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Amtrak Planning Faster WiFi For Northeast Corridor

Amtrak's notoriously slow on-board internet connection will get an upgrade, the company announced last week. In a test sometime this winter, Amtrak is hoping to double the WiFi capacity for the busy Northeast Corridor Line, which runs from Baltimore through Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and into Maine.

This follows a recent pattern of faster service announcements for travelers: British Airways also made news this month for its consideration of 4G WiFi with Inmarsat (currently, the airline doesn't offer in-flight internet service).

San Francisco Dispatch: Check In to Hotel Palomar and Check Out with a Tattoo

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Gimmicky packages and marketing campaigns are far too common in the travel business, which is why we love it when we hear about a hotel tie-in that is fresh, edgy, and captures the artistic spirit of a destination—for real.

The Hotel Palomar, in San Francisco’s Union Square neighborhood, is partnering with Inked Magazine Creative Director Todd Weinberger and Contributing Writer Jennifer Goldstein to create a tattoo getaway package. (This is not a misprint.)

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Vacation Rentals You Don’t Pay For?

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Accommodations around the world for free? The idea is admittedly utopian, but it’s also a reality thanks to the fast-growing website Trustedhousesitters.com, which features housesitting opportunities in 60 countries and counting. That’s right, houses—many of them dreamy amenity-filled homes—where you can stay free of charge.

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T+L Editor-in-Chief Nancy Novogrod Announces the 2014 World's Best Awards

Travel + Leisure’s own Nancy Novogrod joins Morning Joe to announce the 2014 World’s Best Awards. In the results of the annual survey, readers to rate everything from hotels to cruises. Check out the complete list of winners here.

"Ladies of London" Star Marissa Hermer on Her Local Haunts

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Ask around at a cocktail party, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn't hooked on Bravo’s reality programming. So when I found out that my long-time pal, Marissa Hermer, was set to join the cast of Ladies of London, I nearly flipped. A Newport Beach native—but recently-crowned British citizen— Marissa and her husband, Matt Hermer, own several successful restaurants and nightclubs around the world. Among their London projects: Bumpkin, which highlights seasonal English fare at three chic locations, and Boujis, a nightlife spot that’s big with the royals. Marissa was in town the other day, and she stopped by to open up her little black book. 

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Daily Transporter: Holy Beer

beautiful canal in the evening

Tasting the world’s top-rated beer, Westvleteren XII Ale, requires a commitment. First you call to receive instructions about which morning to arrive at the gates of the monastery in western Belgium where it’s brewed. A monk will check your license plate against the reservation, process your credit card, then load two cases of the brew into your car. (Don’t drink and drive.)

See Bruges (pictured) in World’s Most Beautiful Canal Cities

Editor’s Picks: Belgium
Best Adventure Travel Destinations
World’s Strangest Chocolates
Craziest Places for Cat Lovers

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @aegisnyc. Get the Daily Transporter newsletter in your in-box.

Photo courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

Photographer Ben Watts Captures Australia's Byron Bay

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Photographer Ben Watts trains his lens on Australia’s hippest beach colony.

Two hours outside Brisbane, Byron Bay is a long way to travel—its remoteness edits who comes here. The hippie-chic spirit is similar to other bohemian outposts: Bali, Ibiza, Montauk. One of my favorite things is the diverse mix of people—everyone from artists to backpackers to celebrities.

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Ideas for a Tropical Island Getaway (Video)

Sand between your toes, a blissed-out day by the waves... Your next island getaway is closer than you think, thanks to new routes and more frequent flights from major U.S. cities. In this short video, T+L shares the details on Antigua; Turks and Caicos; Aruba; Sanibel Island, Florida; and Kauai—with hotel recommendations to match.

A New Spin on the Pedicab at The Mark

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Hotel-branded bikes? Been there, done that. But on New York City’s Upper East Side, The Mark Hotel is putting a new twist on the now-classic amenity. Launching in July, the hotel’s black-and-white striped pedicabs will be whisking guests to nearby attractions—Central Park, Bergford Goodman, or the Guggenheim Museum—on a complimentary basis. To add to the sweet nostalgia factor, guests can also request a seasonal picnic basket to be brought on board, courtesy of Jean-Georges’ on-site restaurant—perfect for a throwback-style afternoon on the Great Lawn.

ne_headshotjpgNikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Jon Nissenbaum for The Mark

Disney Twitter Chat on Tuesday, July 1

From favorite rides to how to achieve Disney for adults, get tips on making the most out of those magical moments in our Disney Twitter chat on Tuesday, July 1st from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. Join along and ask the experts for their advice!

