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Trip Doctor: How to Get a Good Airplane Seat

airline seats

Q: How can I get a good seat on my flight if I don’t have elite status? —Anne R., Bozeman, Mont.

A: As airlines reduce their schedules and pack more people onto planes, economy passengers are increasingly feeling the pinch. Adding insult to (squashed-knee) injury, carriers also reserve covetable window and aisle seats for high-ranking loyalty-program members. But you needn’t get stuck in the middle. Here, some ways to find a better seat.

Choose your flights by cabin layout.

Seatguru, our favorite online airline-seat-map compendium, has recently added a new flight-search function that lets you filter results by comfort as well as the usual factors (price, duration, etc.). Mining the site’s trove of cabin data to assess both seats and in-flight amenities, Seatguru offers you an overall “G-Factor” rating of “Love it,” “Like it,” or “Live with it” for each flight—and tells you how much it will cost to trade up for a plane with more legroom or a seat-back entertainment system.

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Carnival to Spend $700 Million in Ship Improvements

Carnival Corporation, parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines, will spend up to $300 million dollars making important changes to Carnival ships, plus another $400 million on vessels from its other lines, which include Princess, Holland America, Seabourn, and Cunard. The entire Carnival Cruise Lines fleet will undergo an overhaul, enhancing the 24 ships’ emergency power capabilities and fire safety technologies.

In an interview with USA Today’s Gene Sloan, Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill pointed out that the company's ships are already safe. "It’s not a safety issue. Carnival always will operate ships that are entirely safe," said Cahill, noting that nobody was injured in February's Carnival Triumph debacle and the subsequent Carnival misadventures in March.

The expansive (and expensive) overhaul will ensure that passenger comfort is not compromised in the unlikely event of future mishaps. Skift's Samantha Shankman,has a different take: She calls the overhaul, while needed, a PR stunt, “first and foremost."

Carnival also posted a video on YouTube which can be seen above.

 

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

L.A. by the Book: Los Angeles Times Literary Map

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If, like me, you’re as likely to read a novel about a city as a guide book when preparing for a visit, the Los Angeles Times book staff has pieced together an excellent resource for you.Their Literary L.A. map pinpoints bookstores and lit landmarks around town (the library at UCLA where Ray Bradbury tapped out Fahrenheit 451 on a coin-operated typewriter!), and also includes passages from great fiction inspired by the the city and includes hardboiled L.A. classics like Double Indemnity and The Black Dahlia to more modern works like Steve Erickson’s Zeroville. The map has been released in time to accompany this weekend’s Festival of Books at USC.

LA Times Festival of Books, April 20-21, 2013, at USC, free. (events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/)

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

Photo courtesy of L.A. Times

American Airlines Temporarily Grounds Fleet Over Computer Error

News sources from The New York Times to Skift are reporting that American Airlines has grounded its entire fleet after a computer glitch caused its reservation system to go offline, making it impossible to check passengers in. The airline plans to resume service at 5 p.m. EST.

This is just the latest news in a jittery day for travelers. After the bombings in Boston yesterday, security in cities and at airports around the country has been on high alert. Earlier today, the central terminal building at New York’s LaGuardia Airport was evacuated for an hour due to a suspicious package. The airport was reopened after police determined the package posed no threat.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

A Big Wave of News from Royal Caribbean

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Royal Caribbean is going overboard with a skydiving experience, bumper cars, and Ferris Wheel-like capsule ride aboard its new ship, Quantum of the Seas, launching in fall 2014.

The New Jersey-based ship will be the first from Royal Caribbean to offer solo cabins—and though it's not the biggest among the brand's fleet, it'll carry a whopping 4,180 passengers. Other new features unveiled at a Tuesday press conference include balconies with video scenery for interior cabins. Follow the story here for more details and watch this official video of the ship featuring Kristin Chenoweth.

