When going through airport security this holiday season, here are a few pointers to keep in mind: Wear shoes that easily slip on and off; have easy access to your computer and bagged liquids, so you can quickly transfer them to a tray; and lay off on the large metal accessories and other clothing items that might elicit a beep from the metal detectors. If you're a seasoned traveler, use the Black Diamond lane, now available at 48 airports, including Tampa International. If you're traveling with kids or just need a little more time to get through security, try the family lane; almost all national airports have at least one. In order to save time on all subsequent trips, you can apply to the Registered Traveler Program, which then fast-tracks prescreened passengers.
Find good food by asking locals
Going on a road trip? Avoid boring chain restaurants and dirty greasy spoons by investigating your options before you hit the road. Two online sources are worth a surf: Chowhound.com and RoadFood.com. Chowhound.com has message boards where you can post questions like, "Where can I find good food between Washington and Columbus?" and wait for the responses to roll in; alternatively, you can search for a city or state to read existing threads. The site also has recipes, a travel blog, an advice column and more. RoadFood.com has reviews of more than 1,300 restaurants across the United States, plus message boards with topics ranging from "Where are the best cinnamon rolls?" (Iowa, it seems) to Trip Reports, where diners write in about new finds along the way. RoadFood.com also sells interactive food-finder maps for $20 a pop.
Dominican Republic downturn
Fewer tourists are flocking to the beaches of the Dominican Republic. New statistics from the Central Bank show that the number of visitors began declining in the second half of the year as the global economy began to weaken. The Dominican Republic is heavily reliant on tourism. It has been the No. 1 Caribbean tourist destination in recent years. The bank reported that total visitors between July and October fell to about 1.1-million. That's a decline of 5.6 percent over the same period from a year earlier. The trend then worsened toward the fall. Both September and October visitor numbers were down 10 percent. Other destinations, including Bermuda and the Bahamas, have also reported declines.
Art museum free to travelers
The New Orleans Museum of Art offers free admission to out-of-state visitors through Jan. 18. The dates coincide with the citywide international art show called Prospect.1 New Orleans, and the museum's exhibit of 108 pieces by jeweler Peter Carl Faberge from the Hodges Family Collection. NOMA is participating in Prospect.1, showing work by nine of the 81 artists featured. The citywide exhibit's organizers wanted every bit of it free. Director John Bullard said the holidays are the perfect time to check out both exhibitions and revisit the permanent collection. After Jan. 18, the museum will return to free admission for state residents and an $8 charge for adults visiting from out of state. The out-of-state charges will be $7 for seniors and $4 for children ages 3 to 17.
Cherokees join with Hard Rock
The Cherokee Nation is planning to brand its expanded 19-story hotel and casino near Tulsa as the Hard Rock Casino Tulsa. Cherokee Nation Enterprises announced the license agreement with Hard Rock Hotel Holdings. As part of the Hard Rock brand, the new resort will include the traditional Hard Rock decor, memorabilia and merchandise, and will have influences from Cherokee heritage and Oklahoma's musical history. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith says the tribe retains full ownership and management of the facility. The $155-million expansion project is nearing completion, with the new gaming floor expected to open this month and the hotel set to open in spring. The agreement still must be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Find a perfect vacation home
Look out, Rentalo. HomeAway.com is taking over the online vacation home rental market. A new round of $250-million in financing and the acquisition of 11 vacation rental Web sites make it a serious competitor. For people who haven't been to the site — it's attractive, has more than 120,000 listings and is user-friendly to boot. The "Travel Deals" section is a natural magnet for travelers. There were tropical hideaways on Kauai, Hawaii, for $85 per night and condos in Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, Mexico, for less than $100 per night. For something different, go to the "Travelers" section and check out "Travel Ideas" for lists of inspiration. The Top 10 Most Unique Vacation Rentals included an igloo in Connecticut, a Bohemian yurt in Santa Barbara, Calif., and a floating inn in Boston. In addition, you also can search for rentals the old-fashioned way — by destination. Are you new to the vacation rental game? No sweat. Once you're in the "Travelers" section, click on "How to Rent" to get a visual diagram and instructions with a step-by-step process.
Compiled from Times wires