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Lessons from Japan: Earthquake Survival 101

Events are moving quickly in Japan as engineers at a nuclear plant in Fukushima are trying to bring three stricken reactors under control. Tokyo is 170 miles south from Fukushima, and though prevailing winds are sweeping most of the radiation to the Pacific Ocean, residents say a feeling of anxiety pervades the capital. Aftershocks wake them up at night. Lines are long at supermarkets, where staples such as milk and rice are selling out quickly. “The streets are eerily quiet compared to the usual hustle and bustle of this massive city,” says Rachael White, an American teacher and blogger based in Tokyo. White and others, however, note that people remain calm—a reflection of Japanese fortitude.

As a traveler, the most you can do in the event of a nuclear meltdown is get as far away as possible or head for the basement. But there are steps you can take to increase your chances of survival in an earthquake and/or a tsunami. Japan is located in the world’s most seismically active regions—the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes the West Coast. About 90 percent of earthquakes happen here, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. And Tokyo is still bracing for the Big One that experts say is long overdue. (Friday’s massive quake occurred along the northeastern fault line, rather than the southwest fault line that affects Tokyo more directly. It last ruptured in 1854.) The second most active region stretches from the Mediterranean into northern India.

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London's Infectious Case of Olympic Fever

201103-b-bbc.jpgBBC Travel |  There is still more than a year to go before the Olympic Games light up London’s sky, but already, enthusiastic crowds can be found peering into the largest construction site in Europe. The city has come down with a widespread, and highly contagious, case of Olympic fever. (...)

On 27 July, 2012, when the torch is lit inside the main stadium, London will become the only three-time host of the event since the Olympics were revitalized in 1896. (...)

(Photo courtesy of David Allan)


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Contest Watch: $9K Safari, 12-day Euro Vaca + More!

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March comes in like a lion (luxury safari anyone?) and out like a lamb (a wool beret from a Parisian boutique!) with this month’s globetrotting Contest Watch.

Kenya: iExplore.com Photo Safari Contest
Enter by April 22, 2011


The frequent T+L Best of the Web winner, iExplore has kicked off a new contest for shutterbugs. Simply visit http://photocontest.iexplore.com/, register, upload your best photograph, and then spread the word. Site visitors can vote for their favorites, advancing a group of 20 photographs to the finals. A panel of nine award-winning travel photographers and media writers will pick the winner.

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Guess Where? Bridge Edition

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In English, this bridge is known by the stone material from which it was built, while its native name refers to the saint known as the rock of the Christian church. Hint: This image was included in our March 2008 issue.

Can you guess where this is? Log in and leave your answers below.

UPDATE 3/14/11: T+L community member canjay99 guessed it right! The early-19th-century Pont St. Pierre spans the Garonne River in Bordeaux, France. Congrats! Check back this Friday for the newest edition of "Guess Where?"

Lyndsey Matthews is an online editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Frederic Lagrange

Sole Mates, Seat Mates: Virgin Atlantic Offers Made-to-Order Shoes

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Put down that SkyMall, Bertram. Male passengers traveling Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic flights can indulge in something a little fancier than bed-side pet ramps or peephole spy cameras: The airline is offering custom shoe fittings from haute Finnish shoemaker the Left Shoe Company. Devote 20 minutes pre- or post-flight to having your foot scanned by a 3D digital scanner in the Clubhouse-the Virgin Atlantic lounge-at Heathrow and choose a style. Four weeks later, a courier will deliver your bespoke kicks. The soles are inscribed with your name, and if you choose, your Virgin Atlantic flight number and destination. The available shoe styles start at €225 ($310 at today's exchange rate), and roundtrip Upper Class fare on Virgin Atlantic runs around $10,000.

Won't taking your shoes off at the security line feel slightly less humbling when they're custom-fitted and inscribed with your name?

Ann Shields is Online Senior Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo: Courtesy of the Left Shoe Company.

Hotel Opening: Travaasa Austin + SXSW

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Plane ticket: check.

Concert tickets: check.

Hotel room: whoops!

If you’ve spent your time agonizing over which showcases to attend in Austin next week during the South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film, and interactive festival, instead of searching for a place to crash, you can relax.

