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airport parking garageEvery Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our newsletter.

When you head to the airport for your next flight, don’t just settle for any old spot in the airport parking lot. Where you leave your car can actually help determine how safe it is while you’re out of town.

As Ed Hewitt writes in Nine Ways to Keep Your Car Safe on the Road, “In airport lots, I recommend parking in view of the exit toll booths or parking office if possible, or just as well within view of a shuttle pickup location or kiosk. The increased foot traffic and eyeball count will discourage potential thieves. Well-lit areas are next best; most airport lots have surveillance cameras in place, so making it easier for an attendant to see your car on a grainy camera will help.”

Hewitt goes on to suggest parking with your trunk out, particularly if you’re storing anything in it while you’re gone. Backing into a space may make for a more convenient departure at the end of your trip, but parking nose-first makes your vehicle’s trunk more visible to passersby — and therefore tougher to break into.

Of course, you can make your car an even less appealing target by removing anything that looks remotely valuable, such as E-ZPass transponders, GPS units or iPods. Hide your goodies away in the glove compartment or take them out of the car altogether. And don’t bother trying to artfully arrange jackets or blankets over valuables left on the seat. Thieves are wise to this tactic — it just makes it look like you have something to hide.

See eight more ways to keep your car safe while traveling.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

American AirlinesAmerican Airlines’ parent company, the AMR Corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday; this is certainly dismal news for the carrier’s employees and shareholders. But American’s customers may likewise be worried about what lies ahead. Should fliers expect more fees, cuts to mileage programs and other unfavorable changes from the airline in the near future?

A piece published by satirical online newspaper the Onion in 2008 was oddly prescient. The story, American Airlines Now Charging Fees to Non-Passengers, reads: “[American Airlines President Gerard Arpey] said that non-passengers of American Airlines should expect to pay a small fee when making Greyhound bus reservations, choosing to drive to their final destination, or simply being a citizen of the United States with a valid Social Security number. Arpey went on to note that some additional charges would also apply, including a $15 fee for every piece of luggage customers have inside their bedroom closet, and a one-time payment of $40 for any American whose name is Greg.”

In the wake of a gloomy turn of events in the airline industry, it’s refreshing to have a chuckle. But is there an element of truth in this parody?

For now, everything — including ticket prices, extra fees and mileage programs — will pretty much stay the same. According to a statement posted on the airline Web site,”American Airlines and American Eagle are operating normal flight schedules, and our reservations, customer service, AAdvantage program, Admirals Clubs and all other operations are conducting business as usual.”

Every other legacy airline has gone through bankruptcy in the last decade — US Airways, United, Delta, etc. — and lived to tell the tale. Judging by past bankruptcies, we can predict that American will likely be curtailing its route map down the road. Says IndependentTraveler.com contributor Ed Hewitt, “Bankrupt airlines almost always make changes and cutbacks to routes and flight frequency; staying on top of your flight through e-mail notifications will help you get the word more quickly.” It’s a good idea to sign up for e-mail alerts from American if you have an upcoming flight scheduled.

As for fees, we can’t say whether or not American — or other carriers, for that matter — will roll out more petty charges to squeeze some extra revenue out of the pockets of its customers following this latest airline bankruptcy. As always, travelers should keep an eye on ticket terms and conditions when purchasing a flight.

What do you think of American Airlines’ bankruptcy filing? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments!

– written by Caroline Costello

CancunEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: If the thought of a roundtrip flight for less than $80 makes you drool, grab some napkins. JetBlue just rolled out a pretty impressive one-day sale featuring fares to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean starting at $29 each way before taxes and fees. With taxes, the cheapest possible flight you can get is $79.40 for a roundtrip fare from Long Beach to Las Vegas. Plane tickets don’t get much cheaper than that.

This deal offers a wide range of travel dates, too. Depart on any day of the week except Friday or Sunday from December 6 through February 15. If you have a ski trip, Florida beach getaway or Caribbean cruise penciled onto your calendar this winter, don’t overlook this deal. (There are plenty of cheap fares from select U.S. cities to Fort Lauderdale, a major cruise port.)

The Catch: Sorry, Santa. Holiday travel dates are excluded. You can’t take advantage of this offer if you plan to fly between December 16 and January 3.

