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Airport: Luggage on Carousel (Photo: Shutterstock/linerpics)

Ever since Southwest acquired AirTran in 2010, the two airlines have been slowly meshing into one mega discount carrier. There have been some adjustments, including route-map alterations and the demise of AirTran's business class. Now in a squarely consumer-friendly move, AirTran will adopt Southwest's "Bags Fly Free" policy of allowing passengers to check up to two pieces of luggage at no cost. One of these days.

While no exact date has been announced, changes are definitely brewing in the bag-fees department right now. AirTran's more customer-friendly baggage policy has arrived—in part. Starting April 10, the airline's rules regarding overweight, oversized, and excess bags will change to match Southwest, with one big exception. Here's what will be different...read more»

France: Provence, Lavender Fields (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Forget cheese and freshly baked bread—you're more likely to inhale jasmine, lavender, or violet in this charming French town. Grasse is best known as the world's perfume capital, where perfumeries use locally grown flowers (and synthetics) to produce scents. See the process in action by visiting one of the town's three factories that offer free guided tours. Learn even more about smells with a stop at the International Museum of the Perfumery.

All sniffed out? Visit old architectural marvels like the Cathedral, Saracen Tower, and the scenic villas. Climb one of the many hills for great views....read more»

Airport: Man Looking at Watch (Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock)

If you're heading to Buffalo, do you really care if Albuquerque has a "better" airport? That's the big problem I have with those "best airport" surveys you see so often—they seem to imply that you can choose airports as easily as you choose airlines. Most of the time, of course, your choice is limited. But some situations do offer airport choice, and the best way to rate airports is to compare them among real-world alternatives. Airport-choice opportunities occur in two situations: when you can "hub" through different airports on connecting flights and when your destination city or area has more than one airport.

Although some of those best-airport surveys cover a lot of extraneous measures, including food service, retail, parking, and such, what really matters is the likelihood of having your flight delayed or canceled. I calculated a composite "risk" index based on Bureau of Transportation Statistics data that combines percentages of flights delayed and flights canceled covering 11 months of the year 2011.

Overall, percentages of flights delayed at the biggest U.S. airports vary less than you'd think: Delayed flights ranged from 13 percent to 29 percent of total flights, but half of the big airports fell into a narrower range of 16 percent to 20 percent. Similarly, delayed flights ranged from less than half a percent to 5.1 percent, but half fell into a narrower range of 1.2 percent to 2.6 percent. ...read more»

Finland: Tampere Adventure Park (Photo: Sarkanniemen Adventure Park)

Addicted to Angry Birds? Put down your phone and get ready to live the game. On April 28, Angry Birds Land, a theme park based on the smartphone game, will open in Tampere, Finland. The park will open within an existing amusement park, Sarkanniemi Adventure Park. The game is returning to its roots, as it was originally designed in Finland.

Expect to see Angry Birds themed rides, amusement park games, and an area mysteriously dubbed "Magic Places," which will combine outdoor activities and the virtual game. Can't wait 'til the end of April for your Angry Birds fix? Follow Sarkanniemi Adventure Park's website and Facebook page for sneak peeks.

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New Orleans: Mardi Gras Float (Photo: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages)

Who: Travel Deals Editor Caroline Morse, 28, and friends

Where I Went: New Orleans, LA

When: February 18-22

High Points: The parades! Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans go all out, with marching bands, dancers, and crazy floats. We got up at 6:00 a.m. on Fat Tuesday and joined some locals in tailgating the Zulu parade. For the best throws and views, we got away from the Canal Street crowds and headed to the more neighborhoody areas. We watched from the Central City area, and there were no other tourists around us. Tip: You can buy hand-made Mardi Gras masks for the parade at the open-air French Market for $3 and up....read more»

Australia: Sunset over Field with Trees (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Great Southern Rail, operator of Australia's long-haul trains, announced early-bird discounts for sleeper accommodations on two of its featured runs. Discounts are 15 percent off for travel April 1 through October 31 and 25 percent off for travel November 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013. Both routes are among the favorites for travelers who enjoy extended "land cruises" on deluxe trains:...read more»

Seychelles: Mahe Beach (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

The main island of the 115-island Seychelles, Mahe is the best starting point for exploring this country. You may never want to leave it, however—Mahe features more than 65 beaches (most are white sand), palm forests, and cliffs with amazing views.

Walk the Glacis La Reserve trail, which will take you through the forests and to three different outlooks, perfect for panoramic photos. Dive into the crystal clear waters for snorkeling, scuba, fishing, or even boating. Brave souls should visit the Port Launay Marine National Park, which is famous for its whale sharks. Although the sharks don't feed on humans, those with a Jaws-phobia can just enjoy lounging on the beach and taking in the sun and scenery....read more»

Travel brochures (Photo: IndexOpen)

If it was a good deal (or a notably bad one) from an airline, hotel, or car rental loyalty program, you can read all about it here, and plan your travel accordingly....read more»

California: Channel Islands (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

The Channel Islands are just off the coast of California, and yet they are one of the country's least visited national parks, attracting less than 250,000 tourists each year. So if you want to get away from the crowds and see well-preserved nature, these islands are for you!

The park is made up of five different islands, yet is home to over 2,000 plants and animals, including 145 that are indigenous to the islands. Explore the islands by hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, or whale watching. ...read more»

Airport: Mature Couple on Electronics (Photo: Thinkstock/Eyecandy Images)

Our countless hours spent reading about travel on the Web are good for something after all. We came across some entertaining, informative, and, in one case, delicious, bits of travel writing this week. Dig in to these pieces about obscure New York museums and free stuff at the airport, and one very tasty-looking international recipe.

Maklouba for the Traveler's Soul

One should never browse Legal Nomads, a blog about food and travel, while hungry. The drool could damage your computer. If I wasn't hungry before stumbling upon this tempting Jordanian recipe, I soon became so. Feast your eyes on maklouba, the Middle East's answer to upside-down cake. It's rice, meat, and roasted veggies prettily plated and laced with a kaleidoscope of spices: turmeric, cumin, cinnamon. If you can't swing a trip to Jordan anytime soon, here's your chance to cook up a little piece of the destination in your kitchen....read more»

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