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Hotel Safe (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/Jaap Hart)

Hypothetical: If your belongings were incinerated in a hotel fire, would you expect the hotel to compensate you for your loss?

My answer is an unqualified "Yes." As I suspect would be the response of most travelers. It's just a basic sense of fairness.

Back in the real world, that sense of fairness apparently doesn't count for much.

The Back Story

On July 16, lightning struck the Hampton Inn in Tucumcari, New Mexico, igniting a fire that ravaged the structure. All hotel guests and hotel employees were evacuated safely, according to the Quay County Sun. But in many cases, the guests were forced to leave behind their possessions, which were either burned or water-damaged beyond repair.

The Compensation Question

The story was picked up this week by the L.A. Times, which reported on one guest's unsuccessful efforts to be made whole after his loss.

Bill Dailey and his grandson were en route to Los Angeles from Florida, where the younger Dailey had been discharged from the Marines. They were among those who lost everything they were packing in the fire.

When they arrived home after their road trip, they sent the hotel an itemized list of their lost possessions, fully expecting that they would be fairly compensated.

But the hotel's insurer argued that the fire was an act of God, and denied Dailey's claim. That needn't have been the end of the story. The hotel itself could have compensated Dailey, as a goodwill gesture. And although the hotel itself is independently owned and operated, it is part of the Hilton Hotels network, which raises the possibility of Hilton corporate stepping in to do the right thing, to protect the integrity of the Hampton Inn brand.

Only after being called out by the Times reporter did a spokesperson for Hilton offer Dailey five free nights at any Hampton Inn over the next year.

After being burned once, that was an offer Dailey found laughably inadequate. ... read more»

(Photo: Rick Steves)

My fondest memories of travels in Scotland are in the pubs with folk bands stomping the paint off the floor as locals came together with the same twinkles in their eyes. This is an example of a time when I really feel I'm in Scotland instead of Britain. Home of kilts, bagpipes, whisky, golf, and haggis, go-its-own-way Scotland boasts a culture that stands apart from the rest of its British brethren.

Like Wales, Scotland is a country of ragtag Celts sharing an island with wealthy, powerful Anglo-Saxons. Since the days of William "Braveheart" Wallace, the Scots have chafed under English rule. Throughout the centuries—after the 1707 Act of Union tied Scotland to its southern neighbor—Scottish nationalists have rioted for independence in Edinburgh's streets and led rebellions in the Highlands. ... read more»

The fantastic, beautiful, or simply strange places in art are often inspired by real-life destinations. The best part is that you can visit these locations, from Glencoe village in Scotland (which played the part of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter franchise) to the isle of Kauai on Hawaii (you may know it as the stomping grounds of Jurassic Park). ... read more»

JetBlue Airplane in Sunset (Photo: JetBlue Airlines)

"JetBlue must reduce legroom and add baggage fees." "Virgin America must increase its fees." "Southwest has to start charging baggage fees." Both the financial and the aviation media are full of stories highlighting Wall Street's dicta for these airlines. And Wall Street apparently doesn't care if its formula will effectively destroy these three lines as you know them. As one respected airlines writer put it, "That nice-guy approach to air travel wins awards and attracts a cult following, but it may not fly with Wall Street."

By customer standards, those three lines—along with Alaska—are among the very few "good guys" in today's airline business: ... read more»

(Photo: Lufthansa)

Lufthansa is the latest major holdout to join the group of giant airlines offering premium-economy class. All newly delivered 747-8s incorporate the new cabin, with initial routes linking Frankfurt with Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington. The airline will start offering premium economy on its A380s and A340s next spring, with installation completed by the end of next year. Lufthansa's product will closely resemble that of Air France.

Lufthansa's announcement suggests an overall update of premium economy. The basic idea is simple: The gap between economy class and business class has become immense over the last decade, in both product quality and cost. Here's how: ... read more»

<strong>Barbados</strong>

Often considered an expensive destination, Barbados can easily accommodate those on a more modest budget. Visit art galleries and craft shows, eat fish and pawpaws, tour sugar mills and rum distilleries, or take a free guided Sunday hike. With 3,000 annual hours of sunlight and temperatures that never stray far from the 80s, you're sure to have plenty of time to kick back on the beach.

<strong>Why It's a Good Value</strong>

<a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/airfare/search/provider.php?provider=jetblue" target="_blank">JetBlue</a>, <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/airfare/search/provider.php?provider=american">American</a>, <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/airfare/search/provider.php?provider=delta|song">Delta</a>, and <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/airfare/search/provider.php?provider=usairways">US Airways</a> offer service to Barbados; flights from Canada to Barbados are available from <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/airfare/search/provider.php?provider=aircanada">Air Canada</a> and West Jet. Getting around the island is easy with reliable taxi and bus service.

