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Woman Frustrated at Laptop (Photo: iStockphoto/Brent Holland)

Spirit Airlines’ current press release—a screed against the new federal requirements for truth in airfare advertising—turns the concept of "transparency" on its head. Yes, Caroline Costello has already posted a good summary of the issue, but I feel compelled to add a supporting voice.

Spirit states that the fares it lists are now "distorted because the U.S. Department of Transportation is forcing us to hide all of their taxes and fees in the fares you see, including our sale fare advertisements" and that, as a consequence, "fares can no longer be ‘transparent.’" Really? Telling you up front what you really have to pay is somehow less "transparent" than luring you with a low-ball fare figure then adding in a bunch of extras before you buy? Especially when some of the "fees" that Spirit classes as "their" (DOT’s) fees are really Spirit's own fees?

For many years, I’ve advocated a "buyability" test for any and all price postings, in airfares as well as hotel accommodations and other travel services. That means you should actually be able to buy the service for the featured price. Sounds pretty "transparent" to me....read more»

Puerto Rico: Mona Island Iguana (Photo: flickr.com/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region/Mike Morel)

No passport or visa is required for this destination, one of a group of three islands nicknamed The Galapagos Islands of the Caribbean. Isla De Mona is the ideal warm-weather retreat, as it has temperatures between 80 to 90 degrees year-round. This protected, uninhabited island is about seven miles by four miles, perfect for exploring in a day.

So why does this island draw comparisons to the famous Galapagos? Most likely for it's unique topography, which features high cliffs, caves, and mangrove forest. Like the Galapagos, Isla De Mona is also home to many endangered species, including sea turtles, red-footed boobies (to rival the Galapagos' blue-footed variety), and the Mona Iguana. The Iguana grows to four feet long, and is found nowhere else in the entire world. Isla De Mona also has world-class snorkeling, with many colorful coral reefs, and visibility of up to 150 feet. ...read more»

Camera Emoticon (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Welcome to What We're Reading, our new weekly look at the most insightful, useful, and entertaining travel-related stories from across the information superhighway.

This week yielded a handful of travel stories we couldn't wait to share—the stuff of a really good yet really unproductive lunch break. Here are the most tweetable, readable, and hilarious travel tales and blogs we've spotted on the Web. Feed your map obsession, learn how to keep yourself busy on a Chinese ferry, and discover the best day to avoid crowds at popular destinations, all with just a click of the mouse!...read more»

Luggage: Handler With Sledgehammer (Photo: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages)

Does your luggage arrive looking like it's gone 10 rounds with this guy? We spoke with a baggage handler to see what it's like in the belly of the beast. What he told us may help your bag—and its contents—arrive safely....read more»

Hands in Prayer (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Alaska Airlines' passengers have been flying on a wing and a prayer. But soon, they'll have to make do with just the wings.

Yesterday, the airline announced that it will discontinue its tradition of providing prayer cards with in-flight meals, out of "respect for all passengers," reports the Associated Press. Alaska's prayer-card service will be snuffed out starting February 1....read more»

Question mark sign (Photo: Index Open)

Dear Tim—

I'm a 2 million miler on American, most miles earned on my Citibank AAdvantage cards, but many earned the old-fashioned way. I didn't panic when American filed for bankruptcy, although I was miffed when it announced plans to pull out of Bob Hope Airport (Burbank, CA), by far the most convenient airport for me. But the recent posts about the possibility of another airline with an inferior loyalty program acquiring American are sending me into a tailspin. I also have a Starwood AmEx card, but I charge far less on it than on my AA cards. I'm considering shifting charges to my AmEx card to give me more options in choosing airlines and protect against the devaluation of my American miles. The only downside I see to this is that if too many people do this, the revenue that AA has been getting from Citibank will decline, worsening their chances of emerging from bankruptcy as a stronger airline. What do you think? Shift charges to AmEx or stick with the American card?

