Travel Briefs

With United Airlines’ Gift Card Exchange, you can trade the value of unused gift cards for United MileagePlus miles. Only gift cards from approved retailers, including Target, Walmart and rival airlines American and Southwest, can be exchanged (a complete list is available online).

Each gift card must have a balance of at least $15, and multiple gift cards can be exchanged at one time. To qualify, you must have had a MileagePlus account for at least 90 days with no negative...


The makers of the Mobile Passport app (July ’19, pg. 13) have partnered with RushMyPassport (Sept. ’19 pgs. 2, 44) so that travelers now can use the app to renew their passports in as little as 24 hours.

To rush a renewal using the app, click on “Help & FAQ,” scroll down to “Traveling soon and need a passport?,” click on the “Apply now” button and follow the instructions. Passport-mailing options, via FedEx, cost from $118 for...


American Airlines’ smartphone app now can scan the passports of international travelers when it is used for check-in, meaning travelers no longer have to show their passports to the airline’s customer service agent at the airport. This will be advantageous to those who are not checking any luggage and those who are catching a connecting international flight after a domestic flight.

To utilize this feature, the phone must have a near-field communications (NFC) chip. (Most...


The crown prince of Saudi Arabia announced on Dec. 10 that men and women now can eat together in restaurants. Before the decree, every restaurant, even fast-food restaurants, had different entrances for men and women, and, by law, the two genders were separated by, at the least, a screen. Even married couples with children were forced to eat apart. (According to some reports, many restaurants had been ignoring those restrictions.)

Swiss map publisher swisstopo (phone +45 58 469 01 11, released new, updated hiking maps in August. The printed maps (scaled so that 1cm = 0.5 km), are color-coded corresponding to signage on the trails: red for hiking, yellow for mountain hiking and blue for Alpine hiking. Also indicated are SwitzerlandMobility hiking routes for those with mobility issues.

There are maps for 58 regions. Click here to visit. Each costs CHF22.50 (near $23).

Paying the guide only what they feel the tour is worth, visitors to Stockholm can join “free” guided, English-speaking tours with Free Walking Tour Stockholm (Mälartorget 8, 111 27 Stockholm, Sweden; phone +46 073 731 78 80, Other expenses, such as food costs, are paid by each tour member.

Meeting outside the Gamla Stan subway station, the “City Tour” and “Old Town” tour each last 1½-2 hours and occur daily,...


On the 4-day guided experience “Mother & Newborn Cubs,” guests (6 maximum) will have the chance to photograph bear families in Slovenia’s Loka Valley while safe in a bear blind. Slovenia is home to about 560 Eurasian brown bears, which can reach more than 1,000 pounds and over 8 feet in length.

The mother-and-cubs tour departs May 29, June 25 and Aug. 20 & 27. From €660 (near $740) per person, double, includes inn lodging and most meals. Contact...


Starting in Prague, guided hikes in Czechia can be booked with Czech Trek (phone +420 720 31 39 30,

The full-day “Great Escape” and “Wilder Side” hikes (€59, near $66, per person) involve some hill climbing. The half-day “Country Stroll” (€39) is on flat ground. Maximum group size is six. Custom hikes can be arranged.

It is recommended that hikers take the 45-minute train ride (fare not included) from Hlavní...