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Trip Doctor: Why Is It Getting Harder to Redeem Hotel Points?

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A: The salad days for points holders may be ending. In general, demand for rooms is rising, and with it rates, according to Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com. That means hotels no longer have to be quite so accommodating to loyalists. In the past few months, Kelly notes, both Marriott and Hilton adjusted their loyalty programs so that it takes more points to book many of their most desirable properties. Starwood, meanwhile, upped the amount of money you need to spend for its SPG Cash & Points redemptions. Hotel points haven’t gone off a cliff the way airline miles did about five years ago, but they’re definitely losing value. So keep racking them up. You’re going to need more to get what you want.

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 courtesy of Hilton Hotels

Trip Doctor: Airport Security Tips—How to Get Through TSA Faster

Airport Security Tips

Q: How can I get through the airport faster?Kathleen Francis, Oakland, Calif.

A: Over the past decade, between tightened security and the increased attention airlines are paying to premium fliers, airports have become as hierarchical and labyrinthine as the Sun King’s court. Lanes and lines have become defining features, and status has become essential for getting around.

So rule number one for a better airport experience: become an elite member of a frequent-flier program. If you travel often, stay loyal to a carrier, and follow the advice of loyalty-program experts such as the terrific Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com, you may be able to break into the upper tiers, gaining expedited check-in, private security lines, and priority boarding.

But good news for everyone else: status is no longer exclusively available to high-ranking frequent fliers. You just have to be willing to do a little extra legwork—and pay. Privilege, after all, has its price.

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Trip Doctor: How to Prevent Altitude Sickness

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Most travelers can adjust to elevations below 8,000 feet with only minor headaches, treatable with over-the-counter medications. Even individuals in the best of shape, however, can suffer from worse symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, and sleep disruption. Overexertion increases the odds of experiencing altitude sickness, so take things slowly, stay hydrated, and limit alcohol consumption. When ascending above 8,000 feet, where the air becomes markedly thinner, limit your climb to 1,000 feet per day. Prescription medications such as Diamox and dexamethasone can lessen the effects of altitude sickness. As always, consult your doctor before taking any medication.

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: imagebroker / Alamy

Packing: Hotel CEO Jeremy Goring's Favorite Toiletries

Jeremy Goring's favorite travel products

Family-run for more than a century, the Goring ($$$$), in London, gained international fame when Kate Middleton prepped there for her wedding; it later received a Royal Warrant—the palace’s official endorsement. We asked the ever-dapper CEO Jeremy Goring how he maintains his regal glow when traveling.

Molton Brown Protecting Vitamin Lipsaver Lip Balm ($18). “We stock their products in our rooms; the lip balm is stellar, too.”

Lab Series Multi-Action Face Wash ($19). “After a day’s surfing, this gets the sand out of my skin.”

Burt’s Bees Res-Q Ointment ($3.50). “Soothes bumps and bruises.”

Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20 ($27). “Great for stepping off the plane into any climate—beach or ski slope.”

Dermalogica Shine Therapy Shampoo ($8). “Super gentle, without any added fragrances.”

Malin+Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant ($18). “Smells fresh, and it’s alcohol-free.”

G.B. Kent & Sons Badger Shaving Brush (from $88). “They, too, have a Royal Warrant, so you know they’re good.”

Photo by Sam Kaplan

Trip Doctor: Lolë’s Quick-Dry Swimsuit

Lole quick-drying swimsuit

Q: I’m so tired of my swimsuit taking eons to dry. Help! —Kay Ekblad, via e-mail

A: Here’s the solution: this one-piece from Montreal-based Lolë ($70). The paneled “Maui” maillot is made of chlorine-resistant, quick-drying Swim Tech fabric with an über-comfortable four-way stretch. Need something to throw on post-dip? The breathable and anti-wrinkle fabric of Eco Swim by Aqua Green Shirred Side Dress Cover Up ($85) is knitted out of (yes) coffee grounds, making it sustainable by the sea.

Mimi LombardoMimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure’s style director. Packing is rarely easy-we're here to help. Send your question to tripdoctor@aexp.com.

 

Photo by John Lawton

Trip Doctor: How to Get Last-Minute Hotel Deals

hotel apps

Procrastinators, rejoice! There’s a slew of new apps aimed at snagging a last-minute hotel deal. Here, our tech expert’s road-tested favorites.

HotelTonight (Android, iOS): The pioneer of same-day booking apps, HotelTonight features staff-vetted properties in more than a hundred cities around the world, with tags like Hip, Luxe, or Charming to guide your search. Expect trendy boutique hotels and even some splashy new openings—but don’t get too attached to any one spot. Deals change daily and can be reserved only from noon onward.

Our Best Score: Mexico City’s sleek Las Suites for $163 a night (37 percent off).

