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Ask the Pilot-Patrick Smith

A 20-year veteran of the friendly skies opens the cockpit door for an exclusive pilot Q&A with us....read more»

Airport: Man Looking at Watch (Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock)

The Boston Globe's story about shrinking coach legroom on several big U.S. airlines generated a lot of coverage in travel media outlets. As The Globe reported, WestJet has joined the ranks of United (which started it all), American, Delta, Frontier, and JetBlue in tightening up regular coach seating in order to install a few rows with extra-legroom—and extra-fee—seats.

The question for business travelers is not whether those extra-legroom seats are a good deal; the additional cost is generally reasonable. The question is whether corporate travel policies cover the extra fees. And here, I've been surprised to read that lots of companies don't cover them....read more»

Product: Pioneer Headphones (Photo: Pioneer Electronics)

What Is It: Pioneer Electronics' Noise Cancelling On-Ear Headphones, model number SE-NC21M.

Price and Where to Buy: $79 to $238.00 from Amazon, Pioneer Electronics, and a number of other sites.

Pros: These headphones are very comfortable. They're light (1.32 lbs without the battery), and the on-ear design feels a lot better than ear-buds. The headphones fold down for traveling, come in an easy to pack case, and also thoughtfully come with an adapter to use with many airplane televisions. Also, once the headphones run out of battery (after approximately 120 hours of listening), they can still function (just without the noise-cancelling feature). The sound quality is fantastic.

Cons: The headphones promise to remove up to 90 percent of ambient noise. When switched on, but not listening to anything, we could still hear conversations around us in the office—they were muted, but still audible. The noise cancelling is much better when actually listening to music, but be aware you'll probably still be able to hear a crying baby in the row next to you (although at a reduced level) if you use these while flying. We were surprised, though, that these on-ear headphones were about as effective as an over-ear model. ...read more»

Packing: Overstuffed Suitcase (Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock Images)

Like these packing tips? Follow guest blogger Lori Sussle on her website, Facebook, or Twitter for more travel insights.

I went backpacking in South America for two months. I covered six countries and various altitudes where, even in summer, weather varied wildly. Some nights I slept in a t-shirt and shorts. Other nights I would be bundled in two pairs of pants, every shirt I owned and two pairs of socks. One of those being a pair of Alpaca socks that I picked up at a street market.

In a small hostel/B&B in Puno, Peru, the owner did not have heat. She actually prepared me a hot water bottle that would warm me as I slept. Some things you cannot (and shouldn't!) plan for. But others might be over thought. I could have done without the following....read more»

Bus: Sightseeing-Tour Bus (Photo: Thinkstock/Creatas Images)

In my early days, I earned my plane ticket to Europe by working as an escort for a bus tour company. On one tour, I was paired with German guide Monica, a hardened, chain-smoking woman in her fifties who plotted potty breaks as if on a military campaign. She could sense the pain in your bladder even before you got the nerve to raise your hand. Clenching the mic, she'd splice in a terse "cross your legs" midway through a lecture on Mad King Ludwig. Thanks to Monica, I developed an appreciation of tour guide charm—and what a good tour should be.

Bus tours are an efficient way to see Europe. A typical tour includes a professional, multilingual guide, a comfy bus, decent hotels with mass-produced comfort, and some meals. The cheapest tours can cost less than $150 a day, making this an economical option, too.

For many people, this is the best way to scratch their travel itch. Having someone else do the driving, arrange the hotels, and make the decisions takes the stress and work out of travel. If you have limited time, or you want to travel comfortably, tours can be a good option—and if you've got an excellent guide, it can be a great one. The best guides bring Roman life alive in Pompeii or help you recall recent history in Berlin. ...read more»

Air: Man Sitting with Neck Pillow (Photo: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages)

This week, we're reading tips furnished by the experts: Get advice on fighting jet lag from astronauts, and guidance on saving money on food while traveling from Tim Zagat. Plus, read about a new hotel chain in the works from IKEA. (Don't worry, it's not what you think.)

IKEA Plans to Build Hotel Chain

Ever wish you could live inside an IKEA store? Me neither. But someone must, as IKEA is building a chain of 100 budget hotels in Europe.

Budget Travel reports that the hotels won't, to all appearances, have anything to do with IKEA, though. They won't be stocked with poorly constructed "Billy" and "Flarfull" pieces. This is a new business venture for the IKEA corporation as opposed to an expansion of the store itself. ...read more»

Hotel: Key Handed to Guest (Photo: Shutterstock/.shock)

Hyatt's recurring Faster Free Nights and other generous promotions have a lot to do with Hyatt's popularity among the frequent-traveler set. As one of the smallest major hotel chains, it's a sensible marketing strategy: Offset your size disadvantage with superior bonus offers.

But there's a danger as well: inflated expectations. If you've been trained to expect lucrative bonuses year-round, anything less will be a disappointment.

Indeed, as this new promotion illustrates, Hyatt does not always deliver on those expectations. ...read more»

Globe Passport Plane Ticket (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

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 accordingly....read more»

Spain: Granada, La Alhambra (Photo: Shutterstock/S.Borisov)

Adam Miezio is Brand Manager for Budget Rent A Car. He loves to travel, and particularly frequents Spain.

Spain offers a myriad of pleasures, from beaches to food to cultural highlights, so each person is drawn to a different aspect. After a flight into Spain, and sorting out the car hire, many travelers head to Andalucia. Having lived in Seville for a few months I've always had a particular fondness for Andalucia. For most Americans, Andalucia fulfills the preconceptions of Spain: sun, tapas, fiestas and siestas. For most, Andalucia's irresistible allure that soothes the soul and stokes the imagination is its Moorish heritage and influence. If the Taj Mahal was built to memorialize the love of single person, the Alhambra was built to celebrate not only a captivating land, but also to memorialize an entire civilization.

The Alhambra palace is perhaps the most epic and enduring, cultural treasure produced by Arabic civilization and gifted to Western civilization. The Alhambra is a perfect complement to the surrounding majesty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Sitting atop a bluff on the edge of Granada, the palace is nestled into a bed of lush green trees that highlight snow dusted caps of the mountains in the background. The views outside the palace overlooking Granada and the surrounding plains are priceless, not to mention the scenic opportunities offered in the majestic Generalife gardens. It's easy to see why the Moors adored the location. They reflected their adoration inside the walls of the Alhambra....read more»

Photo: PhotoDisc

If you're a person of size, don't figure on evading the seat occupancy requirement by bringing along your own seat belt extender. That's a no-no, said the FAA in an announcement this week. When an airline's contract says that you have to be able to sit in a seat with seat belt fastened, that means the airline's original seat belt.


 


The FAA didn't explain the reason for this week's announcement, but industry mavens speculate that the number of people requiring seat belt extenders is increasing, to the extent that, on some flights, airlines now run out of their own approved extenders. Or extenders manufactured by independent third-party suppliers simply do not meet FAA standards....read more»

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