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A Travel Blog from the Editors of T+L

RSS Feed Posts by Nikki Ekstein

Kudos to the Webby Awards’ Travel Nominees

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Since 1996, the Webby Awards have been saluting the best web-based innovations of each year, from site design to the best e-shopping destinations and everything in between. This year’s nominees were announced today, and the travel candidates include some of our favorites, from Kayak to Hipmunk and TripAdvisor—all of whom took prominent spots on our own Best Apps and Websites list. One surprise nominee: Unique, a website focusing on city-specific micro-guides, primarily in European cities like Brussels or Rome. It’s new on our radar, but a gem of a find.

Among the 11 honorees from which the five nominees were chosen is yet another treasure trove of resources, from The Most Perfect View (which finds hotel rooms with postcard-worthy exposures) to yours truly—Travel + Leisure. (Thanks, Webbys! We couldn’t be prouder to be part of such great company.)

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

SFO Moves to Block Car Sharing Services

Here today, gone tomorrow: FlightCar, that quirky car-sharing company we recently told you about, has been shut down by SFO.

And it's not alone: Also on the airport's cease-and-desist list are five other ride sharing companies, from UberX to InstantCab, according to The Huffington Post's Aaron Sankin. Why the sudden crackdown on automotive sharing startups? Apparently the tech-forward companies have been getting an easy break thanks to legal loopholes that don't require them to hold licenses from the California Public Utilities Commission, and taxi drivers—who not only need the licenses but pay fees for each airport ride—aren't too happy about it. But that doesn't mean it's game over for the six companies at stake, as a hearing is scheduled to determine their future later this month.

Our prediction? FlightCar will live on, sans curbside pickup service. As for the companies whose core premise includes a driver? They may not be so lucky.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Tech Thursday: NowCation and the Rise of the Destination Agnostic

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We’re noticing a funny trend around here. From GetGoing, the site that surprises you with one of two affordable vacation choices, to mystery vacation deals at numerous airlines and travel agencies, all fingers point to the rise of the Destination Agnostic: A traveler who cares not where she goes, so long as she goes somewhere without breaking a budget.

Into this trend falls NowCation, a site that offers "getaway deals" at rock-bottom prices—if you’re willing to leave the dates and destination up to the computer. Just plug in your departure city and the program gets to work, instantly suggesting where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. This morning, deals from New York’s JFK included ten nights in New Orleans (hotel and air included) for $802 and San Juan, Puerto Rico for four nights for $467 (also inclusive of hotel and air). Package deals like these offer the best value, but those who prefer to choose their own accommodations can purchase airfare alone.

The deals don’t always make sense—we’ve seen suggestions for vacations whose departure date was in the past, or for 2-day stints in Europe where you’d barely get settled in before checking out. But that’s what happens when you let an algorithm—not a human—tell you where to go.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Nowcation

Trip Doctor: Smart New Initiative Rethinks Bottled Water in Hotels

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You already knew that the bottle of Evian on your hotel room nightstand comes with a hefty price tag. But if you happen to see a swanky, Yves Behar-designed bottle next time you’re traveling, that charge will go to a good cause.

Last week, a number of luxury hotel chains, including several Ritz-Carltons, Dusit International, Banyan Tree, Six Senses, Soneva, and others have signed on to a new campaign called Whole World Water, whereby each property will filter, bottle, and sell their own water rather than importing. The proceeds go to various clean water programs around the world, yielding an estimated $1 billion-a-year to resolve our global water crisis.

Speaking about what prompted the idea, co-founder Jenifer Willing said, "There are one billion people who live without clean water, and one billion tourists travelling the globe each year." And the idea has (sea) legs: Richard Branson, Edward Norton, Treehugger founder Graham Hill, and Charity: Water president Cristoph Gorder are all pledging support. We couldn’t agree more.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of World Water

Tech Thursday: Your Travel-Friendly Google Reader Replacement

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New reading apps and aggregators are in the spotlight this week, as Google Reader officially goes dark. And as it turns out, our favorite replacement for Google's popular RSS reader is a proving a great tool for travel planning, too: Feedly not only aggregates content from your favorite blogs, it also de-clutters the search process so that you can easily find the inspiration you’re looking for. (Think: #London #food.)

