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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.

Read More

Tech Thursday: Mosey.com Launches

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There’s no shortage of tools to figure out how to make the most of your limited vacation time. Launching today, Mosey.com jumps into a crowded space of itinerary planners and micro-guides—but with a few unique features that make it stand out. Like our own Weekend Getaways or The New York Timeswonderful 36 Hours pieces, Mosey offers condensed itineraries for travelers, but here, they hover closer to a short four hours. Want to try a bar crawl in New York’s East Village or art-hunting around San Francisco’s Mission District? Mosey offers focused, niche adventures, each compiled by users looking to serve as digital tour guides. Naturally, each Mosey can be shared via social networks or kept private—but just scrolling through user suggestions provides a lovely way to get inspired.

Read More

Tech Thursday: The Solar Plane Heading Across America

Think solar-powered airplanes are the talk of futurists? Not really. Solar Impulse, a company started by two innovative engineers, has been flying by the power of the sun since 2010, when it accomplished an incredible 26-hour flight without an ounce of fuel. Their plane, covered in solar panels across the length of its 208-foot wingspan, is now embarking on a new mission, criss-crossing America to raise awareness for sustainable energy.

The journey begins on May 1, with stops in San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York. But keep an eye out for open houses, where guests will be able to check out the plane in all its high-tech glory at various airports (the first is tentatively slated for next Saturday at Moffett Federal Airfield, in San Francisco).

As for the company’s next goal? A flight around the world, currently scheduled for 2015.

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

 

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.

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