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Test-Driving the New Foursquare

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Today, Foursquare unveils its newly refreshed self to the masses—and we got an early look at the overhauled app. The verdict? Falling closer to Yelp than Facebook, the decidedly less-social app is better suited to travelers than ever before.

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Orbitz Rewards Adds Restaurants to Loyalty Program

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On the heels of Priceline’s OpenTable acquisition, Orbitz is getting into the restaurant space—the company yesterday launched Orbitz Rewards Dining, a new program that allows loyalty members to score extra perks for dining at specific restaurants. It’s the result of a partnership with Rewards Network, a Chicago-based company that maintains a database of 11,000 restaurants.

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New App Targets Last Minute Flight Deals

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Last week during our Twitter chat on Best Apps & Websites for Travelers, we asked participants what travel app they’d invent, if given the opportunity. The resounding ask? HotelTonight for flights. Dear readers: ask and you shall receive.

This week, Hopper, a data-driven fare finder that’s largely flown under the radar, is jumping into the spotlight with its new Flight Tonight app. Available for iOS 7 devices, the app aggregates last-minute fares and offers a snapshot of where you could go if you wanted to—quite literally—fly by the seat of your pants. Today’s searches pulled up flights from New York to Savannah for $280, Los Angeles to Vancouver for $352, and Miami to the Bahamas for $282—all round trip fares.

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CheapTickets Loyalty Program: $75 Back on Any Flight

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The OTA wars rage on. Last week, CheapTickets.com launched a loyalty program so worthwhile, we had to do a double take. The proposition: sign up for free at checkout, and you’ll automatically get money back on each booking—the rewards are paid out in the form of credits that can be applied to your next transaction. What you get: $50 back on any flight you book on the website, $75 for any flight booked on mobile, $25 for any hotel booked online, and $50 for hotel bookings on mobile. Unlike almost every other OTA, CheapTickets puts the emphasis on unbundled bookings—the only non-eligible purchases are package deals. And there’s no minimum spend, either, so a $150 ticket from New York to Nantucket would remain eligible for a $75 kickback if booked on mobile. This makes CheapTickets the second OTA to incentivize in-app bookings—Orbitz similarly offers roughly twice the rewards points for bookings made by smartphone.

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Hilton Rolls Out Mobile Room Selection

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Hilton is taking a page out of the airline handbook. This week, the hotel giant announced a plan to open room selection for members of the brand’s HHonors loyalty program—for the first time ever, this would allow guests to review floor plans of open rooms and pick their favorite before check-in. Roll-out is expected for over 650,000 rooms at 4,000 hotels across the Hilton portfolio—including its Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands—by the end of the year, with limited availability piloting by the end of the summer.

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Priceline.com Introduces FunRides, For (Guaranteed) Luxe Car Rentals

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A few weeks back, we got word that Priceline.com was bringing high-end car rentals to the masses via a new program called FunRides, in partnership with a variety of big name rental companies (Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Sixt among them). With a summer trip to Florida already in the works, we took the program on a test drive.

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The Verdict on Amazon's Fire Phone

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The Amazon Fire phone is officially on shelves—and we’ve taken it for a test drive. The verdict? It’s unquestionably a first-generation product with room for improvement, but it succeeds at bringing something new to the table for travelers.

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TransAsia Flight Crashes; 51 Passengers Feared Dead

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It’s been a terrible week in aviation. This morning, reports confirm that at least 51 passengers are feared dead following an accident on regional Taiwanese TransAsia flight GE222, from Kaohsiung to Magong. The short, 35-minute flight was stymied by extreme weather on its course and crashed after a failed attempt to land; the wreckage has been found near the village of Xicun, where the plane is said to have gone up in flames. 54 passengers, including four children, were on board, along with four crew members—all of whom are currently thought to have suffered injuries or fatalities from the crash.

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Kimpton Introduces Progressive New Karma Rewards

Just as airline loyalty programs are making it harder to cash in on rewards, hotels are upping the ante, letting guests earn points for tweets and social media interactions—not just night stays. The latest to join the nascent trend is Kimpton, who today announces a new loyalty program to replace InTouch. The name, Karma, says it all—the more love you give Kimpton, the more love comes back to you. Here’s how it works:

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Expedia Refreshes Loyalty Program

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With airlines devaluing their loyalty programs left and right, the door is wide open for OTAs to benefit—and we’ve certainly seen them try. Orbitz has recently introduced a rewards system (enhanced by their credit card) that offers instant cash back on every purchase—as much as ten percent on certain purchases. Hotels.com offers a free night for every ten you book. And now Expediais jumping back into the game, with a refreshed loyalty program that aims to compete. But does it? Here are the basics you need to know.

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