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Instagram Direct Launches For Private Sharing

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Today, at a rare NYC-based launch event, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced a new feature called Instagram Direct. Like your private inbox on Twitter or Facebook, it’s a new way to share privately—either with one individual or a group of up to 15 friends. Simply select who you want to share your photo with, and each person’s avatar shows up in a bubble underneath your caption—first grayed out, then in color with a green check mark once they’ve seen your message.

The new feature (available today on mobile) comes in response to the tendency of self-curating—not wanting to overwhelm your feed with every single shot of your Roman holiday, for instance—and the need to share those extra images with the people who really do want to see them. (Named groups, such as “Family” or “Foodie Friends” will follow in the 2.0 version of Direct, making it easier to share that ump-teenth baguette and cheese shot in Paris without annoying your best carb-avoiding gal pal.) So why have the launch in New York? Said Systrom: “Instagram isn’t just about Silicon Valley. Instagram is all about sharing moments all around the world.” We couldn't have put it better ourselves.

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 Maria Pedone

Street Artist Axel Void Paints Murals in Palermo, Italy

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With a street name that rings like a comic book anti-hero, and a polynym straight out of a fairy tale, it’s no wonder that Axel Void(Alejandro Hugo Dorda Mevs) has conquered buildings and walls around the world with his bombastic murals. This isn’t your basic Bansky. From Miami to Berlin, Sevilla to San Juan, Void’s larger than life, monochromatic paintings don’t sneak up on you, they stop you in your tracks.

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T+L Tech Pop-Up Store Opens in Chicago

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In our Decemeber issue, Travel + Leisure spun out a list of the top tech gadgets in 2013. Now, we’re giving our fans in Chicago a chance to test drive and buy a selection of winners, from Wi-Fi equipped cameras to super-slick laptops at the T+L Hot Spot Tech Pop-Up. Hosted by the Thompson Chicago, the shop will run this weekend, Friday, December 12th through Sunday, December 15th, in conjunction with ShopLatitude.com, where you’ll be able to make all your purchases. Gevalia coffee will fuel the holiday shopping with their tasting station, as guests listen to the likes of T+L News Editor, Amy Farley and Style Director, Mimi Lombardo during live editor chats.

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Smithsonian Now Offers 3D Printing on Popular Exhibits

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What do Amelia Earhart’s flight suit, a remnant of a supernova, and Abraham Lincoln’s face have in common? You can now have your own life-sized replica of each. If you happen to possess an enormous, 3D-printer, that is.

As part of the Smithsonian Institute’s efforts to preserve its assets, which include more than 137 million objects ranging from fine art to fossils, an ambitious digitization project has begun.

Currently, only 1 percent of the Smithsonian’s collection is on display in its exhibition. Creating 3D, digital replicas of these objects in their online gallery—as well as the remaining 99 percent—will allow the entire world unprecedented access to the institute’s treasures. 

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Skyscanner Launches Soccer Flight Finder for 2014 World Cup

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Skyscanner already helps travelers compare flight prices for the best deals, but they’ll be focusing on the sports-crazed in 2014. Just as soccer fans around the globe are gearing up for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Skyscanner has launched their Soccer Flight Finder. The search engine compares outbound flights from each of the 32 participating countries to Brazil, as well as internal flights so that fans can follow their team directly to the field. Simply select which of the eight groups your team is placed in, and Skyscanner lets you search for free across web and mobile devices, in 30 different languages. Hotel and car rental comparisons let spectators further plan their visit to Latin America's largest country—all the more reason to stand and cheer (or shout) during the high-energy tournament.

Maria PedoneMaria Pedone is on the digital team at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.

Photo credit: Skyscanner

Global Entry: How to Make the Most of It

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If you fly three or four times a year and don’t have Global Entry, you’re crazy.

I know that’s a bold statement—and I have no way of actually judging your mental capacities—but give me a moment to explain why it’s an essential tool for any traveler, even those staying within the country.

