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Vacationist: Ode To Greece

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The recent turn of weather reminded us that summer actually is right around the corner. Where else would we rather be than the Greek Isles this summer? Thanks to Vacationist, you can now book a trip there for less. We have options for all types of travelers, from a couples-only resort onthe southeastern coast of Mykonos to large family-friendly villas on Nikiti's pristine coast. Since the summer season is popular in Greece, be sure to book a room now.

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Sardinia’s New Lighthouse Hotel

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Nine days in the Sardinian town of Cagliari in 1921 was all it took to inspire D. H. Lawrence to write one of the last century’s great travel narratives, Sea and Sardinia. Spend a night at the Lighthouse Capo-Spartivento, on the southernmost tip of Sardinia, and you may be inclined to pen a classic of your own. Set on an isolated promontory 350 feet above the Mediterranean, Italy’s first and only lighthouse hotel was built in 1856 by the Italian Navy, which still operates its third-story lantern. As for the floors below, owner Alessio Raggio has spent 20 years perfecting the place, filling the four barrel-vaulted guest rooms with Murano-glass chandeliers and enormous circular beds facing the sea. You can book one suite or take over the entire property (including two “apartments,” with ceilings made of glass, for better constellation viewing). Also on hand: three chefs preparing just-caught fish to order, a cistern turned cellar brimming with Sardinian wines, and untamed private beaches. Chia; farocapospartivento.com; doubles from $550, including breakfast.

Photo by Roberto Patti/Courtesy of Faro di Capo-Spartivento

Trend Alert: Hotels Implementing Mobile Concierges

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It’s no secret that the introduction of iPads into the market, just over a year ago, has resulted in the reshaping of how just about every industry imaginable does business. And as I’ve reported before, hotels are no exception to this.

A relatively new trend that I’m seeing on the rise is the use of iPads as personal, portable concierges.

InterContinental’s new Concierge Insider Guides app features more than 120 destinations around the world—all in which one of the hotel chain’s properties can be found, of course.

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: Easy Escapes from U.S. Cities

201104-v-plumpjackjpgMay is just around the corner, so we’re thinking about easy weekend getaways that are perfect for the warm weather months. First up is PlumpJack, a mountainside retreat at the base of Squaw Valley, well-situated for hikers and cyclists looking for outdoor adventure a few hours outside San Francisco. Sybarites will love the Riviera Palm Springs, a newly-renovated resort 100 miles from L.A. with a grand spa and expansive gardens.

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Reinventing the Taj Brand

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Raymond Bickson, chief executive and managing director of the luxury chain Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces, gave a master class in hotel branding to a select group of CEOs yesterday. It's a story that few have heard: how that company regrouped, rebounded, and reinvented itself in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed scores of people and nearly destroyed the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (above).

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: Escape to Italy

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At T+L we’re always dreaming about our next Italian getaway (check out April Europe issue!), and now you can plan your trip for less thanks to Vacationist. Choose between a beachfront villa in Sicily; a terraced retreat along the Amalfi Coast; a grande dame in Capri; and a chic boutique hotel on a side street in Milan. Hotel deals are up 70% off, so start planning now.

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Save Money with Your Dog on the Road

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As much as I love a seven-star oceanfront suite in Bali or a perfect boutique hotel with 10,000-count sheets, I also have a fondness for the classic American motel thanks to a childhood road trip to Disneyland. The problem is, many of the motels that sit along America's highways look like they haven’t been updated since my family made that long drive from New Jersey to Florida in the '70s.

For several weeks, my wife and I have been driving cross-country with our dog. While we've been fortunate to find small owner-operated inns and B&Bs that accept our mutt, sometimes it's impossible to avoid the chain hotels. (By the way, they don't call themselves "motels" anymore. The hotel and lodging industry officially abandoned the portmanteau of "motoring" and "hotel" in 2000.) The results have been mixed. At a certain dog-friendly national chain in Beaumont, TX, we were greeted by an incompetent and rude front-desk worker. At a different chain hotel in Charleston, WV, our room was way too shabby for the $99 per night price tag.

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Travel for a Cause: Packages that Give Back

As if you needed another reason to travel, we've found packages that are helping communities worldwide.

Hard Rock Hotels, including T+L favorites in Las Vegas and Orlando, is partnering with Facebook Places to raise money for WhyHunger, a non-profit organization that is a leader in the movement to end hunger and poverty. From now through December 31st, each time fans use Facebook Places to check into any Hard Rock Cafe location throughout the U.S., Hard Rock will donate $1 to benefit WhyHunger. For more information, and for a list of participating Hard Rock Cafe locations, visit www.hardrock.com or www.facebook.com/hardrock.

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: Mexico, Thailand + Italy

201104-v-matildajpgNow that it’s shoulder season, we’re dreaming about far-flung getaways—places where we can leave the crowds behind. So whether you’re looking to stroll the cobblestone streets in San Miguel de Allende, lay by the sparkling Andaman Sea in Phuket, or dine on Sicilian pastas in Taormina, you’ll find it this week on Vacationist.

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TODAY Show: Secret Island Escapes

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

T+L Features Director Nilou Motamed shares her pick of the best island escapes, including Southport Island, Maine, and Caye Caulker, Belize.

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