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Photo tour: The D Casino Hotel Las Vegas PDF Print E-mail

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Experience Las Vegas features exclusive, in-depth photo tours of the city's world-famous hotels and casino resorts. We explore a different Vegas property each month so you can visit virtually before booking your stay, or just fantasize about plush digs outside of your budget.

This April, we go downtown to an increasingly popular stay, The D Casino Hotel Las Vegas. The D is known for its budget-friendly rooms, lively party atmosphere and proximity to the ever-growing attractions in Downtown Las Vegas. Guests can walk right out to the Fremont Street Experience, gamble with vintage games and slots inside, and dine on casual chili dogs or fine Italian on-site. Plus, the go-go dancers on the bar outside offer a very Vegas welcome.

Browse the gallery above for the complete exclusive tour, and view the video below for a sneak peek.

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First look: Inside the year's hottest new cruise ship PDF Print E-mail

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River giant Viking's first ocean ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star, will be christened in Bergen, Norway in May 2015.(Photo: Viking River Cruises)

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ISTANBUL, Turkey — Eager for a glimpse of Viking Star -- the much-awaited first ocean ship from river giant Viking? USA TODAY Cruise this week is getting early access to the 930-passenger vessel as it sets sail on its maiden voyage, and we're posting photos in the carousel above and at our Twitter page and Facebook page.

Click HERE to see the photos above in larger format.

Scheduled to be christened in May in Bergen, Norway, Viking Star is being billed by some as the most significant new cruise ship of the year -- the prototype for at least two and likely many more new ocean vessels to come from fast-growing Viking.

A third the size of the latest megaships from the likes of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, the Viking Star is designed to mix onboard elegance with a focus on destinations that Viking executives say has been lost across much of the cruise industry in recent years.

RELATED: Viking chief says line won't nickel-and-dime
PHOTO TOUR: The sleek style of a Viking river ship

The Viking Star's itineraries will feature more time in ports than at many other lines, and in a relatively rare twist, shore excursions will be included in the price (as will beer and wine with lunch and dinner; and even wi-fi access -- something that can cost up to 75 cents a minute at other lines).

The Viking Star also will be able to access smaller ports that often are off limits to today's megaships, thanks to its smaller size.

As can be seen in the photos, the Viking Star has a modern Scandinavian design that echoes what is found on Viking's river ships. Cabins are large for a cruise ship, with the smallest of five cabin categories having 270 square feet of space. In addition, every cabin has a balcony. Fourteen two-room suites on the ship range from 757 to 1,448 square feet and offer sweeping views from wrap-around private balconies.

The Viking Star's inaugural season features eight- to 50-day sailings around the Baltic and Mediterranean starting at $2,499 per person.

Viking's move into ocean cruising comes as the company increasingly dominates the world of river cruising. The line last month christened 12 new river ships, on top of 18 vessels added in 2014. The company now has 64 river ships in all. For a deck-by-deck look at one of Viking's 12 new river vessels, click through the carousel below.

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More on Viking Star
First Viking ocean ship takes to water
And the godmother for Viking Star is ...
Fast-growing Viking orders two more ocean ships
Viking cuts steel for new ocean ship
A sneak peek at plans for new Viking ship
New upscale line to debut in 2015
Head of new line: We won't nickel-and-dime

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Exclusive: Disney to get into river cruising PDF Print E-mail

Disney will begin offering river cruises on the Danube in 2016.(Photo: Adventures by Disney)

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(6:00 PM ET) -- In a move that could mark the beginning of a new era for river cruising, family vacation giant Disney is getting into the business.

Disney tonight will announce it's partnering with river line AmaWaterways to offer family-focused river cruises on the Danube starting in 2016.

The seven-night trips between Budapest, Hungary and Vilshofen, Germany will take place on a new AmaWaterways vessel that is being custom built for the family market with cabin configurations that can hold up to five people -- a rarity in river cruising. Shore tours and on-board activities also are being custom-designed with families in mind.

If successful, the venture could open up a new market for river cruising, which until now has appealed mostly to adult travelers without children, particularly older couples and retirees.

"We think the Disney brand will bring families to the river cruising category, and we think that's a very exciting development for the industry," the Disney executive in charge of the project, Ken Potrock, tells USA TODAY in an exclusive interview.

