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Free Global Roaming Announced with T-Mobile

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Today, T-Mobile announced a groundbreaking international roaming plan that squarely puts the carrier in the running for most travel friendly—a prize we’ve historically handed over to either Verizon or AT&T. What’s the fuss all about? All members of the carrier’s Simple Choice plans will automatically receive unlimited data and texting in more than 100 countries around the globe—and phone calls will be charged at a flat rate of 20 cents per minute from any of those countries. Another plus: there won’t be any activation or monthly fees for the service. Said CEO John Legere at T-Mobile’s launch event this morning, “Today’s phones are designed to work around the world, but we’re forced to pay insanely inflated international connectivity fees to actually use them. You can’t leave the country without coming home to bill shock. So we’re making the world your network—at no extra cost.” That’s logic we can all get behind.

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

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Five Things We Love About the New Kindle Paperwhite

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The one gadget I can no longer travel without? My e-reader. But now that I’ve seen the new generation of Kindle Paperwhites, I’m thinking it might be time to upgrade what I’m putting in my carry-on. Here, the three things I’m digging most about Amazon’s latest release.

Page Flip: The only thing I miss about the paper book experience is the ability to flip back to earlier chapters. The new Paperwhite lets you pull up a slider that lets you scan through any novel—improving on their previous X-Ray feature that simply found previous mentions of common characters or concepts.

Integration with Goodreads:This isn’t out just yet, but soon, Kindle users will get to share book recommendations with friends on this innovative social media network.

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The Suitest's Hotel Room Price Predictor

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Considering a visit to New York but turned off by the sky-high hotel prices? Try browsing The Suitest, a suite-focused hotel search engine whose new Price Predictor advises on the probable fluctuation of room rates in any major destination. Much like Bing’s airfare search, the tool also provides insight as to whether rates are likely to climb, decline, or sell out entirely in the next week. It’s all calculated with an algorithm that riffs off Wall Street hedge funds, which use the similar models to analyze mortgage-backed securities (topics not nearly as exciting as planning your vacation). Ignore the “Deal Grades,” or snapshots of a quote’s relative value—they seem largely arbitrary—and focus instead on our two favorite features: “fair value assessments” that compare your quote to the hotel's “usual price” and a six-month calendar showing the average rate each night in the city of your choosing.

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 TheSuitest.com

Tech Thursday: Foursquare’s New Menu Search

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In an ever-increased push to highlight the app’s exploration features, Foursquare has rolled out a new “menu search” feature that lets users find the best local spot for whatever it is they’re craving. Whereas users could previously search for general categories—Southern food; French restaurants—it’s now possible to hone in on more specific requests, like fried pickles or gluten-free dishes. For road warriors with picky palates or dietary restrictions, it’s a real game-changer, and one we hope will help broaden Foursquare’s reach to a wider demographic of travelers.

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

Photo courtesy of Foursquare

Tech Thursday: Samsung Announces Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

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The new tech trend is… smartwatches? Yes, it’s true. Samsung announced their latest device—the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which goes on sale September 25—at an electronics trade show in Berlin yesterday. Part James Bond, part Nike Fuelband, the $299 gadget will come pre-loaded with 60 apps (Facebook; a pedometer; a Siri-like personal assistant) and snap photos and video. Don’t expect to make calls on it, or have it replace your phone, though: it’s intended to fulfill relatively simple functions and act as a “companion” that can sync to your Samsung phone for easy access to messages and texts. And it wouldn’t be a trend if Samsung was the lone smartwatch pioneer. Similar products include a new Sony device announced in June, and an Apple version that’s still spinning in the rumor mill. So what’s it all mean for travelers? Just one more way to navigate, snap, and share on the road.

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

Photo Courtesy of Samsung

Tech Thursday: Facebook's New Shared Albums

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This week, Facebook unveiled shared photo albums—a small change perhaps, but with big benefits for travelers. As many as 50 contributors will be able to add up to 200 photos each (that's a lot of photos—much more than the old limit of 1,000 pics—if anyone is counting). The albums can still be kept private, or limited just to invited friends; aside from the album's owner, pics can be edited only by the person who uploads them. All that to say: there will no longer be a need to pore through your friends' profiles just to find the one great shot from your last group vacation. Thank goodness.

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

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Tech Thursday: A New Way to Score Free Hotel Wi-Fi

Thanks to an interesting new partnership between Hilton HHonors and AT&T, members of the phone carrier—or those with Gold and Diamond HHonors status—can now enjoy free Wi-Fi at more than 3,000 Hilton hotels worldwide as part of the joint StayConnected program. It’s a first for the hotel industry, where free Wi-Fi is shamefully difficult to come across—and we can’t help wonder if other such collaborations are soon to follow. Verizon and Starwood: we’re looking at you!

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

Tech Thursday: Google Takes on Siri

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In a move that many might see as either Orwellian or plain-old useful, Google has just launched a new feature that lets you canvass all your personal information—appointments, bookings, photos—simply by asking spoken questions. It’s a bit like Siri, but smarter: ask Google to show you all the pictures you took in London, and those will pop right up. Ask whether your flight is delayed, and it will cross check your confirmation email with the airline’s most current information. Want to figure out how to get to your hotel? It won’t just show you the booking record—it’ll find the address and pop it into your Google Maps. Naturally, it works best if you use all of Google’s organizational tools, from Gmail to Google Calendar. But those on Apple devices reap the same benefits as long as they’re signed into their Google accounts. Importantly, all the information is kept private and secure, and the feature can be disabled for those who find it creepy. But why would you? This is smart technology at its best.

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

Photo by istockphoto

"Hyperloop" Revealed: Creator Elon Musk Shares Details of His Ultra High-Speed Transportation

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The much-awaited news is in: Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has unveiled details about his supersonic “Hyperloop,” which promises to transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in thirty minutes flat.
 
For weeks, speculators have tried to crack the code on how Musk’s ultra-high speed network could work, and skeptics have been quick to point out that travelling at roughly 800 miles per hour would nothing short of stomach-churning, if it’s even safe at all. At long last, the answers have arrived:

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Gripe Much? New Website Reveals Just How Much People Hate U.S. Customs

You know you have a broken entry process when there’s an entire website devoted to complaining about the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) system—and that’s exactly what the U.S. Travel Association launched this month in an effort to voice the concerns of our unhappy visitors.

Included on the travelersvoice.org are spotlights from dozens of travelers—foreign and domestic—whose concerns range from long lines to missed connections. The most common gripes? Customs queues are understaffed, with too many checkout lanes closed during peak periods, and with no automated technology to ease the process, our methods appear utterly outdated.

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