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Couple sitting near water in Curacao (Photo: IndexOpen)

"I am so looking forward to my vacation."

Anyone who has ever traveled has certainly spoken these words. Whether that next vacation is a year away or merely days, the prospect of traveling can be enough to combat even the dullest of days. You know the feeling: One second you're at work, and a moment later you're wandering a Tokyo market, or lounging on a Caribbean beach. You simply can't wait to get there.

But a new study suggests it's this period—the anticipation of a trip—rather than the trip itself that matters most, and that the actual vacation does little to influence one's happiness....read more»

Spring is the ideal time to visit Europe: The weather is pleasant, the summer crowds haven't yet arrived, and best of all, everything's affordable. I've compiled 10 of the best Europe vacation deals for travel in the upcoming months, with accompanying photos that will leave you daydreaming about your spring vacation.

<h2>Paris in the Springtime (and Fall)</h2>

Air France Holidays' <a href="http://www.airfrance-holidays.com/site_afh/pub_detail.asp?id=12996&iType=0" target="_blank">Presenting Paris</a> vacation package is an affordable option for exploring the City of Lights. Round-trip airfare on <a href="http://www.airfrance.us" target="_blank">Air France</a> and six nights' accommodations at the <a href="http://www.choicehotels.fr/hotels/hotel?hotel=FR295" target="_blank">Comfort Gare de L'Est Hotel</a> are included, with extras such as a <a href="http://www.airfrance-holidays.com/site_afh/sightseeing-tours/paris-1057.asp" target="_blank">Bateaux Mouches river cruise</a>, a city map of Paris, continental breakfast, and hotel taxes and service charges. 

The base price of $799 is based on spring departures from New York City between April 1 and May 15, and again from September 8 through October 25. You can customize this package based on your departure city. For example, Philadelphia departures are an extra $30, and Washington, D.C., departures are an extra $70. 

(Photo: iStockPhoto/urbandevill)

What's in the water in Europe? First Lufthansa pilots go on strike (briefly), then British Airways' cabin crew union voted to strike again, and now air traffic control workers in France have walked off the job.

The Associated Press reports that the strike is scheduled to last four days, and is a response to "plans to integrate European air traffic control, which workers fear will lead to losses of jobs and civil servant benefits." The unions involved are trying to "pressure President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing conservatives before next month's regional elections."...read more»

Photo: PhotoDisc

With a crippling pilot strike averted (for now), Lufthansa says operations should be back to normal by Friday. The pilots union has agreed to put off its strike until March 8 so the two sides can return to negotiations.

Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther told Reuters, "Of course it takes some time until the planes are back at all 200 locations that the Lufthansa network comprises around the world, and the crews need to be positioned again, too."...read more»

Airport Gate (Photo: Index Open)

SmarterTravel readers know a thing or two about making the most of long airport layovers. Back in November, I posted some suggestions of ways to prepare for those lengthy airport delays between flights, and asked you for your best layover tips.

Readers responded with great ideas ranging from the best places to catch some airport Zzzs to tips for exploring a new city during the delay.

Get Some Sleep

An airport nap may be just the thing if you've just gotten off a long flight.

After flying from Bangkok to Detroit, CrystalW checked "into the airport Marriott to have a much-needed six-hour sleep for a day rate of $50." And Lulley 766 shares this secret: "If the layover is very long I go in search of the airport chapel. As a rule, there's never anyone there. You can stretch out in more comfortable chairs, nap, or read a book in peace and quiet." ...read more»

Photo: British Airways

British Airways' cabin crew union, Unite, has once again voted in favor of a strike. The Guardian reports that 81 percent of the members who responded to the ballot cast votes in favor of action (Unite says just under 80 percent of its members responded). That represents a drop from the whopping 92.5 percent that voted to strike on the last ballot, but is still an overwhelming majority....read more»

Lufthansa aircraft close up (Photo: Lufthansa)

**UPDATE** The strike is over, for now: The BBC is reporting that the strike has been suspended for two weeks to allow both sides to resume negotiations.

Pilots at Lufthansa began a planned four-day strike today, a move designed to inflict sharp financial pain on the carrier.  The New York Times reports that the strike will cause the cancellation of 800 of the airline's daily scheduled 1,800 flights, and cost Lufthansa roughly $34 million per day.

According to the Times, "The airline said most of the cancelled flights were on domestic German routes, where Lufthansa was offering to rebook passengers on trains to their destinations. For European and intercontinental flights, the carrier said it was re-booking passengers whenever possible with its partners within the Star Alliance. Lufthansa said it planned to maintain all flights on routes where it has no airline partners."

Lufthansa has posted special schedules of the flights it expects to operate today (here), though representatives told the Times that cancellations would likely increase as the days wear on. There is an FAQ for customers here....read more»

Ryanair jets lined up on the runway (Photo: Airbus S.A.S. )

Ryanair's loose interpretation of the term "customer service" never fails to shock. The Daily Mail reports that on a recent flight to the Canary Islands, a Ryanair flight to the island of Lanzarote was diverted due to a thunderstorm and landed on a different island, Fuerteventura. Obvisouly, this is not Ryanair's fault. What can it do about the weather? The passengers disembarked and were led into the terminal. Ryanair doesn't actually serve Fuerteventura, so, understandably, there were no Ryanair staff on hand to assist the passengers.

And then the plane left.

Yeah, that's it. Ryanair left its customers on the wrong island....read more»

Air: Baggage: Racing through Airport (Photo: iStockphoto/Chad McDermott)

The four-year old liquid ban continues to vex travelers. Our blogger takes on several questions about the policy, including whether moist baby wipes count, and what to do about duty-free purchases....read more»

Las Vegas CityCenter at Night (Photo: CityCenter Las Vegas)

In true Las Vegas style, Sin City is tackling the new decade with bigger, better, more, more, and more.

New, new, and new hotels

In late 2009, the first phases of the massive, 67-acre CityCenter opened, unveiling the all-suite, no-gaming boutique Vdara Hotel & Spa, the 47-story Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, the new Aria Resort & Casino, and Crystals, a high-end retail district. Around the same time, the Golden Nugget Las Vegas opened its new Rush Tower, with 500 new guestrooms, and a new restaurant, pool, and shops. Just in time for New Year's, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, opened its new all-suite HRH Tower, and Planet Hollywood Towers debuted 1,200 vacation villas and additional penthouse suites.  Think that would be enough new hotels? Not in Vegas. Late this year, expect to see The Harmon Hotel & Spa, another addition to CityCenter, and the Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino, with almost 3,000 hotel rooms.

All this growth at the same time will likely be a boon to travelers, since all that new competition may drive prices down, particularly at higher-end hotels. So if you've been waiting for a good time to splurge in Las Vegas, 2010 is it. ...read more»

Airplane Silhouette Blue Sky (Photo: iStockphoto/Dan Barnes)

Jazz Air, Air Canada's regional partner, removed a passenger whose overwhelming odor was making passengers uncomfortable. Details are minimal, but pretty straightforward: The smell was simply too much to bear, and the flight crew ultimately decided the man had to go.

What's most interesting about this incident, to me, is that Jazz Air spokeswoman Manon Stuart suggested there is no specific policy for dealing with malodorous passengers. CNN writes, that, according to Stuart, "The airline, like most air carriers, doesn't have a specific policy covering body odor."

Huh? Anyone who's been following this blog knows, at least in the case of "most air carriers," that this is demonstrably false. Back in November, we examined the ways in which flyers can get themselves kicked off a plane, which included having a "malodorous condition." This language is pretty standard boilerplate for most, if not all, airline contracts of carriage....read more»

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