Brand new hotel collection, Travaasa Destinations, along with fashion website StyleCaster, is offering an all-inclusive preview package for a three night/four day stay from March 17-20 at the Travaasa Austin before it opens to the public in April.

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3 Fabulous Family Getaways

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Craving a proper vacation, even with a new baby in tow? Try this great all-inclusive family getaway in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Twenty minutes from the Cancún airport, Azul Beach Hotel by Karisma (from $288 per adult, all-inclusive; kids under 3 free, ages 3–13 $144 per day) features round-the-clock room service and cribs, changing tables, strollers, toys, and high-quality baby food on request. Best of all: free babysitting twice a week during happy hour, cocktails for parents included.

201102-b-greenturtlejpgHide out at this remote family resort in the Bahamas. Its soft sand, calm seas, and stellar bonefishing are well-known among sailors and yachting types—and almost no one else. That’s surprising, given the quick flight from Miami or Fort Lauderdale to Abaco’s Treasure Cay and the water taxi to the Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina (doubles from $169). Feast on conch and spend your days tooling from beach to beach—all empty, all extraordinary.

201102-b-alaskajpgSee the state in truly epic fashion on the weeklong Seldom Seen Alaska package from Off the Beaten Path (from $3,695 per person, excluding airfare). The route goes from Anchorage to Nome, with stops for snowshoeing, a helicopter ride, and a snowmobile tour of the Bering Sea ice pack. Given the ambitious itinerary, the trip is best for ages 13 and up.

Margot Guralnick is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Photos Courtesy of Azul Beach Hotel, Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina, and Brown W Cannon III

Live Concerts at Hotels

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Lobby DJ’s are so last decade. The latest amenity: live concerts at hotels by Grammy Award–winning musicians.

As part of Renaissance Hotels’ new program RLife Live, guests may very well check in while listening to musicians—Thievery Corporation, Solange Knowles, or the Neon Trees—perform live. To know who’s playing where, visit rlifelive.com (dates are posted two weeks in advance). One recent showstopper: Bruno Mars’s New Year’s Eve concert at the R Lounge Times Square, with a certain crystal ball as the backdrop.

Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure

Illustration by Kikou Johnson

Vacationist: Manhattan, Miami Beach + Mexico City

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There’s something for everyone this week at Vacationist, but urbanites will be particularly pleased with deals at hotels in New York, Miami, and Mexico City. Looking for great ideas for what to do nearby? Try some of our favorite arts and culture venues, from New York’s New Museum and 11 11 Lincoln Road, a 2011 Design Awards winner in Miami Beach, to the Museo Universitario Arte Comtemporáneo in Mexico City.

Still not a member? Click here to join.

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DOT: Drop in Flight Delays, Rise in Canceled Flights

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New Jersey Star Ledger |  By all accounts, the Federal Aviation Administration’s "tarmac rule" has dramatically reduced the number of passengers who are stuck inside an aircraft on the ground for three hours or more.

Violations of the rule, which went into effect last April, can cost airlines $27,500 per passenger, or $2.75 million for a planeload of 100 people going nowhere fast. In fact, there were just three cases nationwide of three-hour tarmac delays in December—compared with 34 the previous December, according to the federal Department of Transportation, the FAA’s parent agency.

But critics say an unintended consequence of the rule is becoming apparent and spoiling travel plans for a far greater number of would-be fliers.

A Star-Ledger analysis of federal DOT figures reveals airlines are simply canceling more flights, presumably to avoid idling on the tarmac and exposing themselves to the whopping fines. In fact, the cancellation rate at the nation’s major airports surged 24 percent during the eight months after the rule went into effect.

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7 Great Family Road Trip Tips

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Tips for enjoying the perfect family road trip.

Now that full-body scans and pat-downs are making the skies seem a little too friendly, vacationing by car is more appealing than ever. It also helps that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has pumped nearly $27 billion into the nation’s bridges and highways since 2009. Here, Jamie Jensen, author of the best-selling Road Trip USA series (Avalon Travel)—and father to 12-year-old twins who are his frequent backseat companions—shares a few pointers on making it a fun and squabble-free ride.

