UPDATE: Starwood has joined the free Wi-Fi ranks. The hotel behemoth recently announced that it will offer complimentary service for all members of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program beginning in February. One hitch: you only get it if you book through an official Starwood channel, including hotel brand websites, SPG.com, and the SPG app.
Hyatt and Hilton: the ball is in your court.
In the last few weeks, two major hotel brands have announced that they will start offering free WiFi: Taj Hotels started November 15, and Marriott next year, on January 15. But before you start cheering, there is a catch: the internet speed is only fast enough for checking email, browsing the internet, and updating social media. All things we do while on the road, sure, but if you were hoping to stream any video or download large files, it’ll cost you.
Last year on my honeymoon to Southeast Asia, I was lucky enough to meet Andy Booth, the founder of the Siem Reap-based tour company ABOUTAsia (and a member of the T+L A-List). A 2013 Global Vision Awards winner, it donates 100% of profits to local schools, buying them uniforms and supplies, digging wells, and providing training and fair wages to teachers. The tours themselves—to the temples and surrounding villages—are perfectly crafted and designed to avoid the crowds; we were always going opposite traffic and even had a few of the smaller temples of Angkor completely to ourselves (an impressive feat for a popular tourist destination).
Even if you can’t travel all the time, the world can come to you—thanks to new subscription services that package items from places near and far into tidy, curated boxes. Try the World assembles locally made food items: chestnut spread in the Paris box, say, or dried seaweed in the Tokyo edition. Hazel Lane is a cheerleader for American crafts, such as art prints from Brooklyn or dip-dye napkins from Austin, Texas. And the collections by A Box From—so far, Seoul and Tehran, Iran—include what founder Elin Aram calls “silly small stuff.” Because nothing says Korean kitsch like a hamburger-shaped notepad.
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.
All aboard! Belmond just announced it is launching its first train in Ireland, the Belmond Grand Hiberian, in summer 2016. Named for Ireland’s classical Latin name of Hibernia, it’ll have 20 luxury sleeper cabins (including four interconnecting suites for families), two restaurant cars, and an observation bar car.
A cacti-filled garden in Morocco, lush country homes in England, a tropical oasis in Florida: the world is filled with countless public and private green spaces—and the new book The Gardener’s Garden brings together more than 250 of the world’s best.
Last week, the Iceland-based Wow Air announced that starting in March 2015, it would offer special introductory fares from Boston and Baltimore: $99 one-way flights to Reykjavik and $228 roundtrip flights to London and Copenhagen. The discount carrier is taking a page from Norwegian, which is now flying out of five U.S. cities, with more to come. (Though unlike Norwegian, it won’t include free WiFi.) As for luggage charges, expect to pay $29 for a carry-on booked online, or $48 at the airport.
Sting relived his past as a cruise ship entertainer with an intimate performance aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 earlier this week. The show took place just two days after the Broadway debut of his first-ever musical, The Last Ship, now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Another week, another nonstop international flight. Over the last year—and into 2015—many overseas airlines, including Etihad, Emirates, Korean Air, and Cathay Pacific, are enhancing their presence in the U.S. market, launching new routes to and from hubs around the world. One of the latest comes from Qantas, whose new nonstop between Dallas and Sydney is now the world’s longest flight, at 8,500 miles and almost 16 hours.
There’s a lot to love about Hopper, a data-driven fare finder that recently launched the Flight Tonight app to search for last-minute airfare. The company recently released results from an internal study, which pinpointed the most popular travel destinations for each state based on flight search data as compared to the national average (versus the most searched destinations for each state). Among the discoveries: Those in Illinois mostly search for flights to Poland, 239% more times than the national average—most likely because Chicago has one of the largest Polish populations in the world.
In a partnership with MIT, Marriott Hotels is trying to revolutionize how business travelers socialize while on the road—and it all begins in the hotel lobby. The centerpiece of the project—currently being tested at the Marriott in Cambridge—is Six Degrees, a social app that taps into LinkedIn accounts to make connections among hotel guests. The app, which only works inside the hotel, is used in tandem with an interactive digital screen and communal LED table in the lobby.