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Ask T+L : Cell-Phone Check-In, Grand Canyon, Driving Europe

Q: Which carriers allow passengers to check in for flights using a cell phone or BlackBerry? —Ryan Stratton, Columbus, Ohio

A: Continental was the first domestic airline to introduce paperless check-in as early as December 2007, letting travelers receive electronic boarding passes on their iPhones, BlackBerries, or PDA’s (your device will display a barcode that TSA officers then scan at airport security). Just last year, four other carriers—Delta, Northwest, American, and Alaska Airlines—rolled out the technology at terminals in 15 U.S. cities, including New York, Boston, Houston, and Washington, D.C. “The initiative has been hugely successful,” says Mary Clark, spokeswoman at Continental, “and we definitely plan to expand.”

Q: My wife and I will be visiting the Grand Canyon this spring and want to make the most of our trip. What should we do while we’re there? —Jonah Myers, Oakland, Calif.

A: Stay at the historic 78-room El Tovar hotel (888/297-2757; grandcanyonlodges.com; doubles from $174) on the South Rim—an ideal base for exploring the canyon and the surrounding area. Xanterra Parks & Resorts (888/297-2757; grandcanyonlodges.com; trips from $154 per person) has daylong mule trips that begin at nearby Bright Angel Trail and lead to Plateau Point, which overlooks the Colorado River. Or take in the North and South Rims by helicopter; flights depart regularly from Grand Canyon National Airport, just a 15-minute drive from the hotel (Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters; 888/635-7272; 30- to 50-minute tours from $145 per person).

Q: Can you suggest a driving itinerary from Avignon, France, to Piedmont, Italy? —Mary Spagnolo, Lynnfield, Mass.

A: The southern route (starting on France’s A7) takes roughly six hours and is best in spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom. Along the way, stop in the medieval town of St.-Paul-de-Vence, then check in to the four-room Histoires de Bastide (Chemin du Moulin à Farine, Tourrettes sur Loup; 33-4/93-58-96-49; histoiresdebastide.com; doubles from $205), on the Côte d’Azur. Fifteen miles south, you’ll find the recently renovated Picasso Museum (Château Grimaldi, Place Mariejol; 33-4/92-90-54-20), housed in the Spanish artist’s former studio in Antibes. From there, it’s only a three-hour drive on country roads to Piedmont. One thing to keep in mind: if you rent a car in France and return it in Italy, you’ll have to pay an additional fee (up to $400). Auto Europe (800/223-5555; autoeurope.com) is a great source for comparing offers from many different rental agencies, and will lock in your rate at the time of booking.

Ask an Expert: T+L Fashion Director Mimi Lombardo

“Where can I find out more about designer sample sales in New York and how to navigate them?Do you have any tips?” —Laurie Nichols, Ridgefield, Conn.

A: “Start by scouting the New York shopping section of websites such as topbutton.com, or by registering for free event listings at julib.com (Tuesdays and Thursdays) or dailycandy.com,” says T+L fashion director and expert shopper Mimi Lombardo. “The clothing is marked down by as much as 50 percent, so these sales tend to get very crowded. Go between two and four o’clock to avoid the lunch rush, and make sure to enlist a friend to join you—after all, two pairs of hands are better than one. Also, it can’t hurt to visit the designer’s website before you go, to up your odds of recognizing a piece from the current collection. Don’t forget: all sales are final, so make sure to try things on!”

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