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Review: T-Mobile's Travel-centric Garminfone

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Sometimes it's really hard to believe that just a few years ago, in order to get where you had to go—especially on road trips, you needed to bring along one or more large, folding paper maps. Then there came websites like MapQuest, which alleviated people the hassle of having to actually figure out how to get from point A to point B. And now with GPS devices built into cell phones, navigating strange places is a breeze, and there's no need to bring anything you wouldn't have with you anyway.

T-Mobile recently released a new smartphone, the Garminfone (Garmin is one of the leading GPS makers in the world), which was specifically designed for travelers constantly on the go. It looks like any other touch screen smartphone (wait until you see just how smart it is), but as soon as you turn the phone on, you know it's made for travelers: there are three large icons on the homepage; one is labeled "Where To?" and the other, "View Map." (The third is for making phone calls.)

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Barbie Arrives at Ellis Island

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You won't find Barbie lounging around her Dream House this summer. Instead, the famous blonde will be making her debut at Ellis Island, a far cry from Malibu. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Barbie Dolls of the World collection, Barbie gathered a group of the collection's most iconic dolls, representing more than 40 nations, in a special exhibit at the former immigration station in New York Harbor, which begins June 16.

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Cute Overload: Hello Kitty Airport Gate

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On my way home from a recent trip to Taiwan, I found myself with a little bit of time to kill before boarding my plane at Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport. Knowing I had more than 14 hours to sit in a cramped airplane seat ahead of me, I did some exploring.

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Iconic NYC Nightclub Refashioned as Mini-Mall

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I stopped by last week’s opening of Manhattan’s Limelight Marketplace—a church reincarnated as a notorious '80s nightclub most recently made over as a shopping mall—with an almost irreverent sense of curiosity. With a past so checkered, I expected a mixed crowd, and sure enough, the three-level, multi-wing retail space was brimming with journalists (both skeptical and adoring), local reality stars (think Real Housewives posing with Hunter boots for the press), and the occasional camera-toting wanderer shaking his head in disbelief while reminiscing about parties fueled by pills, music, and illicit behavior.

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The go-go girls, devilish red lighting, and shady corners are all long gone—they disappeared in the '90s—and the church stood vacant until last winter, when retail developer Jack Menashe saw an opportunity to create his own version of nearby Chelsea Market.

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Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst in Travel

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I’ve long thought the best travel stories are the ones, well, where things don’t go according to plan. The most memorable tales from the road, it seems, often involve weird characters, bungled reservations, and near misses of all kinds. For this reason, I’ve become a big fan of the TitanicAwards.com, a survey site that celebrates “the dubious achievements in travel” (from Worst Toilet to Most Annoying Tourist Attraction) and can always be counted on for a good laugh. (If you like the LOLcats of Icanhascheezeburger, you’ll love the absurd-but-true findings of TitanicAwards.com.)

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Charmed By a Locale? CHART It!

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I recently returned from a ten-day sailing trip around the Secret Island of Culebra, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Living aboard a sailboat reminded me of my love for nautical charts—the fluid lines, soft, sea-foamy color palette, and wiry, spare typeface lend an on-trend heritage feel to the handsome utilitarian scrolls. How smart was it, then, that Portland, Maine–based jeweler Charlotte Leavitt dreamed up the idea of custom-crafting various pieces (pendants, earrings, cufflinks, even belt buckles) making use of nautical charts? Childhood summers spent aboard her family’s daysailer in coastal Castine instilled in the formerly desk-bound jewelry hobbyist a similar appreciation for the art of the chart.

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Luggage that Literally Stands Out

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T+L favorite Tumi recently announced that it would be releasing a limited-edition luggage collection in collaboration with cutting-edge fashion/concept shop Opening Ceremony. The occasion? The launch of OC's new, travel-themed store in New York City’s super-hip Ace Hotel.

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The goods: Two rollaboards ($595 each), a satchel ($295), and a laptop case ($175) in exclusive color-blocked shades of the label’s signature ballistic nylon. Each piece is cool enough to make a stylish traveler swoon—and bright enough that it won't get lost in baggage claim. The good news: The bags hit stores next Friday, May 14. The bad news: Tumi only made 100 of each. More good news: you can pre-order them at the Ace location or by clicking here.

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Cool Photo Gear: Kata Camera Bags

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I'm loving the photo bags and organizers from Kata lately. The founders of this company, who met while serving in the Israeli army, started making photo bags in 1992. Now they have a full line of photo and video gear that is light and ultra-protective.

My favorite is the Pro-Light FlyBy 74, which is a generous camera bag that doubles as a roll-aboard suitcase.  It has veritcal and horizontal handles, and a tripod holding option on the front. The inside is the best part: super modular, the interior panels are bright yellow, making it much easier to find your photo gear than it would be in a black-lined case.

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Old School: Celebrate "Record Store Day"

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When was the last time you bought a new album at an actual brick and mortar record shop? In the age of iTunes, it’s become the norm to download music from the internet. I'm guilty, too, even though you can frequently find me and my camera jammed in the front row covering concerts for various music publications.

Tomorrow, take advantage of the spring weather and head over to your local record shop for Record Store Day, a celebration of independently owned record stores in the United States, and other countries worldwide, now in its third year.

In addition to special vinyl and CD releases being made exclusively for Record Store Day from the likes of Phoenix and Jamie Lidell, there will also be a number of in-store appearances and performances from a wide variety of musicians, including Slash, Emmylou Harris, and Yeasayer.  Search for your local participating stores here. I’ve put together a short list of standout events after the break.

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Review: T-Mobile HTC HD2 Travel Apps

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I recently borrowed the new T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone and, after about two weeks of playing around with it, I have to say: I have a big fat crush. The screen—an astounding 4.3"—is insanely sharp. In fact, I happened to receive the phone the day before hopping on a bus for 4 1/2 hours. For 2 1/2 of those hours, I entertained myself by watching Transformers...on the phone. Not only did the crystal clear image blow me away, let me point this out: the phone's battery was still half full by the end of the movie. Crazy!

Aside from the on-the-go entertainment value with the phone—all of the movies are available for renting or purchase through the phone's Blockbuster app—the phone itself is sleek, easy-to-use, and the touch screen über responsive. (Once I turned off that annoying guess-what-word-I'm-trying-to-spell feature that is becoming a staple in many new phones, it rarely, if ever, missed a key stroke.)

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