Wildlife: Scorpion (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

A family unpacking their suitcases this weekend found an unexpected creepy crawly stowaway—and it wasn't a bedbug. Boston.com reports that the travelers had been on a trip to Italy before returning to their home in Wellesley, Massachusetts. When a family member started unpacking the bag, she was stung by a baby scorpion that was apparently inside the suitcase. Luckily, baby scorpions only possess a small amount of venom, so the woman was not seriously harmed....read more»

Beach: Family Walking on the Beach (Photo: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media)

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.

It’s summer and that means it’s time to grab the swimsuits and snorkel gear and head to the beach. Sure, you and your kids can splash in the waves, build sand castles, and hunt for seashells, but why not kick it up a notch with learning-based activities and environmentally friendly adventures? Take a look at four incredible experiences that will have your kids yearning to learn more about the beaches around them....read more»

Euros and dollars (Photo: Index Open)

Over the past few weeks, I've fielded several calls from reporters looking for views on whether Europe's economic woes have made or will make Europe a real bargain for North American travelers. The short answer is still, "Not a huge bargain, at least not yet."

Currently, the euro, at 1.26 to the dollar, is down about 5 percent from a high a few months ago and, from 1.44 to the dollar last June, about 15 percent for the year. That's certainly welcome, but it hardly makes Europe a bargain paradise, especially because many local hotels and restaurants have raised prices after all.

You see a similar pattern in some other currencies on countries that are important visitor destinations...read more»

Money: Stacked Credit Cards (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

As never before, the travel rewards space has come to be dominated by credit cards.

Need a significant boost to your mileage account's bottom line, or even a free ticket? If there are no 100,000-mile bonuses on offer, there are bound to be credit cards with 40,000- or 50,000-mile sign-up bonuses you can apply for. If you don't have them in your wallet already, that is. Because, if you're reading this, you probably already have several rewards cards.

Which card do you use for which purchases? A fill-up at the gas pump might be worth triple points on one of your cards, due to a limited-time promotion. Another card might be awarding double miles for grocery purchases. And yet another card might offer the best payout for buying airline tickets.

Keeping it all straight can begin to feel like a full-time job.

It's a job a new card, the Wallaby card, aims to make easier....read more»

Man shopping online with credit card (Photo: Index Open)

Bidding for upgrades is now officially a trend. We previously noted that El Al and Etihad had adopted the online upgrade management system developed by Plusgrade; other airlines currently using this bidding system are Air New Zealand, Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines, TAP Portugal, and Virgin Atlantic.

Although you'll find minor airline-to-airline variations, the basic system is common to all applications:

  • If you already have a confirmed reservation, a few days before departure, the airline sends you an e-mail asking if you'd like to upgrade from economy to business or from business to first....read more»
Man: Shocked Business Man (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

The TSA made us sad, a passenger picked a poor hiding spot for a weapon, and Europeans made us jealous in this week's weird travel news.

A flyer taking his grandfather's ashes on a final journey home was shocked when the TSA worker insisted on opening up the jar holding the remains. ABC News reports that John Gross, who was flying from Orlando, alleges that a TSA worker sifted through the ashes with her finger, and then spilled some of them on the floor. Gross said, "She didn't apologize. She started laughing. I was on my hands and knees picking up bone fragments. I couldn't pick up all, everything that was lost. I mean, there was a long line behind me." For what it's worth, airport security is not allowed to open cremation containers—but the remains must go through the X-ray machine.

The AP reports that a man passing through security at Newark airport was caught trying to smuggle aboard a 10-inch canister of tear gas—in his sock. Surprising no one except the smuggler, the scanners detected the giant container, and the man was not allowed to board his flight to Munich. He was instead taken to the hospital for evaluation. ...read more»

If you want to avoid the crowds in D.C., Baltimore is a great alternative nearby. The <a href="http://www.bop.org/resources/up178.aspx" target="_blank">Inner Harbor</a> is a happening place to be for the Fourth, with street performers at the amphitheater during the day and a spectacular fireworks show accompanied by music at night. For a peaceful evening, take a <a href="http://www.harborcruises.com/4thjulymenu.htm" target="_blank">harbor cruise</a>, which provides a scenic view of the fireworks, along with a "nautical buffet". (Photo: Jay Baker)

Sometimes, the anticipation is the best part.

