Spending: Best bets for travel this winter (and all year long)
Use these tips and visit these sites to get the most for your travel dollar.
-- For luxury. You won't be nickel-and-dimed on Regent Seven Seas cruises. The all-inclusive packages bundle airfare, gratuities and shore excursions. (All picks are by the editors of CruiseCritic.com.)
-- For families. Of course kids love Disney. But Disney Cruise Line coddles the entire family with activities such as live musicals and movies.
-- For value. The experience on Azamara Club Cruises says luxury, with bar drinks, specialty coffees and gratuities included -- but you won't pay luxury prices.
-- For flexible itineraries. Spend a few days to several months aboard a Princess Cruise, stopping in such far-flung locales as Cape Horn and Ho Chi Minh City.
-- For river cruising. From the Rhine to the Yangtze, ply the inland waters on Viking River Cruises. The line is developing new excursions, such as a tour of Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame.
-- For on-time arrival. Planning on sprinting from the airport to a meeting? Let's hope you're on Alaska Airlines. Nearly 85 percent of its flights arrived on time through late fall.-- For baggage. Virgin America gets your bags to your destination more often than its peers. Through late fall, the airline had lost only 1.31 bags per 1,000 fliers.
Best loyalty program
United Airlines MileagePlus gives you access to more than 1,300 destinations through its Star Alliance program, offers complimentary upgrades for traveling companions and, unlike some airlines, doesn't pass on fuel surcharges. Among hotel programs, Starwood Preferred guest status gets you free nights and upgrades at more than 1,000 properties, including the W Singapore-Sentosa Cove. Best booking sites
-- Overall. Our perennial favorite for comparing prices on flights, hotels and rental cars is Kayak.com. This year it launched a "price trend" tool that helps you decide whether to buy airfare now or wait for a better deal.
-- Last-minute hotel bookings. Stranded fliers and procrastinators, try Hotel Tonight. The app for iPhone and Android offers same-day savings of up to 70 percent on hotel rooms in dozens of U.S. cities and 14 foreign countries.
Bonus: Best place to retire south of the border
Costa Rica offers lush valleys, picture-postcard beaches and affordable health care. A couple can live comfortably on $2,500 a month; some retirees live on much less. Costa Rica is home to more than 20,000 American expats and is one of the most politically stable countries in Latin America.
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