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A Travel Blog from the Editors of T+L

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How to Get a Visa Quickly

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Ever wonder how to get a visa in a hurry? When it comes to visa wrangling, I’m the kind of gal who likes to do hers nice and early. Obviously, that’s not always an option: earlier this month, I had to organize a last-minute work trip to Shanghai in three days.

It had been a while since we’ve covered passport and visa expediting agency Travisa, so I decided to give them a try (the $99 fee seemed a little steep, but I figured it was worth it—one false move on my Chinese visa application and I’d be out of luck). And thank goodness I did: when I arrived at Travisa’s New York office on a recent Wednesday, documents in hand, my case manager identified several crucial mistakes and omissions in my paperwork that would have sent me back to square one. By Friday—the day before my scheduled departure to Asia—I had my passport in my hot little hands.

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Westin Hotels Caters to Marathoners with New Running Concierge

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Westin Hotels is catering to marathoners with its new Running Concierges.

Whether it's a 5K, half-marathon, or the full 26.2 miles, finishing a distance race is no easy feat. Make it a destination race and you'll have even more to think about: what to pack and how to adjust to different time zones and temperatures, to name a few. But the T+L editors love a challange—and any excuse to travel.

Hotels are even picking up on the trend. Westin brand hotels recently teamed up with the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon series (which hosts races year-round across North America and Europe) to offer RunWESTIN participants access to its dedicated running conceirge, Chris Heuisler. Perks include a race course tour (Chris meets with local running associations in each city for insider tips), fitness and recovery advice, and a pasta dinner and breakfast to fuel up for the big day. 

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Trip Doctor: TSA’s Not-So-Great Report Card

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Here’s some news that will make you squirm in your airplane seat: complaints filed against airport security workers have increased by 26 percent over the last three years, according to a new study the Transportation Security Agency released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

About half the cases—9,622 in all since 2010—had to do with attendance and leave (32 percent) and screening and security (20 percent). Shockingly, those screening and security offenses included allowing travelers or baggage to bypass screening, sleeping on the job, drug and alcohol use while on duty, mishandling of classified information, and inappropriate or sexual misconduct. The report also cited a case in 2011 where a transportation security officer at Orlando International Airport pled guilty of embezzlement and theft charges for stealing more than $80,000 worth of laptops and other electronics.

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Trip Doctor: Get a Better Hotel Room (Without Paying More)

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When we’re checking into a hotel, few things make us feel more special or appreciated than a room upgrade. The great thing is that it can happen to just about anyone—especially if you use a little strategy to tip the odds in your favor. Here, four ways to maximize your chances of scoring better accommodations.

1. Check in later in the day, when hotels have a better sense of their open inventory for the night.

2. Be a loyalty-program member.

3. Look for new hotels. They have added incentive to court return guests by giving them upgrades.

4. Book with the website Room 77, a hotel search engine that scans prices and availability through numerous online travel agencies and automatically contacts the hotel you choose to request a room that matches your preferences (room views, higher or lower floors, distance from the elevator, and more).

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo credit: © Louis Laurent Grandadam/Corbis

World’s Best Hotel 2013

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It’s high season for T+L’s World’s Best Awards, and this year’s winners are all abuzz about the news. Ever wonder what it’s like to find out you’re the world’s top hotel? Click here for the heart-warming staff reaction at Botswana’s Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp when they caught wind of their win.

As we kick off the 18th annual award festivities this week, we’re so thrilled to discover that the party has gone global.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is the Travel News Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

Announced: T+L's 2013 World's Best Awards

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

T+L's features director, Nilou Motamed, announces the 2013 winners of Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards, as voted by readers in our annual survey. Whether it's a rustic safari hideaway or a river cruise line, these hotels, destinations, and travel companies represent the best in travel. For all the winners, click here.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is the Travel News Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Eiffel Tower Re-Opens + Paris Hotel News

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The Eiffel Tower has reopened today following a two-day workers’ strike—a perfect excuse for me to start fantasizing about that next trip to Paris. Coincidentally, there’s a spate of hotel news coming out of the City of Light. Here’s a highlight reel:

In the posh 16th arrondissement, the Seine-facing Shangri-La Paris just launched a summer terrace with Eiffel Tower views. If you’re not lucky enough to be staying here, the terrace is open to the public from 5 to 11 p.m. this summer—stop in for a glass of Rosé and watch the sun sink into the horizon. The property also just opened its Garden Wing, adding 20 rooms and suites (half of which have Eiffel Tower views) and a private landscaped French garden.

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United Airline’s New Frequent Flier Minimums

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Woe to frugal miles hoarders like me: United, the world’s largest airline, recently announced annual spending and mileage minimums in order to earn status on its frequent flier program. This seems to be the new reality among legacy carriers: United’s statement comes just a few months after Delta, the world’s second-largest airline, made a similar decree.

Come January 2014, United fliers will need to travel 25,000 miles within a year (or 30 qualifying flight segments) and shell out at least $2,500 total on fares—and buying tickets for other travelers don’t count—to qualify for Premier Silver, the program’s entry-level elite status. And for top-tier 1K Premier status, you need to spend a whopping $10,000. Check out the site for more details.

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Trip Doctor Series: Trekking, Walking, and Hiking (Africa)

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We’re all for seeing Africa’s amazing flora and fauna from the comfort of a vehicle, but have you ever considered stepping out of the jeep and into the wild? As someone always looking for a way to turn up that adventure dial, I know I have. In our May issue’s Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Guide, we call out veteran outfitter Robin Pope Safaris in Zambia, which happens to be the home of the walking safari, for its standout mobile camping trek through a remote part of South Luangwa National Park. Spend your days tracking lions or observing buffalo along the Mupamadzi River bank, and evenings at a roving camp with walk-in tents and Mara campfires. robinpopesafaris.net; eight days from $4,388.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo credit: Monika Hoefler and Jens Schwarz

Trip Doctor Series: Trekking, Walking, and Hiking (Peru)

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This month, travel to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Andes is almost in full swing: if you’re headed to the region and haven’t already asked an outfitter to wrangle your Inca Trail passes, you may be out of luck this season. Luckily, there are plenty of other delightful ways to reach Machu Picchu, which we outline in our Trekking, Walking, and Hiking guide (May 2013). Here’s one of our favorites:
 
SALCANTAY TRAIL

Best for: Creature comforts.

Known as the back door into Machu Picchu, Salcantay is also the area’s highest path (it reaches 15,200 feet). Mountain Lodges of Peru, a string of stone-and-timber inns along the trail, is the only lodge-to-lodge way to reach the lost city of the Incas: take this route on a trip with Wildland Adventures (11 days from $3,800).

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo courtesy of Mountain Lodges of Peru and Wildland Adventures

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