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Travel brochures (Photo: IndexOpen)

Following is our regular summary of the latest travel news and 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.

Flyers Vote 'No' on American-US Airways Merger

The success of the American-US Air merger ultimately depends on the goodwill of the traveling public. But polls show that most flyers are opposed to the tie-up. Uh-oh!...read more»

Cruise ship in Prince William Sound (Photo: Michael Braun/iStockphoto)

Is cruising dead? Not so much, says one sailing aficionado. Find out why you should give a cruise a try in our weekly roundup of travel blogs and stories.

Overlooked and Underrated Destinations

Feast your eyes on this list of off-the-beaten-path (but nonetheless beautiful) destinations from The Polar Route, a photography-focused travel blog. Pretty pictures? Check. Inspiration for your next trip? Check. Best of all, it's safe to assume blogger Ed Graham has been to all recommended destinations—since there's photo evidence....read more»

London: The Shard (Photo: Cameron Hewitt)

Great Britain will likely be taking a deep breath (and perhaps a sigh of relief) this year as it recovers from a busy summer, when it hosted both the Olympics and Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.

Despite the flurry of investment that swept Britain in the lead-up to the Olympics, austerity measures have taken their toll on Britain's tourist information services. I've long been disappointed in Britain's inability to see that tourist information is an investment in an important industry that brings in business. Rather, Britain views tourist-info offices as businesses in their own right, having to scramble to stay afloat like the countless attractions they're supposedly designed to serve. As a result, tourist offices across the country are either closing or morphing into shops peddling tourist activities, information, and knickknacks for a profit. The biggest hit is in London, where the Britain and London Visitors Centre near Piccadilly Circus has closed. Now the only publicly funded (and therefore impartial) tourist office is the City of London Information Centre, across from St. Paul's Cathedral. ...read more»

(Photo: Airplane via Shutterstock)

Thousands of travelers heading in and out of the Midwest saw their plans upended as a winter storm moved through the region, causing hundreds of flight cancellations. According to flight-tracking website FlightStats, more than 1,900 flights have been grounded by this morning—and further cancellations are expected later today.

The bulk of affected flights were grounded at Chicago O'Hare (one of the nation's busiest airports), Kansas City International, Lambert-St. Louis International, Cleveland Hopkins International, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta. Weather conditions in the Midwest are expected to improve today, but travelers could see more cancellations through the weekend as airlines work to correct schedules....read more»

Airport: Blurred Travelers on Moving Walkway (Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision)

The merger between American and US Airways is now a lock to secure the necessary regulatory approvals and will probably close by the end of this year.

The merger's approval last week by the two airlines' boards was predicated on the deal's favorable treatment of affected shareholders, creditors, top managers, and unions.

But there's been nary a nod to another key stakeholder group, the traveling public, which will ultimately play a major role in determining the new company's financial fortunes....read more»

Woman: Drinking Water (Photo: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia)

When you're vacationing in Los Angeles, you shouldn't have to think twice about drinking water from the tap, right? Not so for guests at the Cecil Hotel. People staying at the hotel complained about low water pressure and a funny taste from the tap, never imagining the horror that was causing it....read more»

Boy in Wheelchair (Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

TSA agents made a three-year-old with spina bifida cry during screening—and they took away her stuffed animal, too....read more»

Air: Lightning and Plane (Photo: Shutterstock/Vibrant Image Studio)

What will the airline landscape look like after the big US Airways-American merger, and what should travelers expect? Within a year or so, the country will be down to four giant airlines plus a handful of much smaller niche players. Although my crystal ball is not high-def, I can foresee some important trends. Find out which airlines will be left standing, and what you can expect from them.

Southwest: Bigger Than Ever

Even after the merger, Southwest will be a strong number two for the volume of passengers carried on domestic flights. Southwest will start to assert itself in international markets with flights to Mexico and the nearby islands. But it has planes capable of nonstops from the West Coast and Las Vegas to Hawaii—watch out, Alaska, Hawaiian, and United. I also think Southwest could make a net profit by adding the equivalent of United's Economy Plus feature—extra legroom for an extra price—but that's a long shot. ...read more»

Passport: US Passport, Glass Globe, Keyboard (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

You're a SmarterTravel reader, so it's safe to assume you have a passport. But is it up to date?

Passport Day, the State Department's annual no-appointment-needed event, will take place in a few weeks. So now is the perfect time to take a look inside your passport and check its expiration date.

On Saturday, March 9, U.S. citizens may stop by a passport agency or center unannounced to renew or apply in person for a first-time passport. This makes things super convenient for busy travelers, as it's normally necessary to set up an appointment in advance. If you think it's time to renew or time to get your first-ever passport (get one!), mark the date on your calendar....read more»

Westin Chicago Michigan Avenue (Photo: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.)

Starwood announced its annual award-price changes on FlyerTalk.

In all, around 48 hotels will decrease in price while more than 200 will increase.

There's a list of hotels that will be recategorized here. (Incidentally, Starwood's list is a model of how such changes should be communicated, with both the old and the new prices shown side by side.)...read more»

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