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Tech Thursday: Facebook's New Shared Albums

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This week, Facebook unveiled shared photo albums—a small change perhaps, but with big benefits for travelers. As many as 50 contributors will be able to add up to 200 photos each (that's a lot of photos—much more than the old limit of 1,000 pics—if anyone is counting). The albums can still be kept private, or limited just to invited friends; aside from the album's owner, pics can be edited only by the person who uploads them. All that to say: there will no longer be a need to pore through your friends' profiles just to find the one great shot from your last group vacation. Thank goodness.

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

Last-Minute Labor Day Travel Advice

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Getting excited for one last hurrah this Labor Day? You’re not alone. Far from it, in fact.

According to travel club AAA, 34.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday weekend. That’s up 4.2 percent from last year, and is the highest number since 2008, when a staggering 45.1 million took a vacation.

An “increasingly positive economic output and optimism in the housing market” are the main factors of this year’s higher numbers, says AAA president and CEO Robert Darbelnet. With home prices improving across much of the country, “more families are feeling comfortable about traveling.”

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Cruise News: Hypoallergenic Rooms on Crystal Cruises

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This week Crystal Cruises announced that it’s installing the cruise industry’s first hypoallergenic staterooms. Made in conjunction with PURE Global—the brand behind PURE rooms at SLS Beverly Hills and Fairmont Chicago, among many others—each of the 70 new rooms on Crystal Serenity will have filters that remove 99.9% of impurities and dust. Other perks: “bacteriostatic barriers” applied everywhere for germaphobes, tea tree oil disinfectants, and allergy-friendly bedding. My favorite part? There’s no additional charge to stay in them. Aren’t you feeling better already?

Kathryn O'Shea-Evans

 

Kathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @ThePluckyOne.

 

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

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

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