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Rent an Entire Country?

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When it comes to vacation rentals, we’re all familiar with hotels, resorts, villas, yurts, and boats. But what if you had the chance (and budget) to take it to the next level, and rent an entire country? (No, there’s no typo there. And yes, you read that right.)

Airbnb.com, a vacation rental site that lets people rent out their own properties to travelers looking to stray from the typical hotel stay, is really stepping up its game with this offer, which (literally) puts the key to the small country of Liechtenstein (which rests on Austria’s western border) in your hands. But you’ll need to be a high-roller (or at least have a ton of friends willing to pool resources) if you want take advantage; the cost is $70,000 per night.

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Nextpedition: Surprise Vacation Planning

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I've never made a travel itinerary for any trip I’ve taken. Why not? Partly because when I’m on vacation, I like to go with the flow. But it’s also because I don’t really like to spend a ton of time researching. Let’s not forget that half the fun in traveling to a new destination is the excitement that comes from the unexpected.

Knowing there are quite a few folks out there who think similarly, American Express, T+L’s parent company, developed a new booking service it's calling Nextpedition (tomorrow is its grand debut). Primarily targeting twentysomethings, Nextpedition creates trips based on your travel profile. But here’s the catch: you won’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing until the last minute.

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Final Four Deals at Four Seasons Hotel Houston

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My experience in the world of sports piqued when I joined my local tee ball league; I spent my time in left field picking flowers and after hitting the ball, I may or may not have run to third base first. Needless to say, I don’t know a thing about sports.

That being said, I’m told that the NCAA Final Four (that’s basketball, folks) is upon us, and to celebrate, since the games are being played in Houston, Four Seasons Hotel Houston is offering some pretty cool specials. If you're a local and weren't able to score tickets (or just happen to be breezing through town), and want to enjoy the games in style, hit up the Lobby Lounge for salmon sashimi cleverly shaped like basketballs. (Just try to tell me those aren’t awesomely adorable.) For $16, you’ll score four.

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Grab Your Delta Boarding Pass...on Facebook!

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Last year Delta introduced the option for folks to purchase tickets through an app built into their Facebook page. This year, it's taking it a step further, and letting users access its boarding passes without ever leaving Facebook. (The same 24 hours pre-flight time limit that's used on the official Delta site still applies.)

What else can you do?

- Check flight status.
- View trip details.
- View what in-flight amenities will be available for your specific flight.
- Share your flight information with your Facebook contacts.

Pretty cool stuff. (And further proof that Facebook is soon destined to be your one stop spot for, well, everything.)

2010-hs-josh-pramisjpgJoshua Pramis is an online associate editor and resident tech guru at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis

Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Matthews.

NYC Wants Its Rude Rep Back

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David vs. Goliath.

Cain vs. Abel.

Tyson vs. Holyfield.

Sure, those fights were pretty epic, but they pale in comparison to one battle that has been going on since the dawn of time…or, y’know, for a few decades. Or something. I’m talking about the duel between NYC and Los Angeles.

Residents from the bicoastal cities historically have been actively engaged in an extreme competition to be the best of the best. But a new blog, based in of one of those cities (New York), is beginning a campaign to win a different, seemingly unexpected title: rudest.

Yep. Rudest.

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Trend Alert: Restaurants Using iPads as Virtual Sommeliers

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With the release of the iPad nearly one year ago, the device is changing the way we do business. And while it might seem an unlikely combination, even restaurants have hopped on the bandwagon. Yes, a handful are loading their menus onto iPads for customers to peruse—a costly and wasteful business practice, all in the name of flashiness, as far as I'm concerned. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about; there are more and more turning iPads into useful (and yes, flashy) tools that actually improve the dining experience.

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Holograms Debut at British Airports

London’s Luton and Manchester airports officially have received a Trekkie–approved makeover. Starting today, passengers approaching the security check-in sections of the airports will welcomed, and given instructions, by holograms. Well, sort of. They’re not holograms in the traditional sense, they’re close (and cool) enough. Large sheets of glass are cut into the shape of people, with images of attendants Holly and Graham—get it??—projected onto them.

The idea is not to replace airport security staff with holograms, but to “help them to do their job even better, by communicating compellingly and consistently,” according to Glyn Jones, managing director of London Luton Airport.

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Trend Alert: Hotels Implementing the Latest Tech Devices

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I was discussing with my colleagues earlier today my relative inability to unplug myself from the world, no matter where I am. So it’s fitting that, shortly after this discussion, I received an e-mail from the Lanesborough in London, telling me about their newest guest service: the installation of Mac minis in each of the hotel’s 95 guestrooms. (Which, when you think about it, is an interesting contrast: the sleek, stylish white devices surrounded by the Georgian-style décor of the hotel.)

This additional resource lets guests access more/better TV and movie choices, as well as a place to plug in their own personal iPods, iPhones, and iPads—even personal digital cameras and jump drives, if need be. (Not to mention, access to the Internet and programs standard on any new Mac, like iLife.)

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French Mansion Opens as Museum After 100-Year Lockdown

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Though I’d be lying if I claimed to be an avid history buff, I am absolutely enamored with exploring old structures, browsing through authentic, antique/ancient artifacts, and feeling as though I'm traveling to another time, even if for just a few moments. And now, thanks to the efforts of the local authorities in the town of Moulins—about 190 miles south of Paris—I now feel compelled to travel to central France for just such an opportunity.

After about 100 years of sitting locked up, untouched by the outside world, a townhouse built in the late 1800s is open to the public, after a $4.7 million dollar restoration.

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InterContinental Covers Guests' Airline Baggage Fees

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Nobody likes checked luggage fees, but let’s face it: they’re a part of air travel now. So if you’re one of those people who, like myself, find it difficult to restrict your vacation packing to the size of a carry-on, you just have to accept the fees as part of the price to pay for getting away. (And yes, I know what you're thinking. I work in travel. I should be able to rock the carry-on. In theory, I do know how. In practice, well...that's another story.)

However, if you book with any of the 4,500 InterContinental Hotel Group’s properties scattered across the world any time from now through April 30, 2011, the company will reimburse guests up to $100 per stay for their roundtrip baggage fees. For rebate details, take a look at the official IHG page.

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Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor and resident tech guru at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis.

Photo © iStock.

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