The Competition: Southwest, Alaska and AirTran are also running fare sales to select destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean right now. What’s the best deal? Ultimately, it all depends on your route. We recommend checking prices for your particular itinerary on all four airline Web sites.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

Airfare SaleThe airlines are clearly hitching a ride on the Cyber Monday bandwagon. Today, several major carriers rolled out masses of discounted tickets in honor of this well-marketed pseudo-holiday. Some of today’s fare offers end at midnight tonight, in true Cyber Monday flash sale fashion. Others will last through the beginning of December, giving travelers some time to take a few breaths and consider their options before punching in their credit card information. Here’s a selection of the best fare sales we’ve spotted so far today.

American Airlines Fares from $54 OW
Out of all the fare sales we’ve seen this morning, this American Airlines offer wins the prize for breadth of destinations. You can find discounted tickets to a great selection of gateways across the globe, from Shanghai to Mazatlan. Fares start at $54 each way plus taxes and fees for travel in January and the beginning of February. This deal expires tonight at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.

Save 10% on Frontier Airlines Fares
This Cyber Monday airfare offer is refreshingly simple. Enter promo code CYBER10 and receive 10 percent off any published fare (departing through March 7) booked on the Frontier Airlines Web site. The catch? You must purchase your tickets by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time tonight in order to snag this deal.

Southwest Airlines Fares from $59 OW
Here’s a fairly typical Southwest Airlines systemwide sale, which the airline normally rolls out on Tuesdays. Fares to U.S. gateways start at $59 each way plus taxes and fees, for travel from December through mid-February. There’s more good news: No need to start desperately crafting an itinerary today. This sale’s on through December 1.

AirTran Airways Fares from $59 OW
This AirTran offer mimics the Southwest sale in so many ways: same travel dates, same blackout dates, same expiration dates. (It figures. Southwest acquired AirTran in spring 2011, and the two carriers will soon merge into a single operator.) But there’s one big difference between the two sales. Unlike Southwest, AirTran is offering discounted tickets to international destinations as well as domestic locales, including gateways in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Alaska Airlines Fares from $40 OW
Alaska Airlines advises its customers, “Hurry, sale ends December 5, 2011″ — but really, you don’t need to rush. In comparison to many of the Cyber Monday travel deals floating around on the Internet today, this offer features a pretty reasonable expiration date a week from today. Book by that December 5 deadline and you can snap up fares to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and Canada for as little as $40 each way plus taxes and fees. Travel is valid from December through March.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

rain rainy airport Every Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our newsletter.

As if long security lines and full airport parking lots weren’t enough, there’s another hurdle facing Turkey Day travelers this year: nasty weather. Relentless rain and heavy thunderstorms have already caused flight delays in Northeastern and Midwestern airports this week, and the outlook is still looking a little shaky today.

How can you make your Thanksgiving trip go more smoothly? As Ed Hewitt advises in Winter Travel Tips:

“Check weather at your connecting cities as well as at your departure and destination airports. We all want to know what the weather is like for the departure and arrival airports (particularly if we’re traveling on vacation), but you’ll want to know what is going on at your connecting airport as well. If the weather looks very bad, you may want to contact your airline to see if it can reroute you; it may be in its best interest to do so.

“If it does look like you will need rerouting, your chances of getting on a different flight will be greatly enhanced if you’ve already done the research yourself to determine which alternate flights might work best.”

We recommend programming your airline’s 800 number into your cell phone, as well as the contact info for any other airlines that also serve your route. And, of course, you’ll want to arrive as early as possible at the airport and check flight status frequently. Web sites like FlightStats.com can help; many airlines also let you sign up for flight status alerts to be texted or e-mailed directly to your phone.

For more tips, see our Holiday Travel Survival Guide and 16 Ways to Get Through the Airport Faster.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

 BedandBreakfast.com Gift CardEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: We know the holiday season is in full swing when BedandBreakfast.com rolls out its annual Black Friday gift card sale. (We also know the holidays are here when the giant penguin wearing a Santa hat appears near our office door.) Through the end of the month, BedandBreakfast.com is offering a free $75 gift card with any gift card purchase of $250 or more.

Purchase five $50 gift cards to hand out to your friends and keep the $75 bonus for yourself. Or, of course, you can gift that extra card as well — but where’s the fun in that?

The Catch: BedandBreakfast.com lists more than 11,000 properties, but these gift cards aren’t valid at all of them. The cards can only be used to book stays at B&B’s and hotels that accept online reservations through the booking site — about 4,000 properties around the world. Look for the blue “book now” button next to a property listing; if that button’s there, you can pay for your stay with a gift card.

The Competition: Costco.com is currently selling $100 BedandBreakfast.com gift cards for just $74.99 each. Which is the better deal? Ultimately, you’re saving 25 percent if you go with Costco.com and 23 percent if you pay $250 for $325 worth of gift cards with BedandBreakfast.com.

