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(Photo: Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans)

Ever dreamed of actually stepping inside a work of art, Mary Poppins-style? A Dutch design lab, headed up by artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde, has just taken your fantasy one step (or one pedal) closer to reality.

On November 12, Studio Roosegaarde opened a magical, glowing bike path inspired by Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night in the city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The .6-mile path is lit by 50,000 twinkling solar-powered stones, which charge up during the day and glow in the dark by night, as well as thousands of LED lights. When darkness sets in, the swirling swaths of illuminated stones and lights mimic the starry sky in Van Gogh's famous painting. It's a dazzling, fairy-tale-like visual. ... read more»

Delta aircraft tail (Photo: Delta)

Airline mileage programs are famous for their devaluations and generally customer-unfriendly ways. But even in that context, Delta stands out for the number and severity of the negative changes its loyalists have been asked to endure.

The new-for-2015 spend-based program itself will be a downgrade for many Delta flyers. Add to that the increase in revenue requirements to earn elite status, the limitation on partner transfers to Delta, elimination of round-the-world awards, higher fees for airport lounge access, and a more restrictive same-day confirmation policy.

The bad-news list grew even longer this week, with two new restrictions on award travel published in the airline's terms and conditions page, both of which take effect on January 1, 2015:

  • "Stopovers will no longer be permitted for Award Travel booked on or after January 1, 2015."
  • "For Award Travel ticketed on or after January 1, 2015, all open jaw itineraries will be priced based on One-Way Award Travel pricing rules."

So, no more enroute stopovers. And open jaws will be priced according to the mileage requirements ... read more»

We made a list and we checked it twice: This printable packing list is the one thing you need for your upcoming holiday travels. ... read more»

Airport: Travelers, Flight Screens (Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

When's the last time you heard someone say something nice about Newark Airport? For that matter, when's the last time you heard someone say something nice about United Airlines?

Compliments may be in the offing, as the two travel industry underperformers are teaming up to deliver an airport experience that reflects well on both providers. An airport experience that travelers will enjoy, not just endure.

When the $120 million renovation of Newark's Terminal C is complete, travelers will be able to choose from a long list of dining options, including American, Asian, French, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican food, prepared by such celebrity chefs as Alain Ducasse and Marc Forgione.

The high-end meals are just the low-tech aspect of the terminal's reinvention. In keeping with the digital times, travelers will place their orders on any of the 6,000 iPads located throughout the terminal, and meals will be served up within 15 minutes.

And even more ground-breaking: Payment for those meals, and for all other products and services sold by the terminal's merchants, can be made in dollars or in United frequent-flyer miles. ... read more»

(Photo: Rick Steves)

Good travelers travel with all their senses, taking in a place's sights, sounds, and flavors to get the full experience. So, this past summer in Amsterdam, I engaged all my senses to connect with the culture. A key for really enjoying Amsterdam is to go local—feeling the bricks and pavement beneath two wheels. I always rent a bike here. The clerk at the rental shop explained why they don't carry mountain bikes in this very flat country: "Mountain bikes in the Netherlands make no sense at all. When a dog takes a dump, we have a new mountain."

The lack of hills makes biking a breeze. Much of my Amsterdam experience is framed by my black bike's handlebars: the shiny wet cobbles, getting pinged by passing bikes and pinging my bell to pass others. I wish I had a bigger periphery, as cars, trams, bikers, and pedestrians seem to float by from all directions in silence—their noise lost in the white noise of this dreamy city. ... read more»

Grumpy Old Man on Computer (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Say that an airline refuses to give you a refund you're due. Say you've already done your preliminaries, which are, as I noted last week:

  • You determined that the airline does owe you money, either cash out of pocket or to cover the costs of serious inconvenience.
  • You arrived at a dollar figure.
  • You assembled relevant documentation in your possession, including, where possible, references to the airline's own rules it failed to follow.
  • You formulated a complaint, briefly summarizing exactly what happened, noted the basis for your claim, and specifically asked for money, a voucher for future travel, or frequent-flyer miles in your account.

... read more»

(Photo: Sanuk)

What Is it: Sanuk's Yoga Ballet Shoes.

Price and Where to Buy: $59 -$70 on Amazon, or $70 - $75 on Sanuk's website

... read more»

Woman waiting for plane to depart (Photo: Index Open)

Whether you're red or blue, you probably realize that the midterm election is likely to change the outlook for consumer protection over the next few years. And—this is strictly a personal opinion—the outlook is less favorable than in the previous Congress.

The current up-front issue is the fate of the Orwellian "Transparent Airfares Act of 2014," which would actually make airfares less transparent, not more. It was written—and is being heavily lobbied—by big airlines. Although it is opposed by just about every consumer advocacy group I know, it passed the House without any debate, and the new Senate is likely to view it more favorably than the previous one. ... read more»

Holidays: Family at Dining Table (Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

This year, give yourself the gift of a smooth travel experience that's easy on the wallet. Here's how. ... read more»

Hotel: Two Beds One Phone (Photo: Thinkstock/John Foxx)

Of all the major hotel chains, Marriott is arguably the only one with a particular claim on operating with an exemplary moral compass.

The company has been recognized accordingly: named Fortune magazine's "World's Most Admired Lodging Company"; designated a "World's Most Ethical Company" by the Ethisphere Institute; awarded "Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles" by the National Business Group on Health; etc. Bill Marriott, Marriott's founder and still a force in the company's governance, has always stressed the importance of ethical behavior in creating a corporate culture conducive to exemplary customer service. ... read more»

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