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Boeing: Space Tourism Flights Possible by 2015

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USA Today | Boeing says it's ready to jump into the space-tourism market, announcing on Wednesday that will enter into a partnership to sell seats on rocket trips to the International Space Station.

"Now Boeing just has to build a spaceship," The Associated Press writes.

Boeing's just-announced partnership is with the space-tourism company Space Adventures. The Washington Post explains, saying the agreement is for the companies "to establish a space taxi system that will launch its passengers into low Earth orbit. Boeing has been developing a capsule and has years of experience building rockets, while Space Adventures has organized seven trips to the space station aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. The obstacles remain high, but the two companies say they think they can begin their service by the end of 2015." Photo Credit: iStock

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Get A Glimpse of How the Other Half Lives

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For the most part, the exclusive Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, 50 miles south of Miami, is off-limits to you and me--unless we've been invited or we're prospective members. But things open up to non-members during the annual Vintage Weekend, December 2-5, when hundreds of antique cars, planes, and yachts go on display. The Vintage Weekend package costs $1,440 double and includes three nights lodging at the Inn, road rally and lunch at the infamous Alabama Jack's roadhouse, a Concours d'Elegance (that's an automobile beauty pageant) and luncheon on Saturday, inspection of antique planes at the club's private airport, cocktail party, dinner reception, and more. In years past the event has sold out as early as October.

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Bundle Up! Luxe Resort Adopts "Lodge-ical" Pricing

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Phil Anderson, general manager of the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York, is swimming against the travel-industry current, but he thinks it's the right direction to go. While many airlines, hotels, and cruise lines are increasingly "unbundling" their prices by adding numerous surcharges and fees so they can advertise an artificially low base price, Anderson has recently implemented a new pricing policy that is nearly unheard-of: the price you're quoted is the price you pay.

"It's counter-intuitive compared to what everyone else seems to be doing," Anderson told me, "but if a guest thinks he's getting a rate of four hundred and fifty dollars, why should his total be five hundred and thirty-one? Why nickel-and-dime people?"

So in an experiment this past summer, Anderson began quoting all-in-one rates that include the room, the resort fee, state tax, and occupancy tax....

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Vacationist: Fall Getaways in Paris, San Diego, Costa Rica

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The appeal of a September getaway never gets old: Savvy travelers know to book shoulder season trips for fewer crowds, still-warm weather, and of course, impressive deals. And believe it or not, that’s true even of Paris. (For more on the City of Lights, see Travel + Leisure’s September cover story, Paris Secrets.) Here a few of this season’s best hotel rates—including 20% off in Paris—courtesy of Vacationist:

InterContinental Paris Le Grand – up to 20% off
Paris, France
This majestic Neoclassical property, inaugurated in 1862 by Empress Eugénie, was reopened in 2003 after an 18-month renovation. It features a central, light-filled winter garden and 470 Napoleon III-style guest rooms; 82 rooms and suites offer direct views of the Opéra Garnier. (4 days left)

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Sleepbox: Is This the Future of Airport Napping?

After seeing a post we recently published on a ridiculously tiny airplane seat design, one of our Twitter followers pointed out a different scaled down design, this one for the weary traveler: the Sleepbox.

Designed by Arch Group, a Russian architect firm, the Sleepbox takes the Japanese capsule hotel concept—which, quite frankly, gives me claustrophobic panic attacks just thinking about—mixes in some serious Fifth Element–reminiscent design, and gives you a (tiny) space that could actually be tolerable (and affordable) in a pinch, though definitely for short stays only.

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Contest Watch: $100K for a Year Off, Maui Vaca, Australia, More

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With school in session and the autumn holidays just around the corner, this month’s Contest Watch is all about escaping obligation. Ikea wants you to take a whole year off to pursue philanthropic work, but for those just looking to avoid a mother-in-law, Turks + Caicos has a better alternative to Thanksgiving dinner—the islands' Conch Festival!

So start entering—before you get seated at the kid’s table.

Ikea’s Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest
Now – November 8th
The Swedish furniture company is giving one winner the opportunity to take a year off to pursue their passions (volunteering, starting a non-profit)—a prize worth $100,000. Entrants must submit their proposal to www.thelifeimprovementproject.com. Five finalists will be chosen by a panel of judges, and announced on December 13, 2010. The winner will be determined by public vote, and announced on January 31, 2011. The winner is not required to take a leave of absence from work but, come on, why wouldn’t you?