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Trip Doctor: Top Translation Apps

translation apps

Looking for the nearest ATM in Paris and rusty on your French? These tools—all road-tested by T+L ensures you’ll never be misunderstood again.

Most Comprehensive: Google Translate (free; Android, iOS)
In addition to having 64 languages for typed and spoken translations, Google Translate is particularly savvy when it comes to brand names, knowing not to suggest the literal “équipe du ciel” when you’re asking about the nearest SkyTeam lounge in French, for example. The data-dependent app offers the best results, but Android users can get exclusive language packs that cover the basics and can be used offline.

Best for International Travel: Jibbigo Translator (offline language packs from $4.99; Android, iOS)
Data connections aren’t required for Jibbigo’s thorough, vetted language packs (with more than 40,000 words each), which have set the standard for the past five years. Currently, it offers easy-to-use typed translations for 20-plus languages and spoken translations for 13; more are being rolled out soon. Especially useful are its customizable glossaries, which let you add terms you know you’ll need ahead of time.

Best for Signs and Menus: S Translator (free; only on Samsung’s Galaxy S4) and Word Lens ($4.99 per language; Android, iOS)
Point your smartphone’s camera at any word or phrase, and these apps give you its meaning. We love S Translator’s handy pronunciation tips and its ability to read simplified Chinese characters. Other Android and iPhone users can try the similar but more limited Word Lens. It offers help in French, Spanish, Italian, and German—no data connection needed.

Best For Longer Conversations: Verbalizeit ($10 for five minutes of translator talk time; Android, iOS)
Wish you had a native speaker in your pocket? With Verbalizeit, you can locate and call a live translator with the push of a button—ideal for technical conversations, such as seeing a doctor abroad. The app may require a little patience: depending on demand, it can take a few (unbilled) minutes for a translator to become available, but each one is tested for proficiency and ability to meet travelers’ needs.

Coming Soon
If you need to make restaurant reservations by phone in Mandarin, a pocket app may not cut it. But new technologies are addressing these 2.0 needs. The innovative, though still-being-refined Lexifone app (free; Android) lets you call through its interface and will translate as you speak. Microsoft, meanwhile, is working on perhaps the coolest translator yet: it promises to convert your speech into a translated audio file that sounds just like your voice.

Illustration by Jasper Rietman

Trip Doctor: 5 Best Sunscreens

Best Sunscreens:  Restorsea Rejuvenating Day Lotion SPF 30

Q: With so many sunscreens on the market, I’m overwhelmed. Have a favorite? —Janet Bakes, via e-mail

A: We took an informal poll, and the cheekily named Supergoop! SPF 50 Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist ($19) is a T+L editor pick. It’s infused with vitamin C (touted by dermatologists as a damage preventer), plus it’s paraben- and fragrance-free, hence easy on your skin. Soleil Organique ($42) makes similar mists in varying SPF’s, with a green-tea scent. For daily use on the face, we prefer lightweight and long-lasting Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+ ($38) and emollient-rich La Prairie Sun Protection Emulsion Face SPF 30 ($95). Hailing from Norway, Restørsea Rejuvenating Day Lotion SPF 30 (pictured; $150) contains anti-aging enzymes and moisturizing algae, though it may be worth the splurge for its pretty packaging alone.

Mimi LombardoMimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure’s style director. Packing is rarely easy—we’re here to help. Send your question to tripdoctor@aexp.com.

Photo by John Lawton

Tech Thursday: Google Glass—Half Empty or Half Full?

Google Glass

Blending in with the locals. For most travelers, that’s the goal. We know that pulling out a guidebook never helps. But what about sporting funky headgear?

That’s what I was trying to figure out as I did a test drive yesterday of Google Glass at the company’s New York offices. Lens-less glasses with wraparound arms and a tiny screen above your right eye: Glass isn’t obstructive (that’s the whole point, after all), but it’s also not unobtrusive. And as my Google handler—who has worn hers in public—told me, you have to be prepared for some stares.

So do the benefits outweigh those stares?

Read More

The Rise of the Mobile Concierge

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For those who make a habit of frequenting the concierge desk before a day on the town, there’s a new way to tap into the local scene—no fold-out map necessary. These four hotel brands are putting the concierge in your pocket. What could be more convenient?

Conrad This all-in-one concierge app handles wake-up calls, dinner reservations, valet parking, bath amenities, and even check-in. Android, iPad, iPhone.

Hyatt  When you use the tag @hyattconcierge on Twitter, you will get a response from a concierge within 15 minutes.

InterContinental Concierges from each of InterContinental’s 127 destinations package their little black books for your smartphone in an app that has tips on where to shop, what to eat, and what to pack. iPad, iPhone.

Ritz-Carlton Along with location-based suggestions for sites and activities, this app includes QR codes that unlock anything from cocktail recipes to kid-friendly scavenger hunts. Android, iPhone.

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 Conrad Concierge App

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