Museum interior (Photo: Renee Lee, iStockphoto.com)

This Saturday, September 29, a multitude of museums in the U.S. will offer free admission. That's because Saturday is Museum Day Live, an event hosted by Smithsonian Magazine. On the big day, participating museums will make like a Smithsonian (it's always free to visit Smithsonian Museums) and offer complimentary access for anyone holding a Museum Day Live ticket.  

You can get the ticket on the Museum Day Live website. It doesn't cost anything, and it's valid for two people visiting museums together. There's also a list of participating museums on the site, complete with an interactive map. Zoom in to see which museums near you are opening their doors for free this weekend. Remember: You'll only receive complimentary admission if you're holding a Museum Day Live ticket....read more»

Dollar Bill Paper Plane (Photo: Thinkstock/Photos.com)

You'll pay more than $40 a day in taxes to visit Chicago. That's the most highly taxed big city in the United States, according to a new report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). At the other end of the scale, four big South Florida cities, three California cities, Portland, Oregon, and Honolulu all hit you for less than $25 a day. Those numbers are for total taxes—regular sales taxes plus special travel taxes—for a typical business traveler's day of restaurant meals, a rented car, and a hotel night. ...read more»

Attractive Young Couple Playing on Beach (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Enter the Fred Meyers Access Your Style sweepstakes by October 26 for a chance to win one of two grand prizes: a six-night Sandals Resort stays for two, including hotel accommodations, meals, land and water sports, and a $500 voucher to cover airfare.

To enter, type in the requested contact information and press "submit."

Time required to enter: under 15 seconds....read more»

Trash on Street (Photo: Street Trash via Shutterstock)

Travel + Leisure released its list of the dirtiest cities in America, and the results have us shaking our heads. Get the scoop on this and other hot travel stories of the week below.

How to Pay for Your Vacation

Budget Travel's story, How to Pay for Your Vacation, may initially sound foolish. (The answer, of course, is to exchange money for goods and services.) But there's more to it than that, as Budget Travel reveals. Suggested strategies include setting up a vacation savings account or purchasing a trip on layaway. (Although we advise against the latter.)...read more»

Travel brochures (Photo: IndexOpen)

Following is our regular summary of the best frequent traveler promotions reviewed during the past week.

If it was a good deal—or a notably bad deal—from an airline, hotel, or car-rental loyalty program, you can read all about it here, and plan your travel accordingly.

Earn 1,000 Delta Miles for La Quinta Stays

Through December 30, members of La Quinta's Returns program can earn 1,000 Delta miles per stay, up to a maximum of 25,000 miles for 25 stays....read more»

Spirit Airlines aircraft tail (Photo: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airline's Free Spirit is the frequent flyer program that frequent flyers love to hate.

Like the airline itself, Free Spirit is notably customer-unfriendly. There are very few earning partners (Choice hotels, Hertz, and the Free Spirit MasterCard). Miles can only be redeemed for Spirit flights. There are fees to redeem miles within 180 days of departure. And miles expire after just three months of inactivity, unless you hold the program-linked MasterCard and make at least one purchase per month.

And until recently, you couldn't even book award flights on Spirit's website. That glaring deficiency at least has now been addressed....read more»

American Airlines aircraft tail (Photo: American Airlines)

American Airlines has canceled hundreds of fall flights—a total of 1 to 2 percent of total operations in September and October. To make matters worse, a disturbingly large number of American flights have been late recently. The Wall Street Journal reveals that only 48 percent of American flights arrived on time on Sunday, and 39 percent of flights arrived on time on Monday. Those are pretty dismal numbers, and for the most part, they've been that way all week.

SmarterTravel's Ed Perkins reported on this earlier in the week, but it looks like the situation could only get worse. In fact, some analysts are telling travelers to book away from American. The WSJ suggests flyers flat out avoid the airline this fall: "American said on Monday that it was cutting its fall schedule back some to give more flexibility for covering flights when pilots call in sick or delay flights. That might help some, but the prospect for more labor problems this fall should give travelers concern."...read more»

Hotel Sign (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

Hotel costs are apt to outweigh airfares in your total vacation expenses. That's one reason reports on hotel-cost trends are so popular these days. But, as with political polls, these surveys don't always agree. Case in point:

  • According to the Hotel Price Index (HPI) published by Hotels.com, overall hotel rates in the U.S. are up 5 percent over last year. Among individual cities, rates in Charleston, South Carolina increased from $100 last year to $152 in 2012; New York was up from $190 to $205; Honolulu rates increased from $175 to $204; and San Francisco went from $135 to $153.
  • Hotwire's Trip Starter tells a somewhat different tale. Right now, says the posting, hotel rates in Charleston, at $120, are a tad lower than last year; rates in New York, at about $215, are about the same as they were last year and have been about the same all year; San Francisco rates, at about $205, are just a bit higher now but were generally higher during most of 2012. Hotwire's rates for Honolulu are "currently not available."...read more»
Two Flight Attendants Smiling at Camera and Gesturing (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here's a story of unprofessionalism at it's finest—two flight attendants were kicked off an American Eagle flight after getting in a fight, reports NBC News. One flight attendant allegedly refused to work with the other for the hour-long trip from New York to D.C., and the argument escalated to the point where the cockpit crew kicked them both off the plane. The flight was then delayed for about 4.5 hours until a replacement cabin crew could be found. ...read more»

Lufthansa aircraft close up (Photo: Lufthansa)

Lufthansa is the latest large carrier to float the notion of incorporating flights into a low-cost subsidiary airline. The German company announced yesterday that it will operate some flights in Europe under the discounted carrier Germanwings starting in 2013.

A handful of airlines have already made the move, including Air India, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Qantas, Singapore, and Thai Airways, with several others thinking about it. Big airlines establish these subsidiaries—or at least try to—for two related reasons. They must keep up with aggressive competition from independent low-cost airlines, especially for short-haul routes where the market does not demand the opulent high-cost and high-profit business-class service that the parent lines provide. (In this instance, Lufthansa is struggling to compete with easyJet and Ryanair.) Airlines also struggle with significant obstacles to reducing costs of their own short-haul operations, most notably labor laws and long-term contracts that make increasing efficiency and downsizing extremely difficult....read more»

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