It was this way for us as we'd get ready to celebrate July Fourth in Evanston, IL. The day before the big parade, we'd go with the kids to stake out our spot, leaving lawn chairs behind. We'd decorate their bikes if they were marching in the parade with their soccer or Little League teams, and we would always bring flags to wave and plenty of water. It didn't matter that it was hot. There was always ice cream to cool us off.

Maybe this July Fourth you'll be home marching or watching a local parade. Maybe you'll be visiting the relatives and cheering on nieces and nephews as they march. Or maybe you'll be celebrating somewhere new, joining in special and unique celebrations.

How about a pirate cruise to watch the fireworks in San Diego or a party with Shrek at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, MD? Or you can watch the fireworks from your NYC hotel room at The Westin New York at Times Square. (Call 866-837-4183 and request a western-facing room.) ...read more»

Photo: PhotoDisc

Avis just added a new "Select and Go" feature to its longstanding Avis Preferred frequent-renter program. As before, you preregister your driver's license, credit card, preferences and other required information with Avis. Then, when you rent from Avis at any of its larger airport locations, you bypass the rental counter and go directly to your car—either a shuttle drops you off next to the car or you can walk to its parking space.

That service has been around for quite a while. What's new with Select and Go is that you can not only go right to your car but also select a different make or model from the same group, if you see something you like better. You can also elect to upgrade to a specialty car for a higher rate, but in either case you can make the switch without having to go back to the rental desk. Just show the paperwork on your way out of the lot and be on your way....read more»

Chicago's Navy Pier at Night (Photo: Thinkstock/Keith Levit Photography)

Can't decide whether you want sculptures, shopping, a thrill ride, or just a cold beer? The Navy Pier has it all covered and more—there are more than 50 acres of parks, promenades, and attractions!

Start off your visit with a ride on the Ferris wheel. From the top, you can plot out everything you want to see and do at the pier. Then it's time for some culture—the Pier features an annual free outdoor art exhibition called BIGart. This year, BIGart is showcasing Roy Lichtenstein's Brushstroke Group sculpture.

Once you've worked up a thirst and an appetite, head to the Landshark Beer Garden, where you'll find lager of the same name, plus traditional Chicago food like deep-dish and bratwursts. Finally, check out the Pier from a new viewpoint, by boarding one of the many sightseeing cruises docked nearby....read more»

Airport: Couple Leaving Airport with Luggage (Photo: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages)

It's not just the airlines that want to nickel-and-dime you out of every last penny. Airports all across the country have become kindred spirits, if not outright coconspirators, when it comes to robbing you blind just because you're in vacation mode. Don't blow your budget overpaying at the airport. Here's how to save big bucks on your next trip.

Be thrifty when it comes to snacks. Resist the temptation to overpay for chips, sodas, and sandwiches at the airport. For a quicker, healthier, and cheaper alternative, pack food, such as trail mix and granola bars, that travels well and won't cause issues in the security line.

Bring an empty water bottle. Staying hydrated on your flight is one of the keys to a successful trip. And while you can’t bring liquids into the terminal, you can bring an empty bottle and fill it up on the other side of security. If you’re a frequent traveler, spring for the Vapur Anti-Bottle, a foldable, reusable, durable "bottle" with many uses that scored very well in our field-tested product review.

Print your boarding pass at home. It's a time-saver in all cases, and a money-saver if you happen to be flying Spirit (which charges $2 or $5 per pass) or certain overseas low-cost carriers....read more»

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