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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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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.

FCC Gets On Board With In-Flight Phone Calls

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The days of shutting down cell phones from takeoff to landing may soon be behind us. Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will address the proposal to lift the ban on in-flight phone use, which they call “outdated” and “restrictive.”

Now that long-standing safety concerns have been debunked, the FCC is looking to join France, the UAE, Singapore, and a number of other countries already allowing in-flight calls. This comes on the heels of the FAA’s recent decision to drop restrictions on other personal electronics last month.

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Turkish Airlines Brings Startups Into the Spotlight for Flying Investors

Turkish Airlines is now catering to specific kinds of fliers—namely, investors. The airlines’ new in-flight entertainment, Invest on Board, highlights a selection of startup pitches from the online platform eTohum to help investors support the next big idea.

Eleven videos are currently available to watch on the Invest on Board website, and while most of the companies are based in Turkey, the service may expand to include international startups if investors take a liking to it. With in-air resources like this, along with WiFi availability and a lift of the ban on electronic devices, it looks as if airlines are working to keep you plugged in—no matter how many thousands of feet above the office you may be.

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

How to Relive the Hunger Games in Atlanta

Want to walk (or run frantically) in the footsteps of Katniss and Peeta? Consider venturing to Atlanta, the primary filming location for Hunger Games: Cathing Fire, which opened last night.

The city's convention and visitors bureau has prepared a self-guided, two-day Hunger Games Tour. The CVB even recommends a hotel: The Marriott Marquis, where multiple scenes were shot.

Braver souls might consider the Hunger Games Unoffical Fan Tours, which run Adventure Weekends recreating the book and film trilogy's creepy competition. The weekends include themed accommodations, survival training, a gala banquet, themed food, archery tag, and a Hunger Games simulation. Details of what exactly the simulation entails are scarce—all the better to keep participating Tributes on their guard.

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(Travel) Agents of Change: PhoCusWright Announces Winners of its 2013 Travel Innovation Summit

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All sweat and nerves and butterflies last night, some 30 next-gen travel innovators eagerly awaited the results of this year's PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit. Which start-up would be crowned the industry's next change agent? After two days of schmoozing, courting VCs, and convincing the travel industry's top players they they were the Next Big Thing, only one young company would walk away with the coveted top prize: General Catalyst Award for Travel Innovation.

The competition was stiff—and the stakes high. A win all but guaranteed a steady stream of calls from investors.

“This year’s presenting companies are amongst the most exciting we’ve seen present to date at The Travel Innovation Summit,” said PhoCusWright vice president, research Douglas Quinby.

Not surprisingly, it was a tough decision for this year's panel of judges—made up top travel and technology experts—to choose from this already elite group of companies hailing from across the U.S., and as far away as Russia, Melbourne, and India. But there could only be one winner.

SafelyStay, an Atlanta-based start-up that powers safe and instant vacation rental reservations for online travel agencies, vacation rental marketplaces and property managers, walked away with the title, and $250K.

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HotelTonight Now Allows Booking Before Noon

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The ultimate tool for travel procrastinators has just become a little more democratic. HotelTonight, the pioneer of same-day mobile bookings, has long made their last minute deals available starting at noon on the day of check-in, but now, users will be able to book a full three hours earlier, at 9AM. Given the ever-growing number of competitors that offer same-day deals before noon, we’re not surprised at the news—though it’s a welcome change nonetheless. Especially if it means getting your room settled before boarding that 10AM flight.

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 HotelTonight

Boston Opens Country's First Helmet Vending Machine for Bikers

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Boston's popular Hubway bicycle sharing program just got a lot safer for out-of-towners. The new HelmetHub allows users to rent or purchase helmets in the country's first helmet vending machine.

Located by the bike sharing station at Boylston Street and Mass. Ave, the HelmetHub holds over 30 helmets. The goal? Encourage all users, whether daily commuters or one-time visitors, to ride safely.

The helmet machine is one of 14 set to arrive in the city as part of a pilot program. Boston's Director of Bicycle Programs Nicole Freedman tells T+L that if all goes well, more may soon sprout up among Hubway's 100+ stations.

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

Photo credit: HelmetHub

Swiss Hotels Offer Pay-What-You-Want Holiday Promotion

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Early booking specials and last-minute deals are ubiquitous in the travel industry, so we at T+L are always fascinated when someone gets creative with their pricing.

A collection of hotels in Switzerland have done just that with their "Pay What You Want" two-night stay offer before the holidays. Guests pay the normal rate for the first night, and then decide what they'd like to pay for their second night based on the service they receive. And given that each of the 18 participating hotels were voted some of Switzerland's Most Welcoming Hotels in 2013, it's likely their award-winning service will have guests paying full price or more for their second night stays.

Learn more at Switzerland Tourism's website.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: Martin Ruetschi/Keystone/Corbis

Celebrities Talk Los Angeles in Thirty Seconds to Mars Music Video

The new music video for "City of Angels," from the band Thirty Seconds to Mars is an 11-minute tribute to Tinseltown, featuring sweeping aerial shots interspersed with interviews from A-Listers and celebrity impersonators.

Watch as Kanye West, Lindsey Lohan, James Franco, Selena Gomez, and others discuss their city—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The effect is more love-letter to L.A. than music video.

Feeling inspired? Check out T+L's guide to the Los Angeles.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

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