But when it comes to gift giving, we think the BedandBreakfast.com Black Friday sale comes out on top. With this sale, you can get gift cards in varying amounts ($25, $50, $100, $125, etc.) instead of just $100 increments. Plus, BedandBreakfast.com lets you pick from eight different gift card styles, and it even offers a customizable photo gift card that you can personalize with your own uploaded picture.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Holiday Travel Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

caribbean map glassesEvery traveler knows that the Caribbean is home to dozens of island nations, thousands of white sand beaches and a seemingly endless supply of fruity cocktails. But how much do you really know about this popular, sun-drenched destination?

Which Caribbean Island Is Right for You?

Test your Caribbean smarts with our trivia quiz! Answer the eight questions below and then post your score in the comments.


How did you do? Share your results in the comments! For more quiz fun, check out How Well Do You Know Europe? and our World Capitals Challenge.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Woodley Park Guest HouseHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $245 per night. Nancy James, who was the first person to give the correct answer, has won an IndependentTraveler.com neck pillow.

The room pictured was Room 121 at Woodley Park Guest House in Washington D.C. This newly renovated inn features 13 rooms decorated with antique furnishings. There are no T.V.’s in any of the rooms, but guests shouldn’t have a problem finding something to do nearby — the guest house sits within walking distance of the National Zoo, Rock Creek Park and the Washington National Cathedral. Read more about traveling to Washington D.C. in Washington D.C. Essentials.


– written by Caroline Costello

Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified hotel here, on our blog, and we want you to guess how much it costs to stay there. Leave your guess in the comments below and you could win a prize. Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog.

What’s the price of a night in the heart of the District? Enter your guess in the comments, and be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can contact you in case you win. The first person to guess closest to the price of the room without going over wins an IndependentTraveler.com travel neck pillow. Here’s the room:



Here are three hints to help you win:

-This hotel is located near the National Zoo.

-This room has a queen-size bed and a private bathroom with a stand-up shower. There’s no T.V. in the room.

-Wi-Fi and a mostly organic breakfast are included in the rates.

We’re looking for the maximum nightly price for two people as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, November 20, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello

farm turkeysIn merely a week’s time, families across the U.S. will gather together to dine on turkeys, Tofurkeys, pies and potatoes. It all sounds fantastic — unless you’re the one washing the dishes and stuffing bread cubes into the back end of a bird. Although November 24 is fast approaching, you still have a chance to flee your kitchen and embark on a refreshing holiday weekend getaway, sans scary electric carving knife. Here are five fantastic Thanksgiving hotel deals to lure you away from that stove.

1. Pie and Booze in San Francisco
San Francisco’s Hotel Palomar is topping off your Thanksgiving stay with a freshly baked pie and a bottle of — what else — Wild Turkey bourbon. The downtown boutique hotel, which offers free Wi-Fi and is pet-friendly, is pairing these celebratory perks with deluxe accommodations in its “Pie + Family + Booze = Splendid Holiday” package, available through the end of December. Prices start at $299 per night.

2. Save Up to 58% on Thanksgiving Hotel Stays
Hotels.com is offering up to 58 percent off hotel stays in dozens of destinations around the world — including the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Canada and locales across the U.S. We recently featured this offer as the Travel Deal of the Week on our blog, and for good reason. This wide-ranging hotel sale covers so many properties, it’s worth a look no matter where you’re heading for the holidays.

3. Newark Airport Thanksgiving Package
If your eve-of-Thanksgiving flight is departing at an hour during which you’d normally be fast asleep, consider staying near the airport. New York-area travelers can avoid those high holiday hotel prices by booking the Thanksgiving Weekend deal at the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott. Special Thanksgiving rates start at $199 a night.

4. Celebrate Thanksgiving Like a President
This Thanksgiving package in Washington D.C. includes a host of holiday perks, from a four-course Turkey Day dinner for up to eight people to a professionally photographed family portrait taken in your suite. You’ll bunk at the Madison, a luxurious boutique hotel located near National Mall monuments and, of course, down the street from the First Family. Prices start at $799 per night.

5. Give Thanks on the Slopes
Spend a long weekend zooming down the slopes, dining on decadent four-course dinners and toasting the holiday from the comfort of a traditional mountain lodge in Utah. Alta Lodge, set at the base of the Alta Ski Area, is offering a four-night Thanksgiving package that covers meals, lodging and taxes for $900 per person. A special Thanksgiving dinner is also included in the rates.

– written by Caroline Costello