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What is it: A toiletries bag full of 1 oz. sized products.

Price and Where to Buy: Available on Gilchrist & Soames' website.

Pros:

  • Comes in a clear, waterproof bag that's great for airport security
  • All products meet the 3-1-1 rule
  • Shampoos and shower gels are sulfate-free
  • Includes a skincare bar and a cleansing bar
  • Paraben and phthalates free
  • No artificial colors
  • Not tested on animals

Cons:

One ounce size bottles won't be enough for longer trips

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White House (Photo: Index Open)

Visitors to the White House who would feel reality-deprived if they were unable to photo-document their tours of the leader of the free world's inner sanctum can now rest easy. Cameras and photography are once again permitted on public White House tours.

The news was announced this morning in a tweet by @FLOTUS, First Lady Michelle Obama, on Twitter and Instagram. Her tweet: "Big news! Excited to announce we're lifting the ban on cameras and photos on public tours at the @WhiteHouse!"

The ban on White House photography has been in place for more than 40 years, for reasons no one can recall. Maybe "photo-bombing" had a different meaning back then...?

Oh, and in case you were wondering: no selfie sticks. Other no-no's: video cameras, cameras with detachable lenses or fixed lenses longer than three inches, tablets, tripods, flash photos, and live streaming. Even a liberal agenda has its limits. ... read more»

JetBlue Airplane in Sunset (Photo: JetBlue Airlines)

In a move that was widely anticipated, JetBlue this week abandoned its policy of one free checked bag. Now, JetBlue travelers will have to pay at least $15 for a first checked bag. The new policy is actually part of a completely new fare structure, in which the airline will offer four different fare levels:

  • Blue, a basic bare-bones fare that allows only one carry-on bag and one personal item. Change fees depend on ticket price, ranging from $70 on fares up to $99 to $135 on fares of $149 or over; same-day changes cost $50. Blue fares earn three points per dollar plus another three points for online booking at JetBlue.com.
  • Blue Plus is almost the same, except you get one checked bag at no additional charge. Blue Plus also earns an extra point per dollar for online booking, and ticket change fees are $10 to $15 lower than Blue. Blue Plus costs $15 more each way than Blue.
  • Blue Flex includes two no-additional-charge checked bags, no ticket change fees, admission to an expedited security line where available, and still another point for online booking. Blue Plus adds $100 to Blue.
  • Mint, JetBlue's premium long-haul service, includes lie-flat seats and other premium options to compete with the giant airlines' transcon services. Fares are almost triple Blue fares on transcon flights.

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Travelers packing up convertible

Wondering what to expect on your July 4th trip? Think 2014.

At least as far as the numbers go, this July 4th weekend will look a lot like last year's. According to AAA, 41.9 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home, between July 1, Wednesday, and July 5, Sunday. That would be the highest number since 2007, but a negligible 0.7 percent increase from last year.

The great majority of July 4th trips, 85 percent, will be by car. Good news there: "Independence Day gas prices are expected to be the lowest in at least five years," predicts AAA. ... read more»

JetBlue Airplane in Sunset (Photo: JetBlue Airlines)

Remember when checked bags were free on JetBlue? Cherish the memory, because as of today it's just that, a memory.

JetBlue announced late last year that, under pressure from Wall Street to boost profits, it would impose new fees and pack more passengers onto its planes. So while the checked-bag fees are a disappointment to JetBlue loyalists, they're no surprise.

The fees are integrated into JetBlue's new fare scheme, which takes effect today. Flights with no Mint service will feature three fare types, Blue, Blue Plus, and Blue Flex, with prices that vary according to the number of restrictions. In other words, JetBlue has adopted a version of the pricing model that is pretty much standard industry-wide, with lower-priced fares available for those willing to live with some restrictions (discounted coach) and pricier fares for those who require more flexibility (full coach).

When it comes to fees for checked bags, for instance, those booking the cheapest Blue fares—the great majority of JetBlue customers, presumably—They will henceforth pay $20 or $25 to check the first bag, depending on whether it's checked online or at the counter. Travelers paying the mid-priced Blue Plus fare can check the first bag for free, but will be charged $35 for the second bag. And flyers who splurge for a Blue Flex fare can check two bags for free.

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With a 20x optical zoom and built-in Wi-Fi to upload your pics, this new Nikon is sharp and easy to use. ... read more»

For the budget traveler—and you're a budget traveler even if expenses are an afterthought—a handy metric for comparing trip costs among various cities is the CSI. And with the release of CSI 2.0, it's even handier.

In this case, CSI stands for club sandwich index. That's a quick indicator, developed by hotel-booking site Hotels.com, of the average hotel-dining costs in many of the world's most popular tourist and business cities. And what makes the new version rather more useful is the inclusion of several additional dining variables in the equation. ... read more»

Do you like winning free things in exchange for doing close to nothing? Well then you're in luck! SmarterTravel is hosting a Summer Giveaway Sweepstakes on Instagram throughout the month of July.

We will be giving away premium amenity kits from various airlines across the country and other awesome prizes to a few lucky winners each week! All you have to do to enter the giveaway is follow us on our Instagram account @smartertravel here.

Already following us? No problem! You can also enter the Sweepstakes by reposting any of our promotional contest photos uploaded to our Instagram account. Simply repost to your own account, tag us in the image, and hashtag #smartertravel. You may repost these images as many times as you would like, however it will only earn you one entry per week.

Following us AND reposting any of our promotional contest photos will earn you two entries. For all of the rules and regulations, click here.

The Sweepstakes will begin on July 1st at 11:00 AM and end on July 31st at 2:00 PM EST.

Good luck and happy following! ... read more»

During a recent visit to London, I met with the top investigator of travel problems for Which? Travel, the British Consumer Association's travel magazine. He noted seven problem areas that the magazine had recently looked into and reported. Although some are uniquely British, others occur almost everywhere. Here are seven travel worries to watch out for.

General "Holiday" (Vacation) Hassles

Issue: Travelers need to know their basic rights in the event of delay, overbooking, airline strikes, or cancellation because of unrest or natural disaster, financial failure of a tour operator, and other misfortunes, as well as how best to complain when something goes wrong with a flight, hotel, or car rental.

U.S. Application: U.S. travelers face the same problems. Currently, traveler protections and compensation requirements are stiffer in Europe than in the U.S., but airlines are lobbying the European Commission to ease some of them. ... read more»

Woman looking from a bridge in Italy (Photo: IndexOpen)

Enter the Eagle Creek "Great Adventure Giveaway" sweepstakes by August 15, 2015, for a chance to win the grand prize: one of three escorted eight-day Europe tours (Italy, Iceland, or Croatia), including air, accommodations, daily breakfast, and a set of Eagle Creek luggage.

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

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