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.

As Planes Fly Full, the Price of Comfort Spikes

Finding air travel increasingly uncomfortable lately? A just-released report from the DOT confirms that load factors for U.S. airlines reached all-time highs in 2014.

Best Western's Customer Appreciation Falls Flat

For its fifteenth annual customer-appreciation week, Best Western is offering a thank-you bonus, although, as promotions go, it's barely worthy of the name. ... read more»

Puerto Rico: Oceanside Fort-DD

Puerto Rico is one of the most breathtaking destinations in the Caribbean and also one of the most accessible. Flights from major U.S. gateways are plentiful, and U.S. residents don't need a passport to visit.

But while other Caribbean destinations are chock-full of all-inclusive resorts, Puerto Rico is home to hardly any. In fact, you won't really find the true wristband-wearing all-inclusive experience anywhere in Puerto Rico. What you will find is a range of lovely beachfront properties offering meal plans and dining packages, some of which are more comprehensive than others. Here are our picks for the best Puerto Rico all-inclusive resorts. ... read more»

Japan Food Vendor (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

Got 36 seconds? Then you've got time for six quick peeks into the world of traditional Japanese cooking.

On a recent trip to Japan, I found myself staring often. Not at shrines or neon high-rises, but at food and the people cooking it. On streets and behind glass at shops, at tempura bars and teppanyaki restaurants, Japanese cooking—and its particular blend of artistry and precision—is on full display.

Ready to take a walk through the streets of Japan? Then let's follow the aroma of the sweet bean-paste buns cooking in a storefront in Narita, glimpse the surprisingly gentle rhythm of deep-frying tempura, stop in a 200-year-old traditional candy shop, and end our tour in Tokyo with a manic time-lapse look at a slowly crafted sweet. The whole tour only takes 36 seconds. ... read more»

Airport: Frustrated, Overwhelmed Traveler (Photo:iStockphoto/Dystortia)

If you've been finding air travel increasingly uncomfortable lately, you're not alone. A just-released report from the DOT confirms that load factors for U.S. airlines reached all-time highs in 2014.

For the year, U.S. carriers' planes on average flew 83.4 percent full. That's over the airlines' entire networks. On domestic routes, load factors averaged 84.5 percent, also a record. International load factors were 81.0 percent for the year, slightly off the record, 82.3 percent, set in 2013.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. What they tell is a good news-bad news story.

Full planes are, of course, good news for the airlines. Operationally, it means their principal assets are being used at optimal efficiency. And it goes hand-in-hand with optimal profitability, as the airlines' glowing 2014 financial results attest.

For flyers, full planes are a nightmare, ... read more»

Balmoral Tower Pool (Photo: Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort and Offshore Island)

Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is an ideal year-round destination with temperatures generally hovering in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit. And while Nassau has a past filled with pirating lore, relaxed beachfront all-inclusive resorts dominate its present. Here are our picks for the five best all-inclusive resorts in Nassau (and one almost-all-inclusive). ... read more»

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Haystack, meet needle: We've scoured promotions from dozens of airlines to find the best bargain routes on sale right now. ... read more»

Time was, in the golden age of railroad travel, you could go down the aisle to the toilet, use it, and flush it, and when the little cup at the bottom of the toilet opened, you could see the roadbed running by underneath the train. Yes, the toilet's contents got dumped right onto the tracks, and yes, that's why the railroads all had signs that read, "Please do not flush the toilet while the train is standing in the station."

That's not what happens on planes. So here is the answer to that oft-asked question, "What happens to human waste on airplanes?" ... read more»

The Google Flights search engine has long been among the handiest of apps in savvy travelers' digital toolkits. Simple, fast, inclusive, and unbiased, it provides a reliably good first read of a traveler's flight options for any given trip. Sometimes it's all the research needed to get the lowest fare and best schedule.

This week, Google Flights got even better, with the addition of flight-amenity data provided by Routehappy. Now, flight-search results include not just schedule, price, and aircraft type, but also Wi-Fi availability, in-seat and USB power, and on-demand video.

Routehappy calls itself a "product differentiation platform for air travel." That's about right. ... read more»

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Beginning in November, JetBlue will offer its premium Mint service on flights between New York and both Aruba and Barbados.

Mint is JetBlue's first-class service, launched last year on flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, at prices that significantly undercut those charged by American, Delta, and United. For as little as $599 each way, cross-country Mint flyers enjoy premium cabins outfitted with 16 lie-flat seats: twelve side-by-side in a 2x2 configuration; four single seats in "private suites." The cushy seats are complemented by upgraded meal service, amenity kits, and other front-cabin niceties. ... read more»

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Fare bundling is the increasingly common airline practice of offering different levels of economy fares that provide different combinations of features at different prices. And like so many changes to the airline industry, bundling will help airlines more than consumers.

Most carriers charge for a laundry list of formerly free services, such as checked baggage, advance seat assignments, onboard snacks and beverages, pillows and blankets, ticket changes, early boarding, and access to seats in rows with extra legroom or seats near the front of the plane. Now, airlines are reassembling some of these extras into tiers or bundles and giving the clusters brand names like Comfort Plus or Choice Essential. Some smaller airlines have been doing this for several years, but more recently, major U.S. carriers are catching onto the idea.

Brand variations typically involve varying frequent-flyer benefits as well as varying extras. Lines that base earnings on fare payments rather than miles automatically award minimal miles to travelers on the lowest fares. Airlines that base awards on miles typically award reduced miles to lowest-brand travelers. Air Canada, for example, awards only 25 percent of the miles flown within Canada to travelers on its least expensive Tango fare brand. ... read more»

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