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Checking in online for an Alaska Airlines flight last year, I was offered a $50 upgrade to first class on a Seattle-to-Los Angeles flight. You’re darn right I took it. Waiting in line to board an Etihad Airways flight, I was approached by an agent who asked if I would like to upgrade from business to first class for $500.

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Attractive young woman giving passport and ticket back to businessman at airport check-in counter

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Checking in online for an Alaska Airlines flight last year, I was offered a $50 upgrade to first class on a Seattle-to-Los Angeles flight. You're darn right I took it. Waiting in line to board an Etihad Airways flight, I was approached by an agent who asked if I would like to upgrade from business to first class for $500. That one I didn't take, but you get the point: be alert to, and ask about, last-minute upgrades. Do it when you check in at the airport. And don't ignore emailed upgrade offers: American sends me these all the time, mostly on shorter domestic flights. TAP Air Portugal sells upgrades to business class at the ticket counter or gate for about $400 to $500 per flight, depending on load factors.

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If you're on a budget, consider visiting Bali during the lower, wetter season, which runs from October through March. The crowds will be fewer and both hotel rates and flights from abroad are often cheaper, except during the holiday period between mid-December and early January, when crowds swell (particularly with Australian visitors).

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The beauty of the Dominican Republic comes with a risk for natural disasters, particularly hurricanes and earthquakes. Several of the Caribbean's recent storms, including Maria, Irma, and Sandy, passed by without inflicting the major damage found in other parts of the region. The last huge hurricane to directly hit the island was George in 1998. However, there's always a risk that another tropical storm can impact the island. Even hurricanes that don't land on the Dominican Republic's shore may impact flights and shipping in and out of the area.