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VIDEO: T+L Design Awards 2011

Watch the video of this year's distinguished panel of judges—including Norma Kamali and Danny Meyer—discuss the year's best-designed resort, restaurant, museum, travel apparel, gadget, and more. And don't miss our complete slideshow of of this year's Travel + Leisure Design Award winners.

Ken Burns’s Travel Itineraries

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Ken Burns, whose documentaries about our nation have taught us more than any textbook, believes that American history “doesn’t have to be a dose of castor oil.” To prove it, he’s joined forces with 85-year-old tour operator Tauck (tours from $4,390) to create customized U.S. itineraries based on his most beloved sites and subjects. “As a filmmaker, I’ve had access that many people don’t get,” Burns says. “I’m excited to share my experiences.” A 10-day tour of six national parks takes in the Grand Canyon as well as Arches, in Utah, a personal favorite of Burns’s, and includes a private “flight-seeing” adventure over Capitol Reef National Park. Burns is planning Tauck’s five-day jaunt to New Orleans in October. His favorite spots in the Big Easy: “Arnaud’s for Creole food and Preservation Hall for music are classics.”

David A. Keeps is a contributor to Travel + Leisure

Photo by George Long

Guess Where? Colored Houses

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These colorful row houses strike a note with both residents and visitors in this newly re-developed neighborhood.

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Vacationist: Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Vancouver

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This week we head West, dear Vacationists, for hotel deals in Las Vegas, Santa Fe, and Vancouver, amongst other destinations. Which property is offering rates of less than $100 a night? Click here for more.

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Personal Map Quest

groovy map print

Run out of clever ways to show off your impressive array of passport stamps? Now you can proudly track your travels with this Places on Earth print.  The print, a hand-drawn map of the world, comes complete with a container of pushpins, and four heavy bulldog clips (to keep the print from curling).

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5 Great New Urban Hotels

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Here are some of the hot new urban hotels from around the globe:

Buenos Aires
Prodigal son Hernán Gipponi (who ran the restaurant at the Guggenheim Bilbao, in Spain) returns to his native Buenos Aires as head chef at the food-centric, 27-room Fierro Hotel Palermo (doubles from $170). Gipponi’s menu is the highlight, but don’t miss the killer wine cellar or the seventh-floor pool.

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TODAY Show: Easy Family Spring Breaks

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There’s no shortage of travel ideas for families looking to shake off winter this year. From camping in canvas tents in Yosemite National Park to a kid-friendly luxe resort stay in Texas, check out these smart and affordable getaways for March and April.

Planters Plans Mr. Peanut Pocket Parks for U.S. Cities

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Planters, the peanut and snack company, has announced plans to create small, branded, green spaces on unused plots of land in San Francisco, New Orleans, NYC, and Washington, D.C.

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Exploring Los Angeles's Little Tokyo

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If that trip to Tokyo to slurp noodles and buy sneakers isn’t in the cards, go for Plan B: a day in and around Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. The downtown neighborhood is filled with sushi joints, Buddhist temples, and opportunities to try mochi ice cream (reportedly invented here at pastry shop Mikawaya). Check in to the Kyoto Grand Hotel & Gardens and follow the walking tour mapped out at visitlittletokyo.com.

Margot Guralnick is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Image courtesy of Kyoto Grand Hotel

Hottest Spring Art Projects

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Be on the lookout for these new art projects this coming spring.

Architecture
The charming port city of Avilés, in northern Spain, has unveiled the Centro Niemeyer—designed by 103-year-old architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian poet of poured concrete. Programming at the cultural center includes art, opera, and film and kicks off this spring with “La Luz,” an exhibition about light curated by acclaimed Spanish film director Carlos Saura.

Museum
The Carlos Slim Foundation’s newest masterpiece? The Museo Soumaya, in Mexico City’s Polanco district. Architect Fernando Romero’s six-story building—a torqued pavilion of steel, glass, and aluminum—will house a collection ranging from old masters (Rubens; Tintoretto) to Modernist works (Picasso; Tamayo).

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TODAY Show: Spring Break for Baby Boomers

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

From drag-racing in the desert to witnessing the Grey Whale migration in Baja, these trips offer the adventure of a lifetime.

Mark Orwoll is the international editor at Travel + Leisure.

