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Something To Declare: Ryanair's bag fee rise; airmiles' final deadline; Ukraine, via Poland; California's West Coast


Warning of the week: Ryanair's bag fee rise

Take care when booking a holiday on Ryanair: a family of four could pay charges of more than £1,000, in addition to the cost of their plane tickets.

For bookings made from Wednesday onwards, for travel in June-September 2012, the online charge increases by £5 to £25 per bag per passenger per flight. You can reduce the luggage liability by booking your summer trip by next Tuesday, 14 December; the existing rates will apply until then.

If you fail to book bags in advance, the rate rises to £100 per case – £800 for a family of four on a return trip. The "boarding card reissue penalty" is rising by half to £60 per person per flight. So a careless family will pay £1,280 on top of the fare.

Tip of the week: Airmiles' final deadline

Three weeks ago, more than two million holdings of Airmiles loyalty points were converted to Avios, a new currency – and the rules were changed to oblige passengers to pay "taxes, fees and charges" for their reward flights. But if you book by phone within the next few days, you can still obtain flights according to the old rules. Call 0844 49 333 99 by 8pm next Thursday,15 December.

Bargain of the week: Ukraine, via Poland

The largest country wholly in Europe, Ukraine is suddenly on the map as co-host for the Euro 2012 football championships. Yet it remains largely undiscovered. Only the capital, Kiev (pictured), has direct air links with the UK. The country's most beautiful city, Odessa, is difficult to reach – but a current promotion by LOT Polish Airlines (lot.com) offers deals from £270 return from Heathrow to the "pearl of the Black Sea".

For an advance preview of Donetsk, where England will play most of their Group matches next June, you can pay as little as £218. You can also visit Lviv via Warsaw for £300. But for this beautiful city, a better gateway is Rzeszow in south-east Poland, served from Stansted by Ryanair.

Destination of the week: California’s West Coast

The ideal way to see America's West Coast, according to many travellers, is driving California's Highway 1. But if you prefer to be a Pacific coast passenger and enjoy the views at leisure, the train provides a grand alternative. The service from San Diego via Los Angeles to Santa Barbara has been upgraded, and offers free Wi-Fi. It runs three times a day, taking around five hours – with significant stretches beside the ocean.

You can break the journey at several points along the way, including Oceanside (for Legoland) and Anaheim (for Disneyland). One train a day (noon northbound, 6.45am southbound) serves San Luis Obispo – which is where the best stretch of Highway 1 begins.

The standard one-way fare for the 232-mile journey, with no need to book in advance, is $41 (£27). For comparison, the fare for the same distance between London and Darlington is £105.

For more details, see AmtrakCalifornia.com.

Simon Calder's latest film, on US trains, can be seen above