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Airport: TSA Agent (Photo: Thinkstock/Creatas)

You can't lock your bag against them (they have the master key) and you're required by law to blindly turn your luggage over to them. But can you trust the TSA?

We have our doubts after Michael Pujo, a TSA agent at Miami International Airport, was arrested last week for allegedly stealing valuables (such as iPods) from passengers' luggage and then reselling them on Craigslist. According to the Huffington Post, Pujol's wife and accomplice admitted that the couple had been running this larceny ring for the last three years.

Think you'll be safe if you don't check a bag? Better keep an eagle eye on your stuff as you go through the metal detectors, too: There have been reports of TSA workers trying to steal laptops that forgetful flyers leave behind at security. Last year there were also incidents with TSA screeners at JFK and Newark allegedly stealing cash from passengers' bags.

So how can you protect your valuables from sticky-fingered screeners?...read more»

Allegiant Air aircraft (Photo: Allegiant Air)

Over a period of a few days, Allegiant announced some major expansions:

  • The most important is the establishment of Oakland, CA, as an important "major travel destination" city serving the San Francisco Bay Area. New flights—mostly two a week, in Allegiant’s usual pattern—will link Oakland with two of its other major destinations, Bellingham and Mesa (for Phoenix), plus the "spoke" cities of Eugene, Medford, and Redmond/Bend, OR; Billings, Bozeman, Kalispell, and Missoula, MT; and Idaho Falls, ID. Although some of these points already have service to/from San Francisco on a high-fare regional line, none has any low-fare service to any of the three Bay Area airports. Oakland-Mesa flights have already started; others will get going on various dates over the next three months....read more»
Luggage: Packing Cubes (Photo: Caroline Morse)

What Is It: Rick Steves' Packing Cube Set (collapsible mesh cubes to help organize your luggage).

Price and Where to Buy: $17.99 to $21.99 at Rick Steves' website or Amazon.

Pros: I confess, I love separating everything in my bag for easy access when I travel, but I'd previously been using overstuffed zip-lock bags. These packing cubes serve the same purpose, but are bigger, reusable, and stay zipped even when packed to the brim. They're lightweight and don't take up much extra space. Plus, each zipper has a different color tie, so you can easily identify which bag you need to pull out. The different sizes (two small, one large) are perfect for socks/underwear or shirts/pants. The cubes are structured enough that they will prevent your carefully rolled or folded clothes from becoming bunched up and wrinkled, but not so stiff that they don't collapse flat. 

Cons: The environmentally unfriendly upside to zip-lock bags is that you can just toss them when done. These packing cubes, however, are reusable and need to be washed after transporting dirty clothing home. They don't seem like they would do well in a washing machine, but you could probably hand-wash and air-dry to keep everything clean. For some reason, only three sides of the cubes are mesh—the fourth side is not see through, which can be annoying if a cube is solid-side up and you can't remember what's in it. ...read more»

Canada: Bay of Fundy (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Canada's Bay of Fundy has the world's highest tides (around 50 feet). The best way to experience the high tides? Take a boat ride out to the Reversing Falls in Saint John, where natural rapids are created by the incoming tides. Or, just visit the the same spot at both high and low tide to see the drastic difference.

Anyone who gets depressed by traditional aquariums will love the Fundy Aquarium Ecozone. Nicknamed an "aquarium without walls," whales, dolphins, seals, and many other creatures live in this area. Take a whale-watching boat tour for a chance to see a Humpback!

Although the Bay of Fundy isn't what comes to mind when you think of wine regions, it hosts a number of wineries. Be sure to check out Waterside Winery, which makes wild blueberry wine!...read more»

Woman: Peeking Through Blinds (Photo: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media)

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... an airline. Spirit has come to save the day, rescuing flyers from an evil government plot. Or so it claims, anyway.