Global Entry is a Customs and Border Protection program that, after a background check, allows travelers to skip lines at immigration and customs, using a kiosk to quickly reenter the country. The online application process takes a bit of time, and a subsequent in-person interview is required.

Once complete, though, you’ll not only laugh at long immigration lines but also race through airport security. That’s because the TSA considers Global Entry members “trusted travelers” and automatically includes them in the affiliated PreCheck program. And entry into that program is priceless.

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American + US Airways Merger Is Official: Say Hello To The World’s Largest Airline

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It’s been almost a year since travel behemoths American Airlines and US Airways first announced their plan to merge into the world’s largest airline. This morning, after months of negotiations and several concessions from both parties, the market finally opened with AAL shares on NASDAQ, representing the financial future of the new, officially approved American Airlines Group, Inc.

The $11 billion dollar deal salvaged a struggling American Airlines from bankruptcy, but required both airlines to surrender major gate slots across the country—more than one hundred total—at hubs that include Washington's Reagan and New York's LaGuardia airports.

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Explore the Rainforest at Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale

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I'm on a business trip in Scottsdale, Arizona and promised my twins I'd stop by the city's new Butterfly Wonderland complex. At 10,000 square feet, it's the largest indoor rainforest in the US, home to Silver Spotted Flambeaus, Peacocks Pansys, Tailed Jays (pictured), and hundreds more. I'm no science-buff (and this would not have been at the top of my to-do list), but once you promise your kids something, there's really no going back. So my mommy-guilt made me go—and I'm glad. I only wish I had the kids with me. The place is incredible (even if insects aren't your thing), with a 3D theater, a live ant colony, an aquatic center with Motoro stingrays you can touch, and my favorite part, a gallery where you can witness the metamorphosis of a Blue Morpho Butterfly. If you're headed to the Southwest with the family, it's definitely worth checking out.

Clara Sedlak


Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.

Photo courtesy of Butterfly Wonderland

How Far in Advance Should You Book Airline Tickets?

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Wondering when you should book your flights for 2014? Finding the lowest fares means hitting the booking window at just the right time. We asked KAYAK to crunch the numbers for airfares around the world. Here's a look.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Q+A with Mike McCready, Co-Founder & CEO of Music Xray

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McCready thinks of his 18-month-old company as the Match.com of the music industry: Instead of potential lovebirds, though, Music Xray connects musicians with industry professionals who are looking for single song licenses or record deals.

McCready travels all over the U.S. and Europe for meetings with music companies. Below, he tells us more about Music Xray, and how he navigates life on the road.

Q: How does Music Xray work?

A: We build tools that help industry professionals—radio program directors, producers and managers, for example—glean high potential songs and talent from among the vast amount of independent music that’s available. Professionals can collectively filter through thousands of songs per day, identify quality material and pool their screening efforts. In other words, we empower our members to sort through a large haystack of music, pull out the needles and create a “needlestack” which other music pros can then cherry pick for the best songs and talent.

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Q+A Series from PhoCusWright 2013: Cheryl Rosner of Stayful.com

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At this year’s PhoCusWright Conference—an annual gathering of the world’s most influential travel innovators—all eyes were on the Innovation Summit and the presenting entrepreneurs. But not all of the talent in attendance was on stage. In a short Q+A series we will introduce you to three new companies that are also poised to change the way we travel.

First up, is Cheryl Rosner, the visionary behind Stayful.com, a website whose proprietary bidding system allows travelers to suggest their own rates at amazing independent and boutique hotels in six (soon to be 10) U.S. cities. As the former Hotels.com president and president of Expedia Corporate Travel, Rosner is a discerning traveler who prides herself on seeking out unique properties with great design and enduring character—but who also likes a bargain.

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Check out Delta's New Holiday Video

We're loving Delta's new holiday video, which features flight attendents, pilots, and other crewmembers making music with improvised instruments—peanuts and service carts, for example. Take a look!

