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The Airlines' Efforts to Make You Spend More, Continue Until the Very Moment You Board the Plane—That, and Several Other Observations

     In today’s America, the airport check-in counter  confronts you with all sorts of unexpected money offers. (There are commercial appeals all around, like in the billboards along a highway.)  Want priority boarding of your plane?  That will cost $47 extra.  Want to buy the right to cancel or change your return flight for a penalty of only $75?  That can be obtained for $11 extra.  Want to sit in an economy class seat that enjoys greater legroom?  $30, and you’ll be wonderfully comfortable.  Through the sale of extra privileges, in addition to the charging of unexpected extra fees, the airlines will enjoy two billion dollars of extra income in 2014, and their profits will make new records.
     The savvy passenger, of course, will work hard to avoid those extra fees, and to withstand those seductive appeals to enjoy extra privileges, like a few inches of extra legroom, or the so-called advantage of boarding the plane a few minutes ahead of others.
     To switch different forms of transportation:  A magazine called Bon Voyage, which discusses cruising, has recently named the “best of” in various categories.  Best of the cruiselines?  That’s the Disney line, according to these cruise experts.  Best cruiseline for teenagers?  Royal Caribbean, they say.  Best of the new ships?  That’s the Norwegian Breakaway.  Best food served onboard?  Crystal Cruises.
     A fascinating new travel guide is the Volunteer Travelers Handbook, which outlines the ways in which  well-intentioned travelers can create their own “volunteer vacations” for devoting efforts on behalf of various social causes….Rome-based travel expert, Eleonora Baldwin, enthusiastically recommends a brand-new and wholly unique attraction called “The National Museum of the 21st Century”, showcasing contemporary art.  It’s a welcome contrast to all the countless museums in the Eternal City that limit themselves to ancient art.
     In the 19th and early 20th century, when there was no air conditioning, wealthy Americans would avoid the uncomfortable temperatures of summer by moving their hot weather residences to the state of Maine.  Now, in the 21st century, there are potent new reasons for vacationing in Maine:  uncrowded resorts and low-cost coastal bungalows for rent, seaside recreations, refreshingly cool summers, lobsters and lobster meals everywhere, every other kind of seafood, the great Acadia National Park, summer festivals of every sort, such outstanding discount shopping outlets as L.L. Bean, and an outgoing population treating visitors with courtesy and respect.  As you can see, I’m a Maine enthusiast.
     New York City is presently expecting to receive as many as 55 million visitors in 2014, which may make it into the most popular tourist destination on earth.  Since hotels here are chock-a-block virtually the entire year, and therefore unusually expensive, it’s important for visitors to seek out lower-cost lodgings in boroughs other than Manhattan, or in the many hostels (with private rooms) that now accept guests of all ages.
     Examples continue to accumulate of the risks that people run when they submit negative reviews to the various social media.  A small hotel chain, which often rents its ballrooms and dining facilities for weddings, has recently added a paragraph to their contract fining the parents of the married couple $500 if any of their guests publish a bad review of the hotel on such listings as TripAdvisor or Yelp.  Shades of the First Amendment!