The new Disney cruises will be sold through Disney's fast-growing touring arm, Adventures by Disney, which has been offering family-friendly adventure tours around the globe for a decade. The sailings will be separate from those offered by the 17-year-old Disney Cruise Line, which operates four ocean-going vessels.

Initially, there will be just five departures, on July 7, 14, 21 and 28, and Dec. 22, 2016. Still, while starting small, the venture could grow significantly over the coming years, suggests Potrock, who runs Adventures by Disney as well as the Disney Vacation Club.

"We aspire to more, both in terms of the number of departures and the rivers that we consider, and (also) in terms of the geographic locales from a worldwide perspective," he says. "We think the response is going to be great, and we're already having conversations about what more could look like."

Disney's first river cruises will be on the Danube river between Budapest, Hungary and Vilshofen, Germany. (Photo: Adventures by Disney)

In addition to the gateway ports of Budapest and Vilshofen, the initial cruises will feature stops along the Danube in Passau, Germany; Linz, Melk and Vienna, Austria; and Bratislava, Slovakia. Passengers also can add a two-night, Disney guide-led visit to Prague to the beginning or end of the sailing, creating a nine-night trip.

Potrock says the itinerary will offer an unusual array of active, family-focused options both on and off the ship.

Custom-designed, family-friendly shore excursions will range from family bike rides along the Danube to learning archery and other medieval activities at a historic castle to strudel making.

On-board, Disney will be adding everything from interactive Disney games to family competitions on the ship's top deck, and the company also is lining up parks along the sailing route where families can take a break from touring to play a game of soccer or capture-the-flag.

Disney also is planning "junior adventure nights" where on-board adventure guides will have special entertainment activities for children such as a movie night with a makeshift theater on-board the ship.

In all, there will be five or six activities from which to choose each day, far more than on most river trips.

A passenger "might choose to do one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening," Potrock says. Disney wants people to "come away and say, 'wow, there was more (there) than I ever thought I would get to do.'"

In addition to the ship's staff, Disney will have eight "adventure guides" on board each sailing who will lead family-focused activities -- a key differentiator with other river lines, says Potrock.

Chosen from 1,000 applicants, the guides will be "truly the best of the best from the Disney system and beyond," he says. "They all either have experience in international markets or skills ... that will surprise and delight the children and the families. They might be a ventriloquist or a concert pianist or a comedian, or they might do voices."

To be called AmaViola, the AmaWaterways ship will feature several family-friendly cabin configurations that are common on many ocean cruise ships but rare in river cruising.

The ship will have four suites with beds and pull-out sofas that can hold a family of four. An additional dozen cabins will be able to hold up to three family members, thanks to chairs that convert into an extra bed. There also will be six sets of adjoining cabins that can be connected via a three-foot-wide wall segment that slides open at the push of a button. The adjoining cabins will allow for four or five members of a family to share accommodations.

The connecting cabins, in particular, are a rarity in the river cruise world.

Potrock says he spent a lot of time talking with AmaWaterways founders Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst about the ship's design.

"We really wanted to build this from the ground up (for families)," he says. "The traditional river cruising vessel is staterooms for two, and families don't travel in that configuration. Sometimes they travel in three and four and five, and multigenerational, and families traveling with other families."

Like some other Adventures by Disney trips, the cruises are recommended for children ages eight and up, and there will be a minimum age of four to sail.

While the first five sailings are being sold as family departures, "it doesn't mean that we won't in the future consider adult-only departures," he adds, noting that Adventures by Disney offers adult-only departures to some of the 30 other destinations on its schedule.

In an exclusive interview with USA TODAY, AmaWaterways' Schreiner and Karst say they're excited about the partnership.

"I think there is hidden demand (for family river cruising) that is there but has never been developed," says Karst, noting that the few families the line has gotten over the years invariably leave glowing feedback.

River cruising is "a fantastic product for children," she says. "Not many have come on board yet, but when (they do) they always enjoy it."

Karst says she suspects families have been uncomfortable booking river cruises because the typical river line doesn't offer organized family activities on trips. Even when river lines have marketed departures as family friendly, they haven't had the sort of infusion of family activity that Disney is planning, she says.

Calling what Disney is planning "tremendous," Karst notes the line even has shifted its typical sailing schedule on the Danube for the Disney departures to leave more time in ports for family activities.

Fares for the new Disney cruises will start at $4,179 per person, based on double occupancy, and include all meals, gratuities, wine with dinner and transportation between the ship and airports.