For users of the old Google Reader, Feedly will still deliver all the basic functions you’ve come to know and love (though we haven’t yet found a way to search for other people’s reading bundles). Google Reader subscriptions are automatically updated into your Feedly stream, to make the transition seamless. And to improve upon the old model, Feedly introduces magazine-style reading, with big, splashy images that feel far less daunting than a long list of headlines.

After a pilot run, our favorite travel features are without a doubt access to hotel deals. A reading list filled with special offers from Expedia, Orbitz, and each of the Starwood brands (Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, W, Westin, to name a few), is teasing us today with free champagne and breakfast in bed in Paris, or a free night’s stay in Hong Kong. And on other tabs, our London, Paris, and Rome lists offer the latest on museum exhibits, restaurant openings, and cultural events. What’s not to love?

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Feedly

Trip Doctor: How the U.S. is Losing Tourists at the Airport

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Do you sometimes need a reminder of how great it can be to travel in the U.S.? Apparently overseas travelers do too. According to a new survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, 43% of foreign travelers will tell their friends to avoid coming to the States. But it’s not cultural, culinary, or political differences that are turning off the international crowds—it’s our customs entry process, which 84% of visitors complain about and believe could be vastly improved. The survey polled 1,200 non-U.S. Resident overseas travelers—of whom 1 in 7 missed a connection because of long customs lines. First impressions really do speak the loudest, it seems.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo by Jeff Greenberg / Alamy

Tech Thursday: Google’s New Field Trip App

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Want the Google results without the search? That's essentially the conceit behind Field Trip, the tech giant's latest app for iPhone and Android that helps you find the great things nearby. First, tell the app a little bit about your interests—are you an architecture buff? Do you search for deals wherever you go? Maybe it's just little-known historical trivia that adds color to your neighborhood walks. Either way, Field Trip will cast its net for the parameters you set—no matter how broad or specific.

The results are impressively curated, pulling from all our favorite local resources, from Eater to Thrillist to Remodelista—all blogs whose recommendations we’re happy to follow. Additionally, the app filters in special deals on offer through other apps, like Scoutmob, so that we could net 50% off an Italian restaurant 147 meters away. But our favorite feature was feeling like we had our own little guide in our pocket, telling us that The Godfather was filmed one block away or that T+L's building was a hugely popular Vaudeville venue in the early 20th-Century. Who knew?

Like most apps that rely on tracking your location, this one can drain your battery if you're not careful. But it won’t keep us from exploring our own city—or those that we visit—any time soon.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo by Nikki Ekstein

Trip Doctor: Aloft Pioneers Apple TV Pilot Program

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If you're prone to downloading the entire seasons of Breaking Bad onto your iPad before a trip, this will be welcome news: Aloft, Starwood's intrepidly tech-savvy brand, is testing the in-room entertainment system of tomorrow, with Apple TV as its anchor.

In every Aloft room, you'll find a Jack Pack, which plugs into your laptop or mobile devices and projects the content onto your in-room HDTV. Now with AppleTV, guests can use their TV in a huge variety of ways: As a stereo system for music, a medium for editing photos, or perhaps most useful, a big screen for streaming Netflix or iTunes movies.

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Tech Thursday: Free Airport Parking, Courtesy of FlightCar

FlightCar

Certain things can only work on the West Coast—take, for instance, FlightCar, a new San Francisco-based startup that lets you loan out your car while it's parked at the airport. The concept is a win-win in theory: travelers get their expensive parking tab subsidized by approved renters, who get a better deal (and maybe even a nicer car) in return.

The program has recently piloted at SFO, with expansion plans in the works. And so far, the selection of cars is promising, ranging from a 2005 BMW 3 Series to a 2008 Honda Accord on a trial search (both would cost $46 a day to rent—compared to $150 for similar models at Hertz or Enterprise).

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Tech Thursday: Brightbox Mobile Charging Services

Hotels have always found ways to draw in the locals—be it with rooftop cocktails or easily accessible bathrooms in the lobbies. Up next? Public charging stations that allow you to plug in your phone for some quick juice on the go courtesy of new company, Brightbox. The devices, shown above, are popping up in Sheraton and Andaz hotels, to name a few.

Of course, there are outlets available in most hotels' common areas, but Brightbox is a bit different since you don't need your own power cord and Brightbox lets you lock your phone in a secure box that emits a bright light once your device is fully powered. (Hence the name.) What you do while you wait is up to you. We won’t judge if you just end up back at the bar.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

 

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