Airplane on runway (Photo: C. Borland/PhotoLink)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a list of 149 airport control towers it says it has to close because of the sequestration budget cuts. Obviously, the FAA tried to minimize the damage by limiting the cuts to airports with low usage.

Closings at small city airports will impact travelers the most. Although these airports will remain open, responsibility for flight operations and safety will rest solely with the pilots taking off and landing. And although lack of a control tower doesn't preclude commercial air service, it's hard to see how it won't affect airline decisions about whether and how often to serve these fields. The closure of a tower at Trenton Mercer could have a major impact on Frontier, for example, which had announced plans to make that airport the hub of a large eastward expansion. Branson was enjoying a growth spurt, with service by both Frontier and Southwest. Closure of the towers may well deter major airlines for expanding in these cities. It's also very possible that airlines serving some of the smallest airports will just pull up stakes and end their flights. ...read more»

Money: Stacking Coins (Photo: Shutterstock/Ferenc Cegledi)

The problem of hidden hotel fees is getting worse rather than better. Late last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent out letters to 22 hotel chains warning them that failure to include all mandatory fees, including the widespread "resort" fees so common in vacation areas, is a deceptive practice. So how have hotels responded? In Las Vegas, a handful of hotels that formerly did not add those fees decided to start adding them. A FTC spokesperson indicated that it continues to work with hotels and considers that several have improved or are improving their displays of mandatory fees.

As a refresher, the fee scam works like this: Instead of posting the total price you have to pay, some hotels carve out part of the real price, give it a plausible name like "resort" or "housekeeping" fee, and feature the reduced partial price in their initial rate displays. To make the fees sound more acceptable, hotels typically provide a laundry list of amenities and services the fee is supposed to cover, but that's a complete phony: If you have to pay it, it's part of the price. If you're lucky, the hotel adds that fee before you actually commit to the accommodation; but sometimes you don't find out until you arrive at the hotel. And third-party online travel agencies and the several "opaque" sites such as Hotwire and Priceline typically content themselves by fine print that says you may be subject to additional fees. ...read more»

Train in a Paris Station (Photo: iStockphoto/Perry Kroll)

In an earlier column, I urged travelers to check out the many deals available for public transit in the most popular U.S. destination cities. My suggestions apply equally to major foreign cities: As a longtime traveler, I've not had any trouble using subways in every big city I've ever visited. 

Some travelers tell me they're reluctant to use public transit in a foreign city because they're afraid they'll get lost trying to navigate the city when they can't read the signs at the stations. Not to worry—in every place I've been where Latin script isn't used, I've found signage in "globish," the de facto international-language version of English. In fact, the Beijing and Dubai transit systems I used recently made recorded station announcements in the local language and English—a feat many U.S. transit systems haven't yet mastered. And you can easily find Latin-script versions of system maps and riding information. As in the United States, many foreign systems offer special deals useful to—and sometimes aimed at—international visitors. You can buy all the passes I cite online or after you arrive. ...read more»

Car: Female Driver (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

Damian Tysdal is the founder of TravelInsuranceReview.net, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. See more from Damian on Google+.

These days, travelers are far more aware of travel insurance than ever before, especially when they hear travel horror stories, like super storms, cruise ship strandings, medical emergencies and more.

Like any other insurance product, your travel insurance policy is a legal contract. You agree to pay a fee to insure your trip risks, and the insurance company agrees to pay up when something bad happens—as long as what happens is covered by the plan.

Unfortunately, the impression many travelers have is that travel insurance is impossible to use and you'll never get reimbursed for a claim. Here are the most common reasons travel insurance claims are denied and how to make sure your claims get paid....read more»

Hotel: Business Man with Luggage, Using Tablet (Photo: Shutterstock/Diego Cervo)

In a first for a major hotel loyalty program, InterContinental Hotel Group's Priority Club Rewards will offer its members free in-room Internet access throughout its network of more than 4,500 hotels in over 100 countries.

The seven IHG brands are InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites.

The new benefit will be made available to elite members of the program beginning in July, and rolled out to general members sometime in 2014....read more»

(Photo: Taxi via Shutterstock)

At last, someone has found a way to combine two of the world's great innovations: vehicles for hire and vending machines. Now you can sip on an effervescent Coke while arguing with your cab driver about which route to take.

The owner of several taxi companies in New Orleans has installed soda vending machines in cabs. According to a report from NBC News, roughly 200 taxis in the New Orleans Carriage Cab and Yellow-Checker Cab fleets now have the machines, which can hold up to 36 drink cans. The beverages sell for $0.99....read more»

Would You Rather Logo (Photo: Dara Continenza)

Like life itself, travel is full of choices. Where should you go on your next vacation? What type of place should you stay in? We want know what you're thinking when it comes to travel. Every week, we'll ask you a tough question. Respond to see the results immediately and find out if other travelers are thinking like you. Disagree with everyone else? You can debate in the comments area below....read more»

Bomb (Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

A vengeful ex-girlfriend thought she had a clever prank to play on her ex-boyfriend last week. The woman and her current boyfriend allegedly decided to call in a tip to authorities, claiming that her ex-boyfriend, Christopher Shell, was carrying liquid explosives aboard a US Airways flight to Dallas, NY Daily News reports....read more»

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom on Green Lawn (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Nothing says spring quite like cherry blossoms. They're bold early adopters, ready to stride out into the still-chilly days and proclaim the change of season with a fantastic display of blooms.  We appreciate that, and so in the spirit of the season, we've rounded up three great cherry blossom festivals in the U.S.

  • National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C.: With three weeks of tours, classes, cruises, parties, and parades running now through April 14, D.C.'s National Cherry Blossom Festival works hard to earn its title as the "nation's greatest springtime celebration." Right now, the National Park service is predicting peak blooms (when 70 percent of the cherry tree blossoms surrounding the Tidal Basin will be open) from April 3 through April 6.
  • International Cherry Blossom Festival, Macon, Georgia: Macon's celebration of the blooming of its 300,000 flowering Yoshino cherry trees may have ended on March 24, but the trees don't know the festivities are over for the year, so you can still get in some good blossom marveling at least through the end of March....read more»
Man with bags walking down empty road (Photo: iStockphoto/Johnny Habell)

How many ways can a loyalty program devalue members' points? Among them:

  • Raising award prices effectively erodes the value of miles by decreasing their purchasing power.
  • Eliminating award partners devalues miles by reducing the range of options members have for redeeming their miles.
  • By cutting back or eliminating perks associated with elite status.
  • By changing the rules for attaining lifetime elite status.
  • And so on.
...read more»

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