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Best Apps for Managing Frequent Flyer Miles

air travel mileage tracker

Staying on top of your many mileage, hotel, and rental-car programs is one of the biggest headaches for frequent travelers. Ditto figuring out whether or not you’ve accumulated enough points to book a first-class ticket for your next big getaway. But luckily, online mileage trackers have stepped in to help, letting travelers input their various member ID’s and passwords to conveniently consolidate all of their programs in one place. Besides displaying your latest balances, these services also notify you of all upcoming expiration dates, which is essential for keeping (and amassing more!) points.

Each site has its own edge: MileBlaster is particularly good at tracking your miles and alerting you whenever your points are about to expire, while AwardWallet smartly provides users with a convenient wallet-size card listing all of their loyalty numbers. We like TripIt’s iPhone- and iPad-optimized apps, which let you quickly access your details on the fly.

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TODAY Show: New Rules for Air Travel

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

New air travel rules go into effect this week. T+L Features Director Nilou Motamed outlines what you need to know.

Blurb Mobile’s Photography-Sharing App

Jim Lanahan

Innovator Jim Lanahan

Who He Is: When online custom book publisher Blurb wanted to build its mobile division, it tapped Jim Lanahan, a former photojournalist and early adopter of digital photography, for the job. Lanahan had previously helped to develop Apple’s original digital photography strategy in the early 1990’s, playing a big part in making it the go-to company for graphic designers and photographers.

His Big Idea: Blurb Mobile (free) is an app that lets iPhone and iPad users create beautifully packaged picture-and-video slideshows, then instantly share them not only with other Blurb Mobile users, but also on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr—all in just a handful of simple steps. How simple? Lanahan’s 81-year-old father quickly mastered it, so he could share his travel photos on the fly.

Photo courtesy of Jim Lanahan

More Airlines Add Wi-Fi, but Fliers Balk at Paying

USA Today |  Travelers are treating in-flight Wi-Fi like a bag of peanuts: They'll take it, if it's free.

Airlines are spending millions of dollars to equip planes with Wi-Fi capability. But only a small percentage of travelers have used the service since it was introduced in 2008, numbers from providers and analysts indicate.

"It is certainly something everyone recognizes as a value, both to the airlines and the passengers," says Michael Planey, an industry analyst at H&M Planey Consultants. "The question is at what point do airlines or service providers make money or stem losses?"

Airlines and in-flight Wi-Fi providers won't disclose how much the service is used.

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Best Video-on-Demand Services

video on demand service

How do you watch your favorite programs while you’re on the road? Besides iTunes, the vast crop of on-demand services for your laptop, mobile, and tablet should keep you entertained.

Netflix ($7.99 per month) remains the undisputed leader, offering tens of thousands of TV shows (from classics to recently aired series) and movies (a healthy mix of blockbusters, obscure film-festival favorites, and more) for mostly seamless, advertising-free viewing.

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TODAY Show: Airport Loyalty Programs

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Looking for another reason to travel in the new year? T+L's Digital Projects Editor Sarah Spagnolo discusses tips and tricks for earning loyalty points (and perks!) at your local airport.

Trip Planner: Post-Holiday Travel Deals

201112-b-cuisinartjpgJust as in retail sales, some of the best travel bargains can be found after the holidays, even in peak-season destinations.

Caribbean: Think you have to wait for hurricane season for a value in the islands? Actually, most island hotels slash rates to fill rooms during the lull between New Year’s Day and Presidents’ Day, when schoolchildren start their midwinter break. At press time, we found a luxury room in Anguilla’s CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa (a 2012 T+L 500 hotel) for $815 per night starting January 3—$500 less than the rate from mid December through New Year’s.

Ski Resorts: Snow conditions hit their peak in January; luckily, that’s not so for many hotel and lift-ticket prices. Ski.com’s five-night ski-and-stay package at the Four Seasons Resort Vail, in Colorado, for example, costs $1,793 per person if booked for mid January, compared with $3,708 during the holidays—a 48 percent savings.

Photo Courtesy of CuisinArt Resort & Spa

Have Song, Will Travel: JetBlue's New App Grants Getaways

201112-b-jetblue-vacation2jpg

Requesting vacation time is not for the faint of heart. Just ask the 57% of working Americans who, according to a recent study, have opted to labor through nearly two weeks’ worth of paid vacation days this year.

Excuses run aplenty, but “being too afraid to ask the boss” takes the cake. In all honesty, how long does it take you to muster up the courage to ask for a week, an extended weekend, an hour away from your desk? (Case in point? It took me a full two months to muster up the courage to request time off, and I work at magazine that encourages travel!) Luckily, JetBlue sympathizes with this very plight.

This season, they’ve developed a fun, creative, interactive, amusing Facebook app that allows employees to pop the question without ever having to step up a meeting. Simply choose the month and amount of days you’d like to request, fill in a few names, decide between four funky themes, and voilà: a mini tailor-made movie that croons your workplace superior until their heart melts and your getaway is as good as on the calendar. (That is, of course, if you’ve the courage to hit “Send.”)

Be sure to check out this little ditty I made for the office.

Lindsey Olander is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy Facebook/Jetblue.

Gift Wrapping Service for Air Travelers

virgin giftwrap air travel

You've heard the air-travel advice before: Don't wrap your holiday gifts before you leave for the airport because the TSA may very well require you to unwrap them during a security check. But there may be a way to arrive at your destination with wrapped presents anyway. This holiday season Virgin Atlantic is adding a few Christmas elves to the employee roster who will wrap presents for departing passengers on the air side of the Terminal 4 security checkpoint at New York's JFK International. The service costs $2 per package (100 percent of which goes to the Virgin Unite charity) and is available December 21-23, 2011.

Know any other airlines or airports that are offering a similar service? Tell us!

Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of VisMedia.

CBS Early Show: New Hotel Services at Airports

Who says air travel has to be a hassle? International Editor Mark Orwoll discusses the new trend of concierge-services and hotel amenities at airports.

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