Should you play the loyalty game? – Sponsored by TripInsurance.com

This is the time of year for the legendary “mileage runs” — the fabled flights to nowhere that elite-level frequent fliers take in order to retain their status. But in my latest National Geographic Traveler column, I wonder if the game is worth playing at all.

I devote an entire chapter in my book, Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals, to loyalty programs. If you want to read more about the hazards of point collecting, you absolutely have to pick up your very own copy.

By the way, Scammed arrives in stores today! Be sure to ask for it at your favorite bookstore. (And please consider supporting your local bookstore, which is a vital part of every enlightened community.)

I want to give a big shout-out to my friends at Luggage Pros, which offers all the name-brand luggage you need for your next trip, plus an exclusive 115 percent low price guarantee and free returns on all products. Luggage Pros is one of the underwriters that funds the consumer advocacy you read here. If you’re looking for great luggage, I hope you’ll visit Luggage Pros.

There’s much more …

• You’ve probably heard about the TSA’s cupcake incident. Now read the rest of the story, including the incidents the other TSA beat reporters overlooked, and what it means to air travelers. You can also read it over at the TSA News Blog.

• If you’ve thought that luggage fees were a scam, you’ll want to read today’s story about Air Berlin. Did they offer this customer, whose luggage was also delayed by almost a month, enough compensation?

• Plus, tell me if I should mediate the case of a cruise passenger who says he was smoked out of his suite on a recent vacation. Should cruise lines be responsible for letting secondhand smoke into a room, and if so, what should they do?

Everyone likes to think of the week between Christmas and New Years Day as being slow, but not for me. A lot of you are out traveling, and I’m here for you. Thank you for being there for me in 2011.

(Photo: Macha dox/Flickr)


Smoked out of my suite on the Carnival Miracle

Andrew Besterman’s eight-day cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Miracle was something short of divine. For the duration of the journey, he was annoyed by the odor of cigarette smoke which seeped into his mini-suite from the cabin next door.

“Every time the passengers in the next stateroom lit up their cigarettes the smoke came into our room,” he says. “Since our bed shared a common wall, we could tell exactly when our neighbors smoked.”

A few days after his cruise, Carnival tightened its smoking policy, banning smoking in all staterooms. But alas, not in time for his vacation.
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TSA Watch special report: A Christmas card from Al-Qaeda

Maybe it was the frosting, which a TSA agent tsk-tsked for being “too gel-like.”

Or maybe it was the sinister name of the company that baked it — Wicked Good Cupcakes — that made the federal agency charged with protecting America’s transportation systems suspect the cupcake contained more than chocolatey holiday cheer.
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7 unbelievably good reasons to order Scammed right now

You need to get Scammed now. Otherwise, you could get scammed.

My new book, Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals is available online now and arrives in bookstores Dec. 27.

You can get your own copy now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes. It’s being offered at an amazing 39 percent off the list price on Amazon and B&N. What a deal!

Here are a few more reason you need to order Scammed today:

It’s the book they don’t want you to read. Corporate America would prefer that you didin’t have the information I reveal in Scammed because it will give you the upper hand in every purchase you make as a consumer. Many shady businesses want to keep you ignorant — and buying their scammy products.

The reviews are really awesome. Critics have called Scammed “eye-opening” and “inspiring.” One reader, who just finished the Kindle version yesterday, said, “you can read chapter after chapter without wanting to put it down.”

I explain why you’re being scammed. Why are we so unhappy with certain businesses, like cable TV companies and wireless carriers? Why do we always seem to be the losers in every transaction? I investigate what’s happening behind the scenes when a company tries to pull a fast one. You’ll be shocked.

I’ll tell you how to avoid it. The most exciting part of Scammed is that I have the space to share my insider tips that will ensure you won’t fall for the scams perpetuated by many businesses. It’s information unethical companies would do anything to prevent you from reading.

I’ll help you be a better consumer. My life’s mission is to make sure you’re never, ever scammed again. And so Scammed is full of never-before published tips on how to stay out of trouble, no matter who you’re doing business with.

I’ll tell you all my secrets. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I became a consumer advocate, you’ll want to get your hands on this book. I tell you about all the times I was scammed, and how it turned me into a crusader for customers. These are extremely personal stories that I won’t be writing about anywhere else.

You’ll be supporting more consumer advocacy. By buying Scammed you’re casting a vote for more consumer journalism. Isn’t that reason enough to order your copy now?

Here’s how to order Scammed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes. Remember, it’s being offered at 39 percent off the list price on Amazon and B&N during the holidays.


7 unbelievably good reasons to order Scammed right now

You need to get Scammed now. Otherwise, you could get scammed.

My new book, Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals is available online now and arrives in bookstores Dec. 27.

You can get your own copy now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes. It’s being offered at an amazing 39 percent off the list price on Amazon and B&N. What a deal!

Here are a few more reason you need to order Scammed today:

It’s the book they don’t want you to read. Corporate America would prefer that you didin’t have the information I reveal in Scammed because it will give you the upper hand in every purchase you make as a consumer. Many shady businesses want to keep you ignorant — and buying their scammy products.

The reviews are really awesome. Critics have called Scammed “eye-opening” and “inspiring.” One reader, who just finished the Kindle version yesterday, said, “you can read chapter after chapter without wanting to put it down.”

I explain why you’re being scammed. Why are we so unhappy with certain businesses, like cable TV companies and wireless carriers? Why do we always seem to be the losers in every transaction? I investigate what’s happening behind the scenes when a company tries to pull a fast one. You’ll be shocked.

I’ll tell you how to avoid it. The most exciting part of Scammed is that I have the space to share my insider tips that will ensure you won’t fall for the scams perpetuated by many businesses. It’s information unethical companies would do anything to prevent you from reading.

I’ll help you be a better consumer. My life’s mission is to make sure you’re never, ever scammed again. And so Scammed is full of never-before published tips on how to stay out of trouble, no matter who you’re doing business with.

I’ll tell you all my secrets. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I became a consumer advocate, you’ll want to get your hands on this book. I tell you about all the times I was scammed, and how it turned me into a crusader for customers. These are extremely personal stories that I won’t be writing about anywhere else.

You’ll be supporting more consumer advocacy. By buying Scammed you’re casting a vote for more consumer journalism. Isn’t that reason enough to order your copy now?

Here’s how to order Scammed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes. Remember, it’s being offered at 39 percent off the list price on Amazon and B&N during the holidays.


Maybe I won’t be home for Christmas

Question: We are supposed to fly to Australia for Christmas to be with my wife’s parents, but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to make it. I hope you can help us.

Last summer, we booked our domestic flights from Melbourne to Cairns on Jetstar Airways through CheapOair.com. We received a confirmation from CheapOair and my wife even spent 40 minutes on the phone with their billing department, to make sure the transaction went through. She also phoned CheapOair two days later to verify the transaction and received assurances all was clear.
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Do you still have receipts for that TSA-approved lock?

Like many air travelers who are wary of having their luggage pilfered, Bobby Caldwell took every step he could to protect his property on a recent flight from Albuquerque, N.M., to Chicago. He packed his belonging in sturdy suitcases and secured them with TSA-approved locks.

And it worked. Sorta.

None of his belongings were stolen. But a funny thing happened with the locks.
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