England: London, Couple Standing Next to Phone Booth (Photo: Shutterstock/Darren Baker)

MissTravel, a controversial new dating site that launched this week, arranges free travel for good-looking people. The site connects "attractive members" seeking free vacations with "generous members" willing to foot the bill. Generous members can gift frequent flyer miles to attractive members through the site, as well as set up all-expenses-paid trips for the physically appealing.

According to a press release issued by MissTravel, more than 10,000 people have joined the site. The sign-up process relies on the honor system. There are no prerequisites to register as an attractive member—only the willingness to set back the feminist movement several hundred years....read more»

Europe: Magnifying Glass on Globe (Photo: Shutterstock/Kinetic Imagery)

A well-crafted itinerary is the cure for untold travel troubles. The right amount of pre-trip planning can save money, keep you safe, and—this one's crucial—help you have the best time possible whether you're going on a three-week cross-continent sojourn or spending a long weekend at the beach. A solid itinerary is the root of a stress-free trip, to put it simply. Want to be a master planner? Here are 10 itinerary mistakes you probably make—and how to avoid them.

Don't Bother with an Itinerary in the First Place

It's nearly impossible to travel without some kind of itinerary—they're unavoidable. Your airline or hotel will probably email you a simple outline of your travel dates when you book; these work as a kind of bare-bones plan for the freewheeling traveler. The important part is to bring this information with you on the road, whether it's printed out, stored on a device, or both. This is elementary stuff, but it's crucial.

Additionally, consider crafting a schedule of your day-to-day activities. The more complicated your travel plans, the more it makes sense to draw up a detailed program. If you're hopping from city to city, an itinerary will help you choreograph travel time between destinations. Take note of local holidays, opening and closing times for attractions, train or bus schedules, hotel check-in and checkout times, and the like. Plan accordingly for a smoother, less stressful experience on your trip....read more»

Russia: Moscow, Kremlin (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Nothing says Russia like the golden domes of the Kremlin. Originally built as a fortress, the massive complex is now partially open to the public (for a price). Inside the gates, you can tour a number of different cathedrals. Start in Cathedral Square, with the Cathedrals of the Archangel Michael, of the Annunciation, and of the Assumption.

Many historical treasures are on display within the Kremlin, the best of which are within the Armory. Originally a storehouse for weapons, it now holds Faberge Eggs, royal carriages, and thrones. Next door, there's even more glitz at the Diamond Fund, which houses the crown jewels. ...read more»

Turkey: Hot Air Balloons - A majestic balloon ride in central Turkey can take you over the eroded "badlands" of Cappadocia. (Photo: Rick Steves)

Adventure travel continues to be a major trend in the tourism industry, and while I'm not going to suggest you drop everything to climb the Matterhorn, Europe has plenty of thrills and chills to carbonate a stodgy vacation.

Over the years, I've tried windsurfing at Spain's Costa del Sol, mountain biking in Switzerland's Berner Oberland, surfing in Munich's English Garden, glacier-walking in Norway, and hut-hopping in the Italian Dolomites.

Last summer I learned that—even if I wasn't blessed with wings—I've got an abundance of hot air, and you can fly quite well with little more than that. I've always loved Cappadocia in central Turkey, so I took a majestic hot-air balloon ride over the fairy-chimney formations of that exotic landscape. From the moment our basket slipped from the land into the sky, I gazed in wonder, mesmerized at the erosion-shaped countryside.

 

Arguably the best hot-air balloon experience in the world is reason enough to get up at 4:30 a.m., spending $200 for a morning float above the rock formations. As I stood in the basket of my balloon, the rhythmic bursts of flame punctuated the captain's jokes while warming my wide eyes. Illogically, the stripes on his epaulets made me feel safe as we lifted off....read more»

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

By now you've probably learned as much as you ever will about how to score the best airfares, and you're turning to scoring the best hotel accommodations you can get. Some new (or new to me) websites can help you navigate this complex marketplace.


DealAngel is the most interesting. Its shtick is to rank available deals in any city you specify according to whether each is a "Great Deal," a "Good Deal," an "OK Deal," "Not a Deal," or a "Rip-Off." For each city you enter, the site displays up to 70 hotels for the dates you specify, along with a star rating, a review-based rating, the all-up nightly room rate, including taxes and fees, and, of course, the "deal" rating for each. If you decide to buy, you link through to the agency that has the deal: DealAngel doesn't sell rooms, itself; it monitors some 30 online hotel booking sites....read more»

Beach: Pink Sandals, Row of Beach Houses (Photo: Shutterstock/Stacie Stauff Smith Photography)

If your previous stays in anonymous high-rise hotels are starting to blur into a single memory of a dimly lit room with beige carpets, it's time to opt for something a little more extraordinary. How about a country villa, a spacious apartment, or even—if you're feeling really unconventional—a geodesic dome?

