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Best Travel Tips for 2011

Mobile Broadband

“Ever since I put a mobile-broadband hot spot in my car, my kids are angels on long trips.”

The astronomic rise in popularity of smart phones, tablets, and other Wi-Fi-enabled handheld devices has raised the stakes for mobile broadband, the general term for the high-speed data networks provided by cell phone carriers (loosely known as 3G and 4G) that let you access the Internet on the go. Smart phones, of course, have built-in access, but mobile broadband service is also available through PC-compatible USB devices or portable Wi-Fi hot spots. Certain phones (iPhones, BlackBerrys, and some Android phones) now allow a process called tethering, which uses the handset’s data connection to provide Internet access for a PC via USB or Bluetooth. The latest Android phones—Motorola Droid X for Verizon Wireless and the Samsung Galaxy Tab for Sprint, among others—take it a step further by letting you create portable Wi-Fi hot spots using their data connections.

Travel Currency

“Between my JetBlue miles, Hyatt points, and Hertz #1 awards, I could go a week just living off my travel currency.”

Although frequent-flier miles are becoming more difficult to redeem, travelers have more opportunities than ever to earn and spend points at hotels, stores, and elsewhere. Ritz-Carlton, which long resisted the points game, has rolled out a new loyalty program in conjunction with such luxury brands as Vera Wang and Neiman Marcus, allowing guests to redeem points for a day of personalized shopping or makeup consultations. Hilton HHonors members can spend their points on experiences abroad such as falconing in England (75,000 points) or chocolate-making in the Netherlands (50,000 points). A sign that points have truly become currency: Marriott now lets its Elite Rewards members request anything they can imagine—from a round of golf at Pebble Beach to a diamond ring—and ask for the price in points.

T+L Tip: No matter where you’re staying, it never hurts to ask about a loyalty program prior to checking in. Select Registry, an association of B&B’s, awards $25 gift cards for every three nights spent at any of its member inns.

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