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Are You a Vacationist?



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Unless you live in a box (or worse, don’t have an Internet connection), you already know that private sale websites are the hottest thing du jour.

In case you hadn’t heard, Travel + Leisure has joined the party and teamed up with Luxury Link to form vacationist, a new by-invitation site offering great values on stays at some of the world’s most stylish and luxurious hotels.

Since its official launch last month, flash sales have included such fabulous properties as The Mark in New York City and Mauna Kua Beach Hotel in Hawaii.

vacationist-logo_medgifHere’s just a sampling of what’s available right now:

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Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst in Travel

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I’ve long thought the best travel stories are the ones, well, where things don’t go according to plan. The most memorable tales from the road, it seems, often involve weird characters, bungled reservations, and near misses of all kinds. For this reason, I’ve become a big fan of the TitanicAwards.com, a survey site that celebrates “the dubious achievements in travel” (from Worst Toilet to Most Annoying Tourist Attraction) and can always be counted on for a good laugh. (If you like the LOLcats of Icanhascheezeburger, you’ll love the absurd-but-true findings of TitanicAwards.com.)

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Is the iPad Fit for Travel?

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As part of an early-adaptor household that snagged an iPad the instant it hit shelves this month, I know it’s one thing to play Scrabble while you’re waiting on line for lattes at Starbucks, to burn through a few chapters of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter before bed, or to ogle and caress its sleek form in the privacy of one’s home, but how does this spring’s hottest must-have gadget fare on the road? For starters, at just 1.5 pounds it weighs far less than the average laptop, and airport security is not forcing owners to pull out their iPads for x-raying like they do computers, but there are some caveats (right now) to be sure.

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Europe Flights Take Off, But What About the Backlog?

The first flights to take off in a week may have left London's Heathrow Airport yesterday and many of Europe's airports may once again be open, but there are still thousands of people stranded around the world, unable to fly due to ash from Iceland's recent volcanic explosion.

If you're not one of the lucky fliers who happened to be flying Emirates Air (the airline went above and beyond and is paying for hotel stays and three meals a day for some 6,000 passengers stuck in Dubai!), chances are you're ready for this ordeal to be O-V-E-R. Now, the question us who gets dibs on some of the first flights out?  For details on who goes to the front of the check-in line, check out CNN's excellent Q&A today:


How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific says it is giving priority to unaccompanied minors and students heading back to the UK to sit exams. Singapore Airlines is fast tracking those with "special needs," the elderly and those with infants or young children. Rochelle Turner, head of vacation research for consumer watchdog Which?, says any prioritizing is at the discretion of individual flight operators. "The elderly, the sick, frequent flyers—it's entirely up to the airline who goes first."

Do I need to do anything if I have a ticket on a scheduled flight?
All airlines are advising customers to double check whether flights are going ahead before heading to airports. British Airways is even urging customers with tickets on scheduled departures to consider delaying their travel plans to free up space on planes to allow delayed passengers to travel. In most cases, passengers who hold tickets for a flight due to take off as scheduled should be fine. Says Turner, it is still advisable to call the airline to confirm or check-in online.

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Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.

 

Clear Skies Over Europe? Not Yet

It’s no secret ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano (say that 10 times fast) has choked the skies over Europe since erputing on Apr. 14, grounding hundreds of thousands of flights; stranding passengers on both sides of the Atlantic; ruining (and extending) vacations; and serving as a healthy reminder of the indomitable power of Mother Nature. Here’s where things stand today:

- Iceland’s volcano spewed more ash into the sky Tuesday, continuing restrictions over UK air space and concerns that the cloud could choke jet engines.

- There is still no confirmed safe limit of ash through which an airplane can fly.

- Flights are restricted to those flying above 20,000 feet—above the ash belt.

- Half of the scheduled air traffic in Europe, or 14,000 flights, are said to be operational today.

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Virginia is for (Flower) Lovers

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As a Maine girl through and through, I’ve been a bit confounded lately by my new blossoming obsession with the South—plotting long weekends in Charleston, pouring over my new subscription to Garden & Gun magazine (for the record, it’s more lifestyle than weed-whacking and ammo), and daydreaming about the rolling green hills, gracious historic pockets of Virginia—and the serious bloomage happening there right now. But, I'm rolling with it.

While the Northeast (and probably other parts of the country) has just a few new-season daffodils, cherry blossoms, and electric-yellow forsythia bushes right now, the Commonwealth is ablaze with heart-stopping flora—everything from Osage orange trees and wisteria-laden trellises to rare rose breeds and Elizabethan herb gardens. And this coming week marks its apex: Virginia’s Historic Garden Week (Apr. 17-25), now in its 77th year.

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HomeAway Expands to South America

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Good news for those thinking about an affordable spring or summer rental. We learned this morning that HomeAway, one of the largest vacation rental companies, is expanding its offerings to include homes in South America. With its purchase of Brazil’s top rental site, AlugueTemporada.com.br, HomeAway, with more than 12,000 new properties to choose from, now has the most vacation rentals in the region—and some 453,000 additional homes spread across North America and Europe.

HomeAway appears to be on an acquisitions roll; the company also announced last week it purchased BedandBreakfast.com for an undisclosed sum.

Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.

Image courtesy of HomeAway

Look into My Sole: TSA Shoe Scanners in the Works

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I don’t know about you, but I curse Richard Reid, the goofy-looking “shoe bomber,” every time I have to go through airport security—especially this time of year, when my slip-on, slip-off shoes are deep in storage. Amid talk of high-tech body scanners and some eight years after Reid's failed attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound American Airlines flight by igniting explosives hidden in his footwear, shoe security still proves elusive.

Which brings me to an email I got today from the Transportation Security Administration (if you’re a frequent traveler and don’t subscribe to the agency’s email news list, you should). Its subject line: What Ever Happened To The Shoe Scanner Idea? What ever happened indeed.

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NYC’s Magnolia Bakery Opens in Dubai

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Move over Carrie Bradshaw, Sheikh Mohammed wants a Red Velvet cupcake, too. Today, New York City’s beloved (and occasionally maligned) Magnolia Bakery opened in the UAE at the Bloomingdale’s in the The Dubai Mall—a big move since its only three other locations (for now) are in Manhattan.

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5 Ways to Help Haiti’s Earthquake Victims

If you’ve watched the news, been online, or spoken to anyone today, you probably know that a 7.0 magnitude quake hit last night 10 miles outside of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince—the strongest earthquake in Haiti in over 200 years.

The city's destruction is staggering: thousands of buildings have been leveled, including the Haitian National Palace, but more importantly, there are countless people missing and trapped in the rubble. Officials say that some three million residents, or one-third of the island nation's residents, have been directly affected by the disaster.

It’s no secret that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western world, and it needs our help now more than ever. Consider making a donation at one of these active, on-the-ground charities:

Red Cross: Text “HAITI” to “90999” to give $10 (your cell phone bill will be charged); donate online; or call 800-RED-CROSS

Haitian Musician Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation: Text “YELE” to 501501 to donate $5

Doctors Without Borders: Donate online; email donations@doctorswithoutborders.org; or call (212) 763-5779

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