It seems like there's a new airline video every day, as legacy liners and up-and-comers strive to retain loyalty among their flyers. Expect to see a Virgin America holiday video sometime soon.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Sunday Night Movies Go Luxe at Le Royal Monceau Hotel in Paris

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Eyebrows were raised in October, when Luc Besson’s luxe First movie theater opened in the new Aeroville mall near Charles de Gaulle airport north of Paris. For €25, First gives you a spacious leather seat, a smoked salmon and tarama snack, and a flute of Champagne, orderable from a seatside tablet. “Mais c’est la crise!” said the local press, unsure whether such luxuries make sense as France’s economy remains sluggish.

Such questions do not trouble the hotel Le Royal Monceau Raffles, in Paris’s tony 8th arrondissement, with a clientele to match. Here an even posher proposition awaits the film buff, in the private screening room of the Philippe Starck-designed five-star: the just-debuted Sunday Night Film Club.

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Guess Where? Bicycle

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Can you guess what city this is? Leave your guesses on our Facebook page. Check back on Monday for the answer.

Lyndsey Matthews is an assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @matthewslyndsey

Photo Courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

Travel Trends from Day Two of ILTM Summit in Cannes

Day Two of the International Luxury Travel Market was a busy one for the almost 3,000 exhibitors and attendees roaming the Palais des Festivals, in Cannes. We checked in with a handful of industry leaders, including A-List agent Jack Ezon of Ovation Vacations and T+L's editor-in-chief, Nancy Novogrod, for their thoughts on this year's travel trends.

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Sarah Spagnolo is special correspondent & new media editor at Travel + Leisure.

Roomer: A New (Discounted) Market for Hotel Rooms

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Think of it as the StubHub for hotel rooms: with new site Roomer.com, travelers are able to offload non-refundable reservations onto anyone looking for a good deal. Unlike the ticket scalping site, bookings are re-sold at a discount—and often a steep one. On a recent search, we found half-priced rooms at the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental Miami, as well as rooms under $100 in New York City (yes, seriously). Here’s how it works: those looking to book simply browse through Roomer’s search engine and pick where they’d like to spend a night (or more). Each reservation must stick to the same dates as the original booking—one key downside—but Roomer takes care of transferring the reservation details to your name and credit card. We love the way the site puts the “current market value” next to your discounted price on numerous listings—it’s that kind of data that really gets a bargain hunter going!

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 Roomer

Instagram Mashup Makes Two-Minute Tour of World

Think your trip to Paris or voyage to Sydney was totally unique? Think again.

French artist Thomas Jullien took viewers around the world in 852 Instagrams when he released his short film a few weeks ago. On foot, bike, plane and train, we see some of the world’s most beloved landmarks—the Arc de Triomphe, the Sydney Opera House, and the Statue of Liberty.

Jullien’s travelogue highlights how eerily similar 852 individual Instagramers picture the world through the same 16 frames and filters.

Melanie Lieberman is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Are Bitcoins the Travel Currency of the Future?

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We here at T+L have been reading a lot about Bitcoins lately.

The virtual currency—unaffiliated with national institutions and easily traded anonymously—has seen its value skyrocket to over $1,000 per “coin.” Whispers abound of a potential bubble (remember Tulipmania?). Today those whispers turned to full on warnings, when Chinese banks instructed financial institutions not to trade in the digital money. Yet while the news briefly caused the prices to tumble, they're once again on the rise.

Bubble or no bubble, it seems likely that digital money is here to stay. And the travel industry is helping.

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Pérez Art Museum Makes Flashy Opening Today in Miami

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In addition to the Art Basel buzz, Miami is getting extra attention today with the opening of the Pérez Art Museum Miami. The three-level, $131 million state of the art building took 28 months to build. Notable features include 200,000 square feet of program space, floor-to-ceiling hurricane resistant windows, and views of both the downtown skyline and Key Biscayne. Verde, the museum's restaurant by Steven Starr, will offer seasonal dishes, craft cocktails, and quick bites like pastries and sandwiches. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the venue was inspired by Stiltsville—the atmospheric collection of shacks off the coast of Key Biscayne. Tip: Stay at a Bal Harbour–area hotel for free admission to PAMM and three other museums.

