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First-class travelers watching videos (Photo: Stewart Cohen/Index Open)

One of the recurring debates about the booming loyalty marketing industry is whether rewards provide notable value ... and which rewards are the most valuable. To answer this, IdeaWorksCompany conducted booking research using United's MileagePlus program (largest in the world) to determine which rewards provide members the greatest dollar value.

That's the teaser for the latest study from industry consulting company IdeaWorks. The study's conclusion is front and center in its title: "Premium Class Rewards Provide Best Value for Frequent Flyers."

Specifically, based on 170 test bookings, IdeaWorks found that premium awards to Europe or Asia delivered more than 5 cents-per-mile, versus just over 1 cent-per-mile for coach awards....read more»

MirrorCase on iPhone 4S (Photo: MirrorCase)

The iPhone case-app combo allows users to take pictures on the sly, which can be great for travelers, but also slightly strange....read more»

(Photo: Michael O'Leary via Shutterstock)

Ryanair has seen a decline in profits lately, so the budget airline is turning to increasingly desperate measures to save costs. The European airline's newest idea? Have their pilots fly slower, to save money on fuel.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the recommended reduced speeds will only add around two minutes to every hour in the air....read more»

Rothenburg Town Square, Germany (Photo: Rick Steves)

Thirty years ago, I fell in love with the picturesque village of Rothenburg, in Germany's Franconian heartland. At that time, the town still fed a few farm animals within its medieval walls. Today its barns are hotels, its livestock are tourists, and Rothenburg is well on its way to becoming a medieval theme park.

But Rothenburg is still Germany's best-preserved walled town. Countless travelers have searched for the elusive "untouristy Rothenburg." There are many contenders (such as Michelstadt, Miltenberg, Bamberg, Bad Windsheim, and Dinkelsbühl), but none holds a candle to the king of medieval German cuteness. Even with crowds, overpriced souvenirs, and a nearly inedible pastry specialty (the over-promoted, fried ball of pie crust called a schneeball), Rothenburg is still the best. Save time and mileage and be satisfied with the winner. ...read more»

Man: Aghast and at Computer (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)

A disgruntled traveler recently sent an email to me—and apparently to some other consumer advocates—about a distressing experience with an online ticket agency. I'm not identifying the agency because my function is to explain how problems arise and what to do about them, not to post and pursue individual complaints. As far as I can tell, the root of the reader's problem is that the agency sells "consolidator" tickets, and consolidator tickets pose some inherent risks. When the system works, consolidator tickets can be far cheaper than advertised prices, but when something goes wrong, consumers can be forced to pay a lot more than the regular fare, not less. ...read more»

Woman relaxing in hammock between two palm trees (Photo: Christian Wheatley/iStockphoto)

When you inquire about "singles travel," the standard travel-industry response is to guide you toward the many agencies and programs that match you with other single travelers to share your accommodations. But true solo travel—traveling by yourself—is a lot different. Not every single wants to share accommodations with anyone. I, for one, was suddenly thrust into the solo-travel scene when my wife of many years passed away two years ago. Now, the last way I want to travel is with anybody else, friend or stranger. And I'm sure lots of you are in similar circumstances. ...read more»

Doctor With Earth in Hands (Photo: iStockphoto/jgfoto)

It's no secret that medical care in the U.S. is expensive. The discrepancy between expenses in the U.S. and elsewhere is leading increasing numbers of Americans to travel overseas for better-priced medical procedures.

A nose job in Brazil, for example, can cost about 60 percent less than in the U.S. Similar savings can be expected for a spinal fusion in Turkey. Heart bypass surgery in India can be 90 percent less expensive.

Even factoring in the cost of travel, the savings can be substantial. And you're getting a pre-op vacation thrown in as well.

Of course, fear and uncertainty combine to put a brake on a widespread turn to medical tourism. Americans trust American hospitals. Hospitals in other countries, not so much.

But choosing a hospital a continent away need not be a shot in the dark. According to Patients Without Borders, a publisher of medical tourism guidebooks, there are almost 500 hospitals outside the U.S. that have been accredited by the Joint Commission International, which holds medical facilities to strict international standards....read more»

Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Let's say you arrive at the airport 30 minutes before your flight leaves, with your ticket already printed and no bags to check. If you're flying through select terminals at Heathrow, you'll no longer be given the chance to make a run for your flight....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

I'm a long-time fan of Consumer Reports. When it comes to evaluating consumer products and services, they are as rigorous and objective as it's possible to be. They don't accept advertising or other forms of corporate support, so there's never a sense that their studies are being influenced by financial considerations.

I don't always agree with their methodology or their conclusions, but I always take their findings seriously....read more»

Squirrel (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Did you know that the plague still exists? It does, and it can be transmitted by flea bites. The Los Angeles Times reports that a squirrel in Angeles National Forest tested positive for plague, and as a precaution, three campgrounds in the park will be closed for at least a week while squirrel habitats are treated for fleas....read more»

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