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Capri, Geneva, NY Most Expensive for Hotels as Prices Rise

201009-b-capri-3jpgReutersCapri, Geneva and New York top the list for the most expensive hotel rooms, according to a global survey that showed hotel rates rising for the first time in three years as the global economy picks up.

Hotel provider Hotels.com's bi-annual hotel price index, released on Tuesday, found that although average hotel room rates are at low levels seen six years ago, there are hints of a recovery. (...)

Overall, prices rose about 2 percent in the second quarter of 2010 from a year ago, the first increase since the end of 2007, as business travelers and tourists started packing their bags again and heading out. (Photo courtesy of Capri Tourism)

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Airfares from U.S. to Europe Much Higher than Vice Versa

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USA Today |  Americans flying to Europe this fall may pay hundreds of dollars more than their counterparts traveling the opposite way over the Atlantic.

Round-trip fares from several U.S. cities to European hot spots like Paris, London and Amsterdam are up to 66% higher than the price for trips originating overseas, says Tom Parsons, founder of Bestfares.com, who scouted fares from the last week of October through March 31.

"Between the same cities, (for the) same seats, same days of week ... one country gets an advantage over the other," says Parsons, who found similar pricing at most of the major carriers including Continental, Delta and United, as well as international airlines such as KLM. "Because we're Americans, we pay more." Photo credit: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

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News Stories We Never Finished Reading

From the Telegraph, United Kingdom:

"Ryanair has won a court case against the Spanish 'screen scraping' website Atrapalo, but has been ordered to stop using the term 'bastards' to describe the company."

Stand-Up Airplane Seats, in the News Again, Will Likely Never Fly

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Don't get too excited (or angry, exasperated, what have you) about all the blog posts today about stand-up seats in airplanes. Everyone is riffing on today's USA Today article about the proposed Skyrider seats from an Italian design company called Aviointeriors. The goal of these seats? To cram as many passengers into planes as possible. But there's no news here. The company actually announced their intention to create such seats back in July, right around the time I wrote about plans by low-budget Ryanair to install similar seats in their planes if they could get government approval.

Yeah, probably not gonna happen for a number of reasons, not least of all seething, frothing-at-the-mouth passenger outrage.

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Is Your Pilot Too Tired To Fly?

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FAA rules on pilot fatigue have changed little since the heyday of the DC-3, despite the increased strains on pilots due to terrorism, advanced technology, and the greater potential for jet lag when crossing multiple time zones in a relatively short period. In his Fast Lane blog this morning, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said his department would propose new rules today requiring that pilots have an opportunity for at least nine hours of rest before a flight (an hour longer than current rules), at least 30 consecutive hours off duty every week (a 25 percent increase), and new weekly and monthly duty limits.

Expect some backlash from the airline industry.

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State Department Issues Worldwide Travel Alert Over Planned Florida Qu'ran Burnings

The U.S. State Department has just issued a worldwide travel alert based on the planned burning of Qurans by a Florida-based fringe religious group on Saturday, September 11, the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. The Qu'ran is the holy book of Islam. The planned anti-Islam event by Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, has already resulted in violent demonstrations in Afghanistan and Indonesia. "We urge you to pay attention to local reaction to the situation, and to avoid areas where demonstrations may take place," said the State Department.

Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor of Travel + Leisure.

Ferran Adria: Cuisine Can’t Travel, So People Must

201009-b-bulli-3jpgYesterday morning, at I had the pleasure of meeting Spain’s most celebrated chef, Ferran Adrià. Since I’ll probably never get the chance to eat at El Bulli—his widely adored Catalunya restaurant-turned-culinary-institute, (which now no longer accepts reservations, though they were near impossible to get even when it did)—I consider it an accomplishment just to shake the man’s hand. Though, alas, I suspect that his was not the hand that prepared the cookies and Starbuck’s coffee on offer during the break...

