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The New iPad Air: The Best New Tablet for Travelers?

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Yesterday may as well have been declared unofficial tablet day: Microsoft unveiled its new Surface 2 (whose main selling point is an improved kickstand for better stability on your lap), Nokia released its long-rumored tablet debut (a sleek 10-incher running Windows RT), and Apple announced a completely redesigned iPad: the iPad Air. While the other two focus on productivity, with built in Office Suite and attachable keyboards, Apple outrightly balked at its competitors for being “confused” in their attempts to merge tablet and laptop.

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Now You Can Use American Express Rewards Points to Pay for Taxi Rides

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Travelers and locals can now use their American Express Rewards Points to pay for taxi rides in New York City.

As of today, American Express is letting cardholders use their rewards to pay for NYC cab fares in real time, at the end of their ride. Not only does it open the door to use smaller point balances efficiently—it’s the first time that cardholders (with any kind of plastic) can pay with rewards currency at the point of purchase. Amex loyalists who opt to pay for a NYC cab ride with credit card will automatically see their points balance upon swiping—they’ll then be given the choice to pay with, say, 2107 points for a $21.07 taxi fare. Not in NYC? Fret not: we’re inclined to believe that instant points payment might become the name of the game as banks re-examine the often-frustrating process of cashing out rewards.

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 American Express

Orbitz’s New Loyalty Program Puts the Focus on Instant Gratification

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There’s a new currency in the travel industry, and it’s called the Orbuck. Today, Orbitz launches its long-in-the-works Orbitz Rewards, a loyalty program that’s smart, transparent, and a hell of a business move for the popular OTA.

Here’s how it works: Book any flight on orbitz.com, and you’ll immediately be rewarded with at least 1 percent cash back (in Orbuck form); hotel bookings will yield at least 3 percent in returns. Book on the mobile app, and you’ll get bonus Orbucks—each Orbuck translates to a dollar off any future booking. Book a special deal, and you might net even more. The Orbucks show up in your account as soon as your transaction goes through, meaning you don’t have to wait to rack up tens of thousands of points before they’re redeemable. On the contrary: the cash you get back from a flight booking can be immediately applied when you book the hotel fifteen minutes later.

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Low-Cost Airline to Fly from New York to London: Less than $250, One Way

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Remember when you could fly round-trip to London for less than $600? Nope? Faded from memory already? Recalling the good old days, Norway’s low-cost carrier Norwegian recently announced that it is launching service between London Gatwick and New York (JFK), Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale airports beginning next summer. The airline’s new 787 Dreamliners will fly the transatlantic routes starting July 2014. Norwegian is introducing these routes with special fares that are as low as $240, one way, from New York, and $321, one way, from Los Angeles. The introductory fares are being snapped up quickly, but we still found round trip tickets from New York for as little as $590 in August. See you at the pub?

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 Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA

Enterprise Launches Harley Rentals in Vegas

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This just in: Visitors to Las Vegas can now rent select Harley Davidson models.

Motorcycle Rental by Enterprise launched October 16th, making it the first major rental company to bring two-wheelers to the Strip. As of now, there are 10-15 bikes available.

Why Vegas?  “All this is based on customer feedback,” explains Yona Spiegelglass, Brand Publicity Director for Enterprise Holdings. “Many of our customers expressed interest in renting motorcycles there—it's a great opportunity to see the Strip and the Hoover Dam.”

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Westin Hotels Caters to Marathoners with New Running Concierge

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Westin Hotels is catering to marathoners with its new Running Concierges.

Whether it's a 5K, half-marathon, or the full 26.2 miles, finishing a distance race is no easy feat. Make it a destination race and you'll have even more to think about: what to pack and how to adjust to different time zones and temperatures, to name a few. But the T+L editors love a challange—and any excuse to travel.

Hotels are even picking up on the trend. Westin brand hotels recently teamed up with the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon series (which hosts races year-round across North America and Europe) to offer RunWESTIN participants access to its dedicated running conceirge, Chris Heuisler. Perks include a race course tour (Chris meets with local running associations in each city for insider tips), fitness and recovery advice, and a pasta dinner and breakfast to fuel up for the big day. 

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Test Driving the New HP Chromebook 11

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This week, Google announced the next generation of Chromebook—a glossy white beauty with top-of-the-line hardware—and we’re impressed. It’s slim (under 18 mm), lightweight (at 2.3 pounds), and travel-proof, with a magnesium alloy frame that’ll withstand bumps and dings, a slick widescreen that’s great for movie watching, and speakers that port up through the keyboard for ultra-clear, fuzz-free sound.

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"Bargain Fever": New Book Highlights Shopping Secrets Around the World

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A new book about the global fascination with bargain hunting by frequent T+L contributor Mark Ellwood hits shelves today, giving valuable and often hilarious insights into the changing landscape of secret sales, online shopping, and good old haggling.

Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World focuses mostly on the recent surge in U.S. discounting—sales of sales have more than doubled in under a decade here—but it also takes readers to the bazaars in Istanbul and the megamalls in Tokyo.  

Ellwood's inspiration for the book occurred when he saw shoes on sale for 50 percent off just days after he had purchased them for 10 percent off. “I got the sense that no matter what I was paying, there was always a way to pay less,” he explains. “The more I looked into it, I realized I was falling down a half-price rabbit hole.” Bargain Fever is the result of his deeply researched quest to find out why and how that “rabbit hole” came to be.

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Frieze and 1:54, World's First Contemporary African Art Fair, Open in London

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This week, the culturati makes its annual pilgrimage to Regent’s Park for the 11th Frieze London (Oct. 17-20), with pieces from 152 contemporary galleries from around the globe plus specially commissioned performances, pop-up restaurants, and let’s not forget the party scene. In an unprecedented partnership, British fashion house Alexander McQueen is a sponsor this time around; artworks curated by local gallerist Sadie Coles will be displayed at the brand’s London stores throughout the fair.

Of course, there’s also the second edition of Frieze Masters, the historically minded spin-off, and a full schedule of satellites. Among this year’s standouts, in collaboration with Tanzanian architect David Adjaye, Somerset House has unveiled 1:54 (through Oct. 20), the world's very first contemporary African art fair. Founded by Touria El Glaoui, daughter of Moroccan painter Hassan El Glaoui, it’s a platform for more than 70 artists—from DRC painter Chéri Samba (see La Vraie Carte du Monde, above) to Benin’s Romuald Hazoumé, with his colorful tribal-inspired “masks” made from discarded jerricans, and Gonçalo Mabunda, who turns AK47s and rocket launchers deactivated after Mozambique’s civil war into whimsical, Modernist thrones.

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India Rolling Out Visa on Arrival

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We’ve heard countless horror stories about the process of getting an Indian visa (lost passports! slow service!), so imagine the relief when we heard that the country will soon be rolling out Visa on Arrival service for citizens of 40 countries—the United States included. As part of the new legislation, travelers will now be able to access an online application system for visas or simply secure their documents the moment their plane touches ground on Indian soil. And the service won’t just be available in Mumbai—airports such as Delhi, Chennai, and Hyderabad also have the program in the works.

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

Photo credit: iStockphoto

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