It hasn’t been a secret that Starwood Hotels was up for sale. The initial conjecture had InterContinental (IHG) as the likely buyer. More recently, those rumors were replaced by more credible reports that Hyatt, or even a Chinese buyer, was ready to make an offer.

However, yesterday morning it was revealed that Marriott Hotels was the buyer of the hotel chain.

The principal benefit of the merger for travelers? Marriott has promised the following for members of the two companies’ loyalty programs: 

It was just revealed that American Airlines is preparing to dramatically change its AAdvantage program in the next few months. Delta Airlines and United Airlines have already made recent changes to their frequent flyer programs and many travelers have been fearing the time when American would drop the axe and change their popular program. The newly revamped AAdvantage program will be a blend version of the award programs and the revenue-based programs implemented at Delta and United. Qualifying for AAdvantage elite status will remain the same, but earning miles for award bookings will be harder.

This month’s Memorable City is Las Vegas. If the names of such cities as “city of light’s”, or “the city that never sleeps” weren’t already claimed, Las Vegas would certainly be entitled to them.

Las Vegas, roughly translated, means “the meadows”. Located just west of the older downtown area, there is a series of natural springs that is now called "the Springs Preserve". Pioneers would stop at the springs on their way west. Today, Las Vegas is an ever-changing fantasy-land of a city and has seen unbelievable expansion since it emerged from the desert in 1905.

As travelers, we try and make sure we take the right flights, stay at the “good” hotels, and rent cars that are large enough to make us feel safe. We try and avoid touching things that may make us sick on the road (nothing worse than having the flu or a bad cold while away from the friendly confines of home) and eat foods that will help keep us healthy. Some of us even look for hotels that have a gym (or at least access to one) so we can exercise (I use the word “we” very loosely mind you). However, safety while on the road is often times overlooked or taken for granted. 

A few television news programs (60 Minutes and 48 Hours) have recently highlighted some hotel scams that are being employed on unsuspecting travelers.

Let’s see… We have advised you what not to touch on a plane. What effective habits to do before flying. What apps to add to your phone to help your travel experience. I guess it is only natural that the next topic we tackle is what foods / drinks to avoid while flying. Omitting these dining disasters via your pre-flight checklist will help you avoid the dreaded "jet bloat" and other in-flight horrors. Read on to see what foods / drinks one should avoid before flying.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “germaphobe”. That said, I try to avoid places that scream germ haven and breeding ground. You know, like the bouncy ball pits that our kids love to frolic in. Or any shopping mall door handles, escalator rails, or anything else the general public touches.

With the arrival of cold and flu season, we at TravelPlex thought we would provide some tips to our travelers on what to avoid while traveling. While it would be great if we could all travel in a bright orange hazmat suit (good luck getting through the TSA monitors with that on…), reality is we have to use our head to tell our hands what not to touch.

Many travelers ask us, “If oil prices are dropping, and airline prices are supposedly dropping, why aren’t we seeing lower prices?” This is a good question and one that Fortune Magazine has articulately answered for all of us. 

It is true that oil prices are dropping. It is also true (believe it or not) that airfares are dropping. What is not being calculated into the savings equation is the fact that airlines create more and more additional fees. Base airline fees in 2015 are expected to see a 3.3% decrease over last year's. That is good news. However...

TravelPlex’s Memorable City for October is Oklahoma's capital city. Oklahoma City offers plenty of exciting things to do and offers big-league attractions, including a National Basketball team, OKC Thunder, as well as a revitalized downtown area starring the Bricktown Entertainment District and Chesapeake Energy Arena. This destination also offers great arts and museums, including the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. If you decide to turn a business trip into a vacation, also known as a “plesiness trip”, take the family to the kid-friendly OKC Zoo, Science Museum Oklahoma, Frontier City and White Water Bay. Or escape to the outdoors at the Oklahoma River, Myriad Botanical Gardens and Lake Hefner.

In the last month or so, we at TravelPlex have heard from a few travelers who have had their personal information hacked while away on a trip. At least, that was the only time they can recall being exposed to “free Wi-Fi”. As we all know and learned years ago from our elders, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We can now list another "too good to be true" item: FREE Wi-Fi.

This latest Wi-Fi scam that was reported by NBC is even more nefarious than previous scams.

For all of you that have passports expiring within the next six months, you might want to read the following. The U.S. State Department says the very best time to apply for a new passport, or renew an expiring one, is between the months of September and December. In other words, fourth quarter for the State Department is a bit slow.

The peak demand for passport, both new and renewals, is February through August, which makes sense as many people travel abroad during the spring and summer months. The processing time during the peak season can be as long as six to seven weeks. In contrast, passport processing time in the fourth quarter is roughly two to three weeks. Big difference.

Late last year TravelPlex posted a blog citing the airlines' escalating ancillary revenues. This is income primarily derived from the sales of seats (although one would expect the $550 flight to Dallas would come with a seat…), early boarding privileges, onboard entertainment and food. Also bundled into this stream are the sale of frequent flyer miles, commissions earned on sales of car rentals, travel insurance and hotel rooms, as well as revenue earned from in-flight advertising.

Over 60 airlines raised $38 billion in ancillary fees, an 8.5% increase year over year. This is shy of the projected 15%-20% increase.

If you’ve watched any Cardinal baseball in the last few years, or listened to a number of local radio stations, you are well aware that “six is a serious number”. With that in mind, and riding the coattails of a relatively successful ad campaign, we’d like to offer you TravelPlex’s Six Habits of Effective Travelers. Some of these you are already aware of, but just in case, we thought we’d dust them off and offer them up as a reminder. If you abide by the tips, you have our permission to stop by your nearest gasoline station and purchase a beverage of your choice.

We at TravelPlex are always trying to keep our valued clients and travelers up to date with the latest in travel industry news. One area we like to keep you apprised of involves various travel vendor reward programs. Recently we reported on National Car Rental's “OneTwoFree” promotion and highlighted the many benefits one can gain from the campaign.

Conversely, we like to bring attention to vendor promotions that do not seem to be that customer friendly. While TravelPlex has long been a major supporter of Marriott Hotels, their latest promotion, “MegaBonus”, does not appear to be as customer friendly as their previous programs.

As we turn the corner of summer and head into autumn, we thought this month’s Memorable City should be a nice “drive” destination from St. Louis. With that in mind, this month takes us to “the Queen City", commonly known as Cincinnati. 

Found amid rolling hills along the Ohio River, Cincinnati reaches from the southwestern corner of Ohio into Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana. The city is located about midway on the 1,000-mile long Ohio River. A fun fact about Cincinnati is that according to legend, Cincinnati was, like Rome, built on seven hills. However, nobody seems to know what the original seven hills were. Ask 10 different citizens of the Queen City and you’ll get 10 different answers.

As travel promotions go, National Car Rental’s “One Two Free” is a winner. Unlike Marriott’s MegaBonus offer, which has shed considerable value in its last few iterations, the recently-announced version of “One Two Free” is potentially more generous than it has been in past years.

Now through January 31, 2016, Emerald Club members can earn one free rental day for every two rentals of a mid-sized or larger car for two or more days. Additional bonus points may be earned as follows:

While we try to bring as much original content to TravelPlex blogs as possible, many times we find articles that are too good not to share.

Tim Winship of Google Plus provides valuable insight into the rising amount of airline customer complaints. The “increase needle” is in almost direct correlation to the airline “profitability needle”. Hmmmm. Does this mean that as long as airlines are making money, they don’t care about customer satisfaction? After reading Mr. Winship’s article, you draw your own conclusion. Although I have an idea you already KNOW the answer…