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Vacationist: French Polynesia, Texas, and Dominican Republic

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While Labor Day may serve as a sad reminder that the summer is coming to an end, who cares if the days are about to start getting cooler? Don’t let that stop you from booking a fantastic retreat! With that in mind, we’d like to bring your attention to the three new fab getaways being offered at Vacationist.com:

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ACLU Sues Feds To Stop Border Searches of Non-Suspicious Laptops

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government's right to search the contents of laptop computers at border crossings when the owner is not suspected of criminal activity. According to the ACLU, more than 6,500 electronic devices were seized and their contents examined at U.S. border crossings between October 8, 2008, and June 2, 2010. Nearly half of those seizures were made against American citizens.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old graduate student who holds dual U.S. and French citizenship. Returning to his New York home by train from Montreal, Abidor was interrogated and detained by U.S. border guards. His laptop computer was taken from him; when it was finally returned 11 days later, according to the lawsuit, there was evidence that authorities had searched his personal files, including online chats with his girlfriend. No charges were ever leveled.

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Big Industry Players Push Back Against Hidden Airfare Fees

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You may have seen some of my rants here or in the print edition of T+L about the outrageous fees and surcharges the airlines tack onto their base airfares. The airline industry says the surcharges allow consumers to pick and choose the additional services they want rather than forcing them to pay for perks they don't need. I say baloney. They're doing it out of greed. The base airfares they advertise are deceptively low, and can increase by 30 percent or more when you tack on all the extras, like fees for carry-on baggage, checked baggage, telephone reservations, select seat assignments, meals, et al ad nauseam. What's worse, it's often difficult to find out about these charges until a consumer pays for the tickets or, in some cases, until he arrives at the airport.

Now some big guns are marshaling their cumulative power to challenge the airlines on these hidden fees by creating a new website called madashellabouthiddenfees.com.

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Air France-KLM Considers Launching Low-Cost Carrier

Travel PulseAir France-KLM is considering starting a low-cost domestic carrier in order to compete with low-cost rivals, according to press reports. The company would not comment, but the French news agency AF reported that the airline is considering setting up a new entity within the airline that could compete with low-cost carriers that are eating into the airline’s market share.

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TV Trip: HBO’s "Boardwalk Empire"

The Jersey Shore has received a ton of press lately—be it MTV’s cringe-worthy guilty pleasure of the same name or Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey (they taped their explosive reunion in Atlantic City). On September 19th, HBO is hoping to add some highbrow coverage to A.C.’s lowbrow past with the premier of the new series, Boardwalk Empire at 9 p.m.

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Wisconsin Bans Smoking in All Hotel Guestrooms

USA TODAY | Unlike most other non-smoking states, Wisconsin in July passed a statewide smoking ban that bans smoking in every hotel guestroom.

In most states that have banned smoking in public places, such as Kansas, the legislation allows hoteliers to exempt a certain percentage of guestrooms.

But in Wisconsin, "there can be zero rooms" that allow smoking in sleeping rooms, Trisha Pugal, CEO of Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association told me in an interview.

And the new law is causing "a major culture change" for hoteliers and guests alike.

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Snazzy Napper: The World's Silliest Travel Product

Honestly, when you check out this video you will think it is a fake commercial from Saturday Night Live circa 1983. But no, the Snazzy Napper is a real product, an odd cross between a Snuggie and a burkha—and the video is so hilariously bad that it is going viral.

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Vino Vacation: Boston Wine Week

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From September 20th through 26th Boston is home to wine tastings and pairings at over a dozen restaurants in Beantown.

During the seven-day extravaganza, visit T+L favorites The Beehive, Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro, Bin 26, and Locke-Ober.

Visit bostonwineweek.com for updates on events. There's even a mobile site for on-the-ground directions, pairings, and ratings.

For more upcoming events in Boston or around the United States, visit our new events calendar.

Charlotte Savino is the online listings editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photos courtesy of Boston Wine Week

Worse than Sand in the Labor Day Potato Salad? Hurricane Earl

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As of 2pm, the National Weather Service had issued a hurricane watch for the North Carolina coast. The state is currently evacuating visitors from Hatteras Island and the rest of the Outer Banks.

Virginia and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware, and the Jersey Shore (batten down the Situation!) are all under hurricane warnings, and small craft advisories extend into New England, and all the way south to the Florida Keys.

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Vacationist: Get Away From It All In Mexico, California, and Italy

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After a long, indulgent summer, a carefree respite may be just what the travel doctor orders. That's why this week’s Vacationist deals promise serene surroundings and quiet luxury. But if you’re truly looking for a serious cleanse, we prescribe Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita. Read on for the details.

Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita – up to 30% off
Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Wellness is so integral to this 14-acre Riviera Maya property that its signature Endless Privileges experience includes Hydrothalasso pool and cold plunge access, anti-aging diagnostics, in-room massages, and nutrition consultations. Two bars and three restaurants offer specialties like the Water Cellar... (5 days left)

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Royal Caribbean's Record-Size Cruise Ship Nearly Ready

USA TODAY | Will Royal Caribbean's much-awaited new ship, Allure of the Seas, be ready for its late November unveiling? It's looking more and more like a sure thing.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO Richard Fain—just back from touring the 5,400-passenger vessel at the shipyard in Finland where it is under construction—writes on his blog this week that he doesn't think he's ever seen a ship at this stage of construction so ready.

"Despite regular status reports and photographs from the newbuilding team, I was astounded by how far along she was," Fain says.

Fain goes on to hint things are going so well at the shipyard the company might even rethink inaugural activities planned for November.

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Today Only: 2-for-1 $129 Virgin Flights to Cabo or Cancun

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In Los Angeles or San Francisco?  It’s a good day to multitask.  How often can you save Chihuahuas, eat tacos, and score a very affordable Mexican vacation all at the same time?

Virgin America has just announced new service to Cabo and Cancun from LAX and SFO starting this December.  To celebrate, they’re offering everyone special $129 fares from those airports to Mexico for the next three days.

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Behind the Scenes at T+L's Paris Photo Shoot

Styling and producing a fashion shoot in Paris takes hard work, resourcefulness, and a lot of praying that the rain will stop. Here are snippets of my 3 days spent shooting in Paris for T+L's September Style And Culture issue.

Grupo Mexicana Suspends Airline Operations

CNN | Grupo Mexicana suspended operations at its three airlines Saturday "until further notice," citing the financial problems inherited when the group changed owners a week ago.

The company's three airlines—Mexicana Airlines, MexicanaClick and MexicanaLink—stopped all flights at midday Saturday, according to a statement from the group.

"Today's decision is a painful one for the 8,000-strong Grupo Mexicana family, but we will continue seeking out ways of securing the company's long-term financial viability, so our passengers can once again enjoy the quality services they are accustomed to," the statement said. "We hope to be back in the air soon and would like to thank everyone involved in this process for their support and understanding."

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VisitOrlando.com to Add Travel-booking Engine

Orlando Sentinel |  The Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau has cut a deal with Travelocity.com L.P. that allows visitors researching an Orlando vacation to book their stay right on the agency's website.

201009-w-afc-orlandojpgThe area's tourism promoters say they wanted to offer one-stop shopping on the site, VisitOrlando.com, which draws millions of potential visitors a year. The agency said that, after it talked with various online travel operators and other companies, Travelocity brought the "best total package" to the table.

The bureau site currently provides information about local attractions and hotels, but online visitors have to switch to other websites to act on their plans. (...) When the newly redesigned website launches early next year, the booking engine for flights, hotels, car rentals and vacation packages will not only make it easier for guests but will generate added revenue for the CVB through advertising and a share of any sales.

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New Orleans Attracts More Visitors

201008-w-cafe-du-mondejpgWall Street Journal |  On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, tourism in New Orleans is growing at one of the fastest paces in the U.S., but it remains a fraction of its pre-hurricane levels.

In 2004, New Orleans saw a record 10.1 million visitors; in 2006, post-Katrina, the number had dropped to 3.7 million. But 7.9 million tourists visited New Orleans in 2009, and of the 25 top U.S. destinations, New Orleans had the second-highest growth of revenue per available room in the first half of 2010, according to a report from hotel-industry research and consulting firm Smith Travel Research Inc. (...)

Kelly Schulz, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, a nonprofit that promotes tourism in the region, says next to rebuilding infrastructure, the biggest challenge the tourism industry faced post-Katrina was "convincing people that it was safe to come back." Photo credit: Philip Scalia / Alamy.

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Shop (and Travel) with Tibi

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This past week Tibi, an upscale boutique clothing line, joined thousands of e-retailers by re-launching its website to include an online shop.

Amy Smilovic is the mastermind behind Tibi’s polished Manhattan brand, her main source of inspiration? Travel. In 1997 Amy moved to Hong Kong with her husband upon his relocation and there is where it all began.

After teaming with Octavia Hyland, she traveled frequently to the island of Java, working with small textile printers to create unique patterns (think batiks and ikats) in vibrant colors. These travels resulted in unusually perfect pieces that still define the collection today.

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