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CheapAir Becomes First OTA To Introduce Railway Reservations

Cheap Air

I’ve long loved Rome 2 Rio as a transportation guide: it tells you every possible way to get from Point A to Point B, and offers in-line prices and itineraries. Since I started using it, I’ve realized just how efficient train travel can be—factor in security lines and early airport arrivals, and the train can take less time than flying, depending on where you’re going. For the first time, an OTA is in agreement, as CheapAir has announced today that it will be integrating Amtrakrailway reservations into its flight search system. Now, when you search for routes connecting, say, New York and Boston, you’ll see airfares interspersed with train routes, so you can compare prices and schedules. Better yet, you can mix and match airfares and train reservations, so that you can capitalize on a discounted international flight that leaves from a city a few hours away. 

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Hotel Tonight Introduces Look Ahead for "Planned Spontaneity"

HotelTonight

Weary of the unpredictability that comes with a last-minute vacation booking? You’re not alone. But HotelTonight, the always pioneering app for travel procrastinators, is coming to the rescue with a new feature called Look Ahead, intended to facilitate so-called “planned spontaneity.”

Debuting in a handful of the app’s major cities—New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and half a dozen others, with many more rolling out soon—the feature will offer a seven-day estimate of inventory and prices in a particular market, using a proprietary algorithm that factors in local events, weather, and historical data from HotelTonight and other booking engines.

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Google Brings Room 77 Into Its Fold

Yesterday we found out that Google has brought Room 77 into its portfolio of travel tools—and we think it’s big news. While the deal may not be the largest of the company’s partnerships or acquisitions to date, it’s a sign of what’s to come: As far as we can see it, Google is positioning itself to disrupt the travel sphere. Simply consider the acquisitions already in its portfolio, including travel search tool ITA—a $676 million buyout four years ago—Zagat, and Frommers (though the latter no longer belongs to Google, its content was integrated back in 2012). What it all adds up to is a growing arsenal of travel tools ready to be unleashed—the only question is when.

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

Bahamas News: Baha Mar, By the Numbers

Baha Mar

We’ve already introduced you to Baha Mar, the massive-scale resort that’s set to reinvigorate the Bahamian Riviera later this year. But if the $3.5-billion, five-brand hotel and casino has you thinking Vegas, think again: despite being the biggest destination project in the western hemisphere, Baha Mar is surprisingly tapped in to the island’s cultural and natural assets. Here, a by the numbers look:

34: the number of football fields it would take to hold all the sand that’s been brought in to re-nourish the beach at Baha Mar.

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Cool Hotel Amenities

Cool Hotel Amenities: Burberry trench coat

Why stop at Nespresso machines and turndown chocolates? When it comes to services and perks, some brands are taking things to the next level. Here, a few of our favorites.

Before: The hotel umbrella
After: Burberry trenches in every suite
Seen At: Maybourne Hotel Group

Before: Welcome wishbones
After: Puppies as concierges
Seen At: Kimpton

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Westin's New Wellness Program Gets You a Little More Headspace

Columbus Circle

Travelling is one of the best ways to clear your mind—or at least that’s what Westin is hoping to prove. Starting next month, the Starwood brand will be offering seven meditation-themed video modules curated by London-based company Headspace, who has also created in-flight mediation sessions for Virgin Atlantic. They’ll help travelers zen out at the most stressful moments of their trips (say, at the airport or before a business meeting) or offer calming exercises to practice before bed. Sound a little new age? I tried a session with Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe—a once-Buddhist monk and former circus artist (yes, you read that right)—and was pleasantly surprised. Rather than feeling like a scene from hippie-ville, the 10-minute experience was as relaxing as a full yoga class. And with an emphasis on mindfulness rather than total mental silence, it seemed like a great way to reawaken your senses to the different stimuli of a new place. Find the videos on Westin’s website starting next month.

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


Photo courtesy of Westin Hotels & Resorts

Kayak's Package Search: A New Way to Find the Best Deal

Kayak

True or false: booking a hotel and airfare package is cheaper than booking each component separately. If you guessed true, you’re right—most of the time, anyway. But there are exceptions. Helping you navigate those murky waters is Kayak, which has just launched a tool to aggregate package pricing and help you find the best options.

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JetBlue’s Mosaic Challenge Offers Free VIP Status For Flyers

JetBlue

Delta’s loyalty plan changes—which shift focus from miles travelled to dollars spent—has the travel world abuzz, and JetBlueis getting in on the action. Their just-launched Mosaic Challenge invites high-ranking members of various airline loyalty programs (Delta, America, and United among them) to try JetBlue’s VIP perks on for size—and see what they like better. The parameters: anyone with status (gold and above, in most cases) will automatically qualify for TrueBlue Mosaic for the rest of 2014. If they earn 3,750 base flight points in their first 90 days with TrueBlue, they’ll keep Mosaic status through the end of 2015.

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OpenTable Offers New Program for Last-Minute Reservations

OpenTable

The most frustrating part of planning a trip? Not being able to score the right restaurant reservations (well, for this foodie, anyway). Several city-specific tools have cropped up to serve those of us who are both discerning eaters and poor planners (SoonSpoon.com in Boston; TableSavvy in Chicago; New York’s @LastMinuteEatin’ on Twitter), but today OpenTable is announcing a new program that will take the model coast to coast.

With Hot Tables, OpenTable lets VIP users (those who make at least 12 reservations a year) sign up for alerts when their preferred restaurant is already booked—anyone who has signed up for the alert will get a text message notification the second a table opens up. (In other words, there will still be competition.) Sound a lot like Rezhound? That’s because it is—the independent site had been offering the exact same service without being under OpenTable’s purview, proving just how much demand there might be for an official product.

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First Look: Priceline Debuts New Hotel and Flight Search Tools

Priceline's Hotels Near Me

Priceline’s introducing some exciting new features today—and we’ve gotten a sneak peak at what to expect. Exclusive to users on iPhone and iPad, the upgrade includes a partnership with intelligent fare search Routehappy as well as a location-based hotel search tool. When looking for a place to stay, the Deals Near Me feature will now scan the thirty mile radius around you to find great room discounts in the vicinity—it pulls from Priceline’s entire database, featuring both Express Deals and retail prices. As with any dynamic zone hotel search, this lends itself best to last minute bookings, but don’t count it out as a planning tool—you can manually change your position on the map to anywhere in the world, accessing deals that are say, walking distance from the Prado—and search for reservations months out in the future.

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