Lemurs of Madagascar
Leapin’ lemurs! If you want to see these cute and unusual primates, Madagascar is the place to go. The island nation is home to more than 100 varieties of lemur, and Natural Habitat Adventures offers a 13-day tour that promises lemurs galore. Four national parks and a private nature reserve are on the itinerary, and the lemur population ranges from ringtails to indri — the largest lemur — and tiny mouse lemurs. Tours are limited to 10 or 11 people. Private flights are used for getting about the island, and accommodations are in boutique ecolodges. It isn’t cheap, though, starting at $9,995 per person, double-occupancy. The internal flights add another $2,000, and international air is additional (1-800-543-8917; tinyurl.com/yak99fbt).
Alaska is No. 1., Delta is 2
For the third year in a row, Alaska Airlines has earned the top spot in the annual ranking of Best U.S. Airlines by Airfarewatchdog.com, based on the airlines’ performance in canceled flights, customer satisfaction, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and on-time arrivals. Following Alaska were Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, United, American, Virgin America, Frontier and Spirit. In the individual categories, Delta had the best record for on-time flights, and United was best in fewest canceled flights. Check out all of the ratings at tinyurl.com/yaaq5pvs.
Crackdown on cancellations
Starting Jan. 1, Hyatt no longer allows last-minute cancellations without a penalty. To avoid the charge, guests must cancel at least 48 — not 24 — hours in advance. Guests enrolled in loyalty programs can still cancel a day before arrival at most brands. Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group also tightened requirements last year. Some savvy travelers offer a strategy to avoiding cancellation fees, but consult your conscience before proceeding. They recommend changing the date of your reservation. Though you might have to pay a difference in rate, most hotels don’t penalize guests for switching dates — yet.
Legal pot in California
On Jan. 1., California became the nation’s largest state to offer legal recreational marijuana sales. In general, California will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot. The state in December began licensing businesses for the new economy, including retailers who will sell it and distributors who will move it from fields to storefronts. There is no smoking in public, and state law forbids smoking while driving. Local governments are free to set rules for smoking at what some call cannabis cafes or lounges, but that will vary from city to city.
Safest year ever
Your legroom and your patience for bag fees shrank in 2017, but there was one historic positive outcome for air travelers. Not one person died in an accident on a commercial passenger jet the entire year, the safest year ever, according to two airline safety groups. The statistics exclude deaths involving military and cargo airline crashes and accidents involving smaller, propeller-powered aircraft, like the 12 passengers killed in a Cessna crash in Costa Rica on Dec. 31. The Aviation Safety Network estimated there were nearly 37 million flights in 2017, more than any year in history, meaning that aircraft mishaps are declining even as the number of flights continues to rise.