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A hurricane from above (Photo: Index Open)

Hurricane season kicks off on June 1. And this year, all the experts agree—at least so far—that we're likely to have a below-normal season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near- or below-normal hurricane season this year. It predicts only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season, with a 70 percent chance of eight to 13 named storms and three to six hurricanes, with one to two of those becoming major hurricanes.

The Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University is also a predicting a year of below-average activity. It cites a cooler tropical Atlantic and the likelihood of an El Nino of moderate strength as contributors to the lower probability for major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. and Caribbean....read more»

Miles & Points (Photo: Shutterstock)

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.

J.D. Power Rates Frequent-Flyer Programs

J.D. Power's first attempt to rate and rank frequent-flyer programs is a welcome addition to the ongoing discussion regarding the benefits and drawbacks of airline loyalty schemes. ...read more»

Southwest: Refueling Plane (Photo: Southwest Airlines/Stephen M. Keller)

Southwest flights from Atlanta to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles for $59 each way were, as it turns out, too good to be true.

On Thursday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) declared that Southwest must pay $200,000 in fines for deceptive advertising. The carrier had promoted the $59 domestic flights in a TV ad that ran in Atlanta. But when customers tried to purchase tickets, no seats were available....read more»

(Photo: SmarterTravel)

Instagrammers submitted more than 1,000 photos to our #STselfie contest. Here are the best of the best!...read more»

Red Hat on Gondola (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

Push the oar, don't fall out of the boat. Push the oar, don't fall out of the boat. I'm so busy repeating these mantras to myself that I almost miss it when my rowing instructor, Felix, says, "Venice is meant to be seen from the water." It's a simple statement, but one that hasn't occurred to me until now. I look around and realize just how true it is—many of the city's most ornate facades are impossible to see from land, and the best views of nearly all of Venice's 400 bridges are from its canals.

And what a view it is, standing at the front of this boat that looks like it's straight out of an 18th-century Canaletto painting. While there are plenty of ways to experience Venice at water level—from the black gondolas that crowd the canals around Piazza San Marco to the water taxis that ply the wide Grand Canal—a Venetian rowing lesson is perhaps the most unfiltered, the one most likely to leave you with sore hands and a visceral sense of what it means to navigate a city dominated by water....read more»

<h2>Seattle, Washington</h2>
Copy Editor Carl Unger was pleasantly surprised by <a href="http://www.visitseattle.org/" target="_blank">Seattle's</a> cheap eats and glorious weather last May. "It turned out to be an amazing walking city, which you wouldn't expect because it has a reputation for bad weather," he says "We walked and walked all over, finding tons of great places to eat for cheap, including the Crumpet Shop, Hattie's Hat, Bimbo's Bitchin Burrito Kitchen, <a href="http://www.ddir.com/"target="_blank">Dick's Drive-In</a>, and <a href="http://www.beechershandmadecheese.com/"target="_blank">Beecher's Handmade Cheese</a>. We also made use of the endless produce at <a href="http://www.pikeplacemarket.org"target="_blank">Pike Place Market</a> and took picnics. We spent four very enjoyable days there and really didn't spend too much money."

To search for flights and compare prices to Seattle, use our <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/compare-prices/flights/?arrival_city=SEA">price-comparison tool</a>.

(Photo: Carl Unger)

The battle for Seattle between former marketing partners, Alaska Airlines and Delta, continues to escalate, with separate announcements that both airlines will be adding flights to and from Seattle.

The increased competition should be a plus for travelers, with more choices, lower prices, and more frequent-flyer miles on offer from both carriers....read more»

Vienna might be a musical city, but if you love food as much as I do, Franz von Suppé's famous overture Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna easily translates into a more culinary-themed "breakfast, lunch, and dinner." Yet, in a place that boasts some of the most well-known pastries in the world, the best interludes are the sweet ones between meals. And while the ever-popular Sachertorte awaits, a few surprises add new notes to Vienna's seemingly endless libretto of standout confections. ...read more»

Passenger Being Served Tea in Qantas Premium Economy Seating (Photo: Qantas)

Is Premium Economy worth the money on a long-haul flight?...read more»

What Is it: Linge Ballet Shoes

Price and Where to Buy: $59, available at Lingeshoes.com.  

When I first got these shoes, they threw me for a loop. I was expecting ballet-shoe-style flats, but these are actually ballet shoes meant to be worn as street shoes. But I gamely put them on and ventured out into the world, and found that even those of us not blessed with the grace and flexibility of a ballerina have a place in our wardrobes for ballet shoes. 

Pros: Small and able to be packed nearly flat, these ballet flats are particularly handy for travelers. They fit easily in a day bag and are an elegant and whimsical back-up pair of shoes that can be dressed up or down when you need a break from heels. They're also a perfect substitute for slippers in hotel rooms and give you just enough coverage to get from your room to the pool or spa....read more»

Woman: Frustrated, Clenched Fists (Photo: Shutterstock/Johan Larson)

Consider these headlines: Rampant crime in destination areas. Lax safety standards. Sloppy management. Faulty equipment. Untrained operators. Deliberate targeting of visitors for scams. Or these reports: Cruise line passengers murdered in Antigua. Visitor drowns when caught in hot tub's underwater suction. Resort visitor killed when palm tree fell on his lounge chair. Six tourists disappear from a boat in the Caribbean. Four-day gun battle in Kingston leaves dozens dead. Elephant rampages in Phuket Province kill several visitors. Visitor impaled on a fencepost after bus crash in New Zealand. An airline tossed a frequent flyer out of its program and voided his miles. Tourist dies in rented car due to faulty safety belt. Air bags failed to deploy. Foreign tourists shot in Miami while driving rental car. That's just a sampling of the many mishaps Judge Thomas Dickerson, author of Travel Law, recounts in recent travel-law articles. But you get the drift: Lots of bad stuff can happen when you're traveling. ...read more»

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