The Hosts:

T+L's Senior Editor, Jacqueline Gifford, @jacquigiff

T+L's Assistant Editor, Nikki Ekstein, @nikkiekstein

The Panelists:

The Knot, @theknot

EverythingMom.com, @EverythingMom

Natalie Zfat, @NatalieZfat

Alyssa Campanella, Former Miss USA, @AlyssCampanella

AJ Wolfe, @DisneyFoodBlog

Lou Mongello of Walt Disney World Radio, @loumongello

Jason Beudert, @jasonthefoodguy

Jason Cochran for @Frommers. Author of Frommer's EasyGuide to Walt Disney World and Orlando 2014.

How does it work?

1. Log in to Twitter before the chat starts at 2pm ET and be sure to follow @TravlandLeisure.

2. Head over to http://twitter.com. Enter the hashtag #TL_Chat into the search bar and select the "All" search option to follow the chat in real time.

3. Remember to always add the hashtag #TL_Chat to your tweets.

4. We'll pulse out some questions for our expert panel to answer, but feel free to post your own responses. Or ask questions of your own! 

All tweets are subject to our social media terms and conditions and may be used in any and all media including editorial. See full social media terms and conditions.

Gabrielle Blitz is Associate Social Media Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Q+A: Keith Cox Explains How Vacatia Is the StubHub of Timeshares

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Travel + Leisure has long celebrated hotels as the go-to choice for travel accommodations, and in recent years we've covered the explosion of the vacation rental market, from villas to Airbandb.com. Time shares were not often part of the conversation. Their merits as a good investment were questionable—limitations on use and impossible to resell. Enter Vacatia.com. With a special focus on the family market, this online marketplace for timeshares is changing things for the better. We caught up with Keith Cox, Vacatia.com's CEO:

Q: How is Vacatia.com disrupting travel?
A: 
Vacatia is creating a new online sales and marketing channel for the timeshare and fractional ownership industry, a $10B a year market segment of travel that is still selling almost exclusively offline using the same sales strategies that have been used for decades.  In particular, with the recent launch of Vacatia.com, we are bringing transparency and liquidity to the secondary, resale market serving the 8.2MM American families who own timeshare. 

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Daily Transporter: 3,000-Year-Old Giants

ALTTEXT

One happy park ranger will commemorate today’s 150th anniversary of Yosemite by plunging a shovel into the road running through the park’s Mariposa Grove. The act signals the start of a $24 million project that will remove parking lots, roads, and a gift shop to restore the ancient grove of giant sequoias to its natural state.

See Yosemite in 25 Selfies You Have to Take This Year

Editor’s Picks: Yosemite National Park
World’s Scariest Hikes
Celebrities’ Favorite Places
Super-Short Travel Disaster Stories

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @aegisnyc. Get the Daily Transporter newsletter in your in-box.

Photo courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

Daily Transporter: Rolling of the Bulls

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If you can’t make it to Pamplona this year, consider a stateside alternative to the annual encierro.

Hampton, Virginia celebrates San Fermin with a Rolling of the Bulls. Participants race through the streets, chased by horn-wearing, baseball bat-wielding roller derby girls. Complete with Tomatina-inspired water balloon fight, the playful event takes place July 12 in downtown Hampton.

See more ideas for warm-weather fun in 25 Ideas for Your Best Summer Ever

Editor’s Picks: Virginia
Best Beaches on Earth
America’s Best Road Trips
World’s Strangest Natural Wonders

Caroline Hallemann is an assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @challemann

Photo courtesy of Marker 20

 

 

Zen Moment: Switzerland From Above

This year, Swiss Tourism is celebrating the Alpine nation's incredible views, and a new video does just that. "Switzerland From Above," filmed by renowned French journalist Yann Arthus, takes viewers on an aerial tour of some of the country's most scenic vistas.

The Rheinfalls, high mountain peaks, and bucolic farm scenes (Swiss cows!) all appear in the film, which is set to a transfixing score by Armand Amar.

So take a moment—well, 20 minutes actually—to experience Switzerland from above.

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

 

New Canopy Gliders Open Over Queensland's Rainforest

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Queensland, Australia is riding high this year, especially with their new Canopy Glider, and open-air gondola that cruise over the lush rainforest. Barron Gorge National Park’s Skyrail Rainforest Cableway offers guides to talk you through the flora and fauna below. By being completely uncovered, the ride offers a truly panoramic view of Barron Gorge’s scenic waterfalls and dense forests.

The Canopy Glider departs from Skyrail’s Smithfield Terminal (located 15 minutes north of Cairns) and ends in Kuranda, the ‘Village in the Rainforest.’ The secluded destination has markets ands restaurants, as well as a butterfly sanctuary, an aviary and a koala park. They have two departures daily, so it’s probably wise to book in advance. For more info, visit their website here. And for more ways to see the world from cableway, see our list of World's Coolest Tram Rides.

