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What’s Your Travel Score?

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Ladies and gentleman, pack your suitcases. Travel is now officially competitive—and that’s a good thing. This week marks the launch of Traxo Travel Score, a new feature from mileage and travel points tracker (and all-around travel organizer) Traxo.com that uses a specialized algorithm to calculate all of your trip information and generate a unique number to crow about.

What does this mean, really? Well, for one, the scene in Up in the Air where George Clooney and Vera Farmiga’s characters one-up each other with who has the most air miles, best hotel benefits, and fattest wallet stuffed with upgrade cards would have been a lot shorter. With TTS, a single number says it all.

But here’s where TTS gets interesting: depending on your score, top travel companies will offer you special perks. The higher your score, the more upgrades, freebies, and extras you’ll rack up from companies like Avis, Briggs & Riley, Virgin America, and South African Airways. Hello, two roundtrip tickets to Cape Town?!

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Destination Durham: American Dance Festival

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Dancers have descended on Durham, NC for this summer’s American Dance Festival—a multi-venue six-week event that brings master-classes and modern dance troupes from across the globe.

The festival runs from June 9th through July 23rd and features thirteen dance companies including Bill T Jones, Pilobolus, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

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Cruise Your Way to Weight Loss?

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Somewhere off the Cote d’Azur, on a pre-inaugural cruise of the stylish 450-passenger Seabourn Quest, I indulged duo course of seabass with citrus fondue and barbeque glazed lamb shank with seared foie gras. So it was particularly weird to hear talk of people coming on Yachts of Seabourn ships and losing weight.

But an enthusiastic fitness trainer in the Quest’s fancy and sizeable two-deck spa swears that’s what happened with passengers on a recent three-month world cruise on year-old sister ship Seabourn Sojourn.

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Chatting Up T+L Features Director at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

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T+L Features Director and Food Editor, Nilou Motamed, talks (with GenConnect) about the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and the upcoming Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar (Sept. 16–18, NYC).

Social Website Connects Travelers Using Facebook

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A new travel website is turning friends into travel agents, coworkers into guidebooks, and families into concierges. Gtrot.com (short for globetrotters) recently stepped out of its beta phase and is now a full-blown social travel site with various tools designed to personalize trips at home and abroad. The brainchild of Harvard-grad Zachary Smith and co-founder Brittany Laughlin, Gtrot registers past, present, and future trips through Facebook with the vision of friends swapping secrets and gems from around the world.

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New Hot Spots in Champagne, France

Le Parc

There’s much more to Champagne, France, than sparkling wine. Just an hour-long TGV ride from Paris, the region is now bubbling over with new spots to sip, eat, and stay.

An 18th-century mansion turned 12-room eco-retreat, the charming Hôtel Jean Moët opened last summer in the heart of Épernay, just off Avenue de Champagne. Its lovely wrought-iron-and-glass atrium doubles as a tea salon that serves (yes) champagne cocktails. 7 Rue Jean Moët; 33-3/26-32-19-22; doubles from $169.

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Oink! The Ultimate Summer Bacon Festival

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Just how popular is bacon? Google the word and you’ll get 144 million results (and how many of those are really about Francis Bacon?). There’s practically a tweet every minute under #bacon. There’s bacon ice cream, bacon cocktails, and, of course, burgers piled high with bacon in cities across the U.S. What gives?

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Who cares! This salty meat treat has become a dietary staple—it’s practically an honorary member of the food pyramid (or plate, or whatever it is now). So go join a grease feast: the Des Moines-based Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival is taking its show on the road, to Keystone, Colorado for the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour from June 24-26. It’ll be an all-bacon, all-the-time weekend, with bacon tastings, bacon lectures (?!), and bands made up, one would assume, of non-vegetarians.

We’d go if we were closer—it’s only $30 for stuff-yourself-silly (i.e. unlimited) bacon tastings—but we’ll have to satisfy ourselves with New York–style bacon: with an egg, on a roll. And, hey, that’s not so bad.

Photos courtesy of the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour

Guess Where? Mural

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This mural can be found in the lobby of a famous building with a famous address. Is that too many hints? I hope not. Can you guess where this is?

Log in and leave your guesses below and check back here on Monday for the answer.

