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There's no smoke in my hotel room, so what's this $250 charge?

Travel / Christopher Elliott /

Q: I need help fighting a case with Residence Inn by Marriott Phoenix, where I recently stayed. When I checked out, I saw a $250 charge on my credit card in addition to the $89 for the room.

No one ever said anything about the charge. I called the front desk and was told it was a "smoking charge." But I don't smoke.

I told the woman at the ...Read more

Taking the Kids: Sitting together on planes

Travel / Taking The Kids /

It's been a long time coming. Anyone who has flown with young kids in recent years knows it's not uncommon to find that your preschooler has been assigned a seat half a plane away. All too often, parents are told it is up to them to ask someone to switch seats.

In one case I wrote about, a mom with autistic twins was forced to go to her senator...Read more

Ghirardelli Square circles back with a high-end style

Travel / Travel News /

A relentless icy wind swept in from San Francisco Bay, blowing away the fog to reveal the 19th century three-masted schooner C.A. Thayer anchored offshore. Farther out, Alcatraz Island was circled by seagulls and besieged by an armada of tour boats plowing through the chop.

The two attractions were in the sight line of another San Francisco ...Read more

European sweet treats

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

We all know that Belgians are connoisseurs of fine chocolate, and Italy's gelato is an edible art form. In France, travelers look for tempting "patisseries" where they can indulge in eclairs, fruit tarts and macaroons. Americans in Germany expect to try the famous Black Forest cake, a mouthwatering concoction with alternating layers of schnapps-...Read more

Celebrity Travel: Go Away With George Foreman

Travel / Celebrity Travel /

George Foreman has many impressive achievements on his resume -- world heavyweight boxing champion, gold medalist at the 1968 Olympic Games and entrepreneur (more than 100 million units of his George Foreman grills have sold worldwide). Now the fan favorite is starring in NBC's new reality series, "Better Late Than Never," which is a remake of ...Read more

Around the World: When You Can’t Get There For Real, Try Virtual Travel

Travel / Around the World /

Any number of challenging circumstances can crop up to keep you from roaming far from home.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to get past the misfortunes that impede tourism. But, if illness, financial woes and/or current events stop you in your tracks and stall your plans to take off for travel adventures, don’t...Read more left us waiting in the rain for our room

Travel / Christopher Elliott /

Q: I have a question about a recent reservation I made for a hotel apartment in Barcelona, Spain, through

In the fine print of my reservation, it instructed me to call 24 hours before I arrived to make arrangements to pick up the key. For me, that was an international call. The phone number was printed incorrectly on the form, so I ...Read more

Think of these liquid spots as park service's water supply ... for recreation and relaxation

Travel / Travel News /

How does New Mexico cope?

Water covers just 0.2 percent of the Land of Enchantment, Census Bureau statistics show, making it the driest state by percentage of land area. It's not that most of its 2.1 million residents can't get a drink from the tap; ground and surface water see to that.

But New Mexico, like 15 other states, is landlocked. The ...Read more

Taking the Kids: When they are grown and lead the way in the back country

Travel / Taking The Kids /

"You're kidding!" The river is beyond freezing, as if wheelbarrows full of ice cubes had been dumped into the water.

Even worse, slick rocks line the riverbed where my daughter Mel declares we have to cross -- barefoot -- to avoid soaking our boots and socks. She neglects to mention it, but this is the first of a dozen river crossings on this ...Read more

Knott's Soak City expands to add two new water slides

Travel / Travel News /

LOS ANGELES -- Knott's Soak City in Buena Park announced last week the addition of two new water slide attractions, including a thrill ride that drops guests through a trapdoor from a tower more than seven stories tall.

The two new water slides -- dubbed Shore Break and The Wedge -- will replace a raft ride called Pacific Spin and an adjoining ...Read more

Iowa State Fair: the Disneyland of state fairs

Travel / Travel News /

The Iowa State Fair, which runs through Sunday, was described to me as "our Disneyland. Well, not really ... but it is". It's something people look forward to every year, and it's easy to see why.

I had never been, and if you, like me, don't live in Iowa, I suggest you make the pilgrimage at least once in your lifetime. You may have a state ...Read more

The magic of Aix-en-Provence

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Westminster Abbey, the Eiffel Tower, the Sistine Chapel -- these are some of the reasons you came to Europe. They're also why millions of other tourists are here as well. Nothing kills a sightseeing buzz like waiting in line for hours to see a popular sight or being crammed shoulder to shoulder as you squint up at Michelangelo's masterpiece.

...Read more

Celebrity Travel: Go Away With Lauren Weisberger

Travel / Celebrity Travel /

Lauren Weisberger's best-selling debut novel, "The Devil Wears Prada," was set in the not-always glamorous fashion industry. Her latest -- "The Singles Game" (Simon and Schuster) -- focuses on international tennis. After college, Weisberger backpacked around various parts of the world, including Europe, ...Read more

Around the World: Bellying Up To Brussels!

Travel / Around the World /

Every European capital has its must-see monumental landmarks. London has is famous Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, Paris boasts the Eiffel Tower and Arch de Triomphe, and Rome has the remarkable Colosseum and Vatican City.

But at the heart of the European Union, Brussels’ most celebrated landmark attraction is much ...Read more

Renault got me lost -- can you help me find a refund?

Travel / Christopher Elliott /

Q: I am not happy with the car I rented through the Renault Eurodrive buy-back lease program. My wife and I recently rented a Dacia Duster in Milan, but the car only had GPS maps for Western Europe GPS. It had not been updated for Eastern Europe. We didn't discover this until we left Italy.

We were driving to Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, ...Read more

Disneyland plans 6,800-space parking structure and pedestrian bridge

Travel / Travel News /

LOS ANGELES -- Parking at the happiest place on Earth should be easier to find in the future.

Disneyland has released details of a long-proposed parking structure, a transportation hub and a new pedestrian bridge on the eastern end of the Anaheim theme park resort.

The project, located east of the resort near the 5 Freeway, includes a 6,800-...Read more

Queen Mary is getting a bow to stern makeover and a club in the boiler room

Travel / Travel News /

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- When Joshua Schwandt stayed at the Queen Mary several years ago, he loved the Art Deco woodwork and the way the Observation Bar oozed an old-timey feel.

He wasn't as ecstatic about his aging hotel room. The shower only drizzled water, and the bed felt like "one of those dorm room beds that have been slept on for 50 years,"...Read more

With dark days behind it, Greenville, S.C., springs to life

Travel / Travel News /

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- A river ran through it. Falls, too. But nobody noticed.

Now the Reedy River Falls, and the park that surrounds it and the suspension bridge that spans it, are at the heart of one of the great smallish-town successes in the United States.

Greenville, population 62,000, is very cool. Put it this way: If you were planning a ...Read more

Barcelona is vibrant and spirited

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Life in Barcelona is a distinctive mix of Madrid-style love of life and Parisian elegance and taste. Spain's second-biggest city is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe these days, with more than 7.5 million visitors a year, so its popular pedestrian boulevards can become human traffic jams.

In spite of what can be horrible crowds,...Read more

Celebrity Travel: Go Away With Marc Maron

Travel / Celebrity Travel /

Actor, writer and comedian Marc Maron loves to travel, which is fortunate since he is on the road so much for work. "I don't get to clubs to hear music as much as I'd like," says Maron, 52. "But if I have time, I go, because I really do enjoy it. I once got to Ireland a day early and Richard Thompson was playing. I had just had him on my podcast...Read more