Stopovers are overnight or multi-night stays in destinations—mini sojourns on the way to other parts of the world. They allow for exploration as well as relief from long-haul air travel, and they often come at no or low additional cost to travelers.

Some carriers, such as Icelandair, plainly advertise their free-stopover programs. Others quietly allow customers to book multicity itineraries for round-trip prices, give or take a few bucks. Depending on the carrier, you might have to do some groundwork to arrange a free stopover. Dialing up the call center may be necessary, or a simple spin on an airline's multicity booking page might suffice. Either way, we'll show you the way. Here are some of the best airlines that offer free (and almost free) stopovers in major destinations, plus advice on how to book.

 

Blue Lagoon (Photo: jasoneppink via flickr/CC Attribution)

Icelandair

Out of all major airlines, Icelandair is probably best known for its free-stopover advantage. The carrier has long advertised stops in its hub city of Reykjavik at no additional cost beyond that of a standard round-trip ticket. Travelers seem to love it, thanks to the convenient geographic position of Icelandair's hub in combination with the airline's regularly discounted Europe fares. Prices are pretty competitive, and Reykjavik makes for a handy Atlantic respite midway between North America and Europe. Because Icelandair offers service from 12 North American destinations to 24 cities in Europe, there are plenty of routes from which to choose. Use the airline's booking engine and select the "Iceland stopover" option to book your trip.

When I compared prices for multicity itineraries that included overnights in Reykjavik to routes with shorter layovers, I found identical pricing. This is a true free stopover.

 

Paris (Photo: Moyan Brenn via flickr/CC Attribution)

Air France

Years ago, there was a page on the Air France website advertising free stopovers in the airline's hub city of Paris. Apparently, though, France's flag carrier no longer markets a complimentary Paris stop for itineraries to other destinations. What, then, does a test search on the Air France website turn up? Although trial bookings did not produce any no-cost stopovers, multicity fares featuring overnights (or longer stops) in Paris were only a touch more expensive than round-trip tickets. A journey from New York to London with a two-day stop in Paris cost $1,193.81, compared to a round-trip direct flight for $1,130.74—a difference of about 63 bucks.

There's one caveat. The multicity search tool on the Air France website displays fares by time and not by price, making it difficult to discover the cheapest route. Call Air France directly and book over the phone to get around this issue.

 

Blue Mosque, Istanbul (Photo: j0sh (www.pixael.com) via flickr/CC Attribution)

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines doesn't advertise free stopovers, but, like many of the carriers on this list, it offers multicity itineraries with hub-city stops for prices equivalent to (or sometimes even less than) those of standard round-trip routes. When I searched for round-trip fares from Washington, D.C., to Beijing, with a connection in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines' base, I found tickets for as little as $1,542. My multicity search with a full stopover yielded a cheaper fare: $1,407 for travel from D.C. to Beijing on the same dates, with a two-day stop in Istanbul.

Turkish is one of my favorite stopover airlines thanks to its extensive global service. It flies to 251 destinations in 106 nations, serving more countries than any other airline on the planet.

 

Shibuya District, Tokyo (Photo: Thinkstock/iStock Editorial)

Japan Airlines

According to a representative from Japan's flag carrier, JAL offers free stopovers in Tokyo (Haneda and Narita airports) and Osaka. If you want to add a Tokyo break to your journey, you have two options: Either use JAL's multicity booking tool and select "make stopover," or, if you'd like to arrange a shorter trip, try the standard round-trip booking tool, which displays overnight stopovers in JAL's Tokyo hub when available.

When I compared multicity tickets with round-trip bookings on identical travel dates, I came across a slight price bump with the former; if that happens to you, give JAL a call to book your flight. Since the airline promises a no-cost stopover, a representative should help you arrange that Tokyo stopover ticket for the same price as a comparable round-trip.

 

Honolulu, Hawaii (Photo: Ludovoka via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines is another carrier that doesn't advertise a true free stopover for all flights. But when I ran a test search for fares, I found that, in many cases, you can stay a few extra days in Honolulu for just a bit more than a comparable round-trip route. This is an attractive arrangement principally because it offers travelers a tropical breather in the midst of lengthy transpacific flight itineraries.

A ticket from Los Angeles to Taipei with a two-day stopover in Honolulu came to $1,436.92 round-trip. Comparatively, an L.A.-to-Taipei fare with a connection in Honolulu cost $1,295.87. That's a difference of $141.05—a small price to pay for a few days in a Hawaiian paradise. Prices vary by route, of course. Use Hawaiian's multicity booking tool to pull together your stopover itinerary.

 

Helsinki (Photo: dalvera via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Finnair

According to a representative from Finnair, "We do offer a free stopover in Helsinki, apart from the lowest fare classes (tickets with the least flexibility). We have 2 million passengers traveling via Helsinki, so there's a lot of potential in developing stopover services even further in the future." Your stopover in Finland's capital city might be better than free—it could be cheaper than a regular round-trip.