Disney's move into river cruising comes as the company's ocean cruise business continues to expand its offerings. The Disney Cruise Line will operate its first cruises to Norway in June and last month announced plans for its first cruise to the British Isles.

Disney also recently completed a major makeover of its 1,754-passenger Disney Magic. For a deck-by-deck look at Disney's newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, click through the carousel below.

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Nik Wallenda to walk atop new Orlando Eye as it spins PDF Print E-mail

Nik Wallenda to walk atop new Orlando Eye as it spins

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Nik Wallenda to walk atop new Orlando Eye as it spins

Nik Wallenda survived walking the "Wheel of Death" at Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City. Now, he's ready to spin the wheel once more. This one will be on the Orlando Eye, which is billed as the

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Daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across a tightrope over Chicago Sunday as thousands below him watched. The 35-year-old daredevil is a 7th generation progeny of the famed Flying Wallendas circus family.

Nik Wallenda crosses the Grand Canyon on tightrope.(Photo: Courtery of Nik Wallenda)

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Nik Wallenda survived walking the "Wheel of Death" at Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.

Now, he's ready to spin the wheel once more.

This one will be on the Orlando Eye, which is billed as the largest observation wheel on the East Coast. The 400-foot Orlando Eye is set to open this spring, and Wallenda will walk it on April 29.

Wallenda, a seventh generation member of The Flying Wallendas clan, already has nine Guinness World Records for acrobatic accomplishments.

The Sarasota, Fla., native will return to his home state for his next feat.

Wallenda will get into a capsule of the Orlando Eye and ride it to the top. The wheel will stop rotating. He will then climb to the roof. He will cross over the tracks and get over to the eye of the wheel. He will stand on the rim, which is less than six inches wide.

"It's quite dangerous just getting to that rim," Wallenda told USA TODAY in an interview.

The wheel will then start rotating again.

"I'm not in control anymore," he says. "This apparatus is moved by an operator and I won't have a remote control. As It moves, my job is to stay on top and balance."

He won't be able to use a balancing bar while he does it. At some point, as the structure rotates, he will have to duck under a six-foot wide beam.

"I've never done anything of this capacity," he says.

Wallenda has walked across tightropes over both the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls.

THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDADaredevil Nik Wallenda walks tightrope over Chicago | 03:32

Daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across a tightrope over Chicago Sunday as thousands below him watched. The 35-year-old daredevil is a 7th generation progeny of the famed Flying Wallendas circus family.

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAWatch daredevil Nik Wallenda conquer Chicago's skyline | 01:00

With thousands of roaring spectators on hand to watch, daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across the Marina City Towers in Chicago, blindfolded.

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDANiagara Falls daredevil rides motorcycle over lake | 00:50

Daredevil Nik Wallenda thrilled the crowd once again today with one of his high wire performances as he rode a motorcycle on the wire over a lake with two performers riding underneath. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAWallenda wants NYC skyline next | 00:37

High-wire walker Nik Wallenda already has a dream about where his next stunt will be. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDANik Wallenda prays, kisses ground after canyon walk | 01:36

Daredevil Nik Wallenda, the seventh-generation high-wire artist, on Sunday successfully walked a two-inch thick cable across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDANik Wallenda crosses canyon on tightrope | 02:06

Aerialist Nik Wallenda crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon on Sunday. The stunt took him about 1,500 feet above the river. It took him 22 minutes to cross the quarter-mile gorge. (June 24) AP

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDATimelapse: Nik Wallenda walks across Niagara Falls | 01:01

It took daredevil Nik Wallenda about 25 minutes to cross Niagara Falls on a two-inch-wide wire last June. Watch his entire 1,800 foot journey in one minute. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAHIghwire walk from Wallenda's point of view | 01:48

Nik Wallenda filmed his Skywalk over downtown Sarasota, Fla, on a camera attached to his balancing stick. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAWallenda crosses Fla. tightrope 200 feet high | 00:58

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda has completed a high-wire crossing, without a safety harness or net, over an oceanfront highway in Florida. (Jan. 29) AP

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDATight roper Wallenda crosses highway in 30 seconds | 00:35

Famed tightrope walker Nik Wallenda crossed 200 feet over an oceanfront highway in Sarasota, Fla. on a wire without a safety harness or net.