For inexpensive accommodations try <a href="http://www.peachandquiet.com/" target="_blank">Peach and Quiet</a>, <a href="http://www.sweetfieldmanor.com/" target="_blank">Sweetfield Manor</a>, and <a href="http://www.seaubarbados.com/" target="_blank">Sea-U Guest House</a>. Note that U.S. dollars are accepted island-wide at a set exchange rate of $1 to $1.98 Barbados dollars; shoppers benefit from tax-free purchases. If you're looking for an immediate getaway, <a href="http://www.aavacations.com/specials/crb1002-barbados-fly-free.asp" target="_blank">American Airlines Vacations</a> is offering a free companion airfare with the purchase of a four-night package through March 31. Book using promotional code "BGI50" and travel through May 31.

<strong>Best Beaches</strong>

You'll want to go swimming here, where water temperatures hover between 70 and 80 degrees, but with all 60 beaches open to the public, it might be hard to decide where to kick back and relax. The west coast has calm waters, while the east coast offers wind and waves perfect for surfing. The south features great snorkeling, and those looking for pink sands can find them in the southeast.

Reader <a href="http://www.smartertravel.com/community/?user_id=19703be16e533025b7dbb3a3449750f0-39efad9db3" target="_blank">zingara</a> suggests two beaches: Enterprise and Miami. "First thing in the morning, around 5:00 a.m. many people gather for their first 'sea bath.' There's nothing like watching the sun rise while swimming, floating, and communing with other like souls ... Enterprise [is] the calmer of the two. Both beaches are located within walking distance of Oistins and are on the bus route."

(Photo: iStockphoto/Karen Low Phillips)

Enter the Food & Wine "Experience Barbados" sweepstakes by November 15, 2014, for a chance to win the grand prize: a three-night trip for two to Barbados, including air, hotel, and some meals.

To enter, provide the requested contact information on the sweepstakes landing page and press "Submit." Done! Time required to participate: less than 30 seconds. ... 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.

Is Your Hotel Blocking Your Internet Access?

So, is your hotel blocking your access to a WiFi hotspot? It's not likely. But as a settlement reached last week between the FCC and Marriott shows, it's possible.

Delta Eliminates Upgrades on Cheapest Fares

From February 1, 2015, elite members of Delta's SkyMiles program will no longer be entitled to space-available upgrades when traveling on Basic Economy (booking class E) fares. ... read more»

Woman: Anxious, Looking at Laptop (Photo: Shutterstock/O Driscoll Imaging)

With minimum spend levels in place, elite status in Delta's SkyMiles program will already cost you. Next year, it will cost you even more.

Currently, elite status is awarded on the basis of elite-qualifying miles or segments, plus elite-qualifying spend (Medallion-qualifying dollars, or MQDs, in Delta-speak).

To earn elite status in 2016, the mileage and segment thresholds will remain the same. But the minimum-spend levels will rise ... read more»

(Photo: AvidSport)

What is it: The AvidSport, a watch that tracks your fitness and syncs with your smartphone.

Price and Where to Buy: The watch is priced on a sliding scale from $99-$169 (early buyers on Kickstarter will receive the better price) at Kickstarter.com.

Pros:

  • Uses Bluetooth 4.0 to sync the watch to your phone
  • Can be used to track fitness, including steps walked, time spent working out, and calories burned. Use GPS to track your running path and review it on Google Maps. You can also set workout goals and compete with other users.
  • Has a golf mode that works with over 30,000 courses worldwide
  • Alerts you to incoming phone calls, texts, emails and social media notifications
  • Watch can remotely trigger the camera on your smartphone
  • Watch can call your smartphone if you lose it
  • Can be used to control your phone's music
  • AvidSport's look can be customized—change the strap color or display design easily
  • Battery lasts up to four days when using with Bluetooth on

 

Cons: For people with smaller wrists, the watch felt bulky and heavy. (The AvidSport is 1.67" high x 1.48" wide and 0.48" deep. It weighs 1.95 ounces.) ... read more»

Hotel: Keycard and Hotel Room (Photo: Shutterstock/Sven Hoppe)

By the end of this month, guests at 29 Marriott hotels will be able to charge their cellphones, laptops, or tablets wirelessly in the hotels' lobbies.

The charging is provided by KS Portable Qi transmitters, which can simultaneously charge up to six mobile devices. Although the wireless charge is delivered without the need for wires or cables, the device must be placed in close proximity to the transmitter to receive the charge. ... read more»

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