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All things travel

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United lifts some 'award' blocking

About two weeks after ON THE FLY first wrote about United's massive blocking of Star Alliance partner flights, the airline relented and lifted some of the filtering. Scores of travelers have already snatched seats on flights that had not been available for months, though the blocking is by no means gone.

Elite fliers' open letter to United

About 50 top-tier elite members of United Mileage Plus, known as 1K fliers, have written to the airline's management urging it to permanently stop blocking "award" seats on Star Alliance partners, a previously secret practice exposed in the Sept. 29 ON THE FLY column. Although most blocking has since been lifted, United suggested that's only a temporary measure. To add your name to the list of signatories, e-mail

Creative ways to pay for hotel

Is the room rate for your next hotel stay too high for your travel budget? No need to cancel that trip yet. There are creative ways to pay for your accommodation, and using your own money is just one of the options. The creativity I have in mind involves more than just redeeming your hotel points with a loyalty program.

Finding low air fares — art or science?

Who says that cheap plane tickets are a thing of the past? How would you like to go skiing in Utah this winter for less than $150 round trip from the East coast, including all taxes? Rather visit a warmer place? How about a ticket to Hawaii for less than $300? Yes, these are real prices, but you might need to do some homework to get them.

The solo travel experience

How many times have you wanted to take a trip somewhere, but ended up staying home because you didn't want to travel alone? Next time, don't let that ruin your plans. Traveling solo is a great way to see new places and make new friends. I don't mean joining a tour group, though that's certainly one way to meet like-minded people.

In pursuit of elite status

With the sorry state of their industry, airlines value and reward their loyal customers more than ever. Elite passengers can be added to a waiting list minutes before a flight and go right to the top. The highest-level elites — and their travel companions — are exempt from all sorts of fees.

How much are air miles worth?

Next time an airline offers you 5,000 miles as a "good-will gesture" for something that went wrong on a flight, you might want to negotiate a bigger number. Miles devaluation is here, and along with rising air fares, service cutbacks and various fees, it is likely to remain a prominent feature of the travel experience for a while.

Airports can be fun — seriously

Flight delays are all too common these days, but if you have to wait around for hours, why not do it in style? Find out what the best airports in the world are. Do you agree with the various rankings done every year? What's your favorite airport?