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Man looking at laptop in Meadow (Photo: iStockPhoto/Kemter)

With all the travel writers urging "rent early," you might think that "last-minute vacation rentals" is an oxymoron. Fortunately, it isn't. A newly launched British website, Snaptrip, focuses on last-minute vacation rentals, and the industry giants HomeAway and Flipkey allow you to locate various special deals, including last-minute offers.

Newcomer Snaptrip provides a friendly search system. Enter a destination—either a town or a county—plus dates, length of stay, and number of beds, and the site posts available results. The price displays account for your length of stay; they post full-stay prices rather than prices per night. The top menu also includes a "top deals" option that returns, as you might guess, the best available deals for your dates throughout the U.K., listed in order of percentage discounts. I tested the site for one-week stays at the industry standard Saturday to Saturday periods: For a stay starting one week after the day I tested, the site returned 33 properties with discounts ranging from 6 percent to 29 percent, with several above 15 percent, and about the same results for rentals starting two weeks after my test. By the third week, discount percentages dropped sharply, and by the fourth week, only four deals were available. Snaptrip also displays a map with deal locations highlighted. ... read more»

(Photo: Cameron Hewitt)

Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city, calls itself the "World's Smallest Big City." I'd argue it's more like the world's biggest little town: easy to handle and easy to like. A pleasant three-hour train ride from Copenhagen, Aarhus is well worth a stop.

Aarhus is the lively cultural hub of Jutland, the part of Denmark that juts up from Germany—a land of windswept sandy beaches, inviting lakes, and fortified old towns. It's also one of the oldest cities in Scandinavia. When its Viking founders settled here in the eighth century, they were attracted to its strategic location, where a river hits the sea. The navigable river meant the Vikings could easily run their ships inland if a hostile attack came from the open waters. ... read more»

Rear of Airplane Landing at Sunset (Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Air travel is, by most statistical standards, safer than driving a car. But the recent spate of plane crashes has generated some public safety speculation. In an Associated Press story, Jon Beatty, President and CEO of the airline-supported Flight Safety Foundation, noted the most fundamental fact about modern airline safety: "One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type of event or same root cause then you would say there's a systemic problem here, but each event is unique." That's the key: Each event is unique.

Worldwide, the overall approach to safety is to determine the cause of each accident beyond a reasonable doubt, then either fix the cause or develop ways to avoid it, so it never happens again. When foul play is involved, the safety folks also want to know who did what, how they did it, and how to prevent a recurrence. Government agencies, airlines, and airplane manufacturers act cooperatively to make sure the safety system works this way. ... read more»

Frontier jet flying over water  (Photo: Airbus S.A.S. )

In what is probably best viewed in the context of Frontier's continuing evolution into an ultra-low-cost carrier (think Spirit), the airline has announced that its current two-tiered elite program will be replaced by a single elite tier beginning next year. From Frontier's website:

Starting February 20, 2015, the EarlyReturns program will retire Ascent and Summit elite status and launch a brand new elite tier, Frontier Elite. The new Frontier Elite will offer a simple elite tier structure, but will still reward our most frequent fliers with added benefits.

The new tier will entitle EarlyReturns members who fly at least 20,000 miles or 25 segments during 2014 to the following ... read more»

Cover: Maine Harbor (Photo: Jetsetter)

Maine regular Sarah Horne Grose shares the ideal route for weekend road trippers in Vacationland. ... read more»

Minnie Mouse with girl, Orlando

Enter the VisitOrlando "Family Vacation" sweepstakes by September 30, 2014, for a chance to win the grand prize: a five-day trip to Orlando for four, including air, hotel, tickets to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld Orlando, and a rental car.

To enter, provide the requested information (name, address, email, etc.) on the sweepstakes landing page and press "Submit." Done! Time required to participate: less than 30 seconds. ... read more»

(Photo: Caroline Morse)

For city-dwellers, Woodstock, NY makes the perfect weekend escape from the urban grind. It's a short two-hour drive from New York City, and less than four hours from Boston. This small town is world-famous for its music and arts scene (although, be warned, the Woodstock concert was actually held in nearby Bethel, not in Woodstock itself), and offers outdoor pursuits, innovative dining, and plenty of culture. Here's what to do if you have a weekend to spend in Woodstock, NY.

Friday

When you arrive, take some time to explore the town and get your bearings. The area is extremely walkable, so leave your car in one of the plentiful (and free) street parking spots or the municipal lot, and head out on foot. There's plenty of quirky shops to satisfy all of your shopping needs—even if you're not in a buying mood, crystal shops like The Turquoise Lady and Dharmaware will help you get a feel for the local Woodstock flavor. ... 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. ... read more»

$100 bill plane (Photo: iStockphoto/ Alex Potemkin)

In an interview with CNBC earlier this week, Delta CEO Richard Anderson articulated the rosy view subscribed to by most economists and airline executives. Referring to the state of the airline industry, Anderson had this to say: "It's a very competitive market. So airfares are going to be determined by normal supply and demand and competitive factors in the market. If you look at true airfare including fees over the last decade adjusted for inflation, it is still one of the great bargains for American consumers."

One of the Great Bargains for American Consumers

Indeed, if you look at the price travelers pay for every mile they fly, year over year, and adjust for inflation, the overall trend is a slow, steady decrease in airfares. That's indisputable.

But if you asked a hundred Americans (excluding economists and airline execs, please) to nominate their picks for the August title of "Great Bargain," I suspect that air travel wouldn't make a single appearance on the list. ... read more»

(Photo: Rick Steves)

Restaurant tips are more modest in Europe than in America. In most places, 10 percent is a big tip. If your bucks talk at home, muzzle them on your travels. As a matter of principle, if not economy, the local price should prevail. Please believe me—tipping 15 or 20 percent in Europe is unnecessary, if not culturally ignorant.

Virtually anywhere in Europe, you can do as the Europeans do and (if you're pleased with the service) add a euro or two for each person in your party. In very touristy areas, some servers have noticed the American obsession with overtipping—and might hope for a Yankee-size tip. But the good news is that European servers and diners are far more laid-back about all this than we are. The stakes are low, and it's no big deal if you choose the "wrong" amount. And note that tipping is an issue only at restaurants that have waiters and waitresses. If you order your food at a counter, don't tip. ... read more»

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