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Trip Doctor: Compare Smartphones—Which Platform is Best for You?

compare smartphones

Android, Windows, and even BlackBerry are stepping up their game against Apple, benefiting travelers. T+L’s tech expert finds which platform is best for you.

For the Organization Wiz

Windows 8: Seamless integration with any Windows device is the greatest selling point for this platform. We also love its resizable “live” tiles, which let you put what’s important to you—flight alerts, for example—front and center; innovative tap-to-pay technology; and travel-friendly features, from built-in Skype to top-of-the-line photo capabilities.

The Phone to Get: The sexy and slim Nokia Lumia 920 ($99) has some of the best picture modes we’ve ever tried.

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Hotel Chatter's Wifi Report and T+L's Top Picks

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This morning, Hotel Chatter published its 2013 Hotel Wifi Report, showcasing the best and worst internet service in the industry. The exhaustive study finds that 64% of hotels worldwide offer free wifi, a service Hotel Chatter insists is “as essential as a working shower or air conditioning.”

Paradoxically, as many T+L readers have discovered, the hotels most likely to charge extra for internet service are high-end properties that demand hefty nightly rates to begin with. In fact, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 84% of luxury hotels charge for in-room internet service, while just 8% of economy hotels do.


Travel + Leisure has been keeping tabs on which hotel brands provide free wifi to guests, and acknowledges these few major brands that buck the trend:


Third Place: A tie between Fairmont, Kimpton, and Omni hotels
Each of these brands gives free wifi in common areas and in guestrooms if you join their (also free) loyalty programs.



Second Place: Andaz

All Andaz properties provide free in-room and lobby internet access to all guests.


First Place: Peninsula and Shangri-La Hotels

Both of these hotel companies give free wifi not just in the hotel rooms and common areas, but also in their automobile fleet!


Be sure to check out Hotel Chatter's in depth report here.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by John Huba

Richard Branson Inches Closer to Space Dreams

In what can only be described as one small step for space travelers, one giant leap for Virgin Galactic's publicity team, WhiteKnightTwo, a Sir Richard Branson-owned passenger aircraft, managed to reach an altitude of 46,000 feet over the Mojave Desert yesterday. The test flight lasted all of 16 seconds.

Branson called it "stunning" and "a critical day," according Reuter's Irene Klotz. The airline, mobile service, and music label magnate has been pushing for commercial space flights for almost a decade, even going so far as to accept deposits on the $200,000 tickets. Now that one of his craft's has achieved some small measure of escape velocity, Branson and his two grown children plan to fly in a second test of the WhiteKnightTwo scheduled tomorrow. Watch a YouTube video of the test flight above.

Related: Virgin's Sir Richard Branson: Ode to Abstinence

Trip Doctor: Best Travel Sneakers

fitness shoes

Q: Any suggestions for a multitasking fitness shoe? —Karen Lemster, via E-Mail

A: Try the new Adidas ClimaCool sneaker ($60). The sporty cousin of the boat shoe weighs in at four ounces, with mesh uppers (great for keeping feet cool while walking). One important tip: break in any new pair of kicks before hitting the road.

Mimi Lombardo Mimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure's style director. Packing is rarely easy-we're here to help. Send your questions to tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @TLTripDoctor on Twitter.

Photo by John Lawton

It's Barbie's World, We Just Visit It

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Pack up the hot-pink convertible: It may be time to take your Barbie-themed vacation.

On May 6, two official Barbie Dream House Experience attractions will open on our planet: one in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz Square, and the other in Sunrise, Florida.

For admission starting at $14, both sites promise to offer a life-sized immersion into Barbie’s plastic townhouse. You can take an elevator from room to room, create a virtual cupcake in the kitchen, explore Barbie's "endless closet" and experience the "walk-through glitterizer." On the attraction’s web site, you learn that you will see Barbie there "in unexpected ways," as well as encounter sister Skipper, the always-controversial Ken, and other characters including Raquelle, Ryan, and pets Blissa and Taffy. Florida opens May 6, Berlin May 16.

But not everyone is popping the pepto-pink champagne. According to The Independent, the Berlin branch of the Dream House has been attracting preemptive protestors, including one 27-year-old who launched an "Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse" Facebook page. "Barbie Dream House is the expression of a conventional role model that isn’t OK," Michael Koschitzki told The Independent’s Tony Paterson.

Meanwhile, the Dream House is not the only attraction for Barbiephiles. Royal Caribbean is now offering a Barbie Premium package, on certain voyages, which includes perks like a pink-décor stateroom, a tiaras-and-teacups party, and a fashion show. And this past January, a diner-style Barbie Café, also licensed by Mattel, opened in Taipei.