My test search for fares on the Finnair website yielded a much more affordable price for an itinerary with an overnight stopover in Helsinki than the price of a similar itinerary with a short connecting flight. I tested fares from New York JFK to Amsterdam in September. With a brief layover in London, my round-trip ticket came to $1,296.36. A multicity route from JFK to Amsterdam with an overnight in Helsinki, however, came to $897 round-trip. Even though I searched for travel on the exact same dates, in this case, differences in connecting cities produced a significant price disparity between the two routes.

 

Dubai Beach, Dubai (Photo: Thinkstock/iStock Editorial)

Emirates

Connecting to 140 destinations via its Dubai hub, Emirates advertises a stopover package that includes complimentary visas for stays of up to 36 hours. The booking process isn't so simple, though—especially for those of us who are accustomed to buying all of our travel online. First, you need to purchase a flight; you can do this via the "multiple destinations/stopovers" option on the Emirates booking engine. Second, contact a travel agent or visit an Emirates office to set up and pay for the stopover package, which includes hotel transfers, breakfast, accommodations, various tours, and that no-charge visa. Prices start at $48 per person, per night.

My comparison of multicity flights featuring stopovers in Dubai with regular round-trip tickets showed that the prices are nearly equivalent. A round-trip ticket from New York to Mumbai cost $1,361.27, whereas the same itinerary with a two-day stop in Dubai came to $1,429.07.

 

Kallang River, Singapore (Photo: HenryLeongHimWoh via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Singapore

Like Icelandair and JAL, Singapore is one of those few major airlines that offers a true free stopover in its hub city. Complimentary stopovers in Singapore's eponymous hub are easily booked on the airline's website. I tested itineraries from the U.S. to some of the destinations to which Singapore flies and found equal pricing for both round-trip bookings and multicity bookings that include a stopover in the island city-state. For example, tickets from San Francisco to Beijing, with a short connection in Hong Kong and an overnight stopover in Singapore, came to $1,580; a matching itinerary without the stopover amounted to the same price.

As with Emirates, Singapore advertises a stopover package that includes accommodations and transfers. Prices start at 43 SGD (about $34) per person, per night.

Have you booked a free airline stopover? Tell us about it in the comments.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Best Airlines for Free Stopovers.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

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8 Things You Need to Know About Travel Insurance

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, May 9, 2014

(Photo: Doug Armand/Getty Images)

Will you regret not buying travel insurance? Bleak, sometimes costly, and often confusing, travel-insurance coverage might seem like a trip-planning technicality that's all too easy to ignore. But Murphy's Law is Murphy's Law, and a good policy could afford some priceless peace of mind. There are a few things you should be familiar with before you purchase coverage, including which policies work best for your type of trip, which policies are completely useless, and how to shop for the best plan. Here are eight key travel-insurance truths that everyone should know.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Photodisc)

You Might Need It

Is it worth it? That's the big question that any traveler considering travel insurance faces. Here's our rule of thumb: If you're taking a long, expensive, or ambitious trip to a far-flung destination, travel insurance could be a smart choice. If a natural disaster or sudden illness were to ruin your travel plans, would you lose a great deal of money? Is this the trip of a lifetime? Have you been saving for this getaway for years? Are you traveling to a place with poor local healthcare facilities? Are your accommodations and plane tickets costly and nonrefundable? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you'd do well to seriously consider a plan.

Policies generally cost five to 15 percent of the total cost of a trip, depending on the age of the traveler and trip details. If a good policy fits within your budget, it certainly can't hurt to guard your health and your wallet against conceivable calamity.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Your Homeowner's Insurance Might Offer Sufficient Coverage

If it's simply your valuables you're worried about, travel insurance might not be your best bet. Although many bundled travel-insurance policies include coverage of stolen or lost items, most people's belongings are already covered by homeowner's insurance. Allstate Homeowner's Insurance with Personal Property Coverage, for example, covers loss or theft of possessions no matter where you travel. If you have a policy like this, bundled travel-insurance policies—also known as comprehensive plans—that include coverage for baggage or personal items could be unnecessary. Consumer advocate and SmarterTravel contributor Ed Perkins advises, "Buying a bundled policy is clearly overkill if you just want property coverage." So check your policy.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Your Credit Card Might Be Enough

Check your credit card's travel protections, too. According to Ed Perkins, "Several premium credit cards include baggage coverage, provided you pay the entire trip cost with the card. The American Express Green Card, for example, covers replacement cost, not just depreciated cost, and it even covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage. This is a no-charge extra. Many MasterCards and Visa cards also offer similar benefits, depending on the issuing bank."