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  • Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks tightrope over Chicago

    Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks tightrope over Chicago

  • Watch daredevil Nik Wallenda conquer Chicago's skyline

    Watch daredevil Nik Wallenda conquer Chicago's skyline

  • Niagara Falls daredevil rides motorcycle over lake

    Niagara Falls daredevil rides motorcycle over lake

  • Wallenda wants NYC skyline next

    Wallenda wants NYC skyline next

  • Nik Wallenda prays, kisses ground after canyon walk

    Nik Wallenda prays, kisses ground after canyon walk

  • Nik Wallenda crosses canyon on tightrope

    Nik Wallenda crosses canyon on tightrope

  • Timelapse: Nik Wallenda walks across Niagara Falls

    Timelapse: Nik Wallenda walks across Niagara Falls

  • HIghwire walk from Wallenda's point of view

    HIghwire walk from Wallenda's point of view

  • Wallenda crosses Fla. tightrope 200 feet high

    Wallenda crosses Fla. tightrope 200 feet high

  • Tight roper Wallenda crosses highway in 30 seconds

    Tight roper Wallenda crosses highway in 30 seconds

The Orlando Eye is part of the city's newest entertainment complex set to open this spring along International Drive. I-Drive 360, as it is called, features the Orlando Eye as well as Madame Tussauds wax museum, Sea Life Orlando aquarium and several restaurants including Shake Shack and Buffalo Wild Wings.

"Nik, he's both born and raised in Florida," says John Stine, director of marketing and sales for I-Drive 360. "He's Florida. He's all about entertainment and we think he fits in perfectly with our venue for our upcoming celebration."

Wallenda will get to enjoy his surroundings while he performs. He says he makes it a point to do so.

"I absolutely do take advantage of every opportunity I have," he says. "I definitely try to look around and take in the scenery while I'm there. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't be doing it."

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Nik Wallenda to walk atop new Orlando Eye as it spins

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Nik Wallenda to walk atop new Orlando Eye as it spins

Nik Wallenda survived walking the "Wheel of Death" at Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City. Now, he's ready to spin the wheel once more. This one will be on the Orlando Eye, which is billed as the

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Daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across a tightrope over Chicago Sunday as thousands below him watched. The 35-year-old daredevil is a 7th generation progeny of the famed Flying Wallendas circus family.

Nik Wallenda crosses the Grand Canyon on tightrope.(Photo: Courtery of Nik Wallenda)

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Nik Wallenda survived walking the "Wheel of Death" at Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.

Now, he's ready to spin the wheel once more.

This one will be on the Orlando Eye, which is billed as the largest observation wheel on the East Coast. The 400-foot Orlando Eye is set to open this spring, and Wallenda will walk it on April 29.

Wallenda, a seventh generation member of The Flying Wallendas clan, already has nine Guinness World Records for acrobatic accomplishments.

The Sarasota, Fla., native will return to his home state for his next feat.

Wallenda will get into a capsule of the Orlando Eye and ride it to the top. The wheel will stop rotating. He will then climb to the roof. He will cross over the tracks and get over to the eye of the wheel. He will stand on the rim, which is less than six inches wide.

"It's quite dangerous just getting to that rim," Wallenda told USA TODAY in an interview.

The wheel will then start rotating again.

"I'm not in control anymore," he says. "This apparatus is moved by an operator and I won't have a remote control. As It moves, my job is to stay on top and balance."

He won't be able to use a balancing bar while he does it. At some point, as the structure rotates, he will have to duck under a six-foot wide beam.

"I've never done anything of this capacity," he says.

Wallenda has walked across tightropes over both the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls.

THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDADaredevil Nik Wallenda walks tightrope over Chicago | 03:32

Daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across a tightrope over Chicago Sunday as thousands below him watched. The 35-year-old daredevil is a 7th generation progeny of the famed Flying Wallendas circus family.

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAWatch daredevil Nik Wallenda conquer Chicago's skyline | 01:00

With thousands of roaring spectators on hand to watch, daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across the Marina City Towers in Chicago, blindfolded.

