Photo: R. Morley/PhotoLink

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but gas prices are steadily climbing as we approach the Fourth of July. And if AAA is right, that means a lot of people will be shelling out extra cash.

First, the bad news. The Associated Press reports that "retail prices for gasoline have climbed over the past week and are headed back toward a national average of $2.80 to $2.90 per gallon." This represents a nearly 4-cent jump in the past week. Prices are actually below a month ago, but the recent trend is upward, and prices should rise to Memorial Day levels by the Fourth.

And speaking of the Fourth of July, AAA is predicting a whopping 17.4 percent spike in travel this year, with 34.9 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, just under 30 million travelers did so. 31.4 million people are expected to drive to their more»

<h2>Make Use of Travel-Sized Items</h2>
There's so much that comes in convenient, travel-sized packaging nowadays. Taking advantage of these tiny products can give you the essentials while leaving plenty of space in your suitcase. And today's products go far beyond the usual toiletries: Bug repellent, deodorant, laundry detergent, antibacterial ointment, and even toilet seat covers now come in nifty miniatures. Search the travel section of your local big-box retailer to find items for your trip.

(Photo: Molly Feltner)

This story wouldn't have existed a decade ago, but today we are living in an era that regulates the amount of liquids, gels, and other non-solids that can be taken onto the plane. But you can speed up the airport screening process by ditching the baggie and all its teeny bottles. 

We exposed several test subjects to scorching sun, skeeters, and stinky breath in order to bring you this listing of non-liquid more»

Dog in a Suitcase with Hat (Photo: iStockphoto/MoniqueRodriguez)

Reader debhayes recently asked, "Can I ship a puppy without flying myself?"

The short answer is: Yes, and in fact it's not uncommon. But as always, policies vary from carrier to carrier, and either way it's going to require some legwork and cash on the pet owner's more»

Artist's rendering of Spirit airplane (Credit: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit is no stranger to controversy, and over the years has developed a marketing strategy built around edgy campaigns featuring tongue-in-cheek slogans and mascots. But with its latest campaign, the airline really plumbs the depths of poor taste.

"Check out the oil on our beaches," the ad implores. Images of bikini-clad women slathered in sun tan oil cascade across the background, accompanied by fares to beach destinations such as Atlantic City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Click through to the sale page and you see an image of two bottles of sun tan lotion nestled in the sand. The bottles are green with yellow caps. One says "Best Protection 50 spf," the other says "Best Protection $50 off coupon." The B and P are highlighted, and obviously the green and yellow are taken from British Petroleum's logo.

"Check out the oil on our beaches," the ad text says. "You won't be disappointed. Plus, we're making it cheaper for you to get there!" more»

Airport -  Crowded check-in area (Photo: Houston Airport System)

When you're on your way to catch a flight, a million little things can slow you down. However, plenty of those variables are within your control. Here are some easy and effective ways to streamline your path from home (or hotel) to boarding:

Budget plenty of time to get to the airport: Better to spend a few extra minutes waiting at the airport than to experience that sinking dread of sitting in traffic as your departure time creeps closer. Budget plenty of time to get to the airport, check traffic conditions, and, if you can't spare the extra time it takes to park, consider taking a cab, shuttle, or catching a ride to the airport.

Check in online: Even as more people print their boarding passes at home, check-in lines at the airport remain long and can add anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour to your check-in time. Whenever possible, check in online and print a boarding pass (or download it to your phone if you're flying on one of the many airlines that offers mobile boarding passes) more»

Photo: JetBlue

JetBlue announced it has begun selling food onboard its aircraft after over a year of testing the idea. The airline debuted five snack box options, all of which will sell for $6. The for-purchase boxes are only available on flights three hours and 45 minutes or longer, and the airline will continue offering its lineup of free snacks on all flights.

The snack packs include a breakfast option, which is comprised of a croissant, strawberry jam, almond butter, Cheez-its, a fruit cup, and chocolate milk; and four lunch/dinner options that range from a meat-and-cheese assortment to a healthy arrangement of hummus, nuts, and raisins.

I use the terms "breakfast," "lunch," and "dinner" loosely because these are not meals by any more»

American jet parked at the gate (Photo: iStockPhoto/Hal Bergman)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating cracks found on three of American's Boeing 767 aircraft. The cracks appeared near the pylon that joins the wing and engine, and investigators believe the engine could eventually have fallen off at least one of the planes.

The FAA has now asked American to examine dozens of planes in its fleet, and could order tests of 767s at other airlines based on what American finds. One of the pylons has reportedly been sent to a metallurgist, presumably to test for inherent weaknesses in the pylons themselves.

According to the AP, "The cracks came as a surprise to American and FAA officials because they happened well within the FAA’s required time frame for inspection of the pylons." more»

Sleeping on an airplane (Photo: iStockPhoto/Stephanie Horrocks)

We've all been there: You need to get up from your seat, but there's a sleeping seatmate between you and the aisle. Do you wake the person, or suffer in silence?

It's an age-old question of proper etiquette. We posed the question on Facebook, and got several good takes from both sides of the coin. One reader said, "All based on choice about where you sit. If someone needs to get up, that person should be able to. I've been both the person on the aisle and the one who had to ask someone to get up. Just part of the difficulties of flying." Another reader said, "If you have to go, you have to go. Whoever is sleeping, should understand that. I know I will have to get up at least once, so I always take an aisle seat."

So, readers, what about you? more»

Kids on a plane (Photo: IndexOpen)

Our sister site, Airfarewatchdog, just published the outcome of a survey completed by some 2,100 of its readers, and the results are pretty interesting:

  • 68 percent think there should be a separate section of the plane for passengers traveling with kids.
  • Only 51 percent think pets should be allowed to fly in the cabin.
  • 62 percent said they wouldn't bring a bag onboard if they had to pay a fee to do so.
  • When asked their biggest fear about dealing with a potential seatmate, the number one answer was “sick or coughing” followed by “overweight.”
  • When asked how they’d stop a child seated behind them from kicking the seat, the vast majority said they’d politely ask the offender to stop. Complaining to the flight attendant was the number two answer. (We're not so sure if speaking directly to a child is the way to go, though).

Some pretty controversial results here, don't you think? 68 percent of Airfarewatchdog's respondents saying they'd want to sequester kids to a separate section of the plane? Barely half saying pets should be allowed? more»

American Airlines aircraft front (Photo: American Airlines)

Spirit is back in the air today, having reached an agreement with its pilots on a contract. Actually, Spirit has been back in the air since 4:00 p.m. Thursday, and may need a few days to get operations back to normal.

But a poor relationship between airline and union is not specific to Spirit, and several other larger airlines are mired in ongoing negotiations that appear to be going nowhere. Here are some other airlines currently dealing with labor issues:

American: American's cabin crew has been trying for years to negotiate a deal, but to no avail. American, on the other hand, is trying to reign in labor costs. The situation has only gotten tenser this year, with American floating the idea of training backup flight crew in the event of a strike. But even with a handful of fill-ins, a strike would absolutely cripple one of the world's largest airlines. At the moment, both sides are waiting to see what the National Mediation Board (NMB) chooses as the next order of business. More talks? Declare a 30-day cooling-off period, after which the union would be legally able to strike? Chances are the NMB will make both sides talk a bit more, considering American's size and, subsequently, the potential impact of a more»