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Here's what we think: the folks at our sister-company Oyster are true hotel experts. Last fall, I spent a week in Japan with an Oyster photographer and was amazed at her ability to see things that most people miss. Where most people saw a hotel hallway, she saw hidden clues about maintenance. Where I saw a breakfast buffet, she saw a way to gauge how a hotel was faring against the competition.

So when we decided to do a tip series focused on hotels, we knew just who to ask. This summer, we're teaming up with Oyster to bring you tips to help you get the very best out of each hotel stay. Our first topic: how to find the right people to ask for help at any hotel.

The Golden Rule of Asking for Help at Hotels

Here it is: Never be afraid to ask for help. Oyster editors advise that you'll never get what you don't ask for, so even if asking for things is out of your comfort zone, it's worth pushing yourself. You can be as friendly as you like, but don't feel like you need to apologize for asking. Because, as Oyster reminds us, "Hotel staff is there to assist you." ... 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.

Americans Just Say 'No' to Summer Vacations

Long, leisurely summer vacations? Not for Americans, according to a new survey from Skift. This year, 62% of respondents will take a short vacay, or none at all.

Cheaper Business Class, but No Miles or Lounge

The latest wrinkle in airline pricing may come from a highly unlikely source: Malaysia Airlines. ... read more»

Traveler walking in the rain (Photo: IndexOpen)

The history of what might be called a Passenger Bill or Rights is a saga of fits and starts, of feints and diversions, of progress promised and promises derailed.

The closest travelers have come to meaningful protections were the provisions of the FAA Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2012. Years after a series of hours-long tarmac delays, during which passengers were denied food, water, and restroom access, the government finally formalized a set of very basic consumer protections, including the prohibition of "excessive" tarmac delays.

Although reports of insufferable tarmac delays have mostly disappeared, the quality of the airline-travel experience overall has, if anything, deteriorated further.

Could there be relief in sight? ... read more»

(Photo: Shutterstock)

As the owner of a 20-room resort in Texas, I've stood on both sides of the hotel front desk. And I can tell you that, like most travelers, you're probably making a mistake. It may be something as simple as not getting better rooms or service, but you could also be making mistakes that put you and your loved ones in danger.

Not Asking for an Upgrade

When you arrive at the check-in desk, you greet the person behind the counter warmly, state your name, and your purpose thusly, "Hello, I'm John Smith. I have a reservation and am here to check in." The very next words to leave your mouth should be, "Do you have an upgrade available?"

... read more»

Summer seems sweeter when it's affordable, and these seven destinations offer sunny fun at a fraction of the costs!

New York City, New York

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple—especially during summertime—isn't generally a cheap endeavor, but it is doable if you're in the know.

Free events, attractions, and museums with complimentary admission abound, among them the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the Federal Reserve Bank; plus pay-what-you-want all day on Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo and from 5 p.m. until close every Tuesday at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

The City That Never Sleeps is known for its world-class performances, and during summer, those offerings are in refreshing alfresco settings. ... read more»

What is it: A lip balm shaped screen cleaner.

Price and Where to Buy: Available on Amazon.

Pros:

  • Removes bacteria
  • Works on any touchscreen surface (and on non-textured screen protectors)
  • Non-toxic
  • Cleans smudges from your screen
  • Protects your phone from germs
  • Builds up a protective layer the more you use it
  • Easy to use
  • Smart design with built-in foam cap sponge
  • Can be used hundreds of times

Cons:

Can't be used on textured screens

Easy to mistake for actual lip balm (at least it's non-toxic)

... read more»

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Can't live without your daily Netflix fix? At Marriott Hotels, you won't have to.

According to Marriott: "Guests staying at select Marriott Hotels will be able to subscribe to Netflix or sign into their existing accounts simply by using the Netflix app on the hotel's internet-connected guest room televisions."

Currently, Netflix service is available at six Marriott hotels. It will be rolled out to 100 properties by the end of this year, and to most of the more than 300 U.S. Marriotts by the end of 2016.

... read more»

Woman Trying to Fit Everything into Suitcase (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

You know those carry-on bag "sizers" strewn around airport ticketing and check-in areas? The ones that say "If your bag doesn't fit in here, check it"? The ones routinely ignored by both flyers and airline personnel?

If the International Air Transport Association has its way, they could be about to be replaced by even less capacious sizers.

IATA, which "represents some 260 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic," on Tuesday proposed a new standard maximum size for carry-on bags.

Working with airline members of IATA and aircraft manufacturers, an optimum size guideline for carry-on bags has been agreed that will make the best use of cabin storage space. A size of 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches) means that theoretically everyone should have a chance to store their carry-on bags on board aircraft of 120 seats or larger.

... read more»

Young Woman with Sun Umbrella and Sunglasses (Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision)

Over the years we've lived and learned from our own time spent on the road. We've chatted up fellow travel nuts, and we've done plenty of research to find the most clever, creative, and efficient time-saving and stress-reducing hacks every traveler should know—and we compiled them all into this handy list. We've included some obvious (yet oft-forgotten) tips, as well as some clever beat-the-system hacks, too. From the moment you book a ticket or tour till you're unpacking your souvenirs, these 20 time-saving travel hacks will help to streamline your trips, ease some headaches, and make sure you're spending as much time as possible in blissed-out vacation mode.

... read more»

<h2>Sydney</h2>
New Year's Eve in <a href="http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/NYE/Default.asp"target="_blank">Sydney</a> is no small affair: More than one million spectators, a holiday boat parade, and two gargantuan fireworks displays will help ring in 2008. If you've got kids (or are just an early bird), take in the Family Fireworks at 9 p.m., immediately followed by the Harbour of Light Parade. The midnight pull-out-all-the-stops fireworks show features explosives unleashed from six barges as well as the Harbour Bridge, with more than 100,000 pyrotechnic effects scheduled to light up the sky. To plan your festivities, visit the <a href="http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/NYE/Default.asp"target="_blank">City of Sydney website</a>. 

(Photo: Tim Starkey/iStockphoto.com)

Beginning on December 17, travelers will have a new option for flying between the U.S. and Australia.

That's the launch date for American's newly announced flights Down Under, nonstop between Los Angeles and Sydney. The service will operate daily, with Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Qantas, which partners with American in the oneworld alliance and currently flies twice daily between Sydney and Los Angeles, will transfer one of its Los Angeles flights to the San Francisco-Sydney route, which it abandoned in 2011. ... read more»