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDANiagara Falls daredevil rides motorcycle over lake | 00:50

Daredevil Nik Wallenda thrilled the crowd once again today with one of his high wire performances as he rode a motorcycle on the wire over a lake with two performers riding underneath. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAWallenda wants NYC skyline next | 00:37

High-wire walker Nik Wallenda already has a dream about where his next stunt will be. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDANik Wallenda prays, kisses ground after canyon walk | 01:36

Daredevil Nik Wallenda, the seventh-generation high-wire artist, on Sunday successfully walked a two-inch thick cable across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDANik Wallenda crosses canyon on tightrope | 02:06

Aerialist Nik Wallenda crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon on Sunday. The stunt took him about 1,500 feet above the river. It took him 22 minutes to cross the quarter-mile gorge. (June 24) AP

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDATimelapse: Nik Wallenda walks across Niagara Falls | 01:01

It took daredevil Nik Wallenda about 25 minutes to cross Niagara Falls on a two-inch-wide wire last June. Watch his entire 1,800 foot journey in one minute. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAHIghwire walk from Wallenda's point of view | 01:48

Nik Wallenda filmed his Skywalk over downtown Sarasota, Fla, on a camera attached to his balancing stick. VPC

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDAWallenda crosses Fla. tightrope 200 feet high | 00:58

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda has completed a high-wire crossing, without a safety harness or net, over an oceanfront highway in Florida. (Jan. 29) AP

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THE AMAZING NIK WALLENDATight roper Wallenda crosses highway in 30 seconds | 00:35

Famed tightrope walker Nik Wallenda crossed 200 feet over an oceanfront highway in Sarasota, Fla. on a wire without a safety harness or net.

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  • Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks tightrope over Chicago

    Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks tightrope over Chicago

  • Watch daredevil Nik Wallenda conquer Chicago's skyline

    Watch daredevil Nik Wallenda conquer Chicago's skyline

  • Niagara Falls daredevil rides motorcycle over lake

    Niagara Falls daredevil rides motorcycle over lake

  • Wallenda wants NYC skyline next

    Wallenda wants NYC skyline next

  • Nik Wallenda prays, kisses ground after canyon walk

    Nik Wallenda prays, kisses ground after canyon walk

  • Nik Wallenda crosses canyon on tightrope

    Nik Wallenda crosses canyon on tightrope

  • Timelapse: Nik Wallenda walks across Niagara Falls

    Timelapse: Nik Wallenda walks across Niagara Falls

  • HIghwire walk from Wallenda's point of view

    HIghwire walk from Wallenda's point of view

  • Wallenda crosses Fla. tightrope 200 feet high

    Wallenda crosses Fla. tightrope 200 feet high

  • Tight roper Wallenda crosses highway in 30 seconds

    Tight roper Wallenda crosses highway in 30 seconds

The Orlando Eye is part of the city's newest entertainment complex set to open this spring along International Drive. I-Drive 360, as it is called, features the Orlando Eye as well as Madame Tussauds wax museum, Sea Life Orlando aquarium and several restaurants including Shake Shack and Buffalo Wild Wings.

"Nik, he's both born and raised in Florida," says John Stine, director of marketing and sales for I-Drive 360. "He's Florida. He's all about entertainment and we think he fits in perfectly with our venue for our upcoming celebration."

Wallenda will get to enjoy his surroundings while he performs. He says he makes it a point to do so.

"I absolutely do take advantage of every opportunity I have," he says. "I definitely try to look around and take in the scenery while I'm there. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't be doing it."

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Show Captions

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Travel  |  
 
Five myths about frequent-flier miles PDF Print E-mail

Everett Potter, Special for USA TODAY 10:15 a.m. EDT April 13, 2015

Regardless of how often you fly, it pays to sign up for frequent-flier programs.(Photo: Matt Rourke, AP)

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Ever since the first frequent-flier program was launched in the early 1970s by United Airlines, there have been plenty of misconceptions and myths about getting and using miles. But with today's airfares at sky-high prices, getting that elusive free ticket has become more important than ever. Don't let these five myths about frequent-flier mileage programs get in the way of your next reward seat.

1. I don't fly enough to join frequent-flier programs.

Regardless of how often you fly, it pays to sign up for frequent-flier programs, which are free.

"The cost of frequent-flier miles and awards is baked into the price of your ticket," says Tim Winship, editor-at-large at SmarterTravel.com. "So if you don't participate, you're not getting full value for your airfare dollar. "

Besides, you don't have to fly very often to enjoy the benefits of a frequent-flier program. In fact flying is almost beside the point, says Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com.

"You don't need to fly a lot to rack up frequent-flier miles," says Kelly. "More than 50% of miles these days are generated from credit cards and shopping partners. They're really frequent-buyer programs more than frequent flier."

