Travel News & Deals
Deals, tips, advice and more
Gear: Backpack and beltpack complement each other

Backpacks are ideal for hiking but you have to take them off to get to the contents. Beltpacks can be worn in front or back but have limited storage space and can be clunky riding under a backpack.

The Rotation 180 Travel Away Daypack from MindShift Gear comes with a beltpack that stows neatly into its own integrated cubbyhole at the bottom of the backpack. For easy access to the beltpack, just rotate the whole thing out of its nesting spot to the front of your body. When done, rotate it out of the way back into its backpack slot.

As an added security bonus: The beltpack, stashed in its “room,” keeps important documents, electronics, wallets and other valuables safe from prying hands. Both the backpack and beltpack can be worn on their own, and both have multiple internal and external pockets and slots for efficient organizing.

The backpack is 20 inches tall, about 12 inches wide and 7 inches deep, with thick padding on the back and straps. The beltpack is about 10 inches wide by 7...

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Beware: Merged, code-sharing airlines don't always have prices in sync

Question: Here is something I cannot figure out: On a US Airways flight my parents want to take from Chicago's O'Hare to San Francisco on Dec. 23, a first-class nonrefundable ticket is not available, but a first-class flexible ticket costs $1,222. The same flight number and flight on American Airlines for first class costs $878. My parents are booked on the US Airways flight. Any suggestions on how I can get American and/or US Airways to honor the first-class airfare on the American website?

Rebecca Keenan

San Diego

Answer: As Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com, which helps travelers maximize awards points, always says, you can ask. And as we often say in this column, you can ask again if you don't get the answer you want; call back and, with luck, you may get a different agent.

But the answer is probably going to be "Nope."

If there's good news, it's that this is a flexible-fare ticket. The US Airways website says (and American confirms) "cancellations and changes are allowed."...

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Get frequent-flier miles while holiday shopping: Here's how

Here's an idea for gift-buying time that could add value to your frequent-flier account: If you would like to rack up airline miles, consider doing at least some of your holiday shopping online through airline frequent-flier malls.

To earn these miles or points, go to your airline's website and search for "mall" or "shopping." You'll be directed to retail opportunities that are as varied as ink-jet cartridges and high-end department stores. United even has a holiday gift guide (www.lat.ms/1vaejEp).

This strategy allows you to earn perks with just a couple of extra clicks. With these programs, you can earn at least one mile or point per dollar spent and sometimes much more.

If you want to buy big-ticket items for Christmas, you often can get appliances, electronics, jewelry and more from national chains that are linked with your airline's rewards program. You can even make purchases at discount sites (often in voucher form for a service, a restaurant discount and more) such as Groupon...

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Hotelwatchdog search engine rounds up hotel deals

Airfarewatchdog.com, the source for hot airfare deals, has expanded into the hotel market.

Name: Hotelwatchdog, www.airfarewatchdog.com/hotels

What it does: It's a hotel search engine that gives you a Top 20 list of hotels based on price, TripAdvisor ratings, and key attractions, restaurants and night life.

What's hot: I love the Top 20 approach to search results. The prices are clear, and you don't have to click through to a second page to see photos of the hotel. You also can click through to see the complete list of hotels. Even better, the search remains deal-focused; beneath each hotel name you'll see stats such as, "This hotel's price is 64% less than rates at other nearby, similar hotels" or "This hotel's price is 21% off its 45-day historic average."

What's not: There's a pop-up box in the lower right-hand side of the page that invites you to sign up for hotel value alerts by email. That's fine, but even though I entered my email, the box continues to pop up with every page...

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Readers Recommend: Cafe Mambo a delicious Maui discovery

We have been visiting Maui for more than 20 years. Each time we discover something new. Two years ago, it was Cafe Mambo in Paia. Great service, good food and reasonable prices. The restaurant is known for its delicious duck quesadillas, salads and sandwiches. Yum!

Cafe Mambo, 30 Baldwin Ave., Paia, Hawaii; www.cafemambomaui.com, (808) 579-8021

Leslie Nagby

Riverside

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Letters: Remembering the Alamo and real Texas pit barbecue

Chris Reynolds has hit the jackpot with me twice in a row. In October, it was Pike Place Market and Seattle ["Beacon on the Waterfront," Oct. 12]; this month, it was the Alamo and San Antonio, where I was born ["Remember?," Nov. 9]. I went back to San Antonio and Goliad (down the road a piece) several years ago and had a great low-key time, including arriving in Goliad on a Sunday when they were having a festival I remembered from my first weekend there as a 7-year-old.

Of course, San Antonio has changed a lot since I was little, but I was impressed with how friendly the people were and how the real barbecue tasted every bit as good as I remembered. My companion couldn't understand why I bypassed several places advertising barbecue and finally settled on a nondescript place. I tried to explain that it was all in the nose; it was the first place that had that special fragrance of real Texas pit barbecue.

Thanks for another great article.

Mary M. Garrison

Los Angeles

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I enjoyed the...

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