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Beach: Family Walking on the Beach (Photo: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media)

Our weekly roundup of must reads features an outline of innovative products to pack for your summer vacation. Plus, see where to read first-hand accounts of the Grandeur of the Seas cruise-ship fire, and get clever family travel tips from Wendy Perrin.

12 Travel Products You'll Need This Summer

We love stories about the latest and greatest travel products. (See our advice on the best shoes and summer travel clothes.) Budget Travel's gallery of innovative travel products that should go on your summer-vacation packing list includes a lightweight, foldable beach chair; a beach blanket made from the same materials they use for parachutes; and a fancy snorkel-mask camera that looks like something Inspector Gadget would wear. See the products here....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

Many travelers—I'm often one of them—consider that a flight itinerary of more than 10 or 11 hours violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Sometimes, you have no choice but to accept it. Other times, however, you have the opportunity to take a two- or three-day stopover somewhere in the middle of the trip. And sometimes you can enjoy a stopover without paying a huge premium for buying two separate flights rather than a single flight.

A few airlines actually promote no-cost, or minimal-cost, stopovers at one or more of their hub airports: ...read more»

Man with laptop on beach (Photo: IndexOpen)

You seldom have to wait long for the next online innovation. Here are some recent developments that can make your travel a bit easier or more rewarding.

Online Turkish Visa

It's not even June yet, but Turkish Airlines initiated what may become the year's best idea: You can now apply for a Turkish visa online without having to visit any consulate or send your passport anywhere. To use the new "e-visa" program, log onto eVisa.com, enter your data, and pay a $20 fee by MasterCard or Visa. You need a passport valid for at least another six months and some record of flights in and out of Turkey. U.S. and Canadian citizens can fly in and out on any airline; citizens of a few countries must use Turkish Airlines only. As soon as your visa is allowed, you can download a copy. The service will also mail you a paper copy. Although the e-visa isn't attached to your passport, you must carry it with you at all times when you're in Turkey. ...read more»

Airfare: Man sleeping on Woman's Shoulder (Photo: iStockphoto/Sean Locke)

Economy class is pretty bad, even at its best. And at its worst, it's truly horrendous—a toxic mix of too-tight seats, rancid peanuts, and don't-bother-me service.

So which airline's coach class is the worst of the worst? Business Insider Australia set out to answer that question, using data compiled by airline reviewer Skytrax on such measures as seat comfort, in-flight entertainment, meals, and in-flight service.

Such perennial service under-providers as Spirit and RyanAir made the list, at 18th and 11th worst respectively, but the other contenders for the title of world's worst airline will be mostly unfamiliar to U.S.-focused travelers....read more»

Globe Passport Plane Ticket (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

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.

Earn United Miles for Discounted Event Tickets

Beginning this week, MileagePlus members earn five miles for every $1 spent on tickets to sports events, concerts, and the theater....read more»

England: London, Millennium Bridge (Photo: Cameron Hewitt)

It was the final day of a two-month trip to Europe. I was in London, and with all of my work behind me, I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. So I decided to test my five free London audio tours in a citywide blitz spanning two neighborhoods, one church, and two museums. It ended up being a very entertaining and cheap day, proving that you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a fulfilling experience in this pricey city.

In the morning, I bought a one-day off-peak subway and bus pass (a great deal at about $10) and caught the Tube from my hotel in South Kensington to Westminster. Time management was key: My last stop, the British Library, closed at 6 p.m., but my off-peak transit pass wouldn't let me start until 9:30 a.m. ...read more»

Business travel lounge at the airport (Photo: Index Open)

For airline marketers, the handling of lapsed elite loyalty-program members is a highly sensitive issue.

A traveler who has attained elite status in a program has demonstrated not only his loyalty during the period in question, but his potential for loyalty (and the revenue that comes with it) in the future. So when he falls short of re-qualifying for elite status, kicking him to the side of the road is not a profit-maximizing strategy.

In the past, American has handled lapsed elites in one of three ways. In some cases, if the member came close to qualifying, the airline might just ignore the shortfall and grant him status. In other cases, where the gap was too wide, the airline sometimes offered the member the opportunity to buy back his lost status. And if all else failed, the member might be granted a lower level of elite status....read more»

Volunteers/Teamwork (Photo: iStockphoto/Jeanell Norvell)

This week, we're reading about volunteer travel to Oklahoma. Find out how you can help, and get the scoop on other travel news and blogs in our regular roundup.

How to Volunteer in Moore, Oklahoma

Travelers interested in helping the residents in Moore and other parts of Oklahoma that were affected by the devastating tornado should consider a volunteer vacation. There's plenty of work to be done, and almost anyone can help. According to a report from Jaunted, a handful of charitable organizations are putting together volunteer groups to help the affected communities. Among them: The American Red Cross, which needs volunteers for debris clean up and other tasks....read more»

Business traveler on laptop at the airport (Photo: Index Open)

The government of American Samoa is going where most governments and corporations fear to tread. Effective June 1, workers traveling on government business will no longer own the frequent-flyer miles earned for their trips.

According to an AP report, the government of American Samoa has mandated that, from June 1, all miles earned by government employees on business trips will be the property of the government, which will dole them out to support travel by needy medical patients and students....read more»

Photo: JetBlue

By now, nobody should be surprised to see JetBlue carry off yet another win in the best-airline sweepstakes. For the ninth consecutive year, it earned the highest scores among all big U.S. airlines in the J.D. Power annual customer satisfaction ranking. And second-place Southwest outscored the top network carrier, Alaska, which in turn outscored all three of the giant legacy airlines. These results raise two questions, both easily answered.

Why does JetBlue do so well? Let's see—low fares, the industry's most generous legroom in coach, one no-charge checked bag, no overbooking, a generous frequent-flyer program, and a low ticket-change fee. What's not to like?...read more»

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