Interesting to note: Royal Caribbean seems to take pains to point out that its Barbie experience is meant for girls ages 4 to 11. The Dream House, meanwhile, more slyly acknowledges that Barbie’s appeal spans the generations (and genders) by declaring it for “fans of all ages.” And perhaps trying to reach those same fans, the Barbie Café in Taipei clearly has a bar.

Earlier: Barbie Arrives at Ellis Island.

Photo credit: © Barry Lewis/In Pictures/Corbis

Cruise News: Disney Magic Gets a Makeover

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Announced today in Celebration, Florida: Disney’s first cruise ship, The Disney Magic, is about to go through a bow to stern overhaul. The most magical elements? A new Marvel Comics Avengers Academy, where young cruisers can train as superhero "recruits" in academy missions; Pixie Hollow, a twinkling forest where tea is served on stools shaped like mushrooms and acorns; and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, a pirate-themed art room.

Adults will love the 11,500-square foot ocean-view spa and restaurant Palo, modeled after the canal-side cafes of Venice. Look for the new and improved Disney Magic in Fall 2013.

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


Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

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

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There are two reasons to look at Brian Lam's Scuttlefish post about swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Isla Mujeres, Mexico. First, the photos, which are just beautiful. Second, his tutorial that explains how to take similar ones without fancy equipment. Warning: These pictures will make you very, very jealous. (Matt Haber)

Grantland presents Out in the Great Alone, a story about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race by Brian Phillips. This is a massive story that you're going to want to spend some time with. If you get lost while reading it, don't worry: It comes with a convenient (and very smart) map of Alaska that shows you the locations at each point in the race. (M.H.)

Sure, animated gifs are now the default way to report news via repurposed Will Ferrell jokes, but photographer Nicolas Ritter's One is a much more subtle, artful use of the  ubiquitous image format. Striking photos of London are animated with just the tiniest hints of movement, making these images feel very alive. (M.H.)

Boston Magazine has released its May cover, which features hundreds of pairs of running shoes heartbreakingly arrayed with the simple cover line: We Will Finish the Race. Well done, Boston. (M.H.)

Frank Jacobs of Big Think presents a taco map of Mexico. (Ann Shields)

Dwell has a slideshow of some pretty dreamy modern bikes, including one of those Dutch bring-the-kids numbers and a polka dot SF ride. (A.S.)

The Associated Press: Travel: United, US Airways Raise Ticket Change Fees to $200 (Jennifer Flowers)

The Telegraph: Most Expensive Airport Transfers Revealed. (J.F.)

USA Today's Bill McGee takes a look back at the 10 most important changes in travel over the last 10 years. (Peter Schlesinger)

Good news for American ski bunnies, the fantasy of learning from a dreamy Norwegian instructor lives on! The Senate has pushed a provision into the immigration reform bill ensuring easy entry into the country for foreign ski teachers. From The Wall Street Journal (sub required) via New York's Margaret Hartmann. (Amy Farley)

Got a recommendation? Tell us in the comments.


Photo: iStock Photos.

Good News for Travelers: Congress Passes Bill to Restore Air Service

Well, that was fast. After a week of frustrating airport delays brought on by furloughed F.A.A. workers, Congress speedily passed a bill to return air traffic to normal today. As The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reports, the bill prevents "further furloughs through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year."

What does that mean for you? Well, as an air traveler it means fewer delays for your next trip. As a taxpayer? That all depends on what you think about the budget crisis that created those furloughs in the first place.

Trip Doctor: How to Fill a Prescription Abroad

prescription medicine

Pharmaceutical regulations are different in each country, so getting a new supply of meds on foreign soil isn’t as simple as it sounds. First, visit the U.S. State Department website to ensure your pills are legal: narcotics, psychotropics, and stimulants are banned in some destinations. Next, you’ll usually have to get a local prescription (you’ll need to know both the generic name and dosage for your medication). To find an accredited, English-speaking physician, check with the local consulate or the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, whose doctors often make house calls to hotels. Be sure to fill your prescription at a pharmacy recommended by the doctor or attached to a clinic or hospital—counterfeit drugs have become increasingly common abroad.

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 © Andrew Brookes/Corbis

Tech Thursday: Ventev Rapid Two-Way Chargers

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We’ve all been there: only one outlet free in the airport terminal and you've got both a dead laptop and a dying phone. Or in the hotel, with one adapter and too many gadgets to charge.

Enter Ventev, whose tiny two-way wallport acts like a power strip for juice-hungry road warriors. It has one standard US electrical plug (a converter is still necessary abroad; we love this one) and two USB inputs at the bottom. They charge gadgets up particularly fast, and the eye-catching colors on the tangle-free connectors have us ditching our standard issue cables.

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 Ventev

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