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Trip Doctor: What Americans Really Think about Flying

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With summer vacation upon us, it seems students aren't the only ones getting their final grades. A slew of reports and studies recently came out—including ones from Harris Interactive, J.D. Power & Associates, Consumer Reports, and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)—surveying a total of over 67,000 Americans on their latest opinions North American air travel. Here are some of the highlights:

Satisfaction is…Up!

  • Even though Consumer Reports concludes "There isn't much good news for passengers," recent findings by J.D. Power & Associates suggest that the passengers themselves disagree. The marketing information firm surveyed nearly 12,000 individuals and measured customer satisfaction on a 1000 point scale based on airline performance in 7 categories: cost & fees; in-flight services; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservation.  The results?  Overall passenger satisfaction is up 14 points to 695, a score not seen since 2006, before the age of a-la-carte baggage fees.

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Arrive Like LiLo: Ride in a Police Car at Hotel ZaZa

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Hotel ZaZa, a Texas mini-chain of boutique hotels, retains a fleet of vehicles available to guests at their Dallas and Houston properties. The kooky lineup includes an art car, a hearse, a car with Texas longhorns mounted on the grill, and a police cruiser.

If you want to make a dramatic entrance, the ZaZas will squire you there in idiosyncratic style. No one will forget your name after you pull up to a trade show in a hearse. 

Why settle for a plain old limo when you could join the ever-growing list of former teen stars slumping in the backseats of patrol cars?

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel ZaZa

 

55th Venice Biennale: The Encyclopedic Palace

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Part wunderkammer, part memory palace, this year’s 55th Venice Biennale is an introspective investigation into contemporary art.  Through November 24, the Biennale will dance around the Renaissance as an “Encyclopedic Palace,” a conceptual skyscraper and memory palace based on a 1955 model by Italian-born artist Marino Auriti.

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"Subversive Adult Disneyland” Turns Up the Heat in Tasmania

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Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art has won raves—from this magazine, for instance—for its unique, fortress-like architecture. Perhaps even more striking, the museum’s creator, gambling mogul David Walsh, has frequently described the place as “a subversive adult Disneyland.”

High-brow praise, titillating promises ... either could get folks browsing airfares to Tasmania.

Indeed, the museum—with recurring themes of sex and death—seems to be driving a growing desire to visit Tasmania and its capital city, Hobart: According to a recent Telegraph article, more than 700,000 people have visited the museum since it opened in 2011 (for perspective, only 500,000 people actually live in the Australian island state), while Tourism Tasmania statistics indicate that tourist traffic to the island state is up by 10 percent since last year.

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Trip Doctor Series: Trekking, Walking, and Hiking (Africa)

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We’re all for seeing Africa’s amazing flora and fauna from the comfort of a vehicle, but have you ever considered stepping out of the jeep and into the wild? As someone always looking for a way to turn up that adventure dial, I know I have. In our May issue’s Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Guide, we call out veteran outfitter Robin Pope Safaris in Zambia, which happens to be the home of the walking safari, for its standout mobile camping trek through a remote part of South Luangwa National Park. Spend your days tracking lions or observing buffalo along the Mupamadzi River bank, and evenings at a roving camp with walk-in tents and Mara campfires. robinpopesafaris.net; eight days from $4,388.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo credit: Monika Hoefler and Jens Schwarz

This Summer's Hot UK Souvenir: Royal Baby Swag

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Last summer, some of the most omnipresent souvenirs found around London featured the faces of Wenlock and Mandeville, the much-maligned, one-eyed mascots from the 2012 Olympics.

This summer, experts are predicting that the image of a more agreeable tyke will draw tourist dollars: the baby expected in July by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and her royal baby daddy, Prince William.

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Cruise News: New Princess Ship and Hong Kong Terminal

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The past week has been a big one for cruising:

Last week in Southampton, England, a very pregnant Duchess of Cambridge (née Kate Middleton) christened the new 3,600-passenger “Royal Princess” ship from Princess Cruises. She said: “May God bless her and all who sail in her!” before cutting a ribbon that sent a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne scurrying towards the bow (godmothers for previous Princess ships have been equally glamorous, from Audrey Hepburn to Diana, Princess of Wales, who named the first Royal Princess in 1984). Life on board is decidedly royal-worthy, with private poolside cabanas and SeaWalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that extends 28 feet beyond the top deck.

In other news: Hong Kong just opened its new state of the art cruise terminal. The $1 billion, Norman Foster-designed space will allow mega ships to dock in Hong Kong (the first to pull in: Royal Caribbean’s 3,000-passenger Mariner of the Seas). Our favorite part of the terminal? The rooftop garden, where you can picnic with locals while taking in a prime view of the Hong Kong skyline.

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

Photo courtesy of Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending June 14, 2013

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This week, Amazon launched a fun new tool called "Around the World in 80 Books," poised to help you find the required reading for your upcoming vacation. The picks are great, from Peter Godwin's When A Crocodile Eats the Sun (for imminent safari-goers) to Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos (for the South America-bound). (Nikki Ekstein)

This Buzzfeed list of the 16 ways to make flying easier has a few ingenious solutions. Who'd have thought to bring golf balls on board to create your own little spa treatment? (Peter Schlesinger)

A Connecticut bill is claiming that the Wright brothers were not the "first in flight," 110 years after their historic plane took off in Kitty Hawk, NC. Whether or not German-born  Gustave Whitehead is truly the grandfather of aviation, there's no doubt about his level of wanderlust. Via Circa. (Adrien Glover)

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Trip Doctor: New Index Ranks International Cities by Cost

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Newsflash: Oslo (pictured) is an expensive city.

Actually, according to a recent study by TripAdvisor, the Norwegian capital is the most expensive city for travelers. And while the priciest cities shouldn’t be too surprising (Oslo is followed by Zürich, Switzerland, and Stockholm, Sweden), the results are fascinating.

The website ranked 49 popular travel destinations around the world on a pricing index based on the relative costs of an evening out (cab rides, dinner, and drinks) and a one-night stay at a four-star hotel.

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Trip Doctor: Legislators Renew Push for Family Flying Policy Changes

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Back in February we reported that several senators had expressed opposition to recent airline fees that force families to pay extra if they wish to sit together. Now, five lawmakers from New York and California are sponsoring a bill that would require airlines to change their policies.

The legislative push is still in its "early stages," according to the offices of the resolution's main sponsor, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), so no news on when (or even if) to expect a vote. Right now the sponsors are working on outreach both with other members in Congress and their constituents.

Nadler introduced a similar proposal last July with 10 co-sponsers, but the resolution was never enacted.

Have strong feelings about this? Contact your Congress representative and write to them about House Resolution 2191.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

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