Reading a guidebook (Photo: Index Open)

Summer is synonymous with reading. Whether you're digging your toes into the sand at the beach, lounging in a hammock in the woods, or simply sitting in your own backyard, summer is simply better with a book in hand. With that in mind, I thought I'd peruse a few prominent lists of summer reading must-reads and tell you what I'm reading, then ask you to share your picks for a good summer read.

We might as well start with Oprah, who has the literary Midas touch, at least when it comes to sales. Her summer reading list is comprised of some 20 books, including The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, in which a young girl realizes she can taste human emotions in food....read more»

Seat-back TVs featuring 36 channels of DIRECTV on JetBlue's Airbus A320s (Photo: JetBlue)

Watching movies on a plane makes time fly. When you’re immersed the world onscreen, cramped seating, lackluster food, and wheezing seatmates fade into the background. And, with portable video players and phones that double as mini-cinemas, passengers aren’t limited to airlines’ selections. When it comes to in-flight movies, the sky’s the limit.

However, there are some imaginary worlds most people don’t want to be transported to at 35,000 feet. Here are some movies you may want to avoid until you’re back on solid ground:...read more»

Kiss free airplane meals goodbye (Photo: iStockPhoto/Bill Grove)

Stop reading now if you've just eaten. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has uncovered unsanitary conditions at three airline catering companies, including two of the world's biggest outfits, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet.

Here are the grisly details, according to USA Today: "The FDA reports say many facilities store food at improper temperatures, use unclean equipment and employ workers who practice poor hygiene. At some, there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control."

The caterers combine to provide onboard meals for nearly all the major domestic carriers, including Delta, American, United, US Airways, and Continental, as well as several international airlines....read more»

Fees Chart: Caribbean and Latin America

Whether you're heading to the Caribbean for a beach getaway or to Mexico, Central, or South America for some Latin culture, you'll need to know what fees you might end up paying. We've created this easy-to-read chart detailing everything from booking fees to baggage fees on twenty-three popular airlines. Like our other charts, we'll continue to update this one regularly, so be sure to check back before your next vacation for the most recent additions.

Download this free chart:

Airline Fees: The Ultimate Guide (Latin American and Caribbean Edition)

Please note that U.S. carriers typically consider Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to be domestic destinations, so fees to those destinations differ from the rest of their Latin American and Caribbean flights (but are still listed here). Also, remember that fees may be charged in the local currency and may be subject to local taxes, so be sure to check XE.com for conversion rates before your trip....read more»

Air: Man with no legroom (Photo: iStockphoto/Gene Chutka)

I'm five-feet, eleven inches tall, and let me tell you: Coach is tight. My knees press against the seat and there isn't enough room to extend my legs. I can't imagine what my six-foot-two cousin deals with, let alone anyone taller than him.

Indeed, flying can be quite uncomfortable for tall people. With that in mind, I'm asking you to share your suggestions for tall travelers, whether you're tall or not. Here are a few common sense tips to get the ball rolling:...read more»

DOT Secretary Ray Lahood (Photo: Department of Transportation)

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently agreed to field questions from yours truly, along with a few from SmarterTravel readers. As you'll see below, we covered topics ranging from the recent consumer protections proposals to cockpit safety to high-speed rail. Read on to see what the Secretary had to say, and feel free to comment below. Thanks!

Today in Travel: A recent article in the Chicago Tribune brought up the issue of congested airports, specifically at O'Hare, where, according to the Tribune, airlines "jam too many flights into the most congested hours." Does the DOT/FAA have any immediate plans to force airlines into more responsible, reasonable scheduling practices, particularly at crowded airports such as O’Hare and JFK? 

Secretary Ray LaHood: We are already taking aggressive action on this.  In April, our first consumer aviation rule went into effect, which not only banned lengthy tarmac delays and required airlines to provide passengers with food and water after two hours, but also established potential fines for chronically late flights (defined as flights that arrive more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time for more than four months. In addition, the FAA already has instituted controls on flights at crowded New York airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports. Further, the FAA is working to identify when airlines have scheduled too many flights at the same time or at peak times.  If they see too many flights during congested hours at already crowded airports, the FAA will work with the airlines as appropriate to adjust the schedules. 

Question from reader miffdb: I’m curious about compensation for itinerary changes and delays due to mechanical problems,...read more»

Airport security (Photo: P. Wei, iStockphoto.com)

In order for your toiletries to be allowed through airport security, you must use a single, clear, quart-sized, zip-top plastic bag. With the exception of the items listed below, the bottles within the 3-1-1-compliant bag may not be larger than 3.4 ounces. To elaborate, 3.4 ounces refers to the size of the container and not the amount of product within said container.

However, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will make an exception to the 3.4-ounce rule for reasonable amounts of the following liquids, gels, and jellies:

  • Baby formula, food, and juice when traveling with a small child
  • Breast milk regardless of whether a child is part of the traveling party
  • All prescription and over-the-counter liquids, gels, and aerosols, including saline solution, petroleum jelly, and eye drops that are used for medical conditions
  • Augmenting bras or inserts containing gels or liquids
  • Frozen items as long as they are thoroughly hard. They may not be partially melted, slushy, or have liquid at the bottom of the container.
  • Food-warming ration heaters which often contain liquids and gels

The above-listed items may not be placed in baggies, and must be declared at the security checkpoint....read more»

Airfare: Man sleeping on Woman's Shoulder (Photo: iStockphoto/Sean Locke)

Everyone's got a travel pet peeve, something that manages to get under your skin no matter what. But sometimes it's good to vent your frustrations. With that in mind, here are our top travel pet peeves. Read on, and then share your own in the comments below.

Senior Editor Christine Sarkis: "It drives me nuts when I arrive at my row to find the seats empty but the overhead bin already full. I know that people sitting farther back consider it a time-saving technique to stow their bags in front of instead of behind their row and grab their bags on the way out, but it creates a frustrating domino effect for the rest of us that can be a serious inconvenience during boarding, in flight, and after landing."

Senior Editor Sarah Pascarella: "My top pet peeve is people who travel in their pajamas. Seriously—there are so many wrinkle-free and comfortable outfits for traveling nowadays, it doesn't take much effort to look presentable. Ditch the cutesy-print flannels and bedroom slippers for a basic knits outfit and actual shoes."

Managing Editor Josh Roberts: "Until I became a parent, my top travel pet peeve was screaming kids on planes, hands down. Now that I'm a dad and seeing things from the other side, my biggest peeve is the people who get upset with kids (and their beleaguered parents) on planes. Oh, how the shoe is on the other foot now!"...read more»

Photo: Virgin Atlantic

Earlier this week, a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Newark was diverted due to bad weather, and landed in Hartford. What followed is a scene we've come to know all too well: The plane spent four hours on the tarmac, with passengers complaining of inadequate food and water, and some even fainting from the heat.

And as details about the episode trickle out, another familiar aspect of these delays is emerging: It was just one big mess. Let's break it down:...read more»

Biking the Coastal Trail, Anchorage, Alaska (Photo: Grant Klotz/Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Plenty of cities in the U.S. and Canada are known for being walkable, and a number of urban centers cater to cyclists as well, even offering bicycles for rent. But a few destinations stand out as urban meccas for active travelers.

Walk

Boston: Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail with a costumed guide, or follow the brick-inlaid path past 16 historic sites on your own. The 46.9-mile Harborwalk takes you along Boston's waterfront, and offers a less crowded stroll. Hit the Arnold Arboretum when you want to feel like you're far from the city....read more»

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