Megan Soll is Travel + Leisure's Digital Intern

Photos courtesy of Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Daily Transporter: London

28junesan-yogajpgYoga’s all about elevating the mind to a higher plane, but if you truly want to get your om on amongst the clouds, here’s your chance. Europe’s tallest building, The Shard now offers “sky high” yoga and meditation classes on its 68th floor.

See more of London in The World’s Coolest New Tourist Attractions.

Editor’s Picks: London
World’s Coolest Tram Rides

Best Airports for a Long Layover
Best Museums for Families

Caroline Hallemann is an assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @challemann.

Photo by Yogasphere at The View from The Shard, June 2014 Photo: Oliver Dixon/Imagewise

We Love Virgin America's New/Adorable/Gay-Friendly Website

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If you've booked a flight with Virgin America recently, you may have noticed the airline's fun new Where We Fly page, which uses artsy icons to symbolize each of its destinations.

Just in time for the city's Pride festival this weekend—the country's largest—San Francisco appears as the Golden Gate Bridge under a rainbow, with one of the city's famed sea lions dressed as the police officer from the Village People.

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Choice Hotels Partners With Online Menu Platform for Easy In-Room Delivery

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Thanks to a new partnership with online menu platform Zuppler, in-room dining is now a lot more exciting—and easier—at Choice Hotels. Through the branded website ChoiceHotelsMenus.com or an iOS and Android app, guests can place orders for delivery from nearby restaurants; if you share your location, it will automatically bring up the hotel closest to you. A few options for those staying at Comfort Inn Manhattan Bridge: Indian from Baluchi’s, falafel from Pita Grill, and cold-press juices from Magic Mix Juicery. More than 250 Choice Hotels—which includes Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, and Econo Lodge—and 4,500-plus restaurant chains across the country have signed on so far.  

Brooke Porter
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.

 

Photo courtesy of Zuppler

Mediterranean Lighthouses To Get a Makeover

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Over the next 18 months, lighthouses around the Mediterranean are going to get a makeover. The multi-country Mediterranean Lighthouse Project, known as MED-PHARES, intends to restore nine historic lighthouses, lanterns and watchtowers in Italy, Tunisia, Lebanon and France, with the hope of reaching out to more throughout the Mediterranean.

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Tucson’s Westin La Paloma Resort Partners with Arizona’s Desert Museum

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On a recent trip to Tucson, I was amazed to learn that the Sonoran Desert, which laps at the city’s doorstep, is second only to the Amazon for its diversity of plants and animals. Who knew? I was also excited to discover the iconic Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa—which underwent $35 million in renovations to its guestrooms, public spaces, and pools in 2013—has partnered with Tucson’s excellent Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to inspire and educate guests, and bring the incredible surroundings to light.

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Daily Transporter: Shredding Munich

river surfing

Think landlocked Munich is too far from a coast to boast a surf culture? Nein, dude. Since the 1970s, surfers have been riding a treacherous and icy river wave right at the edge of the city's Englischer Garten.

See the Englischer Garten in World’s Most Beautiful City Parks

Editor’s Picks: Munich
World’s Coolest Staircases
Food + Travel: Readers’ Photos
Best Airports for a Long Layover

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @aegisnyc. Get the Daily Transporter newsletter in your in-box.

Photo courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

Book Now: July 4th Hotel Deals

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Looking ahead to the holiday weekend? Here, three ideas for fun and affordable July 4thgetaways.

1. Philadelphia

The birthplace of independence is the perfect place to celebrate the Fourth of July. Benjamin Franklin Parkway hosts the “Largest Free Concert” with The Roots, Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Hudson. Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel off Logan Square, where kids are welcomed with toys, and cookies and milk are served at bedtime. Price: $249 a night. Book Now: fourseasons.com/philadelphia

2. Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff was voted the Best Town for July 4th in the Travel + Leisure America’s Favorite Towns survey (voting is open now for T+L’s 2014 America’s Favorite Places survey!). With its ponderosa pines, frontier spirit, and cool mountain air, it’s no surprise why. The city has great town square that’s the centerpiece of its celebration, which includes for fireworks, parades, and a fun run. Stay at the Hotel Monte Vista, just a block from Route 66. Price: $90 a night. Book Now: hotelmontevista.com

3. Oahu, Hawaii

The fireworks on the southern shore of Oahu are so grand that around 50,000 people watch it each year! (They’re set off from a manmade peninsula to protect the underwater reef ecosystem.) At the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, most rooms have private balconies and overlook the ocean; the five pools include the 10,000-square-foot Super Pool, the largest in Hawaii. Price: $199 a night. Book Now: hiltonhawaiianvillage.com

Watch T+L editor Sarah Spagnolo present these deals on this morning's Wake Up with Al.