UPDATE 6/20/11: LetsGo_Mark got it right! This beautiful Art Deco mural is in 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. The building's official name is the GE Building, but most people know it as "30 Rock" from Tina Fey's popular TV show.

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

Photo by Adrien Glover

Following the Royals Through North America

BBC Travel - Passport Blog |  At the end of this month, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will embark on their first royal tour of North America.

The 11-day trip will begin in Canada’s National Capital Region (Ottawa, Ontario, Gatineau and Quebec) and continue into Montreal, Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and then to the west coast of the United States. The exact itinerary for the American portion of their tour has yet to be released.

A source from St James’s Palace told People Magazine that the couple views this as a “working” trip. If you decide to trace their path, though, your royal trip can focus more on stylish luxury than “work”....

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Earthquake Media: Japan's Hand-Written Newspapers in D.C.

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The latest addition to the Washington D.C.-based Newseum’s permanent collection is far from newfangled or tech-savvy. In fact, it’s a rotating display of seven original hand-written newspapers, scribed by a resilient cluster of staffers at a daily in the earthquake and tsunami ravaged city of Ishinomaki, Japan. Armed with flashlights, editors at the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun fueled their community’s need for up-to-date information by relying on the powers of felt-tip pens and poster paper, displaying their creations at relief centers and convenience stores throughout the city.

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20% Off Travel Photography at 20x200

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Still looking for that perfect Father's Day present for your travel-loving dad? Fear not. Affordable online art gallery 20x200, which has a wonderful collection of travel prints, just kicked off their semi-annual sale this afternoon. Nab an extra 20% off of orders of $50 or more by entering the code RIDONK at checkout. $20 prints are now just $16, $50 now $40, and so on! The sale goes from now until Monday.

They’ve already curated a great gift guide for dads so you don’t have to dig through their entire archives. They also have gift guides for grads and newlyweds.

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

Photo Courtesy of Tod Seelie/20x200.com

Contest Watch: Fiji, French Riviera + More

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This month’s Contest Watch celebrates the senses. From the romance-inspired Bachelorette giveaway to a quick jaunt to the French Riviera, there are prizes for the eyes, mouth, and soul. Celebrate good health with the luxurious Casa del Mar’s “Live Well Again” program promoting fresh food—and luxurious spa relaxation. Take in Austin’s quintessential sights and sounds in a Facebook scavenger hunt to win a Four Season’s getaway for two to any of the chain’s properties in the U.S. Lastly, share your culinary talents with shrimp and you could be off to a seafood-fueled vacation for six in Georgia. Read on for the delicious details.

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: Urban Escapes in New York, Rome, and Venice

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Whether you prefer the fast-paced streets of Manhattan, the ancient ruins of Rome, or the romantic gondolas of Venice, we’ve got your next vacation covered—all for more than 30 percent off standard rates. And don’t forget that all Vacationist reviews include tips, a room to book, and destination information from T+L insiders, so you can explore the world’s most exciting cities like a true insider.

PLUS This month we’re also offering special two-day sales at over 100 Preferred Hotels thanks to the Check-in For Japan program, and all proceeds will be donated Japan relief. So no matter what you’re looking for, we have an experience for you.

Still not a member? Click here to join.

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Video Q+A: Dhani Jones Talks Travel, Sports, and His New Book

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Fact: We live in an era marked by overachievers. Witness the declining average age of American Idol contestants; the proliferation of cats who play the piano; and football star Dhani Jones.

After 11 seasons as one of the NFL’s most indomitable bruisers, the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker has made a name for himself off the field as a thrill-seeking citizen of the world. Jones is an entrepreneur with his own charitable bow-tie company; an environmental advocate; a photographer, poet, and musician; and the host of Travel Channel’s “Dhani Tackles the Globe,” in which he competes in the native sport of a foreign country—everything from dragon boat racing in Singapore to capoeira in Brazil—and uses his interaction with trainers and teammates as a way into the culture. Now he can add author to that list.

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Should You Pay for Wi-Fi? Airports Explore Tiered Service

USA Today |  For years, one of the top if not the top amenity on many road warriors' wish lists has been free Wi-Fi at the airport. Slowly but surely, it's happening.

Take a look at the USATODAY.com Airport Guides, airport websites, and various commercial and user-generated Wi-Fi directories. You'll see there are now hundreds of U.S. airports offering travelers complimentary wireless Internet access.