Go on a shopping spree to earn miles if you must, but finding the right credit card to earn those miles with is key. Start with a visit to Bankrate.com, which has ranked every major airline affiliate credit card according to benefits and costs. The benefits do vary widely, with some cards providing two miles for every dollar spent as well as bonus miles for large expenditures. The fee for these cards is also far from uniform. Some cards are free, while other cards come with yearly fees, typically $49 to $99 a year, topping out at $495 a year for a Visa Black Card.

In terms of partners who offer miles, car rental companies are a no-brainer, but did you know that you can earn miles by opening an account with Fidelity or signing up with Dish Network? Or that you can get JetBlue TrueBlue points for simply signing up for Zipcar? Big spenders can take it to another level the next time they're buying or selling a house or moving. American HomeMiles, part of the American Airlines AAdvantage program, offers a range of real estate services and gives 2,000 miles for every $10,000 of the sale or purchase price when you buy or sell a home, 1,250 miles for every $10,000 on a financed house and 5,000 miles when you move state-to-state with Allied, North American or Global Van Lines.

2. One frequent-flier program is the same as another.

Join one program? Join every program? Winship cautions against "joining programs willy-nilly." Otherwise, you end up with "dribs and drabs of miles, scattered over multiple programs, which are worthless."

To build up miles, concentrate your travel and your affiliated credit card purchases with one or two major frequent-flier mile programs. But do so only with carriers that serve your home airport, since they're the ones that you're most likely to be flying.

"One of the keys to maximizing the value of loyalty-program participation is choosing a program that works with your travel and consumption patterns and then channeling the bulk of your mileage earning into that program," says Winship. "The result is more awards and a shot at earning elite status and the perks that come with it."

3. Every time I go to use miles, there are always blackout dates or the miles have expired before I have a chance to use them.

"Blackout dates don't really exist anymore," says Kelly. "Instead, airlines have added new 'tiers' so you can redeem more miles for peak flights versus having them blacked out."

Take American Airlines, for example. For a domestic round-trip in economy class in the lower 48 states, a frequent-flier ticket can run anywhere from 12,500 to 30,000 miles, depending on when you want to fly. There are no longer blackout periods -- you simply need to cash in more miles if you want to travel during a peak period. Most airline frequent-flier programs put expiration dates on miles, but it's not difficult to get around those restrictions.

"It's not true that you need to fly to keep miles from expiring," says Kelly. "In most cases, all you need to do is simply have any activity, like transferring credit card points or making a purchase through a dining or shopping program, to keep them from expiring."

4. You need to book way in advance to get award seats.

Booking early can still work as a way to score frequent-flier seats, but it's not the only way and it's not always the best. Just as the airlines use yield management to squeeze as much revenue as possible out of paid tickets, they employ a similar strategy when it comes to releasing seats for frequent-flier miles.

"Booking 330 days before departure, when most airlines make award seats available for booking, is just one among many strategies for securing scarce award seats," says Winship. "Booking late, say within 14 days of departure, is another option, since airlines will then make unsold seats available for mileage redemptions. "

Kelly is also an advocate of looking late in the game to find a frequent-flier seat.

"The best time to redeem is last minute when airlines open up a lot of availability, especially in premium cabins," he says. "Airlines these days want to sell seats until the last minute, but they don't want seats going empty, so in many cases they only open up award seats within a week of departure. It's great for procrastinators."

Winship offers yet another strategy in the never-ending hunt for the elusive frequent-flier seat.

"Be a contrarian, he advises. "Plan to use miles for travel on less-popular routes, during low-demand travel periods."

5. The only seats worth redeeming miles for are business- or first-class seats.

This is one of the more persistently stubborn beliefs about frequent-flier miles. But given how expensive economy-class seats have become, it doesn't hold water anymore.

"It's always smart to squeeze the most value-per-mile from point redemptions," says Winship. " And often, that's indeed from cashing in miles for premium-cabin travel. But not always. Sometimes a coach award ticket, booked last minute, when the market price would be quite high, can deliver solid value as well."

Kelly agrees, noting that "Economy redemptions can still be extremely valuable, especially for last-minute travel when fares are sky-high. That's when airlines are trying to gouge business travelers. Coincidentally, last minute is when airlines make a lot of award seats available, so it can be great time to redeem for economy."

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Travel  |  
 
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