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Two New Ways to Learn Chinese

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Looking to brush up on your Mandarin while Chinese New Year is still hot? We’ve recently discovered two apps and websites that might help you along. To get you reading in no time, there’s Chineasy, a clever site designed by a Taiwanese venture capitalist turned entrepreneur. The method is simple: traditional characters are converted into stylish illustrations that serve as visual pneumonics. Once you’ve learned a few basics, you’ll be shown compound characters that read like math problems (to come + to return = round trip). It’s all very playful, fun, and easy to use. For now, it's all online, but an app is slated to hit the iTunes store next month.

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Marriott Hotels Launches Mobile Checkout at 329 Properties Worldwide

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Everyone’s going mobile in travel these days—and if you thought you’d heard enough of that already, think again. It’s just the beginning. Proving that is Marriott Hotels, which today launches mobile checkout at all of its 329 hotels nationwide and another 20 international properties (all 500 will be on board later this year). While other hotels and resorts have individually brought mobile checkout to life—I just checked out of the Aria in Las Vegas without even stopping at the front desk—Marriott’s move marks the first brand-wide conversion of its scale, and is no question a signifier of what’s to come for the rest of the industry.

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Orbitz Steps Up Their Game with Orbitz Labs

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The OTA wars are heating up: just weeks after Expedia released three smart new features, Orbitz has one upped with their cutting-edge Orbitz Labs, meant to give travelers a whole new level of transparency when booking their flights and hotels. Think of Orbitz Labs not as one tool, but as a whole new toolbox: inside, you’ll find personalized hotel picks based on properties you’ve said you love (like Pandora for hotels), a hot rates heat map that lets you compare hotels’ average daily rates to historical trends, and “best bets,” a feature that lets you see which days or weeks offer the best hotel prices in any city. Also available: charts that show you when it’s most affordable to head to specific destinations, and trend maps that offer insight on where other Orbitz customers are traveling.

The takeaway? From loyalty programs to user-friendly functions like these, OTA’s are racing to meet their users ever-growing needs—and consumers have everything to gain.

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 Orbitz

 

Google Glass Gets a Redesign—And A Killer New Travel App

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Today, Google Glass got a big makeover. Once a standardized design that said little more than “Look at me—I’m tech savvy!” the frames now come in four new looks, each worthy of a spot in Warby Parker’s lineup. Along with the upgrade is a practical twist, too: the new models can be fitted with prescription lenses, making the frames (which cost $225) eligible for insurance reimbursement. It’s a huge move for the product, which is expected to hit mass market by the end of the year. And as Google gears for the big launch, Glass is kicking it up both with style and substance, introducing a slew of new apps—some perfectly suited for travelers.

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Expedia Introduces Three Killer New Features

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Our kudos goes to Expedia; the online booking giant has kicked off 2014 with a slew of intuitive, new features. Filling a void we’d always lamented, there’s itinerary sharing, by which customers can share live itineraries with whomever they choose (updates on delays get sent as real-time notifications). Also new: Scratchpad, a dashboard where you can save your searches and then access them from any device, or sign up for email notifications on price drops on your select routes. And finally, there’s Flight Recommendations, which analyzes your search parameters and suggests alternate airports or itinerary tweaks that might get you a better deal. And none of this could have come at a better time for Expedia, given the groundswell of rumors surrounding Google’s reinvented travel search tools—likely to hit the web come March.

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 Expedia

New Eye Tracking Technology May Soon Replace Border Patrol in Airports

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Biometrics have been hot at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, with everything from brain wave monitoring headbands that train you to de-stress to mobile wallet alternatives activated by touch. But the one innovation that’s caught our eye will literally catch yours, too, when you see it deployed in airports and airlines in the not-so-distant future. Eye trackers zoom in on your visual movement, letting you control things literally by looking around—imagine selecting options on your TV by simply affixing your gaze to them, and you’ve got the right idea.

EyeTech, the leader in eye tracking technology, is bringing them to the travel world in partnership with in-flight entertainment company Thales and the University of Arizona.

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Tech Travel Trends You'll See in 2014: Remote Viewing

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Tech experts are swarming Las Vegas this week for Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014, and T+L is on the ground to bring you the latest travel trends of the year. Here, a peek at some of the hottest tools so far.

Remote viewing: A slew of new tools will help you stay on top of your shows while you’re on the road. (If I’d been aware, I’d be watching the Downton Abbey premiere here in Vegas.) The frontrunners you need to know:

Dish Network
Just yesterday, the satellite provider one-upped their streaming capabilities so that now you can transfer any recorded shows to your mobile devices before you leave for a trip and watch them offline—no Wi-Fi needed.

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Tech Travel Trends You'll See in 2014: Ultra HD

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The digital cognoscenti have officially descended on Las Vegas for Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014, and though the event’s barely started, there’s already much to report. Here, a look at the tech trends that’ll shape the way you travel—delivered straight from the conference floor.

Ultra-HD: That beautiful HD-TV you bought on Black Friday? It’s so last year’s news. 2014 will be the year of Ultra-HD, also known as 4K, and it’s making its way onto your portable screens, too. Also trending: flexible, curved screens, for cinematic-quality viewing even on a compact device.

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Tech Travel Trends You'll See in 2014: Wearable Everything

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Las Vegas is buzzing this week for Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014, and T+L is here to provide you with the latest from the conference floor. Read on for a look at the tech trends that will change the way you travel this year.

Wearble Everything: Google Glass may have dominated the blogosphere in 2013, but this year, we’ll be seeing a wider array of smart wearables that will take you from the beach to the slopes. A few of our favorites:

Smart goggles
Liquid Image is one-upping mounted action cameras, like the popular Go Pro, by embedding an HD camera straight into your ski goggles. Thanks to built-in connectivity, you can also live stream your footage.

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JetBlue’s Super Fast Wi-Fi Arrives at Last… For Free!

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Finally, the day that travel-obsessives have been waiting for is here: JetBlue’s new in-flight Wi-Fi, the product of endless chatter for months on end, is finally making its debut. This morning, a beta version of Fly-Fi (Simply Surf, as they’re calling it) was made available on three inaugural flights, indicating a slow launch for the carrier.

Morgan Johnston, JetBlue’s manager of corporate communication, says the airline will be bringing connectivity to five planes by end of year, and 140 more throughout 2014. But compensating for the slow roll out is super-fast service, thanks to a unique high-speed satellite that’s unrivalled among other airlines. An extra perk? Simply Surf will be free for the first six months, with an intention to make complimentary service available on an ongoing basis.

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