Man working at computer (Photo: Index Open)

If you posted a bad review of the Bates Motel on TripAdvisor because you found a dismembered corpse in the bathtub, wouldn't you be outraged to find a letter from a lawyer demanding that you either retract the review or pay $3,500? That prospect arises out of "non-disparagement" clauses, the newest "contract of adhesion" terms that plagues travelers around the world.

Judge Thomas Dickerson, one of the country's leading experts on travel law, recently published an article about the consumer implications. The problem starts when a hotel, a restaurant, or some other business adds fine print allowing it to bill you if you submit a disparaging review. One such contract reads this way (as reported on ... read more»

Angry Woman on the Phone (Photo: iStockPhoto/Stephanie Horrocks)

Overcharged? Misinformed? Didn't get what you paid for? Travelers with a gripe against an airline, a hotel, an online travel agency, a credit card issuer, or some other travel seller often copy me on their complaints. And I never cease to be surprised at how many of those complaints are rambling, unfocused, and weak. Certainly, there's no "sure thing" way to have a complaint resolved in your favor, but you can improve your odds of success fairly simply.

First, establish what you want—what would be the ideal solution, from your viewpoint.

Money or Equivalent: If you are actually out some money, you will almost surely want reimbursement. And if a supplier caused great inconvenience, you might also decide that the mistreatment warrants a monetary compensation. ... read more»

(Photo: Rick Steves)

I've always been a fan of budget-travel tips. For more than 30 years I've written and lectured about ways to stow away, picnic, and get special deals to be able to afford international travel. My feeling has long been that "you experience more by spending less." While that's still true, over the years I've realized that you can also justify splurges as good values when you consider the experience gained and the time saved.

If you stay in a B&B rather than a fancy hotel, you'll enjoy twice the cultural experience and intimacy for half the cost. When it comes to hotels, the irony is that the more you spend—in many cases—the farther you get from the culture you traveled so far to experience. Spend enough money … and you won't even know where you are. ... read more»

<a href="" target="_blank">Ayers Rock</a>, or Uluru as it is known to Australia's native people, is a sacred site for the Anangu Aborigines and an irresistible draw for adventure travelers. Located in the very center of Australia, Ayers Rock is one of the destinations available with Zone 2 Aussie AirPasses. (Photo: Index Open)

Enter the "Australian Outback Getaway" sweepstakes, sponsored by Northern Territory Australia and Frommer's, by November 23, for a chance to win the grand prize: a five-night trip to Australia for two, including airfare to and within Australia, hotel, tours of Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.

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»

Hotel cancellation policies matter.

Imagine everything that might crop up at the last minute to prevent you from checking in as planned for your next hotel stay. Airline flights get cancelled. Kid get sick. You get sick. The boss decides to reschedule the sales meeting.

Which is why the industry standard policy allows travelers paying most rates to cancel their hotel reservations even on the day of arrival, without penalty. Soon, however, that policy won't be nearly as standard as it is today. ... 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.

America's Most Hated Airline Finally Gets It Right

The "State of the Hate" report reflects the gripes of almost 30,000 travelers. See whether your pet peeves are shared by others.

Starwood Hotels Go Keyless

Travelers can now use smartphones to access their rooms in 10 Starwood hotels, with more to come. Truly mobile check-in has finally arrived!

HHonors Possibly Hacked, Hilton Remains Hush

According to reports circulating on FlyerTalk, hackers have accessed accounts of Hilton HHonors members to steal points and make purchases with members' registered credit cards.

The 10 Busiest Airports This Holiday ... read more»

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

With the advent of mobile check-in, there was only one thing standing between a traveler and his hotel room. He still had to make a stop at the hotel's lobby desk to pick up a key to his room, which kinda made a mockery of mobile check-in.

Starwood has a solution that undoubtedly will become the industry standard: SPG Keyless, a mobile app that allows a traveler's smartphone to be used to unlock the hotel room, no key required.

The keyless system uses Bluetooth-enabled door locks capable of recognizing and responding to signals from the guest's mobile device. And since the code to unlock a door can be issued automatically, when the room becomes available, there's no need for the guest to stop at the lobby desk. Check-in is, finally, truly mobile. ... read more»

(Photo: Shutterstock)

My fellow Americans, we have a vacation-time problem. As a workforce, we've got among the fewest paid vacation days of any developed country. In fact, we're one of the only countries that has zero—compare that to 28 days in the U.K., for instance—paid public holidays. But too few vacation days isn't actually our main problem. The real issue is that we don't even use all of the vacation days we have. Every year, we're giving up more than 400 million hard-earned days of beach reading, museum going, adventure trekking, and new-city exploring.

This will not do. Luckily, there's a solution. It starts with you checking your vacation balance. If you're among the 51 percent of people Skift recently surveyed, you may have not yet taken a single vacation day in 2014. Yikes.

Taking your vacation time isn't just financially smart, it's also a good choice for your health. Study after study proves that vacations are good for you. WebMD says people who take vacations reap health benefits like a lower risk of heart disease, lower stress levels, and a more positive outlook on life. Vacations give people the room to reconnect, recharge, and find new inspiration. Even planning a vacation delivers a big happiness boost that can start up to eight weeks in advance of a trip. ... read more»

Hotel room door slightly open (Photo: iStockphoto/MBCheatham)

It doesn't happen often. And when it does, you may never find out that it did (because it's embarrassing for the companies concerned). But we know that loyalty-program accounts do get hacked. And according to member reports currently circulating on FlyerTalk, hackers have indeed managed to access accounts of Hilton HHonors members to steal points and make purchases with members' registered credit cards.

The following post from kapkap46, a Hilton Diamond member, is typical:

In another post I outlined 3 hacks in the last 10 days and lost 258,000 points.

They say they'll put them back in but I'll believe it when I see it. I have to open a new email account , new username , new passwords, new pins etc and I have spent $150 calling the Diamond Desk from Thailand as well as wasting valuable hours.

I have the same email on 50 different businesses, banks, airlines etc. and never a problem. And Hilton would like to sweep it under the rug. They have a bunch of incompetents in the IT dept and the Billion $ company has their head in the sand.

Hello Marriott. ... read more»

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Airlines for America, the trade group that represents American airlines, today released it annual forecast for air travel during the Thanksgiving period (Friday, November 21 - Tuesday, December 2).

If you flew over Thanksgiving last year, this year will be pretty much deja vu all over again. Passenger numbers are expected to tick up only slightly, by 1.5 percent, to 24.6 million.

The 10 busiest airports, from most to least busy: ... read more»

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