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Snowstorms, salad bar terror and other travel news

I'm back from a pre-holiday trip to South Florida, via South Carolina on the way back, where we picked up our inlaws for a Christmas visit to Maryland. Fun, indeed. Actually, the trip wasn't too bad. Roads were in good shape, weather was excellent - and we took Amtrak's Auto Train for the first leg south.

Upon our arrival, I noted that Amtrak's new terminal in Sanford is coming along. Last time we were there, it was a tent, but now the station has walls and seating. Not nearly enough bathrooms, though. And with the ongoing construction, picking up the car seemed a bit more disorganized than usual. Still, any improvements to Amtrak infrastructure seems worth every penny, considering recent events.

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While I was away, I missed a bunch of travel news -did you? If so, here's a quick update:

-Snow has recently shutdown some airports in Europe, including Heathrow in London, endangering lots of holiday plans. British Airways canceled tons of flight, including some from BWI. That blows. Apparently, European airports are simply not equipped in manpower or machinery to handle very much snowfall. Time for some investment.

-Southwest is going to offer flights from BWI to Newark beginning in the spring. The airline is also buying larger jets (737-800s) that will allow it to perhaps fly internationally.

-Continental Airlines is offering a new service for a fee, of course. FareLock will allow passengers to lock in the price of a ticket for up to a week, while you decide if you really want it. The fee will start around $5 to hold a fare for 3 days, but will vary depending on how long you put it on hold, where you're going etc. Airlines continue to depend on fees for profits. The president of US Airways recently said that fees would make up all of his company's profit for 2010. Groan.

-There are some reports that terrorists may be planning to attack America's food supply through hotels and restaurants. The plan, first reported by CBS News, allegedly calls for spraying ricin or cyanide on the food at salad bars and buffets. The information hasn't been confirmed by U.S. officials, who say they won't comment on specific threats. Sigh. I love a great salad bar, especially if it has pickled beets. Sweet terror.

-American Airlines has pulled its flights from Orbitz, cutting out the middle man and reducing costs, according to the Associated Press. The airline wants consumers to come to its website directly to purchase tickets. Will others follow, eventually crippling online agencies like Orbitz and Expedia? Delta said this week that it would stop selling tickets on smaller websites like CheapOAir, BookIt.com and OneTravel.com. And Southwest has always sold its tickets only on southwest.com.

If you're headed to the airport this week, don't forget to check out our Holiday Survival Guide to BWI.

Reuters Photo

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