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<strong>Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii</strong>

When reader <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/community/?user_id=19703be16e533025b7dbb3a3449750f0-sl8bba08d1"">coligny</a> insisted, "Kailua Beach on Oahu in Hawaii has to be included in this list," we listened. Less than 15 miles northeast of Honolulu, <a href="http://www.kailuachamber.com/" target="_blank">Kailua</a> offers a nice reprieve from the hustle-and-bustle of the popular city. 

Reader <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/community/?user_id=19703be16e533025b7dbb3a3449750f0-bkfb8d09a4"">manasi</a> likes its location, and said, "Just a short ride away from the more popular, more crowded Waikiki beach. Almost empty of tourists and with sugary white sand, clear turquoise water, and mountains in the backdrop, it's exquisite. Best of all, there is an island not too far from shore where you can row to and watch a lot of birds and wildlife. Really makes a great break from Waikiki."

Reader <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/community/?user_id=19703be16e533025b7dbb3a3449750f0-sl4327cedd"">Roomba1</a> added, "The beach at Kailua, Oahu in The Islands of Hawaii is the finest!!! The white sand feels like one is walking on fine sifted flour! The water is the purest aqua blue and clear, and there are trees and the sunsets are magnificent. One must take a trail between houses to get there, but it is totally worth it. It is the perfect place for family picnics or for romantic walks on the beach."

(Photo: iStockphoto/SPrada)

Looking across the Pacific to Hawaii for a vacation this year? Here's the scoop on what you'll find in the Islands of Aloha in 2010.

Hotel Happenings

Hotels around the islands are getting a spruce-up for the new decade. Here are some of the places to find updated guest rooms, renovated pools, and new spas.

On Kauai, the Kaua'i Marriott Resort has just received a $50 million renovation resulting in new guest rooms, suites, and more. On the island's north shore, the Princeville Resort recently underwent a major renovation and reopened as a St. Regis. And in Po'ipu, the Whalers Cove has upgraded a number of its condos.

Over on Oahu, the OHANA Waikiki Malia has completed a large lobby and guest room refurbishment, while the Hilton Waikiki is in the final phase of its comprehensive renovation. Outrigger Reef on the Beach has transformed itself into a true upscale experience, with new guest rooms, enhanced guest services, and nightly entertainment. And the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk opened late last year. ...read more»

American Airlines planes wait at their gates (Photo: Index Open)

The DOT has completed a two-year investigation into FAA oversight at American Airlines, and concluded that the FAA time and again failed to address maintenance lapses at the carrier....read more»

Airport -  Busy check-in area (Photo: San Francisco International Airport)

J.D. Power and Associates released its ranking of the best and worst airports in North America, and overall, the evaluation was generally negative. According to J.D. Power, "passenger satisfaction with airports continues to lag behind that of other aspects of the travel industry, largely because passenger expectations of basic needs—such as prompt baggage delivery, airport comfort and ease of navigating the airport—are not being met consistently."

That said, the 2010 results are an improvement over last year: "Overall passenger satisfaction with the airport experience averages 690 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010, which is an improvement from 675 in 2008. However, satisfaction with airports in 2010 is considerably lower than satisfaction with hotels (756, on average) and rental cars (733, on average)."...read more»

Airport: Security Screening Sign (Photo: iStockphoto/Lya Cattel)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is set to unveil a new bomb-screening program at airports across the country. TSA screeners will randomly select passengers for screening, which involves a chemical swab of passengers' bags and the passengers themselves (likely their hands). The process is aimed at detecting explosives residue.

USA Today reports that the chemical swab would likely have detected the explosives concealed on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who, of course, attempted to blow up a plane on Christmas day with explosives hidden under his clothes....read more»

Orlando- Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo: Universal Orlando Resort)

If you (or your family) are well acquainted with words like Quidditch and muggle, you may already know the biggest news in Orlando this year. In spring, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open within Universal Orlando, offering visitors the chance to drink butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, send a letter via Owl Post, battle a dragon, explore Hogwarts, and more.

But Mr. Potter's wild ride is by no means the only big Orlando news in 2010. ...read more»

Woman in a wheelchair at the beach (Photo: iStockphoto./Jay and Varina Patel)

Expedia launched a set of new features that allows customers to search for hotels based on whether or not they have facilities for the deaf, blind, or mobility challenged (thanks to Gadling for the heads up).

There are lots of options to choose from, but finding them is a little tricky. Once you've entered your destination and dates and clicked "search," select "show more" under "hotel preferences" at the top of the results page. This will produce a list of options, with "accessibility options" in bold text at the bottom. Click this, choose the options you want, and click "search." Options include Braille signage, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, roll-in showers, and accessibility equipment for the deaf. ...read more»

Temple on a lake at dusk, Japan (Photo: Akira Kaede)

Travel to Japan is about to get a major shakeup: A pending open skies agreement between the U.S. and Japan will allow U.S.-flagged carriers to fly into Tokyo's Haneda International Airport as well as Narita International Airport. Why does this matter? Location, location, location: Haneda is roughly 15 miles outside downtown Tokyo; Narita is 45.

Haneda has been off-limits to U.S. carriers since 1978, according to the Associated Press. In the intervening years, Haneda, though officially named Tokyo International Airport, has handled mostly domestic traffic, with international flights funneled through Narita. The open skies agreement coincides with the construction of a fourth runway at Haneda, which is already the busiest airport in Asia and fourth-busiest in the world....read more»

Air: Baggage: Carousel (Photo: iStockphoto/Gary Martin)

A handful of Delta passengers arriving in Denver over the holiday weekend picked up their bags only to find them soaked in a mysterious, malodorous liquid. "Our bags were the last ones to come out of the baggage carousel and they were just smelling profusely," passenger Michael Jobin told ABC News. "It was horrible. Everything was soaked to the bone."

While the passengers suspected jet fuel, Delta said the liquid was actually deicing fluid. But the airline later retracted that statement, telling ABC News an investigation is ongoing and that it is "following up with our customers to ensure their claims are resolved immediately."...read more»

Central Park, New York

There's always more to see in New York City, and 2010 is no exception. Find out how to get in on all the action affordably with money-saving deals at hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more....read more»

Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest is continuing its expansion in Boston with the addition of direct flights to the City of Brotherly Love. Service begins June 27, and introductory fares are available from $59 one-way....read more»

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