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Read the Fine Print

This one's a given, but we had to say it: Read the fine print! In the unlikely event that you'll have to use your travel-insurance policy, you want nothing to come as a surprise. For example, depending on the policy, hurricane coverage doesn't apply if you buy the insurance after the storm in question has been named; that's a bit of (seemingly arbitrary) fine print that could essentially nullify a policy purchased too late. Take the time to read the details of your plan and become familiar with the documentation you might need when submitting a claim. Take note of coverage limits and exclusions.

Many travel-insurance plans come with a review period; this is a grace period during which you can look over your policy and make adjustments.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Trip-Cancellation Insurance Only Covers Select Reasons

Trip-cancellation insurance is a good coverage option when you've paid a substantial amount of money for a getaway and wouldn't be able to comfortably absorb the financial loss if your trip fell through. If things don't work out, you'll at least get your nonrefundable, prepaid travel costs back. It's important to note, though, that you'll only get a payout from your trip-cancellation policy if your travel plans are canceled for very specific reasons. For example, CSA Travel Protection's trip-cancellation policy covers trips canceled for a range of different reasons, including sickness (you'll have to show a doctor's note), theft of passport, and natural disaster. Not on the list? If your family member has a baby, if you get a new job and can no longer take the time off for vacation, or if your pet falls ill.

Protect yourself against absolutely any conceivable reason for cancellation with a different kind of policy: a cancel-for-any-reason policy. The choice is yours.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

You Might Be Covered Under Your Current Health Plan

Check your health-insurance policy to see whether you're covered for medical care in a foreign country. Some plans offer full coverage abroad; others offer spotty coverage; and still others, such as Medicaid, don't provide much medical coverage outside of the U.S. at all.

If you lack adequate medical coverage overseas, consider a primary or secondary medical-coverage travel-insurance policy. A primary policy will function as your go-to coverage in the event of accident or illness, whereas a secondary plan can be used as a backup to a health-insurance policy that offers limited overseas coverage.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision)

An Evacuation Plan Could Be a Good Idea

Some insurance plans are evacuation plans; that is, in the event that you need medical care, your insurance provider will pay for the costs of getting you to a hospital. If you suffer a serious illness or accident while abroad, the most expensive component related to treatment will likely be evacuation. Depending on where you are, it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly you to a hospital or your home country for emergency treatment; an evacuation plan will cover these costs.

There are two things you should know about this benefit: First, evacuation policies may only cover the costs of transportation to the hospital—not your medical expenses. Second, you may not be able to choose your hospital. While some policies offer a "hospital of choice" option, which allows you to pick a preferred hospital, others don't. As always, read the fine print.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Aggregator Agencies Can Help You Shop

An easy way to compare plans when shopping for insurance is to use an online agency that functions as an aggregator. On such sites, you'll enter details about yourself and your trip and get a results list of suggested policies. Check out sites like InsureMyTrip and Squaremouth, both of which allow users to perform side-by-side comparisons of different travel-insurance plans and to read customer reviews.

Aggregator sites are a bit different from large-scale, single-provider travel-insurance sites such as CSA Travel Protection and Global Rescue. Although these kinds of sites are less of a one-stop shop, they're worth a browse.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Eight Things You Need to Know About Travel Insurance.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

Here Are American's Fancy New Plane Seats

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, April 25, 2014

Can the cramped, dismal interior of a legacy aircraft ever pass for a well-appointed hotel suite? American thinks so.

The airline is retrofitting its fleet of 47 Boeing 777-200ER jets this year, removing first class and rolling out a two-class cabin experience. There will be an economy section (with some roomier Main Cabin Extra seats) and a business class—a deluxe business class where duvet-swaddled passengers are referred to as "guests" and seats are called "beds."

Like a hotel suite. A very costly and tiny hotel suite that flies in the sky and probably smells if it's anywhere near the bathroom.

According to Marisa Garcia of Skift, who talked to representatives from American at Aircraft Interiors Expo this week, "As they describe the design details of their cabins, we notice the subtle choice of vocabulary. They're not business-class seats but business-class 'suites' with Suite ID panels instead of seat numbers on the side where 'guests' can request privacy by lighting up their 'Do Not Disturb' signs."

Here's the best part of the patented bed-seat. The 6-foot by 4.5-inch thing converts into a fully lie-flat bed. Check it out.

Each seat is an aisle seat and a window seat. It's the best of both worlds. The seats are either forward or rear facing. A representative from the airline told Skift that the seat backs are akin to a "headboard at a fine hotel." Again with the hotel analogy.

There are lots of gadgets and gizmos, including USB ports, power outlets, a 17-inch touchscreen monitor, amenity kits, and Bose noise-canceling headphones for use in flight.

Below is the "lobby" walk-up bar. Passengers are welcome to stroll up to the bar and help themselves to some refreshments. No, not you sir. Business-class passengers only!

What do you think? Is this how a sky hotel should be? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Here Are American's Fancy New 'Hotel Suite' Plane Seats.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

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