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New Book for Barbecue Fans

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Need inspiration for a summer road trip? Look no further than The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, by T+L contributor Daniel Vaughn. The new release is jam-packed with over 200 pit stops throughout the Lone Star State—as well as a guide to the different style of Texas ‘cue and the stories behind the pitmasters. To execute this true labor of love, Vaughn clocked an estimated 10,000 miles—but with chapters devoted to individual regions, it offers plenty of smaller itineraries that’ll ramp up your appetite. Need extra persuasion? See the Austin-based, BBQ-obsessed trip that Vaughn created for T+L right here.

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 Anthony Bourdain/Ecco

 

 

Tech Thursday: A Playlist to Cure Your Fear of Flying

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Listen up, airlines—it’s time to start playing Adele’s Someone Like You on the PA as you’re boarding your flights. According to research launched today by music service Spotify, the song is the perfect tune to settle travelers’ jittery nerves, thanks to its ideal tempo (67 bpm) and harmonious tones. About one in four fliers suffer from some sort of travel-related fear, says the study by London-based anxiety psychologist Dr. Becky Spelman, who helped Spotify identify characteristics in songs that are most de-stressing (see the full recommended playlist here). But tuning in is just the first step: breathing in time to the rhythm, listening on headphones, and closing your eyes will all work together to theoretically lower your heart rate and blood pressure, stimulate both sides of your brain, and calm your mind. Fly on, frazzled road warriors, fly on.

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

 


New York's Soho Grand Launches the City's First Hotel Dog Park

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Thinking of bringing Spot to the Big Apple? Guests at the Soho Grand Hotel—a dog-friendly hotel if there ever was one—now have a couple of new amenities for their furry companions. This weekend, a dedicated dog run opened its gates—complete with fire hydrant water stations, bespoke benches, and design by gardener-to-the-stars Rebecca Cole.

But make no mistake: this isn't a place where your pup will run laps on end (this is New York after all; space comes at a predictably high premium). With downtown-inspired graffiti and oh-so-chic garden decor (yes, that's ornamental kale), it's the ideal place to teach your pup about the virtues of unwinding—that's what vacation is for, right?

See: America's Best Dog-Friendly Hotels.

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 SoHo Grand

HotelTonight Introduces New “Snap Your Stay” Feature

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With a new update that was released last week, HotelTonight is seemingly taking a page out of the TripAdvisor playbook by adding user-generated content. But unlike the user-generated review giant, HotelTonight’s “Snap Your Stay” feature cuts out the issue of subjectivity: What they’re calling “reviews” are really no more than user snapshots documenting their hotels room’s view, bed, bathroom, and so on. Semantics aside, it’s a natural fit and welcome addition for the mobile booking platform, where users aren’t particularly inclined to read paragraphs of unreliable content. And it offers a genuine, objective look at whether a hotel will fit your particular needs.

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Go Around the World for 60 Days with DoubleTree

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This week, DoubleTree by Hilton debuted DTour, a devoted YouTube channel created in collaboration with Google that lets travel aficionados add their favorite tips—or find inspiration—on a constantly evolving map of the world. While the hotel’s budding relationship with Google raises our eyebrow, we’re currently most excited about the prospect of winning a DTour of a Lifetime—an eight-week, all-inclusive trip around the globe.

Want to enter for your chance to win? Upload a video with your favorite travel tip to the DTour map by May 31—the six most promising global correspondents will be sent around the world to document their adventures for the brand.

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 DoubleTree by Hilton

 

Tech Thursday: How to Turn Your Hotel Stays into Airline Points

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In the last few months, we’ve been tracking two new sites, PointsHound and RocketMiles—both trying to disrupt the stronghold of Expedia and Travelocity by offering airline points in exchange for hotel stays. How does it work? Consider it a big circle of back scratching, where hotel sale commissions buy airline miles that get passed on to you, the consumer, who’s still getting a best rate guarantee. And not only are the hotel rates good—an average booking can earn upwards of 7,000 miles with your preferred carrier.

