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Trip Doctor: What Americans Really Think about Flying

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With summer vacation upon us, it seems students aren't the only ones getting their final grades. A slew of reports and studies recently came out—including ones from Harris Interactive, J.D. Power & Associates, Consumer Reports, and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)—surveying a total of over 67,000 Americans on their latest opinions North American air travel. Here are some of the highlights:

Satisfaction is…Up!

  • Even though Consumer Reports concludes "There isn't much good news for passengers," recent findings by J.D. Power & Associates suggest that the passengers themselves disagree. The marketing information firm surveyed nearly 12,000 individuals and measured customer satisfaction on a 1000 point scale based on airline performance in 7 categories: cost & fees; in-flight services; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservation.  The results?  Overall passenger satisfaction is up 14 points to 695, a score not seen since 2006, before the age of a-la-carte baggage fees.

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Titanic Nostalgia Will Go On

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With the 101st anniversary of the Titanic sinking a few months behind us, some of you may be thinking that you'd heard the last of that fated ship for a while. Think again. The passenger liner that sank in April, 1912 continues to make waves in the 21st century, and Titaniacs the world over make treks to see and experience anything related to the ship and its sinking.

Just this month, in Belfast, a tender that ferried passengers boarding the Titanic in Cherbourg, France, reopened as a museum. The S.S. Nomadic (pictured) had spent years languishing – I saw her moored across the Seine from Paris's Eiffel Tower in 1999, windows broken and a plastic palm tree ingloriously placed on the top deck. In 2006, the Northern Irish city of Belfast purchased the Nomadic and transported it back to the Irish port where it was built in 1911. The ship, fully restored, now resides in Belfast’s new Titanic Quarter, a massive new development built on former docklands.

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Trip Doctor: New Index Ranks International Cities by Cost

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Newsflash: Oslo (pictured) is an expensive city.

Actually, according to a recent study by TripAdvisor, the Norwegian capital is the most expensive city for travelers. And while the priciest cities shouldn’t be too surprising (Oslo is followed by Zürich, Switzerland, and Stockholm, Sweden), the results are fascinating.

The website ranked 49 popular travel destinations around the world on a pricing index based on the relative costs of an evening out (cab rides, dinner, and drinks) and a one-night stay at a four-star hotel.

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Trip Doctor: Legislators Renew Push for Family Flying Policy Changes

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Back in February we reported that several senators had expressed opposition to recent airline fees that force families to pay extra if they wish to sit together. Now, five lawmakers from New York and California are sponsoring a bill that would require airlines to change their policies.

The legislative push is still in its "early stages," according to the offices of the resolution's main sponsor, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), so no news on when (or even if) to expect a vote. Right now the sponsors are working on outreach both with other members in Congress and their constituents.

Nadler introduced a similar proposal last July with 10 co-sponsers, but the resolution was never enacted.

Have strong feelings about this? Contact your Congress representative and write to them about House Resolution 2191.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

3 Things to Do Around Boston

Things to Do Around Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Three ways to get your New England fix, whether you have a few hours or a whole day.

The Sanctuary: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Dodging the hum of the city is a pleasure at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (pictured), a 1902 Venetian-style palazzo with a glass-and-steel addition by Renzo Piano. The 2,500-strong collection includes masterworks by Titian, Michelangelo, and Matisse, but the real showstopper is the transportive inner courtyard, with its classical statues and abundance of summery bellflowers and hydrangeas. Stop in on a Sunday afternoon, when you can catch a chamber music concert in the museum’s new Calderwood Hall.

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Trip Doctor: Date Confirmed for NYC Bike Share

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New York's bike share program, Citi Bike, has finally announced a starting date. Trip Doctor  previously reported that it was sometime in May—and now, we're happy to say, it is official.

Members will be able to hop on a bike starting Memorial Day, May 27, while single-time users can ride one of the 6,000 new two-wheelers beginning on June 2.

Be sure to check out Trip Doctor's FAQ about biking in NYC.

