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The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending July 26, 2013

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In an attempt to shrink the gap between Africa and Europe, African artists and photographers in “Invisible Borders” are capturing their experiences across some of the continent’s most misunderstood areas, CNN Travel reports. (Maria Pedone)

Those in L.A. should hold off on camping—according to ABC, a plage-infected squirrel was  captured in Angeles National Forest, closing campgrounds off for the entire week. (M.P.)

If you've ever had your beauty products confiscated by TSA, you'll appreciate Benefit's new Glam Up & Away kiosks: vending machines selling full and travel size mascara, foundation, and blush opening in airport terminals nationwide, according to TimeOut. (M.P.)

Richard Florida from The Atlantic Cities discusses Detroit's future, explaining how bankruptcy doesn't mean the end for America's Motor City. (Peter Schlesinger)

Popular Science finds one Brooklyn-based company, Final Frontier Design, that's betting on the eventual popularity of space travel—this week, they unveiled their new "3G" Space Suit, which promises to bring a stylish and comfortable edge for lay folk venturing outsize earth's boundaries. (Nikki Ekstein)

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: New Twitter-Themed Hotel Opens in Mallorca

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OMG, is this the latest #traveltrend? The Sol Wave House hotel in beachy Mallorca, Spain, has officially become the world's first Twitter-themed hotel.

Not sure what that means?

Well, first-off, it means there are going to be a lot of #hashtags everywhere (and probably a few in this post as well #sorrynotsorry). Guests join a virtual community called #SocialWave, accessible only through the hotel's WiFi. Using that hashtag, they can then chat away with other guests and with the hotel's two Twitter concierges.

According to an online press release from Meliá Hotels International, the Sol Wave House's parent company, the whole experience “guarantees fun, new friendships, experiences, surprise, excitement and 'buzz'” and encourages guests to “flirt, compete in contests, share photos, etc.”

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Tech Thursday: RocketMiles Goes International

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Three months ago, we introduced you to RocketMiles, a disruptive booking service whose purpose is to score its users thousands of airline points for every hotel reservation made on the site. This week, RocketMiles is breaking away from its competition as it announces international service—in terms of both hotels and airline partners. With the upgrade come properties in Europe’s capital cities, among other popular destinations around the globe (think London’s Langham Hotel, which nets a cool 5,000 Delta SkyMiles a night, or the Shangri-La Tokyo, good for 2,500 AAdvantage points per night). Don’t fly either of those airlines? The site’s service expansion brings aboard carriers such as KLM, AirFrance, Etihad, and Alaska Airlines—so it’s easy to cash in on the RocketMiles’ promise.

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 Rocketmiles.com

Sweetgreen Salad Shop Debuts in New York

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Ask a New Yorker where to get a salad in Midtown Manhattan, and you’ll likely get an answer that includes “too expensive,” “wilted lettuce,” or other unenthusiastic sentiments. As of tomorrow, however, there will be another response: Sweetgreen, a new organic, farm-to-table salad shop at the Nomad hotel.

Founded in 2007 by three then-seniors at Georgetown University, Sweetgreen became a fast favorite in Washington, D.C., and over the last six years, expanded to 20 locations in Virginia, Maryland, Philadelphia, Boston, and, now, New York. (A Tribeca location will open in December.) All of the ingredients are locally sourced; a chalkboard lists the New York or New Jersey farm where each originated. As for the prices, nothing on the signature menu costs more than $11.85 (the "District Chopped"), and that one comes with roasted chicken, goat cheese, bacon, and avocado—a who’s who of costly add-ons at most other spots. Beyond salad (which are big enough to last two meals), you’ll find fresh-pressed juice, gazpacho, and “sweetflow” tart frozen yogurt. Try it all tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the Nomad location is inviting diners to pay what they want, with all proceeds going to City Harvest.

Brooke Porter
Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Porter

Trip Doctor: New Oahu Smoking Ban Extends to Beaches

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Visitors to Oahu will soon breath more easily, thanks to new smoking bans that Honolulu’s mayor Kirk Caldwell signed into law yesterday. The prohibitions extend an existing Hawaii state ban—which already includes all indoor and partially enclosed public places such as restaurants and bars—to bus stops and parks on the island of Oahu. In other words, no more lighting up on Waikiki. For another smoke-free beach environment, don’t miss Jamaica, which also banned smoking tobacco on its beaches this month.

Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

TSA Opens PreCheck to the General Public

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It’s official: the days of long airport security lines are over—if you want them to be. At least that’s what TSA Administrator John Pistole promised on Friday, when he announced that the PreCheck program will be opening to the general public before the end of the year. To sign up, travelers will have to pay an $85 fee, provide identification and fingerprints, and undergo a background check at an established PreCheck enrollment center—all for the luxury of walking through the x-ray machine with your shoes on.

Almost one year after the service’s launch, 12 million travelers have signed up—all frequent fliers—and complaints of longer lines in these expedited service lanes have already started to bubble up. Another 3 million will join by the year’s end if the TSA’s predictions ring true—so will PreCheck lose its advantage? This much remains to be seen, though we’re encouraged by the volume of airports that are angling to meet the program’s growing demand.

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

Photo Credit: © dbimages / Alamy

Trip Doctor: Will Heathrow Airport Close?

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Could Heathrow close?

Heathrow airport, Great Britain’s major international hub, handled a whopping 70 million passengers last year. Its two runways, however, cannot allow for much more than that. Enter the Davies Airports Commission—so-called after its chairman, Sir Howard Davies—which is aiming to fix the UK’s at-capacity airports.

One option? London mayor Boris Johnson wants to buy the airport, shut it down, and replace it with a mega-airport on an island in the Thames River’s estuary to the East.

Mayor Johnson outlined his plans a few days ago to the commission, and hopes to transform Heathrow’s land into a neighborhood for up 250,000, as the Guardian’s Gwyn Topham reports. The new airport could have four runways operating by 2029, all for a price tag of over $75 billion. And on Friday, renowned design firm Foster + Partners formally submitted its architectural plans for the island-hub.

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Trip Doctor: Why Is It Getting Harder to Redeem Hotel Points?

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A: The salad days for points holders may be ending. In general, demand for rooms is rising, and with it rates, according to Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com. That means hotels no longer have to be quite so accommodating to loyalists. In the past few months, Kelly notes, both Marriott and Hilton adjusted their loyalty programs so that it takes more points to book many of their most desirable properties. Starwood, meanwhile, upped the amount of money you need to spend for its SPG Cash & Points redemptions. Hotel points haven’t gone off a cliff the way airline miles did about five years ago, but they’re definitely losing value. So keep racking them up. You’re going to need more to get what you want.

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 Hilton Hotels

Cruise News: New Regent Ship + More

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Huge news: Regent Seven Seas Cruises is building a new uber-luxe ship, the 738-passenger Seven Seas Explorer (hitting the high seas in summer 2016). Specific details have yet to be released, but one thing is certain: the all-suite, all balconied cabins will range in size from 300 to 1,500 square feet; there’s going to be an outpost of Canyon Ranch spa on board; and the art collection will be worthy of the Met.

Also making waves this week?

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Tech Thursday: Stayful.com Offers a New Way to Strike a (Boutique) Hotel Deal

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A new day, a new way to score a deal—or so it seems with travel start-ups these days. Joining the pack is Stayful, a site that launched yesterday with a premise that borrows bits and pieces from familiar players like Priceline, Luxury Link, and Hotel Tonight

The mission is simple: help trendy boutique hotels move unsold inventory by putting rooms up for bidding. Browse their inventory—currently limited to New York City and San Francisco, but featuring such hotspots as The Standard High Line and Hotel on Rivington—and name your price. You’ll find out within 24 hours if the hotel has accepted your offer, or if they’ve decided to rebut. Should you want to suggest a big to a hotel that’s not already on Stayful’s list, the site allows you to do so, inviting the hotel of your choice to participate with them if they’re ready and willing.

Our preliminary thoughts? Stayful seems better built to accommodate hotels’ needs than travelers’ (the name itself should be a clue), but if it nets value-driven results at sought-after properties, we’ll enthusiastically be jumping aboard. The service is currently in beta, and accepting invitation requests, so you’ll hear more on our verdict once we’ve fully put it to the test.

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

Photo courtesy of Stayful.com

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