Airplane taking off into the sunset (Photo: iStockPhoto/Linda & Colin McKie)

If you're even a moderately engaged frequent traveler, you no doubt keep an eye on developments in the three global airline alliances: oneworld (U.S. partner: American), SkyTeam (U.S. partner: Delta), and Star (U.S. partners: United, US Airways). And if you don't, you should.

As these alliances add new airline partners, your opportunities to earn and redeem miles in affiliated U.S.-based programs expand. Your elite benefits extend to more airlines, more airports. Scheduling is optimized among allied airlines, making for better connections. And so more»

Florida: Coral Gables - The Venetian Pool (Photo: Thinkstock/Ivan Sgualdini)

Heatwave getting to you? Head to Florida and cool off in Coral Gable's Venetian Pool. This 820,000-gallon pool is full of refreshing spring water (which comes from an underground source, meaning the water is always nicely chilled); and in peak seasons, the pool is filled and drained every day. more»

Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni, Jeep (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

The world's largest salt flat makes for some of the world's coolest pictures. The seemingly endless empty space, as well as light reflecting off the flats, make it look like there's nothing separating the sky and the ground.

Go during the wet season (between December and March) in order to see the mirror-like surface at its best. There's not much else around besides the beauty of the salt flats—and that's the point. You won't see many other people (except other tourists) but if you come at the right time of year, you may see the pink flamingos that live at Salar de Uyuni. more»

Security: TSA Agent Dons Rubber Gloves

It's like "man bites dog," only this time it's "passenger gropes TSA agent" (allegedly). reports that Carol Price was going through security at Southwest Florida International Airport when she felt that the TSA agent was a little overzealous with her pat-down. So Price (a former TSA agent herself) allegedly grabbed the screener to show her how to do a proper pat-down. Price was arrested, and now claims that the inappropriate touching was personal (she used to work at the same airport).

What's worse than a long flight? A long flight to nowhere ... that just goes in endless circles for four hours. CBS News reports that a JetBlue flight from Los Vegas to New York had hydraulic problems immediately after takeoff, and needed to return to Las Vegas for an emergency landing. Unfortunately for the passengers, the pilots had to burn off fuel before being able to land, which meant they had to circle around for hours to burn off fuel. Many of the passengers (probably feeling a little rough around the edges after a Vegas vacation anyway) reportedly got sick due to the circling and turbulence. more»

Hotel: Room Cleaning (Photo: Shutterstock/Diego Cervo)

Ever felt paranoid for being skeeved out by the hotel room remote control or drinking glass? Well, it turns out you're not so paranoid after all. Scientific American reports that at least 81 percent of hotel rooms surfaces sampled tested positive for fecal bacteria. And hotel remotes are indeed one of the worst culprits, ranking right up there for contamination with toilets and bathroom sinks. Just a little something to think about before you channel surf while eating room service.

Oh, and the light switch, carpet, and telephone were also covered fecal bacteria (two words you never want to hear about in your sleeping space) covered. Is there any fecal-free spot left in a hotel room? The study found that the headboard is the more»

Ryanair jets lined up on the runway (Photo: Airbus S.A.S. )

On Tuesday, low-fare Irish airline Ryanair announced another attempt to buy Aer Lingus. The carrier already owns just under 30 percent of Aer Lingus stock and is now offering to buy more at a 38 percent premium over the last closing price.

The latest offer raises the same two questions that have surrounded this potential deal for several years:

1. Will government authorities allow this to go ahead? In the past, Aer Lingus and the Irish government, which owns 25 percent of the airline, opposed the buyout, and the European Commission viewed it as anti-competitive. Ryanair says that circumstances have changed, but whether this argument will gain any traction is anyone's more»

People: Tourists Waiting in Queue (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

As far as I'm concerned, there are two IQs for travelers: Those who queue…and those who don't. If you plan ahead, you can avoid nearly every line that tourists suffer through (except for security checks).

Many museums are free one day a month—a great deal for locals. But for visitors, it's generally worth paying the entrance fee on a different day to avoid the hordes on a museum's free day. The Sistine Chapel feels more like the Sardine Chapel when it's open and free on the last Sunday of the month.

At popular sights, it can help to arrive early or go late. At St. Peter's Basilica at 7:00 a.m., it's heavenly to see Michelangelo's Pieta, free of the crowds vying for photos. Near closing time, I've been alone in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors, where kings and queens have preened.

Even at the most packed sights, there's often a strategy or shortcut that can break you out of the herd, whether it's a side entrance with a shorter wait, a guided tour that includes last-minute reservations, a better place in town to pick up your ticket, or a pass with line-skipping privileges. more»

American tail fin with airport in background (Photo: Clark County Department of Aviation)

Any discussion of airline loyalty schemes must pay tribute to American's AAdvantage program.

Not only does AAdvantage enjoy the distinction of being the first-launched modern loyalty program, edging out United's by a matter of days, it has also been one of the most innovative. And based on anecdotal evidence, it has done a consistently admiral job of delivering on the key promise of loyalty programs: ready availability of award seats when it comes time to redeem AAdvantage miles.

But while the program remains a solid one, it's no longer at the front of the more»

Woman waiting for plane to depart (Photo: Index Open)

Another new survey ranks JetBlue and Southwest as best in the industry for customer service. Nobody should be surprised: The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) results track very closely with those published in last weeks J.D. Power and Associates report.

But there's one major difference between the two surveys: In the J.D. Power survey, airlines' satisfaction scores as a whole went down a bit compared to last year, while in the ACSI survey the airlines' scores rose a bit. But the difference is a small one, and it's probably not statistically significant. In previous ACSI studies, as in this one, even though airlines may have gained a few points, the airline group overall still ranks near the bottom of the 47 industry groups in the more»

Food: Boy Drinks Soda (Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision)

Following on the heels of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban the sale of super-sized sugary drinks, the mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has proposed a similar measure. The Washington Post reports that Mayor Henrietta Davis has asked the city's health officials to research the effects of a more»