Photo credit: Iwan Baan

TSA's Precheck Program Opens to the Public

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The Transportation Security Administration (a.k.a. TSA) is opening its first Precheck enrollment center, at the Indianapolis International Airport today. Until now, PreCheck has been available only to loyalty-program members of the TSA's partner airlines and people enrolled in one of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler programs, such as Global Entry. Today marks the first time any traveler, regardless of frequent-flier status, can sign up to get expedited security privileges. All you need is $85 (which covers five years), proof of citizenship (though not necessarily a passport), and a little extra time at the airport. The TSA plans to roll out an additional 300 such centers by spring 2014—with the next ones coming to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Insider Travel News From Day One of the ILTM Summit

This week, travel industry leaders descend on Cannes, France for the International Luxury Travel Marketplace (ILTM). The networking event is one of the largest of the year for the travel market; it's estimated that more than 57,000 meetings will take place between hotel groups, destinations, tour operators, travel agents and the media, including Travel + Leisure editors. In the interview chair? Jill Taylor and Lindsey Woodcock of Jet Set World Travel and Royal Monceau Raffles Paris general manager Omer Acar.

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 Sarah Spagnolo is special correspondent & new media editor at Travel + Leisure.

Miami Art Week Kicks Off

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Miami Art Week kicks-off another year of buzzworthy fairs this week, drawing the international cognoscenti for the latest round of high-priced purchases and ritzy parties. It’s an especially notable time for a culture scene whose boundless growth has shifted the art world’s center of gravity toward South Florida—the glittering Pérez Art Museum Miami’s debut is the latest jaw-dropping splash, and hotels like The Betsy have a full slate of arts programming—exhibits, meet-the-artist events, and more.

As its cachet continues to rise, T+L sat down with Art Miami Director Nick Korniloff to get the scoop on the 2013 rendition. 

Q: What are the can't-miss exhibitions at Art Miami this year?

A: The 2014 edition of Art Miami will provide an unprecedented group of high-quality galleries from around the globe that will have a selection of works at the forefront of the contemporary market. The fair will have three distinct curated projects—Check Out (above), Think Big and Zoom In (below)—that clearly define the overall depth, diversity, and quality of the Art Miami Fair. Each project area incorporates large-scale sculpture, flat work, video, and new media. In addition, we will have a special exhibition of Banksy original works, including one piece from his recent NY residency program.

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Is it Rude to ask Someone to Quiet a Child on a Plane?

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A: If the child is an infant, try to be sympathetic. Intervening won’t help, but some earplugs might. When an older child is misbehaving (kicking the back of your seat, for example), then go ahead. Usually, talking directly to the parent—or even the child—will do the trick. If the problem persists, you should involve a flight attendant to keep the situation from escalating.

37: The percentage of passengers who would prefer to sit next to a smelly adult than a crying baby.

Source: Harris Interactive

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Illustration © Images.com/Corbis

The Ritz-Carlton's Plan for World Domination

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By now, we’re used to hearing the big news that Trip Advisor has acquired some smaller company—it seems to happen about once a week. But the past couple months, we’ve also been hearing big news almost every week from a very different type of company: the Ritz-Carlton.

The luxury hotel company has unleashed a flurry of new properties on the world in the past couple months, opening three in October (Chendgu and Tianjin in China, and Bangalore, India) and two in November (Almaty, Kazakhstan and Aruba), with another on the way mid-December (Herzliya, Israel).

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Affordable Getaways for the Holiday Season

Get away this season to enjoy holiday cheer in a new place—all for under $200 a night.