To put them head to head, we entered an identical search heading to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend with United Mileage Plus as our preferred reward currency. The Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificent Mile showed up on both searches: $169 a night with 7,000 miles at RocketMiles; the same price at 6,500 miles with PointsHound. Some comparisons were less evenly matched: The Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown netted 2,100 miles on PointsHound, and almost double at RocketMiles, for the same price. Incidentally, prices were equal to or better than what the hotels were offering on their own sites, and the same as Expedia’s current rates.

But PointsHound gets an advantage in two key criteria: it offers much more variety in inventory (whereas RocketMiles had just 8 hotels available in Chicago, PointsHound had far too many to count, including some of our favorite properties). And by booking regularly on PointsHound, you “level up” and become eligible for even greater rewards. Regardless, both are tools we’ll be keeping in our back pockets.

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 PointsHound

 

Tech Thursday: Dell’s New, Travel-Friendly Convertible Ultrabook

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Love the portability of a MacBook Air and the versatility of the Surface? Somewhere right in between is Dell’s XPS 12 (from $1199), which hit shelves last October with a slick, rotating touchscreen that flips around from laptop to tablet. You won’t get bogged down with this one in your carry on—it weighs in at under 3.5 lbs (less than a pound heavier than its Apple competitor) and its 12-inch monitor feels substantial enough for productivity, with the advantages of a full chicklet keyboard and Windows 8 Pro (which we prefer by leaps and bounds to the less-intuitive, tablet-specific Windows 8 RT). Unlike other ultrabooks, the XPS12 comes with 256 GB of storage in a Solid State hard drive—doubling most of its close competitors—but all this means you’ll want to use it as a laptop first, and tablet second.

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 Dell

E-Hail Apps Back in New York City

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While car-sharing services are getting shot down on the West Coast, things are finally looking up for “e-hailing” taxis in New York City. Last week, a State Supreme Court case prohibiting their use was dismissed, and as of today, two e-hail apps are back in action in the Big Apple.

Uber made its debut in the New York marketplace last September, but was quickly snuffed out of business over legality concerns; now, it’s back in action as of Tuesday night. Users can book black cars from their mobile phones, but mobile payments are currently not available as they were previously.

Hailo, the only other app approved thus far, launches today with less name recognition but extra perks, from mobile payment to $10 credits for early adopters. Rather than livery-style cars, Hailo works exclusively with yellow taxis in New York.

Expect a glut of new NYC-based e-hail apps to hit the market in the next months, as developers wrap their heads around the new legislation. Part of the deal: participants must be able to integrate with the existing meter system for NYC cabs, and go through an approval process by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Still, the value of these apps is greatest in cities like San Francisco, where hailing a cab isn’t as easy as stepping onto any street corner and sticking out your arm. The laws keeping e-hail apps out of business in California—and other parts of the country—are antiquated at best; we can only hope New York’s example sets a precedent for the cities that need these services most.

See: How to Hail a Cab in NYC.

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 Maria Pedone


 

Tech Thursday: Ventev Rapid Two-Way Chargers

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We’ve all been there: only one outlet free in the airport terminal and you've got both a dead laptop and a dying phone. Or in the hotel, with one adapter and too many gadgets to charge.

Enter Ventev, whose tiny two-way wallport acts like a power strip for juice-hungry road warriors. It has one standard US electrical plug (a converter is still necessary abroad; we love this one) and two USB inputs at the bottom. They charge gadgets up particularly fast, and the eye-catching colors on the tangle-free connectors have us ditching our standard issue cables.

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 Ventev

TripAdvisor Launches GreenLeaders, Just in Time for Earth Day

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How green is your getaway? To determine exactly how evironmentally responsible your destination is, TripAdvisor has lauched its GreenLeaders program. In the works for over a year, GreenLeaders rates green hotels and B&B’s on a scale of five levels, and broadcasts the exact details of what each of those properties is doing to operate on an energy budget.

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