Photo credit: Lars Klove /New York City Bike Share

Trip Doctor: Dubai, Beaches, and Bikinis: What's Allowed?

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With all the news recently about bans on skimpy swimwear at UAE beaches, T+L wanted to clear the air and figure out what travelers need to know when heading to the Emirates.

First off, the bathing suit laws aren’t laws. After initial reports that bikinis and bikini briefs were banned, UAE newspapers reported that police backtracked, and later clarified that the regulations were only guidelines. After receiving multiple complaints from local families, authorities posted signs stating, "All coastgoers should commit to public morality and modest clothing." Police "strongly discourage" individuals from wearing revealing swimwear, and to respect "cultural sensitivities."

Secondly, these official recommendations apply only to the country’s northernmost emirate, Ras al-Khaimah. The emirate attracts few tourists compared to flashier Dubai, which sees nearly 10 million visitors annually, although it is home to 2011 It List property Banyan Tree Al Wadi.

So does that mean it’s acceptable to wear a thong on the beaches of Dubai?

I checked with the emirate’s Legal Affairs Department to get the final say. Here’s what beachgoers in Dubai will want to know:

° All beaches, even those next to hotels, are public, so local families and international vacationers have access to the same sandy stretches in Dubai.
° Several beaches offer women-only days one day a week. On these days, males—excluding toddlers—are prohibited.
° There is no Dubai law prohibiting a particular bathing suit, but swimwear should not be worn off the beach. Nudity is strictly prohibited.

Still, when considering which suit to wear on their UAE holiday, bikini-toters should consider that the local population, along with the majority of international visitors, in Dubai are Muslim, and therefore unlikely to appreciate skimpy swimwear.

If looking for a destination where scanty suits are a-okay, try Egypt, whose tourism minister stated on Monday that "bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served."

Related: See the Future in Dubai.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: © Jon Hicks/Corbis

Trip Doctor: Biking in the Big Apple With NYC's New Bike Share Program

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New York City is launching its bike share program sometime this month (no details on a date yet), bringing 6,000 two-wheelers to the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Citi Bike, so-named due to a hefty sponsorship from CitiBank, is the country’s largest bicycle-sharing program. While there is a great FAQ on the project’s website, T+L had a few follow-up questions that we’ve answered here:

Where can you pick Citi Bikes up?

The website’s station map is impressive to say the least. There seem to be Citi Bike stations at almost every block! Until you zoom out, that is. The 330 stations stretch from the Battery up to Central Park South in Manhattan, and from the Brooklyn Bridge down to Atlantic Ave and east to Norstrand Ave in Brooklyn. Riders will never be more than a few blocks from a bikeshare station thanks to the highly concentrated layout, but residents of Uptown Manhattan, the vast majority of Brooklyn, and all of Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx are left bikeless.

What are the helmet laws?

Citi Bike “strongly encourages” all users to don helmets, and it offers annual members a $10 coupon to buy them in any New York City bike store. But there is no legal obligation to wear helmets. New York State laws require cyclists under the age of 14 to wear helmets, but Citi Bike members must be at least 16. Last year, NYC rejected a proposed mandatory helmet law last year. Still, helmets may decrease the risk of head injury to cyclists by as much as 85%, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

How safe is it to bike in New York City?

2011 saw 22 biking fatalities and 369 severe injuries. While up slightly from 2009, those numbers still reflect a downward trend in bike risk, according to city data. The NYC Cycling Risk Indicator, which reflects biking safety while taking into account increased cyclists, has fallen by 73% since 2000. Research from UC Berkeley cited in the Wall Street Journal shows that with ever-more bike lanes, and now thousands of more bikers, New York City’s bike accidents will decrease as drivers adjust their behavior and become more aware of bike riders on the roads.

Users have 45 minutes to ride Citi Bike before needing to check back in to a station. How far does that take you?

