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What is it: A scarf with an inflatable neck pillow.

Price and Where to Buy: Starts at $55 on Sleeper Scarf's website. SmarterTravel readers can get 20 percent off using the promo code: TRAVELSMART20.

Pros:

 

  • The pillow is actually surprisingly comfortable
  • Soft fabric (95 percent cotton and 5 percent Spandex)
  • Neck pillow is removable, so you can wear this as a normal scarf when not in use
  • Scarf is large enough to drape over your eyes as a makeshift eye mask
  • Machine washable
  • Looks like a regular scarf when you're not using the pillow

 

Cons:

The pillow was weirdly noisy when being inflated. Plus, you're blowing into your scarf, so you might get some weird looks on the plane.

... read more»

Miles & Points (Photo: Shutterstock)

Following is our regular summary of the latest travel news and best frequent traveler promotions reviewed during the past week.

If it was a good deal—or a notably bad deal—from an airline, hotel, or car rental loyalty program, you can read all about it here, and plan your travel accordingly. ... read more»

What is it: Leota Sheath Dress

Price and Where to Buy: $170 on Leota.com

Pros: This dress refuses to wrinkle. Even after being stuffed into the corner of a suitcase for a transatlantic journey, it emerged smooth and ready to wear. The cut is flattering, and the self-tie belt is forgiving. It can be dressed up or down easily (I wore it all day and then to an evening out, changing only my shoes between events). It's also comfortable, and though it's made of synthetic fabrics (rayon and spandex), it didn't smell bad after multiple wears on the road.

Cons: This and other Leota dresses have a slightly higher price point, but wearing one feels like an investment for your wardrobe, one that adapts easily to both daily wear and travel use. ... read more»

Does checking a bag early mean it will be last off the plane? Does checking a bag at the last minute mean it will be first to the carousel?

I had some time to ponder this recently as I was waiting for a bag while connecting on an international Delta flight through JFK. Anyone who has done this knows that when you're waiting to pick up your suitcase, take it through customs, and then recheck it before racing to catch your connecting flight, every minute feels like an hour. That's a lot of time to think.

As I watched the first 150 bags flop onto the baggage carousel, I wondered if mine would be last out since I had been one of the very first to check my suitcase that morning. At least, I thought as I checked my watch and wondered if I'd make my connecting flight, this could be a teachable moment.

Fast forward a week. Although my luggage eventually came and I made the flight (with a bit of light jogging), I decided to reach out to Delta to see if there was any truth in the commonly held belief that the first checked bags are the last off the plane.

The short answer, I discovered, is no. But the long answer is much more interesting. ... read more»

Travel brochures (Photo: IndexOpen)

Yesterday, United's stock price plunged more than 10 percent; Southwest was down more than 9 percent. Other airlines' share prices were similarly hammered.

You've followed Warren Buffet's oft-repeated advice to avoid buying airline stocks, so you don't care, right? As a traveler, though, you should care. And furthermore, you should smile.

That's right. As so often happens, what's bad for the airlines turns out to be good for their customers.

In this case, the falloff in stock prices was triggered by concern that the airlines have been adding flights faster than demand for travel has been increasing. Although the airlines did a respectable job of aligning supply with demand after the 2008 recession, that "capacity discipline" has been eroding as the economy strengthened and fuel costs declined. During just the past year, U.S. airlines have added almost 5 percent more seats. ... read more»

Woman: Excited with Ticket in Hand (Photo: Shutterstock/Yuri Arcurs)

When Delta removed the award-price charts from its website, disingenuously assuring SkyMiles members that they could simply look up award prices on Delta's online booking widget, travelers were rightly upset. Transparency and predictability had been summarily savaged, by a program that had already severely strained its members' trust and good will.

Naturally, the move to whatever-we-say-it-is award pricing fueled the suspicion that Delta would raise the average price of awards, unfettered by the accountability enforced by published award charts.

That may well turn out to be the case. But tying award prices to published airfares turns out to have positive ramifications as well. For some flights, the price of awards has declined, to levels below those published on the now non-existent award charts. ... read more»

Your chance of scoring a "free" frequent-flyer domestic seat in economy class on Southwest is 100 percent, 91 percent on Air Canada, and 87 percent on JetBlue. Those are really good numbers that should encourage you to keep working on your miles or points. Overall, average percentages for all 25 large lines worldwide are up for 2015. These data are from the recently released sixth annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey, produced by IdeaWorks. Delta regained its traditional last-place finish, at 58 percent, when US Airways merged into American.

Related: Best Credit Cards for Travelers

This year's report covers seven North American lines—Alaska and larger—plus 18 big airlines in the rest of the world. During March, the researchers made 7,640 booking inquiries for two seats at the lowest-mileage-level "saver" award or equivalent, in economy class, for travel during a specified set of outbound and return travel dates during June through October, on several of each airline's "top routes." ... read more»

What is it: Bzees Flawless Slip-Ons

Price and Where to Buy: $59 on Bzees.com

Pros: These shoes are comfortable, lightweight, add a bit of height while also offering total stability, and—best of all for people who wear flats without socks—are machine washable. I traveled with them and tossed them in the washer when I got back. After they air dried, they looked (and smelled) as good as new again. And they lost none of their comfortable cushioning on the trip through the washing machine.

Cons: While they are lightweight, they've got structure, so they don't pack small. And the cut of the sides is a little high, which I noticed because I have low ankles. Anyone who has worn shoes for a lifetime without having been told they have "low ankles" is unlikely to notice it, and it caused no chafing or rubbing in my tests. ... read more»

Baseball fan (Photo: Adam Kazmierski, iStockPhoto.com)

Members of Southwest's Rapid Rewards program have a new option for earning points: ScoreBig, an online seller of tickets to live events such as professional sports games, music concerts, theater performances, and the like.

ScoreBig auctions off tickets that would probably go unsold otherwise, what the airlines and hotels refer to as "distressed inventory." Would-be buyers place bids for available tickets, much as they would on Priceline for air tickets or hotel nights. The site promises savings of "up to 60% off box office prices."

Rapid Rewards members earn between three and 22 points per $1 spent. "Per dollar points earn is based on ScoreBig ticket inventory and source." ... read more»

Technology: Tablet and Smartphone (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Just how good is airline Wi-Fi? Not very good, according to Gizmodo. In fact, the tech website warns, "All inflight Wi-Fi sort of sucks."

First of all, you can't know exactly what kind of Wi-Fi your plane will offer until you know your flight number. Then, even if you fly on an airline that promises Wi-Fi on all flights, each plane has different equipment installed. And even then, there's a chance that equipment could be broken.

In other words, it's a crap shoot. Still, your chances of getting a fast, reliable connection to the Internet on a given airline can be predicted, based on the type of equipment used by an airline, the percentage of it fleet with Wi-Fi capability, and other factors. It's less of a crapshoot on some airlines than on others. ... read more»

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