Paris’s New Literary-Themed Hotel

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Voltaire once wrote, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” Paris’s new Pavillon des Lettres takes this spirit to heart, and also pays homage to Voltaire himself, along with 25 other writers who were the inspiration for this chic hotel on a quiet street in the Eighth Arrondissement. Opened by the owners of the nearby Pavillon de la Reine, the 26 sleek guest rooms each channel an international author—from Hans Christian Andersen to Émile Zola—with their prose decorating the walls and their oeuvres on the shelves. Didier Benderli, the protégé of French architect Jacques Garcia, has imbued the hotel with a kind of masculine sexiness (dark velvet furnishings; stone floors).

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Final Chance! Vote for Photo Contest Grand Prize Winner

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Time's running out! This weekend is your final chance to vote for the Grand Prize winner of Travel + Leisure's 2010 Photo Contest. Help decide which one of our 2010 monthly contest winners (seen above) will take the Grand Prize—a trip for two to Hawaii—including a stay at the Halekulani Hotel, a World's Best Award winner. Click here to see the finalists and vote for the one you think deserves to win. Voting ends midnight Monday.

Vote here for the grand prize winner now.

If you missed the chance to enter your photos in the 2010 contest, don't miss the chance to enter your best shots in one of our current contests.

Airline with Club Atmosphere to Serve Las Vegas

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CNN | Mood lighting, club music and pre-flight safety briefings from virtual celebrities: Gamblers may soon have a swanky new way to arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada.

LV Air, a new airline that hopes to start service this fall with four daily nonstop flights between the gaming capital and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, promises to bring a bit of Sin City fun and luxury on board.

"When you enter the aircraft, it will seem as if you're entering a club. ... It'll be a very festive atmosphere," said Sean Smith, LV Air's chief marketing officer, describing dark blue and purple lighting in coach class, and club music pulsating from the speakers of the chartered Boeing 767s.

Photo Courtesy of LV Air.


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Technology Aboard Cruise Ships

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Gone are the days of heading out to sea and losing all contact with the world. Cell and Internet services are now standard (though free in-room Wi-Fi is not), and some lines have gone even further with their tech amenities. Holland America has introduced a series of classes covering such subjects as digital photography and blogging. And on its October voyage, Crystal Symphony will offer a digital filmmaking workshop, led by BBC producer Michael Rosenblum, that includes instruction on shooting and editing travel videos.

Sherri Eisenberg is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Vacationist: Lake Tahoe, Bermuda, Rome

201102-b-vaca-squawcreekjpgThis week’s Vacationist deals run the gamut, from a northern California ski retreat to a Bermuda beach hideaway and a palazzo in Rome. Another bonus? Many of the properties recently underwent renovations and expansions, which means that you’re sure to enjoy the best possible accommodations for your upcoming stay. Get your skis, bathing suit, or walking shoes ready now.

Still not a member? Click here to join.

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News Kid on the Mall: Washington D.C.’s Newseum

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The Newseum, an interactive museum in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to the role of journalism in history.  Sound dull and preachy?  Not at all.  In fact, it was declared the “best museum ever” by my three under-10 companions this past weekend.

Where else can you peer inside Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s stark cabin?  Or stand in front of a real television camera and give your own fast-paced sports report?  Or feel the breeze on your face as you ride the ferry to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island alongside investigative reporter Nelly Bly?

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Delta: SkyMiles Are Forever

CNN |  SkyMiles no longer expire, Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday.

The frequent flier perk system, which enables users to earn free plane tickets or in-flight upgrades, is the first among major U.S. airlines to preserve points indefinitely.

Before January 1, 2011, SkyMiles became invalid if no qualifying mileage activity, such as acquiring or redeeming miles, occurred for more than 24 months.

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Crystal Cruises’ New Voluntourism Program

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This year, Crystal Cruises is taking voluntourism at sea to a new level with its just-launched You Care, We Care program, which offers passengers the option of free, service-oriented shore excursions on all 2011 itineraries. Each of the 58 trips has been carefully designed by local tour operators to help communities. You can decorate a children’s center in Lima, Peru; tend to an urban farm in Cartagena, Colombia; or help in beach clean-up efforts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Sherri Eisenberg is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Illustration by Laurie Rosenwald

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