Making the connection: Find a great deal by buying connecting flights on different airlines to your ultimate destination? Fine, but if those tickets are nonrefundable, don't expect any help if you miss a connection. If you're flying on one ticket, the airline or airlines involved are bound to try to help you if a connection is missed. But if you have two tickets, you are considered a new passenger each time you show up at a ticket counter. So, if your plane to Miami is late and thus you miss your flight from Miami to Brazil, the latter carrier will consider you as being no different from any other no-show. WASHINGTON POST


Refund of credit card fees: If you traveled abroad between Feb. 1, 1996, and Nov. 8, 2006, and used a Visa, MasterCard or Diners Club credit, debit or ATM card, you might be eligible for a piece of the $336 million settlement fund negotiated in a class-action suit. But don't get too excited, unless you're one of the lawyers. They're asking the court for about $91 million in expenses and fees. The most that consumers in the suit are likely to get: about $25 each. The suit involves those noxious 1 to 3 percent foreign-transaction fees. The plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court lawsuit allege that the companies conspired to set the fees and failed to adequately disclose them. The defendants contend that the fees were properly disclosed, but they chose to settle anyway. Eligible travelers have three options for making a claim. The easiest one is to sign a form for a $25 refund. That's best if you've used the above cards to spend $2,500 or less overseas. Claimants have until May 30 to make a claim (1-800-945-9890, WASHINGTON POST


Great towers to scale: If you've been to the Space Needle in Seattle, the Sydney Tower in Australia, the CN Tower in Toronto and the Eiffel Tower, you've got a good start to a tower collection, but there are plenty more to scale. Check the World Federation of Great Towers website ( for a comprehensive list of some impressive structures. Try the Ostankino Tower in Russia, the second tallest in the world at 1,771 feet; the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai (and the tallest tower in Asia), 1,535 feet, and the Menara KL in Kuala Lumpur, 1,403 feet. In Dubai, the under-construction Burj Dubai ( recently became the world's tallest building when it reached 1,921 feet. Its final height has not been determined. Closer to home, there is the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas (1,149 feet) and the Sears Tower in Chicago (1,451 feet), the tallest building in North America. SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS


World harbors of happiness: In his comic travel narrative, Eric Weiner, erstwhile foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, visits 10 countries that harbor the secrets of happiness and contentment. In "The Geography of Bliss" (Twelve, $25.99), Weiner surveys "unheralded happy places" beginning in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, headquarters of the World Database of Happiness, where "bliss-ologists" are addressing the issue head on. Weiner tests their findings in the streets of some of the world's happiest countries, wheeling through the Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Britain and India. It is a wide, amusing and ultimately quixotic quest for Shangri-La. The reader will be made happy enough by going along on this journey. CHICAGO TRIBUNE


Hotel prices headed up: Be prepared to pay more for a hotel room next year, according to the annual lodging industry report from PricewaterhouseCoopers' Hospitality & Leisure Practice, which was released Dec. 13. Hotel rates increased 7.5 percent in 2006, and are likely to finish 2007 with a 5.7 percent increase, according to spokesman Bjorn Hansen. For 2008, the price of a hotel room is forecast to go up another 5.6 percent, he said. Hansen said that while occupancy for hotels was down a bit overall for the year, travelers do not appear to be "trading down," or staying in less expensive hotels than they normally would. ASSOCIATED PRESS


Find feathered friends: Birds of a feather like to flock together, and so do bird-watchers. makes that happen by connecting bird lovers around the world. What's hot: You can sign up to become a birding pal or hook up with local enthusiasts where you are headed. You'll find info on where to go to find birds, local resources, birder-friendly lodgings and guides. What's not: The site is mostly lists and maps. Some of the lodgings and guiding listings seem self-promotional. LOS ANGELES TIMES