San Francisco? Free. Orlando? Free. Seattle, St. Louis and San Jose? Free, free, free. Washington's Dulles and National airports? As of April, 2011, free as well.

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The Airplane of the Future Will Melt Your Mind

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I have seen the future of air travel, and it will be (to use scientific jargon) freakin' awesome. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus today released its report on what air travel may be like in 2050. And all I can say is hold on to your hat, Cap'n Sully, because it is going to be one way cool ride.

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Tweeting My Way Through San Francisco


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Whenever I head out of town, I turn to my small but trusty band of Twitter followers for recommendations in my destination, but I really discovered the power of social media during my visit to San Francisco last month. As has become the norm for me now before any of my trips, in the days leading up to my departure I hashtagged away to glory and beseeched strangers and friends alike for tips.

Soon an itinerary was taking shape (many thanks, @PaperDaydream, @JasleenK, @streetno8, @BeautyNDFeast, @LettuceVeg, and @chiratsu!), incorporating classic landmarks like Lombard Street with restaurants and neighborhoods I never would have found in my guidebook.

 One place that kept making its way onto my Twitter timeline was a sandwich shop called Ike’s Place (3489 16th St.) on the fringes of the colorful, mural-bedecked Mission District. It generated so much buzz in response to my queries that the first thing I did was plug the address into my GPS to make it my starting point.

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TODAY Show: Quick Weekend Getaways

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

New Website Helps Travelers Pick the Best Hotel Room

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Who He Is: As founder and CEO of Altimeter Capital, a hedge fund that specializes in travel-themed tech companies, Brad Gerstner spends a lot of time on the road as both a business and a leisure traveler. As a result, he knows how to spot a good hotel room (“on a high floor and away from the elevator”)—a skill he leveraged when creating his latest company.

His Big Idea: The website room77.com promises to help travelers pick the perfect hotel room. (Sort of like what SeatGuru did for airline seats.) The site offers floor plans, pictures, user reviews, and window views for rooms in 2,500 three-star-plus hotels (and counting). A new iPhone app provides the same service for free, on the go. So now guests can book a room and not worry about that blocked ocean view the hotel’s website neglected to mention.

Photo courtesy of Brad Gerstner

Editor Find: Fabulous Flats in Florence

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I don't know about you, but I'm forever on the hunt for that quintessential thing that you can only find locally—like the conch shells from the beaches of Turks and Caicos or Ladurée macaroons (before the French company decided to sell out and populate the earth). It's that thing you would ask a friend to pick up if you knew they were going. Rare as it is with the internet at our fingertips, it's still fun to make discoveries when we travel.

While in Florence on a T+L Sept cover shoot, I noted a great pair of navy suede ballet flats on an effortlessly chic Italian colleague. Always on the hunt for great travel flats, I became obsessed when she told me how much she paid and had to make a mad dash to the shop before I got on the plane the next morning.

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America Voted "Funniest Nation," Germany "Least Funny"

eTurbo News |  The Americans have been voted the world's "funniest nationality" - the one "best at making people laugh" - in a global poll, which also names the Germans the "least funny" nationality and the British "not as funny as they think."

30,000 people across 15 countries were asked to name both the "funniest" and "least funny" nationality in a poll conducted by Badoo.com, the world's largest social network for meeting new people, with 119m users worldwide.

The Americans were voted the funniest nationality, ahead of the Spanish - the funniest Europeans - in second, Italians in third and British in seventh.

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Two Road Shows: New Films Worth Watching

In between blockbusters at the drive-in this summer, catch up with
these two insightful journey documentaries.
Airing on mun2 and iTunes digital download, Harlistas: An American Journey profiles Latino Harley Davidson motorcyclists as they take their hogs to the highway.

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Buy Dad an Airline Beverage Cart on eBay

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Ever wonder what happens to the bits and bobs of airplanes after they’re decommissioned?  You can find them on eBay.

Universal Asset Management buys retired planes and strips them to recycle their components.  The company runs an eBay storefront where you can shop for all your engine aft thrust fitting needs—from an entire A320 lavatory (!) to cockpit seats, galley carts, overhead bins, first aid kits, a row of luridly colored 747 seats, to more technical items like circuit panels, wheels, assembly valves, tail cones, and oil gauges.  The products that make the eBay store are not longer flight-worthy, of course, except for flights of fancy.  Those overhead bins would look cool mounted over a airplane-crazy child's bed...

Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Universal Asset Management.

Guess Where? Yellow Buddha

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This vibrant building, decorated in small sculptures of the Buddha, is part of an imperial garden complex that re-opened as a public park in 1924. Do you know where this is?

Log in and leave your guesses below and check back here on Monday for the answer.

UPDATE 6/17/11: Sorry for the delay! Again, no guesses this time. Remember, leave your answers here if you're coming from Facebook. This ornate building is in the Summer Palace in Beijing.

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

Photo by Lyndsey Matthews

Ritz-Carlton for $10 a night. No, really.

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Yep, just 1 Alexander Hamilton can get you a room at Florida’s Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne. Of course, we didn’t say there wasn’t a catch. Actually, there are several, so listen up: the Ritz has set aside only 10 rooms for this ridiculous rate; it’s available over selected dates in July (5-7, 10-13, 18, 25, 26); it’s a resort-view room (you want to see water for $10?); and to get one, there’s just a 4-hour window in which to make your reservation—this Friday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST. Here’s the magic number to call: 305-365-4582.

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Big Sky Ranch Lodges Go Glam

Resort at Paws Up

Pack your spurs: two ranches are adding a new dose of glamour to Big Sky Country. Opening this June in Wyoming, the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch (doubles from $1,200, all-inclusive) is located on 13,000 sprawling acres. On the itinerary? Twilight tours past a roaming buffalo herd, juniper-oil massages, and plenty of relaxing in the 17 cabins with roaring stone fireplaces. Outside Missoula, Montana’s Resort at Paws Up (doubles from $820, including all meals) is unveiling a new six-tent camp with oversize tubs and butler service this summer.

Photo courtesy of Resort at Paws Up

New Tourist Slogans Twist Arms

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Cheesy travel slogans are a dime a dozen. There's something decidedly square in the art of selling destinations, and rightly so. Not only must you lure new travelers, you also have to represent the locals who live in these places—and you probably shouldn't tick them off.

So, it's all the more interesting to notice some chance-taking of late.  A few brave tourist boards—hoping to zap awake a sleepy economy, defibrillator-style—have unveiled a slew of over-the-top, playfully arm-twisting slogans.

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: Beach Escapes in Jamaica, Oahu, and the Florida Keys

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Steamy scenes across the U.S. have us yearning for cool beach breezes. Enter Vacationist, with hotel deals at oceanfront properties from the Caribbean to the Florida Keys. PLUS Don’t forget: This month we’ve teamed up with Preferred Hotels to present Check-In for Japan. Book one of the 21 Preferred Hotels on sale now, and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross disaster relief fund.

Still not a member? Click here to join.

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Beach Tomato Names Its Top 5 Favorite European Beaches

SPECIAL REPORT: With summertime now in full stride, UK-based Beach Tomato has announced its list of favorite European beaches. Check out its expert picks for the best southernly stretches of sand around:

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1. Cala Boix, Ibiza
On the sleepy side of the Balearic island, just outside the typically Ibizan whitewashed village of San Carlos is a little known black-sanded beach popular with local families and off-the-clock DJs seeking respite from the thud thud thud of Ibiza’s glamorous beach clubs. Pack a picnic and that book you’ve been meaning to read since Christmas. Then, at sundown, hop a couple of beaches over to dine at the waterfront beach shack El Bigote. The seafood supper (think fresh daily catches) served here is an island institution.

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New Study: What U.S. City is No. 1 for Bed Bug Infestations?

USA TodayNew York, for the second year in a row, according to a study just released by pest-control giant Terminix. Not really a surprise, since NYC is a populous metropolis with well-publicized infestations everywhere from apartment buildings to businesses such as department stores, magazine offices, even Lincoln Center.

Terminix reports an increase in bed bug infestations in most states during the past year, in part because consumers are more aware and on the lookout for the tiny pests, Terminix entymologist Paul Curtis told me.

The company's list of most bed bug-plagued cities, based on customer complaints validated by Terminix and infestations discovered during pest calls:

1. New York
2. Cincinnati
3. Detroit

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