 Photo courtesy of Boulder Daily Camera

Group Dinners May Be Next for Airbnb Hosts

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Ultimate travel industry disrupter Airbnb is at it again—this time testing out a pilot program in San Francisco whereby hosts also make meals for their guests. According to a recent article in Reuters, one of the trial dinners was $25 per person for three courses; Airbnb would take a portion of the earnings. The company isn’t offering any details, stating only, “We are always experimenting with new ways to create meaningful experiences on Airbnb.”

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Samsung Debuts New Flagship Tablet: Galaxy Tab S

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Last week, Samsung debuted the Galaxy Tab S—its latest attempt to overthrow Apple in the cutthroat tablet market. The ultra-thin device (no thicker than five stacked credit cards) has standout new features—and a few improvements to old Tab capabilities we already loved.

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Art Takeover: Wynwood, Miami

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Like most neighborhood transformations-turned-gentrification, Wynwood’s started on the streets.

As the younger, trendier brother of Miami’s Design District, Wynwood has grown quick. When its largest gallery held its first show in 1999, the area was nothing more than a string of abandoned warehouses and auto shops. Though the current cultural core of the city is just ten minutes from South Beach, it’s only been a few years since many were too afraid to walk down its graffiti-ridden streets after dark.

Not anymore. In true hipster form, what was once terribly dangerous is now terribly cool. Also in true hipster form, it’s only really cool once a month. The Wynwood Art Walk, held the second Saturday of every month, transforms the usually scarce streets into the sort of place that gives Miami the cultural cred it so greatly deserves.

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Air France Launches Comeback With New Cabin Innovations

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This morning, Air France revealed the results of one billion euro investment in new cabins, livery, and service, as part of the carrier's effort to reassert its position as a leader in international air travel.

“We want to be back as one of the top three world class airlines by 2016,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM.

The first of 44 Boeing 777 jets equipped with the improved interiors and world-class partnerships (think luxe Givenchy amenity kits in the first class suites; Eugeni Quittlet tableware for your gourmet snacks) departed Paris-Charles de Gualle yesterday, and landed at John F. Kennedy in time for the debut. 

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Cape Cod Beaches Ban Smoking

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Just in time for summer's high season, popular Cape Cod beaches enacted smoking bans last week.

Meant to minimize second-hand smoke for the marjority of beachgoers, the bans apply to six heavily visited lifeguarded areas on Massachusett's Cape Cod National Seashore. Smokers will have to head several hundred feet away from lifeguard stations to light up.

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Cirque du Soleil to Launch New Show in Mexico's Riviera Maya

Canada-based Cirque du Soleil is setting up shop in the Riviera Maya, in a 600-seat, custom-built theater that takes cues from the Yucatan's lush jungle landscape. Grupo Vidanta, the developer behind Mexico's ultra-glam Grand Luxxe resorts, is creating the new venue, which will debut its inaugural show JOYÀ on November 8.

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Chef and Music Freak Andrew Carmellini on what Makes a Great Restaurant Soundtrack

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Beware the “shuffle” button! I create playlists for all my restaurants. Maybe I’m a control freak, but I love the process. If I have 100 things to do, “Make soundtracks” is the one I’ll jump to first. (Right after “Test these four pasta recipes.”) At each place, it’s the same list every night, in order. So I know it’s 9:45 when Broken Bells comes on at the Dutch ($$$). Playlists are a progression—you want the music to unfold throughout the night, in terms of genres, BPM (beats per minute), the mood you set.

When the restaurant’s full, you shouldn’t really “hear” the music. You’ll know it’s there, but it won’t take over. Then again, if the room is too quiet—you hear waitstaff gossiping, glasses being cleaned—that’s distracting as well. Music fills that sonic space. It actually helps you focus on your conversation. But no 14-minute cuts! It’s annoying when a song is droning on and on while you’re waiting for dessert. You need a fresh track every three to four minutes.

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Summer Vacation Deals

Fundu Lagoon

Dominican Republic: 39% off beach hotel

Beach Rendezvous package includes:

• 4 nights in a one-bedroom suite at Sublime Samana Hotel & Residences, on the island’s palm-fringed northeastern coast
• Horseback riding on the beach
• Bottle of wine upon arrival
• Outdoor spa treatment

Cost: $840 ($210 per night)

Book by August 31 for travel through December 2014.

For more information or to book, please visit Samana Hotel Dominican Republic.

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