With all the quirky options on offer, vacation-rental booking certainly ain't what it used to be. Sites like Airbnb and HomeAway have moved into the mainstream, offering a popular alternative to the traditional hotel experience. As a traveler who's had great success using vacation-rental sites, I'm already onboard. Prices for rentals are often more attractive than hotel rates, and rentals can offer unique amenities not available in most hotels.

According to VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), vacation rentals trump hotels on price and performance. The average nightly rate for a hotel room in Miami Beach is $180, compared to $150 for a vacation rental. In Rome the average nightly rate is $223 for a hotel room and $181 for a vacation rental. And let's talk about size: The average vacation rental is 1,850 square feet, while the average hotel room is less than a quarter of that size....read more»

Woman: On Lounge Chair with Laptop (Photo: Shutterstock/beltsazar)

In "Three Rental Sites to Help You Kick Your Hotel Habit," we introduced major vacation-rental booking sites that offer an interesting alternative to the run-of-the-mill hotel stay. But there's more than one way to ditch the hotel and unearth a unique—and more affordable—place to lay your suitcase. Try swapping your home for an oceanfront condo on St. Thomas, sleeping in a fellow traveler's spare room for free, or working on an organic farm in exchange for fresh meals and a room with a gorgeous country view.

Here is your one-stop resource to alternative accommodations sites. We've divided the following into three categories: booking sites, hospitality networks (sites that connect travelers with free hosts), and home-exchange sites....read more»

Airport: Travelers Queued at Customs, Immigrations Line (Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision)

We're only four months into 2012, and we've already got a top five list of TSA failures. Feeling safe yet, America? Read on for our best of the worst.

GO TO HELLLLLL: JetBlue flyer Ross Berenson alleged that his checked luggage had been opened by baggage screeners. When he went to pick up his bag at JFK, he claimed that his TSA-certified lock was missing, and that the loops on the bag's zippers had been cut. He reported the tampering to the TSA, who gave him a complaint form to fill out. However, the form was already partially filled out—with a hand-written message telling him to "GO TO HELLLL." Berenson says that the form is a photocopy, so other travelers may receive the same note. According to New York news blog Gothamist, the TSA is looking into the incident.

Young Child Declared High Security Threat: A four-year-old girl was traveling through Wichita's Airport with her family, and had already passed through security, when her grandmother was stopped after setting off an alarm on the scanners. According to the Daily Mail, the girl ran over to give her grandmother a hug, and was then flagged by TSA Agents. The girl's mother claims that the TSA agents implied that the grandmother had passed a handgun to the daughter, and the girl was described as a "high security threat." She had to be patted down....read more»

Michigan: Mackinac Island, Waterside (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

You may not think of Michigan when you think about an island vacation, but Mackinac Island is a great summer retreat. The island itself is a National Historic Landmark, and no cars are allowed. To get around the 3.8 square miles, you'll need to use bikes, horses, or your own two feet. It's a good thing you'll be doing lots of physical activity, since Mackinac is famous for its locally produced fudge.

There's plenty to do on the island and in the surrounding waters. Take a shipwreck tour, go charter fishing, or hire a sailboat. On land, play one of the three golf courses, take a free guided tour of the Governor's Summer Residence, or check out the natural wonders of Arch Rock, Devil's Kitchen, and Skull Cave.

Don't miss Mackinac Island State Park, the second oldest national park in America—free to visit!...read more»

Curacao: Willemstad, Waterfront Buildings (Photo: Thinkstock/Brand X Pictures)

Curacao is the "C" in the famous ABC Islands, the group of Caribbean islands that are located outside the traditional hurricane belt, making them an excellent choice for a vacation any time of year. Although Curacao is small in land mass, there's plenty to see and do on the island—including nearly 20 beaches.

Off the coast, you'll find world-class diving and snorkeling. On land, you can explore the Hato Caves, visit the turtles at Shete Boka National Park, or check out historic Willemstad (the main city and a UNESCO-designated historic area).  ...read more»

Please enable JavaScript to properly view and use this web site.