Theoretically, a rider can travel from Columbus Circle to the Whitehall South Ferry Terminal building in under 35 minutes, meaning that all of Citi Bike’s Manhattan stations are accessible within the 45-minute limit. From Columbus Circle to the stations in Brooklyn Heights takes just under 40 minutes, while the longest possible ride, from West 59th Street at 11th Avenue to Norstrand Avenue in Brooklyn Columbus Circle could run as little as 55 minutes.

Will it work?

Only time will tell, but all signs point to Yes. Similar programs in Boston, Washington DC, Paris, and Hangzhou, China, have all proven very successful and popular. Here's hoping Citi Bike follows in their footsteps—er—bike paths!

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: Lars Klove /New York City Bike Share

Hotel Chatter's Wifi Report and T+L's Top Picks

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This morning, Hotel Chatter published its 2013 Hotel Wifi Report, showcasing the best and worst internet service in the industry. The exhaustive study finds that 64% of hotels worldwide offer free wifi, a service Hotel Chatter insists is “as essential as a working shower or air conditioning.”

Paradoxically, as many T+L readers have discovered, the hotels most likely to charge extra for internet service are high-end properties that demand hefty nightly rates to begin with. In fact, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 84% of luxury hotels charge for in-room internet service, while just 8% of economy hotels do.


Travel + Leisure has been keeping tabs on which hotel brands provide free wifi to guests, and acknowledges these few major brands that buck the trend:


Third Place: A tie between Fairmont, Kimpton, and Omni hotels
Each of these brands gives free wifi in common areas and in guestrooms if you join their (also free) loyalty programs.



Second Place: Andaz

All Andaz properties provide free in-room and lobby internet access to all guests.


First Place: Peninsula and Shangri-La Hotels

Both of these hotel companies give free wifi not just in the hotel rooms and common areas, but also in their automobile fleet!


Be sure to check out Hotel Chatter's in depth report here.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by John Huba

"The Great Gatsby" Inspires Retro Holidays

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, Gatsby refutes Nick Carraway’s assertion you cannot repeat the past: "Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can.”

Hoteliers seem to agree with Gatsby, as evidenced by a slew of promotions tied in with the upcoming release of Baz Lurhman’s new film, The Great Gatsby.

New York’s Plaza Hotel, which features prominently in the novel, has announced its “The Great Gatsby Getaway Contest.” Anyone who snaps a 1920’s themed picture of themselves and posts it on Instagram with the hashtag #theplazapremiere has a chance to win seats at the New York premiere of the film, along with a night at the iconic property. Hurry though, the contest ends April 24th.

Nearby, the Trump International Hotel & Tower is offering the Trump ‘Great Gatsby’ Package. Guests spend three nights in suites overlooking Central Park, enjoying some top-notch perks. Men receive a custom-tailored suit and shirt from Bergdorf Goodman and Art Deco cufflinks, while women will go home with an Ivanka Trump Art Deco jewelry and a personalized note from Ivanka herself. Dinner at Three-Michelin-Star restaurant Jean Georges, a magnum of champagne, and chauffeured car-service are also included. This Roaring Twenties extravaganza comes with a roaring price tag… $14,999.

And while not directly related to the classic novel, these other properties do their best to bring back some of that Gatsby glamour:

°  The SLS Hotel South Beach: Opened this past June, the Philippe Starck-designed waterfront hotel brings a 1940 property back to its former glory. Trompe l’oeil walls, murals, and a gigantic rubber ducky by the pool add a touch of whimsy to this art-deco gem.
° Hotel Shangrila, Santa Monica: Another art-deco property, this 1939 building has recently undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation. The 71 rooms and suites feature period furnishings and decorations. This year, there are two promotional packages celebrating the renovation.

Then again, if hotel suites don’t do it for you, why not be like Gatsby and throw a party at your own private mansion? With water frontage, a grand pool, and lots of vintage charm, the Luxury Retreats villa Locusts on Hudson, in the Hudson Valley, lets you feel like you’re living in West Egg, if only for a week.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: The Fitzgerald Suite at The Plaza, a Fairmont managed hotel, designed by Catherine Martin

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