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(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»

(Photo: Dara Continenza)

Resort renovations, cruise expansions, and new cultural experiences are putting Bermuda back on the map. ... read more»

Cruise: Ship with Plane Overhead (Photo: Shutterstock/Pablo Scapinachis)

Enter the United Cruises "1,000,000 Million Mile Cruise" sweepstakes by December 31, 2014, for a chance to win the grand prize: a $3,000 cruise voucher, plus 250,000 United MileagePlus miles. (Among other things, the miles could be used to fly the winner to and from the cruise ship.) Runner-up prizes include 250,000 MileagePlus miles (one winner) and 100,000 miles (five winners).

To enter, provide the requested information (name, email, etc.) 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.

Hilton to Penalize Same-Day Cancellations

In a significant departure from the current industry standard, beginning on January 1, 2015, Hilton will no longer allow same-day penalty-free cancellations.

Expedia Adds Flight Details to Search Results

In a novel and intriguing effort to distinguish itself from other online travel agencies, Expedia has partnered with Routehappy to add an extra dimension to its flight-search results. ... read more»

United: Docked Planes (Photo: Shutterstock/Songquan Deng)

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Delta must be positively blushing at United's recent mileage-program moves.

First, there was United's wholesale copying of Delta's new-for-2015 spend-based program. Apparently, when it comes to the design of loyalty programs, intellectual property rights don't apply. If they did, Delta would have a strong case against United for copying, detail for detail, Delta's new scheme.

And now, on a smaller scale, United has cut-and-pasted into MileagePlus Delta's upcoming change to its elite-qualification requirements, announced last month.

As with Delta, United will require 20 percent more spending during 2015 to qualify for elite status in 2016. ... read more»

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