Something to declare: Rome; US baggage worries; Australia for less

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The Independent Travel

Bargain of the week: Rome, after Easter

Travelling to the Italian capital in April usually means high fares, thanks to high demand. But this year's early Easter means that you can find cheap flights to Rome next month from airports all over the UK. These fares are for a long weekend, travelling out on 14 April and back on 18 April, and were valid this week; they will rise closer to departure, and are higher if booked by phone.

Flying from Birmingham, British Airways (0870 850 9 850; www.ba.com) has a fare of £157 to the main Leonardo da Vinci airport at Fiumicino. From Manchester, the BA flight to the same destination costs £186. From Newcastle and Nottingham, easyJet (0905 821 0905; calls cost 65p per minute; www.easyjet.com) has flights for £101 to Ciampino, the secondary airport. The only scheduled service from Scotland is on Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) from Prestwick to Ciampino, costing £122.

Competition is most intense, and fares are lowest, from London. Ryanair flies from Stansted to Ciampino (£39), while easyJet now operates from Gatwick (£76) to the same destination. This puts it head-to-head with BA, which charges £60 more to Fiumicino. From Heathrow to Fiumicino, Alitalia (08705 448 259; www.alitalia.co.uk) and BA are rivals; Alitalia has a fare of £94, BA's is £140.

Warning of the week: US baggage worries

The world's biggest airline, American, has cut its baggage allowance by 18kg (40lb). The standard allowance for transatlantic passengers has long been two pieces with a maximum weight per bag of 32kg (70lb). American has cut this to a maximum of 23kg each. Travellers on itineraries involving another member of the Oneworld alliance - such as British Airways - are entitled to the higher allowance. So if you are flying London-Chicago on BA, and on to Austin on American, the higher limit applies. American Airlines, like most US carriers, continues to offer a generous cabin baggage allowance of 18kg (40lb).

Transit passengers from Britain travelling via the US to another country are now able to check bags straight through to their destination. But Transportation Security Administration inspectors can still break into suitcases to search them. An Independent reader, Matthew Callaghan, reached Managua earlier this month to find a note in his case informing him that the US authorities had opened it. "Should there not be large signs at check-in advising passengers that their expensive baggage may not survive the trip intact?", he asks.

Destination of the week: Australia via the US for less

If you don't mind running the risk of having your luggage ripped apart, United Airlines has a very short-term online promotion offering cheap fares to Australia with free stopovers in the US. Book by midnight on Monday at www.unitedairlines.co.uk and you will pay £692 return from Heathrow to Sydney in November, or just £572 between Easter and 15 June. You can also fly, at a fare £6 lower, to Melbourne. The fares includes a free stopover in each direction at your choice of New York, Washington (right), Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles - where you will have to change planes in any event for the trans-Pacific flight. You are also allowed to "open jaw", eg fly into San Francisco, make your own way south along the Californian coast, and then fly out from Los Angeles.

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