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"The passenger experience was a hot topic in 2014 as airlines and airports worked to make the travel process better": So said the lead of a recent report in the trade press. And it is typical of others that covered the same topic. The industry threw a big conference on the passenger experience, giving lots of talks and presenting lots of papers. But if you really think that your experience will actually get better this year, I've got a couple of bridges I'd like to sell you. Two themes pervade the output of all this flurry of activity.

It's the Airports' Problem

Some industry leaders tagged airports as primary culprits. "The primary focus is to get to the gate in the least amount of time, but there's been no change on how to facilitate the process and make it easier for passengers," said one. "There's a disconnect between airlines and airports, because airlines don't give enough information to airports to help passengers to the gate." Really? The problem is that airlines don't give airports enough information? ... read more»

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If you're planning a big summer trip, chances are you're at least considering travel insurance. Travel insurance can either be a great idea—or a waste of money if you encounter a gotcha or two. Fortunately, you can avoid most gotchas if you buy and act carefully.

Preexisting Conditions: As with health insurance, preexisting conditions can become a major gotcha for both trip-cancellation/interruption insurance and medical insurance. As Quotewright's John Cook notes, preexisting conditions "will again quite likely be the number-one travel-insurance issue for 2015." And that's an easy issue to dodge if you follow the specific requirements of each policy. ... read more»

Welcome to Smarter Travel's Pick of the Day, a new feature in which we highlight must-have travel products that we have evaluated and found worthy. We'll tell you the important details and leave the buying decision up to you. Sometimes, the products will be furnished to us free of charge, but advertisers can't pay to have their item included, so you can always trust our unbiased opinion.

What Is It: A daypack that packs into itself, but doesn't skimp on design or features. ... read more»

Cruise: Ship with Plane Overhead (Photo: Shutterstock/Pablo Scapinachis)

Members of United's MileagePlus program who live in the U.S. may now redeem their miles, alone or in combination with cash, for cruises with more than two dozen cruise lines.

Cruise itineraries include the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii. ... read more»

<strong>Belfast</strong>

Long a bustling seaport and safe haven for weary travelers, <a href="http://www.gotobelfast.com/" target="_blank">Belfast</a> has nevertheless seen its fair share of troubles. The city, however, is still a place where a tired tourist will always be welcome. These days, Belfast combines the historic with the hip and offers a dynamic art scene and nightlife. 

Reader <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/community/?user_id=19703be16e533025b7dbb3a3449750f0-f43c691403"">gondaluer</a> ranks Belfast as a favorite, and swears that "the mural/black cab tour will change your perspective on the 'struggles,' and maybe even change your perspective on life."

(Photo: iStockphoto/Robert Mayne)

Enter the Guinness "Ultimate Irish Adventure" sweepstakes by March 31, 2015, for a chance to win the grand prize: a nine-day trip to Ireland for two, including air, hotels, Irish breakfast daily, a cooking class, Dublin city tour, Belfast city tour, and more.

To enter, provide the requested information (name, email, address) on the sweepstakes landing page and press "Submit." Done! Time required to participate: less than 30 seconds. ... read more»

Welcome to Smarter Travel's Pick of the Day, a new feature in which we highlight must-have travel products that we have evaluated and found worthy. We'll tell you the important details and leave the buying decision up to you. Sometimes, the products will be furnished to us free of charge, but advertisers can't pay to have their item included, so you can always trust our unbiased opinion.

What Is It: A set of 10 credit card sleeves and two passport holders with RFID-blocking capabilities. ... read more»

Welcome to Smarter Travel's Pick of the Day, a new feature in which we highlight must-have travel products that we have evaluated and found worthy. We'll tell you the important details and leave the buying decision up to you. Sometimes, the products will be furnished to us free of charge, but advertisers can't pay to have their item included, so you can always trust our unbiased opinion.

What Is It: A three piece travel pet food storage and feeding system. ... read more»

Welcome to Smarter Travel's Pick of the Day, a new feature in which we highlight must-have travel products that we have evaluated and found worthy. We'll tell you the important details and leave the buying decision up to you. Sometimes, the products will be furnished to us free of charge, but advertisers can't pay to have their item included, so you can always trust our unbiased opinion.

What Is It: A small elastic strap/plastic lock system that lets you easily secure an extra item to your rolling suitcase. ... read more»

Mexico: Tulum, Ruins (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

As spring break, that glorious time of freedom, approaches, you may be wondering: Is it safe to go to Mexico? Should you let your kids go to Mexico for spring break?

It depends on whom you ask. The U.S. State Department currently has a travel warning for Mexico, but the dangers are mostly in less-touristy areas. The best way to heed this travel warning is by reading the state-by-state breakdown of advisories, as some parts of Mexico are definitely safer than others. For example, for Quintana Roo, where most of the popular tourist destinations (Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum) are located, no advisory is in effect. ... 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.

Disney Theme Park Tickets: Now $105

Just how magical is Disney's Magic Kingdom in Orlando? As of Sunday, February 22, it'll cost you a Mickey-mortifying $105 to find out.

DOT: United Need Not Honor Mistake Fares

First-class international tickets for less than $100? United said they were a mistake, and would not be honored. The DOT agreed, but based its decision on a technicality. ... read more»

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