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Expedia offer: Flights to Mars from $99*

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

The winner of this year's best Aprils Fool's joke for travelers: Expedia.

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How do you use a cell phone boarding pass at the metal detector?

Cell phones are gradually replacing boarding passes, with increasing numbers of U.S. airports encouraging passengers to hold up the screen of their cell phone (or Blackberry, iPhone, or similar device) under the airport security scanner, rather than show a paper boarding pass. When we recently blogged about this trend, one of our readers, Mike, wisely pointed out that before you walk through the scanner, airports usually require that you put your cell phone in the bin. "So how do you show your boarding pass to the TSA agent when it is on the x-ray machine belt?" Mike asked. Great question! We asked a TSA spokesperson, and here's the answer: "Currently, airports that accept paperless boarding passes will ask passengers to show their boarding pass in front of the checkpoint where all boarding passes and IDs are checked. In some airports, as passengers approach the metal detector, they may be instructed to divest everything for X-ray but their cell phone. Then passengers will approach the metal detector, show their boarding pass on their cell phone to the security officer, and then backtrack to put the phone in a bin for X-ray screening." Another mystery solved. Airports that are testing this technology include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, D.C. (Reagan), Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, Orange County, Calif., San Antonio, New York (LaGuardia and Newark), and Seattle. To recap, here's an example of how the procedure works with one airline, Delta: You register your cell phone number with delta.com to receive a text message with a boarding pass bar code. Then hold up the screen of your cell phone under the airport security scanner, rather than show a paper boarding pass. (As always, you have to present a government-issued photo I.D. too.) Delta is testing the service at LaGuardia Airport.

Mexico's tourism officials say, "C'mon in, the water's fine"

As we wrote earlier this week, the recent drug-related violence in parts of Mexico has some travelers worried. The Mexico Tourism Board is reminding the public that Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, and other popular destinations are still safe for visitors. The board recently launched the site mexico-update.com, which points out that most of the violent incidents are happening along the border between Mexico and the U.S., in municipalities such as Tijuana, Chihuahua, and Ciudad Juarez. These areas are as much as 2,000 miles away from popular beach destinations, such as Cancún. Yesterday Mexican officials held a roundtable discussion with reporters. The bottom line? They feel that the media isn't painting the whole picture about where the violence is, which could scare off would-be visitors. There hasn't been a drop in tourists just yet—Carlos Behnsen, executive director of the tourism board, said that in the first few months of the year, tourism numbers are up, especially at beach destinations. But officials worry about the future nonetheless. So what to do, eager traveler? The dollar is strong against the peso, and travel wholesalers are discounting like crazy in the tourism hotspots. But the U.S. State Department renewed a travel alert for Mexico on Feb. 20 for a reason—Mexico has a drug-trafficking problem, and violence is at a peak. If you decide to go, take common sense precautions (as always). Our thanks to the dozens of readers who have commented on our last post on this subject. Feel free to share more of your stories.

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