Krakow with Flowers in Bloom (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.

Krakow wasn't the easiest stop on my trip, but was still worth the visit. The old city center is filled with interesting churches, monuments, and other buildings, and the city is, as advertised, one of the most photogenic in Europe. Also, for visitors who have the time, an excursion to nearby Auschwitz brings the holocaust to vivid memory....read more»

Sunglasses, Lotion, and Hat on Sand (Photo: Graca Victoria/Shutterstock.com)

Headed to the seashore? Use our essential beach packing list to help you pack everything you'll need for a relaxed beach getaway. Best of all, it can save you money, since packing the right things now will keep you from having to repurchase items once you arrive....read more»

Massachusetts: Provincetown, Seaside Homes (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Unlike some other New England destinations (we're looking at you, Martha's Vineyard), Provincetown has a reputation for being an affordable beach town. Provincetown draws in more than people, too—just off the coast, many whales congregate, making the town a popular launching point for whale watching tours.

Don't miss the Old Harbor Life-Saving Museum, an interesting memorial to the life-saving stations that were shipwreck victim's only hope until the Coast Guard was founded. Also climb the Pilgrim Monument for a great view (you can see all the way to Boston on clear days).

The town itself has great nightlife, arts, and dining as well....read more»

Istanbul, Turkey: Garden in front of the Haghia Sophia Mosque (Photo: Thinkstock/Medioimages/Photodisc)

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.

Istanbul's three blockbuster attractions—the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace—are world class attractions in a very real sense. They're highlighted in both the history books and the travel books, and often make those "ten best" or "top 20" lists travel magazines like to compile. That means they're almost always crowded, with long lines to get in and all too often too many people in an individual room to see the room properly. But that comes with the territory. Just try to get a good look at the Mona Lisa when you're at the Louvre. From what I saw, the best strategy is to get there just at opening time; crowds build later in the day....read more»

California: Alcatraz (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

Guest blogger Erin Gifford is a mother of four who shares family travel advice and ideas on her blog, Kidventurous, which was recently chosen as the "Best Family Travel Blog" by Parents magazine.

While most of us try to keep out of jail when we vacation, for some, the jail is the vacation. We’ve all heard of Alcatraz Island, but oh yes, there are more prison tours beyond this one on a tiny island off the coast of San Francisco. Best of all, neither stripes nor a mugshot are required. Take a look.

Acatraz Island: Yes, everyone knows about Alcatraz, but you can’t write about jail tours without hitting on Alcatraz. I mean, really, there’s an entire tourist industry built around this federal penitentiary that shut down in 1963. It may have operated for less than 30 years (closing due to rising costs), but yet it’s more popular than ever. Take Alcatraz Cruises from Pier 33 and plan on spending two to three hours visiting the island, which interestingly, is now a part of the National Park Service.

Among the most famous inmates are Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, so pick up the Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour and guide yourself through the prison at your own pace. As for the ferry, if you just want to get to Alcatraz and walk around, go during the day. Take the evening ferry to spend time circling the island with live historical narration. Alcatraz Island frequently sells out – up to a week in advance—so purchase your tickets in advance. 

Eastern State Penitentiary: Closed in 1971, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was also home to Al Capone (the guy clearly got around). Today, it’s open for tours of the cellblocks, solitary confinement cells, even Death Row. Through November, admission includes a 45-minute audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi called “The Voices of Eastern State.” If you’re really hard core, come back at Halloween for Terror Behind the Walls. Honestly, I was scared just watching the video....read more»

Credit Card: Fan of Cards (Photo: iStockphoto/Stefan Klein)

The three newest consumer credit cards—two from Bank of America, one from JPMorgan Chase—reflect consumer exasperation with some of the current card "features" that may not look so good to savvy travelers. All three have some advantages that many will appreciate, but none yet provides a comprehensive travel-feature set.

For most of you, the new Bank of America offerings are probably the more interesting:

  • The Bank of America Travel Rewards card (and a similar card for business) offers one-and-a-half points, with an equivalent $0.015 cash value, for every $1 charged to the card. That's more than you get with most cards, which tend to cluster around $0.01 per dollar. The card carries no annual fee.
  • The BankAmericard Privileges credit card with Travel Rewards offers two points per dollar charged. This card carries an annual fee of $7, waived for BofA customers who do lots of other business with the bank.

Both cards offer no surcharge on foreign transactions, a feature that many of you have come to favor. They also include the usual laundry list of additional features: No limit on the total number of points earned, no expiration on points, 24-hour travel and emergency assistance, auto-rental collision-damage coverage, travel-accident insurance, lost-baggage reimbursement, and access to a concierge service....read more»

Security: TSA Handing Bag to Female Traveler (Photo: Thinkstock/Creatas)

Nobody ever wants to spend more time dealing with airport security. Minimize the hassle with these 10 tips!...read more»

Airport: Stressed Man Checking In

It could be difficult to procure a plane seat near your travel companions this summer. According to a report from the AP, airlines are increasingly setting aside choice seats for frequent flyers and those who pay extra, leaving fewer options for economy travelers. As a result, it'll likely be tough for travelers to sit together without paying extra during the upcoming peak summer travel season....read more»

African Giraffe at Sunset (Photo: iStockphoto/ranplett)

Enter African Safari Consultants' African Safari Getaway sweepstakes by July 31 for a chance to win a seven-day trip for two to South Africa, including air, hotel, and safaris....read more»

Photo: Hawai'i Visitors & Convention Bureau

Cheaper flights to Hawaii could be on the way. Allegiant announced the details of its long-awaited service to the Aloha State. Flights from select cities to gateways in Hawaii will start November 14. The new routes are as follows:

  • Flights from Bellingham, Washington (serving those in the Vancouver area) to Honolulu begin November 15.
  • Flights from Eugene, Oregon and Santa Maria, California to Honolulu begin November 17.
  • Flights from Stockton, California to Honolulu begin November 18.
  • Flights from Bellingham, Washington to Maui begin November 14....read more»
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