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The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending August 23, 2013

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Scoot Airlines, a low-cost spinoff of Singapore Air, has joined Malaysia's Air Asia X in offering child-free zones on its flights. The new ScootinSilence seats, which cost as little as $15 more, offer travelers a few more inches of legroom and the promise of no seatmates under the the age of 12. The jury's still out on whether U.S. domestic carriers would find a market for such seats. Marketwatch has the story. (Amy Farley)

The ever-helpful George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog has assembled a list of the airports providing Wi-Fi service, outlining both the network names and costs. We'll be sure to consult it before heading on our next flight. (Nikki Ekstein)

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Tech Thursday: A New Way to Score Free Hotel Wi-Fi

Thanks to an interesting new partnership between Hilton HHonors and AT&T, members of the phone carrier—or those with Gold and Diamond HHonors status—can now enjoy free Wi-Fi at more than 3,000 Hilton hotels worldwide as part of the joint StayConnected program. It’s a first for the hotel industry, where free Wi-Fi is shamefully difficult to come across—and we can’t help wonder if other such collaborations are soon to follow. Verizon and Starwood: we’re looking at you!

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

Paris and Versailles from Above: New Zeppelin Takes Off

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You've done Notre Dame. You've walked the Hall of Mirrors. And, if you're like me, you've eaten every croissant in sight—hopefully one of the city's best. But don't check Paris and Versailles off your list quite yet. You haven't seen them by zeppelin...

Airship Paris is hoping to change that. This month, the company launched its inaugural flights around France's Ile-de-France region, and it predicts a bright future for the historic mode of transportation.

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Before De-Planing, Check For Your Phone, Passport and Falcon

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In the rush and jumble of getting off a plane that’s just landed, it’s not surprising if you absentmindedly leave your magazine tucked in the seat pouch, or neglect to notice that your favorite pen has dropped and rolled into another row.

But in a recent survey of 700 international flight crew members, travel search site Skyscanner discovered that travelers regularly leave behind a colorful, if not bizarre, array of items in their pursuit of prompt de-planing.

Some sundry items, one might assume, just fell out of a bag as folks took luggage out of the overhead bins—like an unpartnered shoe, an article of underwear or, well, handcuffs. But how exactly does one forget to grab one’s double bass, wedding gown, bag of diamonds—or a falcon?

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Must-Reads for the Week Ending August 16, 2013

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Pandas are ALWAYS news. Here, Circa News reports on the birth of a rare giant panda in Vienna's Schönbrunn Zoo. (Adrien Glover)

Also from Circa News, scientists in western Nevada have discovered petroglyphs from as many as 14,800 years ago, making them the oldest rock out found in North America. (A.G.)

In tech travel news, Sky News reveals that New Zealand aviation authorities have given jetpack developers a flying permit, allowing the company to run test flights. (A.G)

The Boston Globe's Christopher Muther meets with the general manager of Forum, the restaurant at the epicenter of Boston's Marathon Bombings that is reopening today four months after the attacks. (Peter Schlesinger)

This week's Economist investigates how doping scandals are affecting travel trends at the Baseball Hall of Fame. (P.S)

Want to visit Sicily but can't foot the bill yet? Beverage company San Pelligrino let Facebook users this week control robots for three-minute virtual tours. But hurry, the experiences ends on Saturday!  (P.S.)

Scott Mayerwitz from the Associated Press shares his view on the American-US Airways merger, finding that Department of Justice's suit is too little too late for consumers. (Amy Farley)


Photo credit: iStockphoto

Cruise Lines Ban Smoking on Balconies

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Disney became the third cruise line this week to announce new smoking bans on private balconies, following similar moves from Cunard and P&O.

As Travel Weekly's Hollie-Rae Merrick reports, the policy changes are responding to guest feedback and safety concerns. Smokers will still be able to light up in designated areas on open decks according to the cruise lines.

This is the latest in a string of recent smoking bans, such as beach bans in Jamaica and Oahu. All are attempting to make commonly-trafficked tourist areas more appealing to—and healthier for—all visitors.

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.

Photo by iStockphoto

Tech Thursday: Google Takes on Siri

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In a move that many might see as either Orwellian or plain-old useful, Google has just launched a new feature that lets you canvass all your personal information—appointments, bookings, photos—simply by asking spoken questions. It’s a bit like Siri, but smarter: ask Google to show you all the pictures you took in London, and those will pop right up. Ask whether your flight is delayed, and it will cross check your confirmation email with the airline’s most current information. Want to figure out how to get to your hotel? It won’t just show you the booking record—it’ll find the address and pop it into your Google Maps. Naturally, it works best if you use all of Google’s organizational tools, from Gmail to Google Calendar. But those on Apple devices reap the same benefits as long as they’re signed into their Google accounts. Importantly, all the information is kept private and secure, and the feature can be disabled for those who find it creepy. But why would you? This is smart technology at its best.

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

Photo by istockphoto

Department of Justice Fights to Block American-US Airways Merger

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The Department of Justice, joined by six states and Washington, D.C., filed an antitrust suit this morning in efforts to halt the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways.

The lawsuit comes as a shock to many in the industry, given that airline analysts had not foreseen major complications to the merger when it was announced in February. The T+L Trip Doctor team reported then that the formation of the world’s largest airline would inherently decrease competition and increase ticket prices, specifically to destinations such as Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia. Experts also predicted possible cuts in service to Phoenix, although aviation analysts did not foresee any major objections. This belief was cemented when the merger gained approval from European regulators just last week.

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"Hyperloop" Revealed: Creator Elon Musk Shares Details of His Ultra High-Speed Transportation

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The much-awaited news is in: Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has unveiled details about his supersonic “Hyperloop,” which promises to transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in thirty minutes flat.
 
For weeks, speculators have tried to crack the code on how Musk’s ultra-high speed network could work, and skeptics have been quick to point out that travelling at roughly 800 miles per hour would nothing short of stomach-churning, if it’s even safe at all. At long last, the answers have arrived:

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Sinkhole Near Disney World Swallows Section of Resort

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It’s normal for visitors to Walt Disney World to worry about falling from the sky—the Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, and other rides all feature nausea-inducing drops. But last night, the worry was of plummeting into the earth below.

Late Sunday, a 40-foot wide sinkhole opened at Summer Bay Resort, a condominium vacation complex located just minutes from Walt Disney World. Guests first became alarmed when their lights went off, but creaking noises and large cracks forming on the wall signified something grimmer than a mere power outage.

A security guard ran through the complex telling the roughly 35 guests in the affected buildings to evacuate. Within minutes, the hole had swallowed about a third of two buildings. Just fifteen feet deep, the shallow sinkhole totally destroyed 48 condo units, and no injuries were reported.

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