In a press release, and on several ads and a new website created by the airline, Spirit asserts that the Department of Transportation's (DOT) new full-fare advertising rules are really just a ruse to conceal government-issued taxes on plane tickets. The new website, keepmyfareslow.org, purports to expose the government's alleged secret plan. The word "WARNING" is posted in bold capital letters that flash red, driving home a melodramatic point. Spirit invites flyers to contact their representatives to "help stop this injustice," adding, "If the government can hide taxes in your airfares, then they can carry out their hidden agenda and quietly increase their taxes." ...read more»

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767-300ER (Photo: Boeing)

Say "Aloha!" to more ways to get to Hawaii. Yesterday, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue announced a new partnership agreement—one that will open up fresh routes, more loyalty opportunities, and seamless booking between the airlines. The partnership will also make way for the only nonstop flight connecting New York to Hawaii.

A New Partnership Agreement
In a press release issued by JetBlue, Mark Dunkerley, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, said, "This partnership with JetBlue makes Hawaii more accessible than ever for our friends on the East Coast, and in June will put the islands at their doorstep with our new daily nonstop service between JFK and Honolulu." Indeed, thanks to the new agreement, flyers will be able to purchase one ticket that combines travel on both airlines. So it's now possible for an East Coast resident to jet to Los Angeles via JetBlue and transfer onto a Hawaiian Airlines flight to the Aloha State—after having made a single booking.

According to JetBlue's press release, customers won't be able to purchase flights to Hawaii on the JetBlue website until some time in the future. We checked, and the option to book a Hawaii flight isn't available on the JetBlue site as of today. For now, you'll have to call Hawaiian Airlines or a travel agent to book one ticket that incorporates travel on both carriers....read more»

Photo: Emirates

Strange bedfellows: Alaska Airlines and Emirates announced a frequent flyer partnership, including the usual features: reciprocal earning and use of frequent flyer miles, through-ticketing and baggage checking, and one-stop check-in for connecting flights.

The new partnership will work mainly by exchange of passengers on Emirates' new 777 nonstops between Seattle and Dubai. Seattle, of course, is Alaska's primary hub, and, at Dubai, Emirates offers lots of ongoing connections. Both lines are interesting exceptions to the current general trend among large lines. Instead of joining one of the big worldwide alliances, both are carving out independent niches with multiple partnerships:...read more»

Amtrak train, Colorado (Photo: PhotoDisc)

Amtrak calls its newly announced agenda for 2012 "aggressive," and it's as aggressive as limited means will allow. The main features are new equipment and infrastructure improvements:

  •  70 new electric locomotives for use in the popular "Northeast Corridor" linking Boston with Washington, D.C., plus the recently upgraded branch to Harrisburg
  •  130 new low-level long-distance passenger cars for use mainly in the eastern portion of the U.S.
  •  E-ticketing functionality on all trains, nationwideTrack and bridge work on the Northeast Corridor

The agenda also includes some further planning efforts, but planning hardly seems to qualify for "aggressive" status....read more»

Barbuda: Beach (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Barbuda: The name may sound like a combination of Barbados and Bermuda, but Barbuda has a completely different feel than those more developed islands. It's only about five miles wide, and is home to around 1,500 people and 5,000 Frigate Birds (the latter thanks to its Frigate Bird Sanctuary). If Hitchcock's The Birds left you traumatized, you may want to skip the sanctuary. Frigates have a wingspan of four to five feet! 

Barbuda's main attraction is its beaches, totalling 17 miles of crowd-free pink and white sand. On the Southwestern shore you'll find a beach that stretches uninterrupted for nine miles. Venture into the water to snorkel or dive to the shipwrecks and reefs that lie just offshore. It's always perfect beach weather in Barbuda, where the average temperature is 81 degrees in the winter and 86 in the summer.  

Need to get out of the sun for a while? Take a tour of one of the island's caves, which feature ancient rock engravings....read more»

Air: Toy Plane and Map (Photo:Thinkstock/Comstock Images)

This week, a series of new passenger protection rules put forth by the Department of Transportation (DOT) will take effect. The most visible of these rules, a law that requires airlines to include mandatory government taxes and fees in advertised fares, will officially kick in on Thursday, January 26. (Other rules pertaining to baggage fees and ticket cancellation policies started Tuesday, January 24.) But we've already seen quite a few airlines and booking sites begin to display prices for plane tickets and flight-inclusive vacation packages that incorporate airfare taxes and fees.

What should flyers expect when booking plane tickets this week and hereafter? Here's what you need to know about the new rules and how they're shaking up the travel industry...read more»

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