Mary-Lynne

Dear Mary-Lynne,

Many travelers, myself included, are having to reassess their commitment to American in view of such bankruptcy-related disruptions as the route cut you cite, and the possibility that the company will be acquired by another airline with a less generous frequent flyer program....read more»

France: Champagne Cellar (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

Forget sparkling wine—if you want to drink real Champagne, you've got to visit the Champagne region of France, the only area in the world allowed to call its product by that name. Within the Champagne region lies the town of Epernay, home to the famous bubbly-maker Moet and Chandon. You can tour the cellar, but unfortunately you'll only get one to two glasses of tastings (depending on how much you pay for your ticket).

Moet and Chandon isn't the only purveyor on the most deliciously named street in the world: L'Avenue de Champagne. Be prepared to spend some serious cash as you wander from Mercier to De Castellane! You should probably make De Castellane the first stop on your Champagne tour, as it features a 66-meter tower. Climb the 200-plus stairs to the top, and you'll be rewarded with an amazing view of the town and surrounding vineyards. Once safely back at the bottom, you can quench your thirst with Champagne, of course....read more»

Portugal: Reid's Palace (Photo: Orient-Express Hotels (UK) Ltd.)

Our sister site, TripAdvisor, has crunched the numbers to determine the world's top 25 hotels based on literally millions of traveler reviews. But who has enough vacation time to see them all? We've narrowed the field down to our 10 favorite.

Reid's Palace by Orient-Express, Funchal, Portugal

Take a dip in the ocean without worrying about sharks or jellyfish—this hotel (pictured above) features two seawater swimming pools (one heated to a toasty 84 degrees) and one freshwater heated pool. The pools and rest of the hotel (check prices) is set amidst 10 acres of semi-tropical gardens comprised of trees and flowers from all over the world. The closest international gateway is Madeira Airport (check prices).

Riad Kniza, Marrakech, Morocco

Experience old-world Morocco in this 18th century riad. The hotel (check prices) has 11 rooms and suites built in the traditional style, around three open-air courtyards. There's also a swimming pool, Moroccan-style spa, and creature comforts like satellite TV and air conditioning. The closest international gateway is Marrakesh Menara Airport (check prices).

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, Hopkins, Belize

Stay in a grown-up tree-house along one of the best stretches of beach in Belize. Hamanasi (check prices) has nine private tree-house rooms set on stilts in the coastal forest, with orchids and birds as a backdrop. The deluxe tree-houses each have a wrap-around veranda with Jacuzzi. Guests can also take advantage of the hotel's freshwater infinity pool and provided beach chairs and hammocks. The closest international gateway is Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (check prices)....read more»

Earth: View From Space (Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

On Monday, Delta altered the path of some its flights due to a solar storm (also known as a geomagnetic storm), reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to Bloomberg Businessweek, flights operated by Air Canada and Qantas have also been rerouted because of the storm.

The solar storm that arrived this week is the biggest one to hit the planet in more than eight years. Solar storms can hinder GPS and radio signals and the communications systems of planes. They've even been known to cause disruption to power grids....read more»

Denmark: Copenhagen, Boats (Photo: Thinkstock/Brand X Pictures)

Copenhagen is a thriving metropolis and the main attraction in Denmark. But a trip here isn't complete without a swing through the cute Danish countryside. In under two hours, you can time-travel from modern Copenhagen to a 10th-century Viking ship, 17th-century castle, or 19th-century fairy tale.

While today's Denmark is small—roughly twice the size of Massachusetts—at one time the Danish empire included all of Scandinavia and stretched into Germany. A reminder of all that power is the stunning Frederiksborg Castle, floating serenely on an island in the middle of a lake. An hour north of Copenhagen, Frederiksborg is considered by many to be the grandest castle in Scandinavia—the Danish Versailles.

Built in the early 1600s, Frederiksborg was the castle of Christian IV, Denmark's greatest king. Today it houses the Museum of National History, filled with countless musty paintings that create a fascinating scrapbook of Danish history from 1500 until today. ...read more»

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