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Trip Doctor: Why Is It Getting Harder to Redeem Hotel Points?

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A: The salad days for points holders may be ending. In general, demand for rooms is rising, and with it rates, according to Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com. That means hotels no longer have to be quite so accommodating to loyalists. In the past few months, Kelly notes, both Marriott and Hilton adjusted their loyalty programs so that it takes more points to book many of their most desirable properties. Starwood, meanwhile, upped the amount of money you need to spend for its SPG Cash & Points redemptions. Hotel points haven’t gone off a cliff the way airline miles did about five years ago, but they’re definitely losing value. So keep racking them up. You’re going to need more to get what you want.

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

Photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels

Family Friday: Paris for Petite Artistes

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“Excusez-moi Maman, pain au chocolat s’il vous plaît?” Even 3 year olds can fall in love with Paris. But taking our twin boys with us always seemed a bit daunting. Now, a new kids-program on the other side of the pond is offering to transform our enfants terribles into mini-artistes.

Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris has launched an incredible new kids program Le Petit Royal(I’m tempted to sign up myself!). At its center are workshops run by professional artists who teach kids all about art and French style—and each one is linked to a major cultural event in the city.

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Trip Doctor: Get a Better Hotel Room (Without Paying More)

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When we’re checking into a hotel, few things make us feel more special or appreciated than a room upgrade. The great thing is that it can happen to just about anyone—especially if you use a little strategy to tip the odds in your favor. Here, four ways to maximize your chances of scoring better accommodations.

1. Check in later in the day, when hotels have a better sense of their open inventory for the night.

2. Be a loyalty-program member.

3. Look for new hotels. They have added incentive to court return guests by giving them upgrades.

4. Book with the website Room 77, a hotel search engine that scans prices and availability through numerous online travel agencies and automatically contacts the hotel you choose to request a room that matches your preferences (room views, higher or lower floors, distance from the elevator, and more).

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo credit: © Louis Laurent Grandadam/Corbis

Topnotch Takes It Up a Notch

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As a four-season destination, it’s hard to beat Vermont: warm summer days, vibrant fall colors, great ski resorts. So we’re excited to see a newly unveiled renovation in Stowe, at the Topnotch Resort & Spa.

The $15 million re-do brought some big changes. Gone is the flowery, bright-colored décor, replaced with a darker, starker, more modern look. You’ll find a pair of new restaurants: an all-day spot called Flannel, as well as a new lobby bar and restaurant, The Roost, featuring a shuffleboard table (!) made by a local artist.

Add two pools for those warm summer days, as well as a location surrounded by fall color and just minutes from winter skiing. We can’t wait to check it out.

Photo courtesy of Topnotch Resort & Spa

World’s Best Hotel 2013

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It’s high season for T+L’s World’s Best Awards, and this year’s winners are all abuzz about the news. Ever wonder what it’s like to find out you’re the world’s top hotel? Click here for the heart-warming staff reaction at Botswana’s Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp when they caught wind of their win.

As we kick off the 18th annual award festivities this week, we’re so thrilled to discover that the party has gone global.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is the Travel News Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

New York Hilton Midtown Hits the Big 5-0

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Pop quiz: Where did John Lennon write the lyrics to “Imagine”? Wandering the greenery of Central Park? Sitting at a piano in his Dakota apartment? Nope—it was at Midtown New York’s Hilton, on a piece of hotel stationery. (The original hangs in Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

That happened in 1971, when the New York Hilton Midtown was just 8 years old. Now it’s celebrating its 50thbirthday. That means it opened in 1963—the real Mad Men era. (Check out their archival video footage here.) And while the Hilton today stands out by its sheer size—it’s the largest hotel in NYC with 1,981 rooms—it’s easy to forget how groundbreaking this venue has been. A couple fun facts: At opening, it was one of the world’s first hotels to feature original art in guest rooms. In 1999, it was the first hotel in America to have a “smart card” keyless entry system. And earlier this month, New York’s first permanent ice bar, Minus5, opened at the hotel.  

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TODAY Show Video: Hotel Stays for Pets

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

Going on vacation? Don’t leave Buddy home. It’s just another dog day at these pet-friendly hotels.

Pets-Only Hotels

There are a growing number of amazing hotels just for your pet—no people, please!

Paradise for Paws

There are three locations for this dog and cat resort—two in Chicago and one in Dallas/Ft. Worth—each near airports. Accommodations include large dog suites, as well as a gated community of bungalows for cats (select bungalows have window perches and fish aquariums). Dogs can exercise in the indoor grass area and splash in a bone-shaped pool. For cats, there’s an Adventure Jungle for climbing custom-made cat trees. Dog suites from $49/night; Cat bungalows from $27/night.

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Vancouver Hotel Solves Roaming Fees

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What’s one of the biggest headaches when traveling internationally? Cell coverage, of course; phone-bill panic can drive us to embark on desperate expeditions in search of Wi-Fi.

Hotels know this is a problem, and the OPUS hotel in Vancouver has come up with a unique solution: each room comes stocked with an Internet-connected iPad that you can carry around the city with you. Social media, reviews, guides (don’t forget to bookmark T+L’s Vancouver guide)—all accessible from anywhere. Even better, the connection is free. (It’s a good thing, too—don’t get us started on paying extra for Internet.)

Some rooms at the OPUS even come with an extra bonus: a Samsung Galaxy phone (that you can also carry around with you) that acts as an in-room land line. That means you can get free incoming calls, or just dial “0” and reach the concierge—from anywhere.

And if you don’t want the hotel to see just how much time you spent on TravelandLeisure.com during your stay, not to worry; your browsing history is deleted the minute you check out.

Photo credit: Courtesy of OPUS Hotel

T+L Classic: Alberta’s Prince of Wales Hotel

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In the 1920’s, when the owners of Alberta’s new Prince of Wales Hotel ($) announced that it would offer unparalleled views of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the New York World bluntly declared the lodge’s true intention: to become “a haven for thirsty American travelers.” Yet long after Prohibition, the hotel maintains a certain (if rugged) allure from both sides of the border. With its sloped roof and interior beams of dark Douglas fir, it feels as at home in the park as the eagles that swoop over the bell tower. Afternoon tea service is now a main draw, but I prefer to take a dram of Canadian Club rye in the Windsor Lounge, where the whisky tastes as crisp and dry today as it did when it was forbidden.

Photo by Michael Falzone/JAI/Corbis

5 Delicious Hotel Brunches

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Good-bye, runny eggs and sad-looking cereal stations. Hello, Vietnamese bánh mì and French almond sponge cake. These hotel buffets are eating others for brunch.

Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem: The Piero Lissoni–designed hotel puts a modern spin on Israel’s historically hearty meal. There’s shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce), chocolate babka, and 10 kinds of salad. $33.

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