Golfball on Tee (Photo: Thinkstock/Thomas Northcut)

Enter National Car Rental's Ryder Cup sweepstakes by June 30 for a chance to win the grand prize: $5,000 to underwrite travel to the Ryder Cup golf tournament in Chicago (or not—you could just pocket the cash), four tickets to the Ryder Cup and Executive Elite status for one year in National Car Rental's Emerald Club.

To participate, "like" the National Facebook page and follow the link to the sweepstakes page. Fill in your contact information and press "submit." Done! more»

Passport, Money, Compass, Map (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Follow contributing editor Ed Perkins as he embarks on a round-the-world "Joan Trip." (What's a Joan Trip? Find out in Take That Special Trip ... While You Still Can.) According to Perkins, "neither frequent-flyer miles nor people improve with age," so he's working off a bundle of miles seeing the world, combining places he missed over the years with some old favorites. Read the rest of Perkins' round-the-world-trip posts.

For my Joan Trip, I decided to burn up a chunk of my frequent-flyer miles on a round-the-world (RTW) trip in business class. The Star Alliance mileage program limits RTW award trips to six stops, which I decided to allocate between places I've previously missed and some old favorites. Because I hate trying to sleep on airplanes—even in business class—I planned to avoid overnight flights by going westbound. more»

India: Taj Mahal, Stormy Skies (Photo: Thinkstock/Zoonar)

Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a monument to his favorite wife, the Taj Mahal is one of India's most famous and most photographed more»

Man: Clenched Fists at Laptop (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

For many of us, unexpected and unannounced airline fees no longer have the bite they once had. New rules from the Department of Transportation (DOT)—requiring all-up fare displays of anything that isn't truly optional—pretty much eliminated those maddening mandatory fees that airlines failed to include in their featured prices.

But a few deeply hidden airline fees can still hit some of you, a problem that recently updated DOT rules could solve. And hotels and rental car companies, not subject to those DOT rules, still slap travelers with hidden fees with impunity.

The new DOT airfare "Guidance" states, in part, that "If a vendor chooses to make available information regarding the amount of taxes and/or fees that are included in the full fare, the disclosure must accurately distinguish between taxes and government fees on the one hand and carrier-imposed fees on the other. In addition, with respect to information about carrier-imposed fees included in the full fare, such disclosure must accurately represent the actual cost of the item for which the charge is assessed and must not otherwise be deceptive." more»

Jennifer Hudson (Photo: Shutterstock/Anton Oparin)

This week, we stumbled upon a story about celebrities taking on the TSA, but were surprised to learn that their protest methods are only slightly more revolutionary than an eye roll and an audible sigh. Read about this and other travel news in our weekly roundup of hot travel topics.

Celebrities Take on the TSA?

USA Today reports that celebrities Jennifer Hudson and Bar Refaeli "protested TSA patdowns." But we think the publication may have been taking a few liberties with the p-word. According to the story, Hudson "reacted by scrunching her face and sticking out her tongue as the female agent carried on her duties," and Refaeli tweeted that her pat-down made her feel "very uncomfortable." Where's the civil disobedience? The angry signage? The protest songs (we're looking at you, Hudson)? Perhaps they should take some cues from this guy. more»

Planes taking off behind pink sky (Photo: Index Open)

Members of Southwest's Rapid Rewards program and AirTran's A+ Rewards program may now transfer their points between the two programs.

This is a first step toward the eventual merger of the two programs. In the meantime, it adds value to both programs by giving members of each program access to the combined award options—93 destinations, including Mexico and the Caribbean—of Southwest and AirTran. more»
Three Ships in Port (Photo: Thinkstock/Brand X Pictures)

If you've arranged or planned a cruise for this summer or fall, chances are you're getting a good deal. Base cruise prices are still low, compared with many land vacations, and you can take advantage of the many good rates. But cruise lines, like airlines, are feeling the squeeze that side-by-side price comparisons put on what they can charge. And, like airlines, they've resorted to separating out much of what used to be "free" into "optional" fees, as well as puffing up the prices of everything you buy onboard. You can avoid this price creep by abstaining, but at some point, that means you have to forego activities you really want. And that means you're often at the mercy of your cruise line's pricing.

Shore excursions are among the priciest cruise line options. Your cruise line almost certainly pitches its own shore excursions in each port ... and maybe even tries to lock you in by pre-selling excursions when you first arrange your cruise. Unfortunately, in my experience, many cruise lines' shore excursions suffer from three key problems. They're usually overpriced, compared with what you can buy on your own. They usually waste too much time in assembling and herding tour members around. And they waste time with overly long stops at souvenir stores that give kickbacks to the cruise line or sightseeing company. 

Fortunately, you have feasible alternatives. One of the leading agencies for independent excursions, Viator, recently mounted a special website for shore excursions. Enter your cruise line, ship and itinerary, and Viator displays a list of the tours it offers in competition with those available through the cruise line. Viator says that it guarantees, first, that it's cheaper than cruise lines and second, a timely return to your ship. On a recent check, its site posted a box comparing its prices for a Barcelona stop with prices on Carnival and Norwegian, indicating its costs of $133.39, compared with $199 and $199.95 on the cruise lines. more»

Southwest: Open Door on Runway (Photo: Southwest Airlines/Stephen M. Keller)

Domestic carrier Southwest is going global. The airline is acquiring a new worldwide reservations system that will give it the ability to fly internationally by 2014.

Industry insiders have considered Southwest a potential international player for a long time. The airline even took a few very small steps toward Canada and Mexico through affiliations with other lines, but nothing much came of those efforts. I'm not enough of a geek to understand why Southwest needs a new reservations system before it can add a few flights outside the U.S., but everyone seems to be accepting that premise as gospel.

Meanwhile, Southwest's wholly-owned subsidiary, AirTran, already has international capability and flies extensively to a handful of destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. But AirTran is caught up in a fight with United over whether the government should provide international capability for AirTran at Houston Hobby Airport. more»

American Airlines aircraft front (Photo: American Airlines)

The possible merger of US Airways and American Airlines is a step closer. Three of American's biggest unions—pilots, transport workers, and flight attendants—announced they've agreed to support the merger. That's a big step because labor resistance is typically an initial impediment or a source of ongoing difficulty in airline mergers.

Here's some background: For some time, US Airways' management has been actively seeking a merger with American. Financially, this would be a minnow-swallows-whale merger, with US Airways nominally taking over the larger line. US Airways management has some experience with this process. The airline is the product of a similar takeover by much smaller (but financially adroit) America more»

Travel brochures (Photo: IndexOpen)

If it's 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 more»