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(Photo: Migle Seikyte via flickr/CC Attribution)

As soon as your local coffee shop starts advertising its pumpkin-spice latte and cider donuts, you know you've reached the end of ice cream sandwiches and boardwalk fried glory. But, along with the crisp fall weather comes incredible fall flavor. We've rounded up the best all-American culinary festivals around the country, so no matter where you live, you can get to at least one of these foodie-filled havens. ... read more»

(Photo: Rick Steves)

I love France—it is one of Europe's most diverse, tasty, and exciting countries. It brims with the good life and a special appreciation for culture, music, art, food, and wine.

But Americans can feel pretty dowdy when confronted with the casual sophistication of the French, who are matchless when it comes to just about anything suave and urbane. In my early days of touring France, I used to worry about being a cultural bumpkin—but now I embrace it. After all, I travel to learn.

Take cheese, for example, which I used to think of as a yellow square wrapped in plastic. It was daunting when I first faced a French cheese course—even more so when it was offered as dessert and arrived on a chariot de fromages (cheese cart). But that cheese board—on which every gooey, stinky, and moldy product was the happy creation of a local artisan—was my invitation into l'art de vivreI—the art of living. ... read more»

Airport: Couple - Standing, Staring Out (Photo: Shutterstock/Gwoeii)

The FAA recently determined that the two pioneering share-the-plane-ride websites were not operating legally. As a result, the two outfits, AirPooler and Flytenow, are in some sort of limbo. Although the FAA has had nothing additional to say, my take is that over the next few months, the government and the operators will come to some sort of accommodation. ... read more»

Three Ships in Port (Photo: Thinkstock/Brand X Pictures)

If you've got a pronounced geek streak, think about a fall cruise on Royal Caribbean's newest ship, the Quantum of the Seas. It will carry more tech capability than anything outside of the Navy.

Start with unprecedented Internet access. Royal Caribbean says that Quantum can provide more bandwidth than all the rest of the cruise ships in the world combined. All passengers have access to broadband Wi-Fi fast enough to stream video and play online games, available 24/7 anywhere the ship sails. Connection is provided through 03b Networks, which operates satellites with "steerable" signal beams that can follow a ship's itinerary. Royal Caribbean hasn't yet published the online rates, but they will almost surely be eye-popping compared with your usual costs. But still, as Sam Scheele once noted, "Being online is like the hard stuff," and if you gotta be connected, you gotta be connected. ... read more»

Woman: On Bed with Laptop (Photo: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media)

American Airlines and Orbitz are back in business, together again.

Just three days after Orbitz had stopped displaying American flights on its consumer websites, and three days before US Airways flights were set to disappear as well, the dust-up between American and Orbitz was over and travelers could resume booking American fares on Orbitz. ... read more»

Skiing in Sundance, Utah (Photo: Trista Weibell/iStockPhoto)

Enter the Sundance "25th Anniversary" sweepstakes by October 15 for a chance to win one of three grand prizes: each a trip for two to the Sundance Resort in Sundance Village, Utah, including air, three nights' hotel accommodations, rental car, massage, some meals, and lift tickets.

Runner-up prizes: $3,000 and $1,500 Sundance Catalog gift cards.

To enter, provide the requested information (name, email, etc.) on the sweepstakes landing page and press "Submit." Done! ... 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.

Miles or Cash Back? The Game's Afoot

Citi has introduced a new cash-back credit card that will give consumers yet another reason to rethink their use of travel-rewards cards.

Allegiant: Print or Pay $5 for a Boarding Pass

Just when you thought the airlines' fee-mongering had peaked, yet another airline figures out how to charge flyers for yet another service. This time, the target is your boarding pass. ... read more»

<strong>Money</strong>

Imagine you innocently go to reach for the <em>Sky Mall Magazine</em>, but instead are rewarded with a wad of cash or a $500 check, as one reader discovered. Finding money can be about as exciting as hitting the jackpot in Vegas, especially when it's in an unexpected place like an airplane, and many of our readers are big winners. Not to mention, you can now afford to buy something from the in-flight magazine, like that <a href="http://www.skymall.com/shopping/detail.htm?pid=102517807" target="_blank">Big Foot Garden Yeti Sculpture</a> you've been eyeing.

<strong>What about you?</strong>

What other weird, gross, or just plain crazy items have you found in a seatback pocket while flying? Leave a comment below, or to submit your photos, <a href="mailto:kate.hamman@smartertravelmedia.com?subject=Photo submission for SmarterTravel">send us an email</a> with no more than three images attached. 
<h2>All photos must be:</h2>

<ul><li>In .gif or .jpg format</li>
<li> No larger than 2MB</li>
<li> Family friendly</li>
<li> Original, non-copyrighted images</li>
<li> Virus-free</li></ul>

See our <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/us/terms.html">Terms and Conditions</a> for complete details on our submission criteria.

For years, I have been suggesting to my readers that they should compare the value of any rewards credit card they're considering not with another rewards card but with a cash-rebate card.

Cash always trumps loyalty points with the same value, because cash can be spent on anything, not just travel. And with loyalty programs' value in continual freefall, who knows what the value of a loyalty point is?

Cash is solid, and flexible -- two things that frequent flyer miles are not. ... read more»

Everyone is talking about seat reclining. More specifically, everyone is talking about the Knee Defender, a terrible thing that some folks use when they're not busy tempting humankind into sin. The Knee Defender is a gadget that you clip to the seatback tray in front of you to stop a plane seat from reclining. This product has been around for a while, but it was all over the news this week after two passengers got into a fight over it and ruined the flight for everyone onboard.  

Since the story broke, the Knee Defender has been selling like crazy. The inventor of the gadget said his site received 500 times its normal rate of traffic. Still, it's unlikely that everyone's going to start using this product on planes. First, the Knee Defender is banned by most major U.S. airlines, and rightly so. Second, the Knee Defender is the worst, and any passengers equipped with basic interpersonal skills will not use it. ... read more»

Airport: Man Running (Photo: Thinkstock/Goodshoot)

Just when you thought the airlines' relentless fee-mongering had reached its peak, yet another airline figures out yet another way to charge flyers for yet another service once considered basic.

This time, the target is your boarding pass.

Here's the announcement, from Las Vegas-based Allegiant:

For travel starting September 1, 2014, a $5 per boarding pass fee will apply to passengers who choose to have a boarding pass printed out at select domestic airport locations. To avoid this charge, passengers may check in online and bring a printed paper boarding pass to the airport, or use the Allegiant2Go mobile boarding pass. Please note, this charge does not apply to passengers who are unable to check-in online or via the mobile app dues to Allegiant system restrictions, passengers with disabilities or traveling with special service requests, such as service animals, cabin pets, and passengers traveling out of non-participating airports.

Allegiant is among the only carriers worldwide charging for a printed boarding pass. Among U.S. carriers, yes, Spirit charges extra for a boarding pass. But so far, they've been alone in doing so. Making matters worse, Allegiant hasn't done a good job of communicating the fee ... read more»

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