 

Jane WoolridgeJane Wooldridge is T+L's cruise editor.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Why We Love Boston More Than Ever

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As we, and the rest of the country, wait for information about the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, we'll be sending our hopes and prayers to that city's residents. We also want to take a moment to remember all the things we love about that classic American city and look forward to visiting there again soon.

There's a reason T+L's readers selected Boston as America's Favorite City in 2008: Steeped in history, Boston also has a cool, modern edge. What's not to like in a town that has beautiful parks like Boston Common, great museums like the Boston Children's Museum, historic waterfront areas, and beloved sports venues like Fenway Park? And, of course, great food, especially pizza. (Top among America's Best this year.) Need more reasons Boston is the best? The charming regional accents, the colleges, the college bars, and the amazing hotels.

For these and so many other reasons, we love Boston. To all our friends and readers there, we're thinking of you and we hope to see you soon. Yours is a world class city, and you mean the world to us.

Photo © Della Huff / Alamy

Big Ben to Be Silenced During Thatcher Funeral

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The iconic chimes of London's Elizabeth Tower (aka, Big Ben) will be silenced on Wednesday while Margaret Thatcher is laid to rest, according to various reports, including this one from the BBC. Thatcher died at age 87 on April 8. This is the first time the bells have been silenced for a funeral since 1965 in honor of Winston Churchill.

Wednesday's funeral will include a procession that travels from the Palace of Westminster (home of the Parliament) to the Church of St. Clement Danes and then onto St. Paul's Cathedral where the service will be held. Among those expected to be in attendance at the 2,300-seat cathedral, will be the Queen and Prince Philip, Tony and Cherie Blair, Newt Gingrich, and Andrew Lloyd Webber, according to the BBC. The Huffington Post also noted on Twitter that Michele Bachmann will be in attendance.

Related: World's Most Beautiful Clock Towers and The London Travel Guide


Photo credit: © Paul Hardy/Corbis

CNN Video: What the Airline Quality Rankings Mean

T+L's International Editor Mark Orwoll appeared in on CNN this weekend to discuss the airline quality rankings released last week. Watch as he discusses the rise of customer complaints about surcharges, ticketing, and personnel and offers tips about getting the seat you want and not getting bumped.

Sticky Fingers: Who Steals What From Hotel Rooms

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Better nail down those in-room amenities! Hotels.com has just released the results of a poll it conducted asking 8,500 travelers from 28 different countries what they have stolen from hotel rooms (beyond toiletries, of course). The results are full of surprises.

Danes are apparently the most scrupulous travelers among us. A full 88 percent of them claimed to have not stolen anything from their hotel rooms. Dutch and Norwegians rounded out the honor roll of ethical travelers, with 85 and 84 percent, respectively, taking nothing extra home with them. The most admittedly sticky-fingered travelers in the world: Colombians—57 percent of whom conceded to have taken something from a hotel.

What do people take? Thirty percent of Indian travelers admit to taking books and magazines from their rooms. Seventeen percent of Americans have walked home with linens and towels. Seven percent of Colombian travelers have slipped either a robe or a pillow into their bag. Electronics (!!!) are most popular with Finnish travelers (4 percent), while furnishings—including lamps, clocks, and artwork—go home most frequently with Chinese travelers (13 percent).

Of course, whether the results of this poll reflect the actual thieving tendencies of travelers or their honesty in filling out a survey is unknown. Who knows? Maybe those upstanding Danes are just pulling the wool over our collective eyes.

See: Stealing Hotel Amenities: Right or Wrong? and Hotel Detectives

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 credit: © 2013 Hotels.com

Watch: Should You Take a Cruise Now?

T+L's International Editor Mark Orwoll appeared on CNBC's On the Money With Maria Bartiromo to discuss the cruise industry this weekend. Watch as Orwoll shares his insights into the state of cruising, post-Carnival Triumph and whether it's the right time to book your trip.

Related: Best Cruises for Families and How to Choose Your Cruise

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