Maison Fleurie, Yountville, CA

Centrally located in Yountville, this 13-room inn is within walking distance of the town’s holiday decorations, festive shops, and standout restaurants. Enjoy the inn’s complimentary wine and seasonal hors d’oeuvres each afternoon with cranberry-chocolate scones and carafes of hot cocoa. And since you’re in wine country, be sure to celebrate the holiday season by taking a tasting tour at some of the top vineyards in the country—some are in walking distance from the hotel. Doubles from $150/night.

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TSA Has Over $500,000 in Forgotten Pocket Change from 2012

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In fiscal 2012, travelers left $531,000 in pennies, nickels, and dimes at airport security checkpoints, according the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Nearly 95% of the loose change collected came from domestic flights, with $22,000 coming from LAX alone. Altogether, the TSA has amassed over $2 million in the last five years.

What is the TSA planning on doing with all the money?

Currently it sits mostly untouched in an “aviation security fund,” but Florida representative Jeff Miller last week issued a committee report recommending the unused coins go toward upgraded travel amenities for members of the U.S. military and their families while traveling.

Congress is set to vote later this week on Miller's bill.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Puerto Rico's Bioluminescent Lagoon Goes Oddly Dark

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Aside from Disney World, I wouldn't normally call a destination magical—but Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent Grand Lagoon comes pretty close. Unfortunately, the popular Fajardo tourist destination has gone strangely dark. Visitors come to swim or kayak through the waters to witness a trail of sparkling green light appear. The glow is caused when dinoflagettlates (microscopic plankton) are disturbed, giving off light they’ve collected during the day. But since November 11, tour operators have been forced to cancel excursions and reimburse disappointed guests.

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100 Ways to Travel Better Twitter Chat on Wednesday, December 4th

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How do you travel better? We're asking a panel of experts to open their little black books for hotel tips and air travel tricks this Wednesday, December 4th from 2-3pm EDT.

Ask our panel of insiders for their expert advice and money-saving tips (like bringing your own water!) during our chat.

The Host:

Amy Farley, News Editor, @TLTripDoctor

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Streamlining Hotel Check-Ins for Business Travelers

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After a long day traveling, the last thing any road warrior wants is to wait at a hotel check-in desk.

Don’t fret, frequent travelers: hotels have heard our pleas and help is on the way. New technologies promise to let guests skip the front desk, although it might take several years for all of us to reap the benefits.

Let’s start with the problem.

I still have bad flashbacks to a business trip to Florida several years ago. I arrived at the hotel late at night thanks to a flight delay, only to find a front-desk clerk who wanted to make small talk. Lots of small talk. Call me heartless, but all I wanted to do was go to bed. I’m sure the rest of my stay was fine, but all I recall of that hotel today was the overly friendly welcome.

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Travel to Thailand Okay Despite Clashes in Bangkok, According to U.S. State Department

Political demonstrations in Bangkok took a violent turn this weekend, as anti-government groups clashed with government supporters and riot police. The ongoing protests need not affect travelers' plans to Thailand as of yet, however, according to local sources and the U.S. Department of State.

In an official statement yesterday, the State Department recommends US citizens join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the embassy to contact enrollees during emergencies. It also urges travelers to steer clear of the demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings. Significantly, the statement does not go so far as to suggest individuals cancel their travel plans.

Local hotels are open for business, as are most major sites in the city. Outside of Bangkok, popular areas such as Chiang Mai are unaffected by the clashes.

Pat O'Connell, a T+L A-List Agent with Asia Transpacific Journeys, reports that travel to and around Thailand has not been significantly impacted by the protests. Allowing more time for airport transfers has been the only effect to date, although the company's on-the-ground staff is monitoring the situation closely.

The demonstrations have left at least 4 protesters dead and scores more injured. Anti-government activists want Ms. Shinawatra out of office, alleging that her brother, and ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra is leading the country behind the scenes from exile.

It is unclear whether the protests will calm down in time for the Thai King's birthday this Thursday.

We here at T+L share the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok's hope for a peaceful resolution, and will follow the situation closely. For up-to-the-minute news, follow the embassy on Twitter.

 

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor news team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

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